cross stitching & sadistic beaucracies

Half of Granny’s project is done! This is part of a trio; I made her the blue cat for her birthday last summer, and there’s a purple cat left to do. It’s a little kitschy for my tastes, but she’ll love it. She’s a 90-year-old southern woman, c’mon.

There was a lot of backstitching that I didn’t do because it really didn’t make sense to me. The backstitching that I did is necessary, because it defines the face and the curly chest and suggests feet and haunches, so it’s not just some vaguely cat-shaped amorphous blob. But this one had like, a grid pattern zooming all over, and it just looked weird. Usually when I see something on a pattern that makes no sense, I can look at the photo of the finished design and go “Okay, I see what they did there”. But it didn’t make sense even on the photo, so after some deliberation I decided not to stitch it.

In other crafting news, I got a note on flickr this morning from Nelly Pailloux, who wrote the book that all my recent felties came from. She wants to post my photos in the gallery on her blog, La Fée Crochette. I told her of course she could, although since these are the first felties I ever made, like any hyper-self-critical crafter I see a bunch of glaring errors when I look at them. In retrospect, I pulled the thread too tight on a lot of them, resulting in puckered edges, so when I make a second round, I would correct that. But it was still very pleasant to get her note.

Weekend was pretty good, mostly because I got my first unemployment check. That was a relief; part of the reason I was so stressed out last week was because I wasn’t sure if I was really getting unemployment or not. See, they sent me this letter like a week after I applied that said in huge caps at the top of the page “NOTICE OF UNEMPLOYMENT AWARD”, and had the total amount and the amount I would get each week. There was also a claim form to send in so I could start receiving funds. Sounds pretty unambiguous, right?

Well, apparently the state likes to fuck with people’s blood pressure, because I got a call last Monday from the EDD that notified me that I hadn’t REALLY been awarded unemployment, that the notification was just to tell me what I would get if I was. Umm, then maybe you ought to word it differently? Something like “If you are awarded unemployment, this is what you will get”. Why would you send out something that tells people they’ve been awarded X amount, then basically go “Psych!”? What is the matter with them?

Anyway, I got a check on Saturday, and going from the check stub, it’s been deducted from the total amount, so I’m cautiously optimistic that this means my claim was approved. Sucks though, because I had to pay December’s rent out of what I had saved, which really whittled down my nest egg. Assholes.

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felties & zombies

This is the last batch, the Mummy Cat was the last one I made because I couldn’t make it until I bought a roll of gauze.

  • Hoodie Wolf: Complete with picnic basket! I don’t know if he ate Red Riding Hood, but he definitely mugged her.
  • Mummy Cat: This one was kind of a bitch to make, but I’m really pleased with the results. There was a whole display of mummified animals — including a crocodile! — at the King Tut exhibit.

No more felties or softies for a while, I have to concentrate on Christmas presents. But after the holidays I might get one of those books that actually teaches you how to make your own wool felt. Felties made from those have a really charming look; plus felting might be a useful skill to have when the inevitable zombie apocalypse comes. (Excuse me, I just read World War Z for like the kajillionth time. I wonder if the movie’s ever gonna get made.)

felties & mini cameras

  • Samurai Cat: I don’t think samurai wore rice farmer’s hats, but okay.
  • Retro Alien: This one cracks me up and is one of my favorites.
  • Vivid Squirrel: The design on this one was kind of weird. It was supposed to be looking up, I guess, because the eyes were way at the top of the head. But the nose was on the VERY top of the head, and I kept thinking “But if it lowered its head, the nose would be ABOVE the eyes, and that makes no sense.” And it really, really bugged me, so I decided to make it face-forward and put the nose in the middle of the face and the eyes above it.
  • Pirate Mouse: The bullet-stuffed (silver bugle beads) bandolier came out perfect. And I like her ears. (I have decided it is a lady mouse pirate. Arrr!)

In other news, I turned 35 several days ago, and my mother still asks me for a Christmas list. Whenever I tease her about it, she says “Well, how am I supposed to know what you want without one?” Perfectly logical, yet it still tickles me.

The item that is this year’s OMG MUST HAVE OR I WILL DIE (or more likely, just buy it myself) is a SuperHeadz Golden Half camera. It’s a mini 35mm camera, which means it takes 2 photos on each negative. You can either cut the prints in half for a mini photo, or (much more interesting) make both images relate to each other in some way, like a diptych.

I’ve been researching mini cameras for a while and was struggling with the choice between the Golden Half and the Diana Mini. My first instinct was to go with the DM, because I love my F+. But I also heard a lot of good things about the GH, and when I did some reading, I noticed a lot of bad reviews for the DM, and not just from the usual suspects who don’t “get” Lomography and are always ready to bash any lomo cam.

Basically it seems like the DM has gone beyond the acceptable “cheap toy” assemblage and into “cheap junk”. A lot of users complain parts break and/or scratch the negatives on the first roll. And everyone says the shutter release is so stiff that they always wind up shaking the camera. It does have more options than the GH: 4 focal settings (the GH has a fixed focus), and the option to get single square format exposures.

But you know, I have an F+ AND a Holga, and I don’t really need another camera that takes murky, fuzzy photos. GH users say the camera is sturdy and takes really nice crisp photos. It also has a really wide lens for the size, which I find intriguing. It doesn’t come with a flash, but it has a hot shoe, and I have an adapter for my Diana flash, so I can use that (I adore that flash).

Maybe one day when I have a job again I’ll get a Diana Mini as well, but right now I want the Golden Half a lot more. The only problem is getting my mother to get over her outdated paranoia of shopping online. SuperHeadz is a Japanese company, and the only brick and mortar stores that seem to be selling the GH in the US is Urban Outfitters. But I don’t think she’s going to want to go to New Orleans or Baton Rouge just to get me a Christmas present.

felties & rome

  • Sailor Puppy: This one was even tinier than the Sleepy Fox. Eventually I have to get a blue felt pen so I can camouflage the white stitches in the blue ribbons.
  • Messenger Bear: For some reason the design wanted me to give him green arms, legs, and ears, but I thought that was creepy. His little bag came out nice.
  • Cute Chihuahua: Ohhh the teeny weeny bone was so hard to cut out. The photo just had it kind of chillin’ to the side, but I thought it would be cute to glue it like he was holding it in his mouth.
  • Curly Ram: The horns are supposed to be stuffed, but it was impossible to stuff that narrow, spiral shape. I basically tore one apart trying, then just gave up. The gold sequin is meant to be a little bell.

In other news, Rome came up in my Netflix queue, and it’s pretty amazing. I like all the little things they throw in just to remind us how different daily life and people’s sensibility was back then. Like, people fucking with their servants just sort of hanging out in the same room, or showering in the blood of a butchered bull (because it’s Tuesday!), or mothers talking to their teenage sons while totally starkers.

Also, Titus Pullo is kind of adorbs. Fool accidentally changed history by taking revenge on dice cheaters, awesome. I love shit like that. There’s apparently a movie in the works, too.

felties & tofurky

I almost finished the entire set of felties over the weekend. I just have one I couldn’t make because I ran out of white felt and need to buy some gauze bandaging. It’s a mummy cat!

  • Sun-Loving Rat: I used seed beads for the chips on his ice cream cone.
  • Polar-Roo: The little cub can be taken out of the mommy’s pouch. Stuffing that tiny thing was practically impossible. The directions said to use a red pencil for the inside of the ears and the cheeks, but I used pink french knots for the insides of the ears and tiny circles of pale pink felt for the cheeks. And I used black threads for the claws instead of the specified pencil marks. I thought it would look too dingy on the white felt.
  • Pensive Rabbit: It sort of looks like he has no arms, but I think they’re meant to be behind his back. I like his tripped out looking eyes and his tilted head.
  • Sleepy Fox: This was one of the smallest projects in the book and a bitch to stuff. The design used brown felt, but I thought red would be cuter.

I didn’t do much over the long weekend. Funny, but you still look forward to long weekends even when you don’t have a job. I usually go see a movie on Thanksgiving, and I had planned to see The Road (and be thankful that I don’t live inside Cormac McCarthy’s head, which seems like a deeply disturbing place).

But I just wasn’t feeling it, so instead I slept late, opened a bottle of wine, and put the tofurky in the oven around 2:00. Did I mention I was going to make one? I’ve always been curious, and since it’s just me I decided what the hell. If it sucks, I’ll just chuck it and make that BBQ chicken pizza I have in the freezer.

It did NOT suck, it was quite delicious. It came stuffed with wild rice stuffing and a container of mushroom gravy, and I threw some carrots and onions in the pan, which were nicely caramelized by the time the tofurky was done. I had a side of 4-cheese scalloped potatoes, which kind of ruined the vegan aspect. Oh well, I’m just not a fanatic.

Friday I celebrated “Buy Nothing Day”. I’m making most of my Christmas gifts again this year, but even on years when I don’t do that I make a point of not going out — at least not to any malls or retail establishments — on Black Friday.

It kind of amazes me how most people don’t think of their lives in monetary terms. Like okay, I could get a shop vac for $29.99! But to get it I’d have to do battle with crowds of deal-crazed shoppers and possibly get trampled. My emotional well-being is worth more than the money I’d save.

Of course, I have no doubt that some people actually enjoy the adrenaline rush. Anyway, I hope all my friends that own retail establishments made some scratch.

felties: little lion, panda, babushka, & mushroom girl

I’ve moved from softies to felties. There isn’t a huge difference between the two: felties are usually smaller and have less stuffing. I’ve put a quarter in the shot for scale. I made all 4 of these yesterday; items this small only take about 30-40 minutes, an hour tops, to make. The hardest part is really cutting those tiny pieces of felt.

Clockwise from upper left: Little Lion, Panda, Babushka, Mushroom Girl.

  • Lion: This one was really hard to stuff because the body is so tiny. I wound up using a pencil because even my little finger was too big.
  • Panda: His eyes are kind of disturbingly blank, I think I’ll add black seed beads for pupils. For all projects with pink cheeks, the directions specified using a red pencil. But I didn’t feel like making a trip to the craft store to buy one, so I just cut out teeeeeny circles of pink felt and glued them on. I think it works.
  • Babushka: I think this is actually supposed to be a matryoshka, a Russian nesting doll. “Babushka” is actually just the name for the headscarf. I think I’ll take this one to the copy shop and have them make me 125% and 75% scale copies, so there’s a proper set. I’ll vary the decoration on each a little.
  • Mushroom Girl: The design called for red felt with white polka dots for the mushroom cap, but I knew I’d never find polka-dotted felt. So I approximated it with red felt and little clusters of white seed beads.

Making these is crazy addictive. There are 18 designs in the book and I wouldn’t be surprised if I make them all over the long weekend. Damn, I wish I could sell these!

elephant with bird softie & the drinking of milkshakes

This one didn’t come out quite right, I’m pretty sure the ears should be higher. The directions were for machine-sewing, and had all this stuff about basting and seam allowances, and I just went “fuck it” and tried to figure it out myself. But except for the ears — which can be fixed — I think it looks pretty good for something with so many pieces that was sewn entirely by hand.

This is the last design in this particular book that I’m going to make. There’s a few more that I don’t want or have a need for: A Happy Birthday banner, one that just looks way too impossible to do by hand, and an iPod case. I don’t have an iPod, my mp3 player is a lot smaller (and I already made a case for it). …However, there are some members of my family who do have iPods, so it might do to keep it in mind for a Christmas present.

But me and felt aren’t finished yet! Yesterday I bought this book at Borders, and every single design in it looks insanely cute. I also want to get this book eventually; Borders did have it, but it had been opened and looked pretty beat up and I didn’t trust that all the patterns were still there, so I think I’ll buy an untouched copy from Amazon. There’s one duplicate (the little happy tree guy on the cover) from the book I just finished, but the rest are new to me.

In other news, yesterday I got There Will Be Blood from Netflix, and ho. ly. SHIT. it was amazing. When my brother David saw it he said it was like Daniel Day-Lewis was like “Oh, you thought I was a talented actor before? *mimes rolling up sleeves* STAND BACK, BITCHES.”

I am so going to shout BASTARD IN A BASKET at the next person who annoys me.