Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Book Challenge

I haven't posted much on this blog in 2012, and much of it has been of the crafty variety. But I still love to read and do quite a bit of it. Despite my not mentioning it here, I always list and give a brief review of every book I read (even the embarassing ones) on Goodreads. You can find my lists there. But it's time for me to bring back some posts about literature, good and bad. Here are some of my favorites from this year:

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
I really liked this book, even though it took just a little bit longer to get into it than most of the fiction I read. It is more serious and made me think more than most of the fluff I read too. And the writing was beautiful, that certainly pulled me in from the beginning. I found myself re-reading entire paragraphs just for the way the words flowed and made me feel. I don't read writing of this caliber nearly often enough.
The first half of the book takes place in Minnesota & Manaus, Brazil, the second half deep in the Amazon rainforest. The characters are imperfect, but compelling. The whole thing is very Heart of Darkness, but somehow lighter without losing the impact.
Cautions: an occasional swear word and mentions of sex (sometimes completely pointless) without details. also some native drug use.

Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady (Bloody Jack #2) by

Read #1 first, Bloody Jack. That Jacky just charmed me again with her enthusiasm & love for others. I enjoyed reading about her adventures as a fine lady just as much as being a sailor. I was much more heartbroken at the end though, when she moves on. I'm really enjoying this series but am a little worried about them keeping up the high standards as the books keep coming.

Post image for 2012 Summer Book Trek
We've spent a lot of time in Pinetop, AZ this summer, enjoying the fabulous weather, and I've had plenty of time to catch up on books. Not that I really need the encouragement, but I heard about a book reading challenge from my friend Susan's blog. (Hopefully all readers of this blog know that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sometimes known as Mormons or LDS.) The LDS Publishers blog is hosting a Summer Book Trek to read books by LDS authors in August. They don't have to be about LDS topics or people, just written by an author who is LDS. You can read all about the details by clicking on the button to the right. And apparently they even have prizes, which sounds fun. You can join too! There are plenty of lists of authors and suggestions on their website.

Here's the list of books I'm planning to read in August:

Freefall by Traci Hunter Abramson
Crossed by Ally Condie
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
The List by Melanie Jacobson
Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Craft Night: Giant Cross Stitch

I am finally getting around to posting about our craft night, thanks to The Pinterest Challenge, hosted by Sherry from Old House Love and her posse.  I was very inspired by a lot of pins I saw on Pinterest, I listed them in my last post, but here are a couple of my favorites again.



I think this is such a modern, fresh take on the time-old tradition of cross-stitch and it seemed perfect for DIY. I jumped on the computer, made myself a design, and got started. I used Adobe Illustrator, set my artboard to the size of the canvas I planned to use, chose the number 5 (for 5 in my family), and added crosses until my eyes couldn't see straight. I put the number 5 on one layer, in the font I liked, and then made my crosses in a layer on top, matching them to the number below as best I could. I used 3/4 inch crosses. After I chose this project for craft night, I helped my friends design their projects too and generally used the 3/4 inch crosses again. Even with a large canvas, 24" x 36", I found anything larger gave me not enough control over detail. And for some designs, like the chicken below, I used smaller crosses for some detailed area.

Next I spray painted my canvas, although most of my friends used craft paint and a foam brush. I would love to try one over fabric, like a burlap or a small-print flowered muslim or something. It would be harder to mark where the stitches should go, but I did buy a fabric ink pen, with disappearing ink. I'm anxious to try it soon. I would recommend wrapping and stapling the fabric to a canvas, just to keep the structure and make it easier.

After the paint was dry on my canvas, I printed off my design, which necessitated multiple pages taped together sometimes, and attached it to the canvas with some of my washi tape, whose low-tack & removability were perfect for this project. Then I took a needle and drove it down through the paper & the canvas below. The hole remains in the canvas to show you where to stitch. That's where fabric would be a little trickier than the canvas, although that disappearing ink pen must be so much easier on the fingers than stabbing through the canvas with a needle. A thimble helped. I learned a few things on the first row. Don't stab through the middle of the Xs, only the corners. I made that mistake on the first row, but the holes were covered up when I did the stitching. Also, my design ran fairly close to the edge of the canvas, over the wooden supports, which made it pretty hard to put a needle through. You might keep that in mind when creating your design. My friends poster-size canvas had a support right up the middle too - which made it difficult to stitch around, but canvas is flexible and we worked around it.

And then we got to stitching. Some used yarn (for the big canvas), some used embroidery floss, the white one was a thick baking string, and I used a hot pink mason twine, which is nylon and sold at Home Depot. Long needles worked well, although I had to use one with an extra-wide eye to keep my mason twine from unraveling. Which made it quite hard to punch through the canvas. I was getting blisters before I heard about the idea of using rubber gloves. I felt pretty silly wearing my long, yellow dish gloves, but it worked like a charm. You just follow basic cross-stitch principles, tie a knot, come through from the back, and get to work, tying off in the back when you run out of string. You'll have to find better instructions elsewhere.  ;)  It took a few hours to complete, but Netlix helped while the time for me, and my craft group is always happy to use the time to catch up on each other's lives, gossip, and discuss important philosophies. Here are some shots of us working, and a few of the finished projects.

I am so thankful to Pinterest for keeping me appraised of great art and projects, you can follow me here. And I'm glad for Sherry's Pinterest Challenge and for my turn to host craft night for impelling me to actually complete some of the things I pin. My friends' projects turned out so cute too & I'm sure they are livening up their houses by now.