Sewing Notes

So I was tooling along pretty nicely with the landscape quilt – I got the last of three ‘tree’ strips done, and all three sewn together. I pinned those at the river bed, and got ready to sew that. And that is where I hit a snag. The clear thread I currently have is absolutely not set up to be used with my machine. It’s totally wound the wrong way, and I can’t even thread the machine with it, let alone make a bobbin. So I’ve got to figure out how to work around that. Still, pretty progress with sewing overall this weekend. I may be able to start other projects sometime this year, yet.


Sewing Notes

And lo, there was bias binding in adequate amounts produced!

And it has been attached to the entire front of the Decade Quilt!

Yeah, note to self: when one is stopped in the middle of making bias binding from two pieces of fabric by the implosion of the second piece of fabric, make a note of what size you were making before setting it aside for two months before you can get to the second piece again. Much easier than prying apart already ironed binding to measure that…

This is the biggest quilt I’ve ever made, and so it’s the largest amount of binding I’ve ever made, and I can’t lie – if I ever make a bigger than crib sized quilt again, I’m going to need to find a bigger cutting space. The dining room table was not cutting it on this one. Consequently, there are going to be a few places where the binding is a little tight. I’m chalking that up to homespun individuality.

So I’m actually done with the machine sewing portion of this quilt, and the rest of the sewing is all sewing I can get done watching TV some evening. I may actually manage to finish this thing…

Garden Notes

It’s January in Maine, so what’s a girl to do? Read gardening books, and lust after activities I cannot possible for several more months. Sigh…

The Edible Front Yard – Ivette Soler

This book is all about changing your front yard from a typical lawn into an edible plant garden, but doing it in such a way that you won’t look like the kooky hippy neighbors.

There are lots of pictures of other gardens enclosed, with many examples of planting combinations. Unfortunately for me, it’s very west coast centric, which I can’t really blame them for, since most of that coast has really great gardening conditions. I lust after some of the plants they can have at my latitude there that I could never manage here in Maine.

So, for me, the most valuable section was the chapter on ornamental edibles. Some of these are plants you’ve probably never heard of, and some are different varieties of plants that you may not have previously thought could be ornamental. I have a number of sticky tabs in that section.

So, for a New England garden, this book is probably more inspirational than truly aspirational.

Grow Great Grub – Gayla Trail

This gardening book is about making do with whatever space you have, no matter how small, to be able to grow some sort of food in your own space. There are a number of DIY projects for various containers and raised beds, and there are ways to use your harvest.

What I liked best about this book was the plant section, where it talked about the best plants to use in small spaces. It also had specific information about growing each plant in containers, which was what convinced me to buy this book. The author is also out of Toronto, so it gave me much more suitable information for my gardening zone than the other book I bought this winter.

There’s also a section on compost, and about the best ways to prep your beds or containers for the best yields. It’s about organic gardening, so there’s also a section on organic pest control.

I think this book would be a great primer for a city dweller that’s never gardened and would like to get their feet wet. I was already familiar with the fundamentals, but still got a lot out of this book.

The Shadow in the North – Philip Pullman

In this second book of the Sally Lockhart mysteries, Sally is now settled into life in London. While she works with the photography studio that she founded with Fred and his uncle, she’s also struck out on her own, and does financial advising, mostly for other women.

When one of those women comes to her after losing her entire life’s savings due to Sally’s advice, Sally sets out to investigate the shipping company in question, and its charismatic chairman, Axel Bellman. Bellman has come to London, and his current business is darker than Sally could ever imagine, with possible dire consequences to her, and those she loves.

I have to admit, I was genuinely scared at a couple places in this book. It’s young adult, but Pullman is not afraid to stray outside of some of the conventions of that genre. There’s a rather huge twist at the end that was both appalling and brilliant.

I had planned to read the next book in the trilogy right after finishing this one, but I need a little break. It really was that scary.

The Host – Stephenie Meyer

Humanity has been taken over by a race called the Souls – parasites that insert themselves into a human’s body, and then live their lives. The original memories of the body are intact, but the person is gone. The Souls have been on Earth for a while, so there are very few ‘wild’ humans left. When one of them, a girl named Melanie, is caught in Chicago, her body is given to a Soul named Wanderer.

Wanderer has been warned about the volatility of humans – their extreme emotions and propensity for violence. But what she’s not told is that some humans fight back. Melanie isn’t willing to let go, and she and Wanderer now share Melanie’s body. Melanie’s memories and emotions increasingly influence Wanderer, until she finally sets out to find the man that Melanie loves. The journey ends in ways that neither or them expect, or could even have anticipated.

I have to hand it to Stephenie Meyer – she can spin a compelling story. I was pretty quickly hooked, and really wanted to know how Melanie and Wanderer’s story would end. I also have to say, this book is much better than the Twilight series. The story is better, the writing is tighter, and it’s so much less of what became an uncomfortable Mary Sue like story by the end of the series. If she writes another book, I’ll definitely read it, in the hopes that it’s like this one.

Heir Apparent – Vivian Vande Velde

Giannine received a gift certificate for her birthday to the local virtual reality video game center. When she got there, there were protesters outside – something about exposing minors to too much violence. She ran through the crowd anyway, and picked the game Heir Apparent.

And just when the game was starting to get somewhere, a strange lightning storm appeared out of nowhere, and a man (wearing jeans and t-shirt) appeared out of the skies to warn her that the protesters had tried to destroy the machines, and she was stuck inside, until she could win the game. And now she has to win the game, or she’ll die.

So, Giannine’s now stuck in a medieval world with three potentially evil princes for half-brothers, a queen who clearly doesn’t like her, three questionable allies for royal advisers, and barbarians and dragons at the gate. She can only win if she finds all the clues that’ll show her how to win over the people and secure her throne.

This is a clever, fun read. If you game (or hang out with gamers like I do), and/or read fantasy, you’ll love this book. Giannine’s frustrations with the rules, and her various navigations of the game (it starts over if you die, but not infinitely) are a hoot. It’s also a great commentary on our video game culture today.

The Tote of Shame

Now, I’ve decided to mostly opt of out reading challenges this year, but I still do have a project in mind. The above is what I’ve labelled as the Tote of Shame in my LibraryThing catalog, because it used to be a tote, but I outgrew that early last year. This is a pretty deep case – there’s another layer of books behind what you can see (in my defense, a couple of the books on top are ones I have finished but not been able to file away because my main bookcase is currently hiding behind the Christmas tree – that goes away today).

I really need to work on whittling this down. I have two initial plans of attack. There are two books in there that I borrowed – I’m going to try to read those as soon as possible, so I can get them back to their owners (a third book on the top falls into that category – I’ve read it, but the owners live in AZ, so I haven’t had an excuse to return it yet, and they didn’t urgently need it back, so I haven’t felt the need to mail it). The other thing I’d like to concentrate on are series books where I’ve read the first (maybe even second) book of the series, have more waiting to read, but haven’t been able to get to them in the face of the overwhelming pile (and opposite challenge needs). I figure if I can get those out of the way, I’ll be better positioned to get to the other books in the stack. I’m also going to try and read series books all at once if I actually have my hands on them. (I’ll reserve some judgement there – for example, I’ve been enjoying spacing out the Naomi Novik Temeraire books – it feels like more of a treat when I’m not reading them all at once.)

So that’s the reading plan of attack for this year. Let’s see how the ‘tote’ looks comes next December.

Route 9 -Woodford, VT

For New Year’s, we headed over to Vermont, to visit the BF’s family. They’re smack in the middle of the region that was badly effected by Hurricane Irene. Their town (Bennington), was only minorly effected – mostly by the temporary loss of the water supply coming out of the mountains, but the route we take to town passes through several towns that were very hard hit. It was a bit heartbreaking to drive through Wilmington and see so many of their businesses empty, some still boarded up and damaged.

The town of Woodford is right next to Bennington, and suffered as much as it did because it’s right at the base of the mountain, and water funneled right into it. There’s the shell of a stone house still standing next to the bridge that goes into town. (The worst of the damage is in places where you can’t really take photos, so I have nothing to show of that.)

We headed up Route 9, which goes through National Forest, so there are plenty of trailheads and the like to pull into. The river here is running higher than normal, and if you’ve been through here as often as we have, you can see where the water went that it normally doesn’t go. Definitely a sobering sight.

But, unrelated to the hurricane, something else was going on. These photos where taken on New Year’s Eve. Sure, there’s some ice:

But do you see how freakishly green everything is? Not to mention, we’re in the mountains here – everything should be under at least a foot of snow. This is definitely the warmest winter we’ve had in a while.

The Skies of Pern – Anne McCaffrey

I’ve been away from Pern for a while – it was one of my favorite series when I was a teenager, and I’d left off with The Dolphins of Pern – where Thread was seemingly eradicated, and Pern was learning to live with that reality. It seemed a natural enough stopping point, but there were more books written. It seems rather bittersweet that I got my hands on this book right around the time that Anne McCaffrey passed away. I think this read was my mini tribute to her.

With the threat of Thread slowing diminishing, soon to be gone for good, the Weyrs of Pern are facing the fact that they will need to find new crafts, and new ways of staying relevant in this new Thread-free world. F’lessan, the son of the Benden Weyrleaders, has made it his mission to restore the ancient Honshu Hold, and the telescope that was built there. When a comet hits the Western Ocean, and causes a tsunami that impacts many of the coastal holdings, F’lessan and the other riders find sudden inspiration for how they can remain relevant, and still protect the skies of their planet.

There’s also a sub-plot about the Abominators – people reacting against the new technologies rolling out in Pern since the discovery of the computer that controlled the Ancient’s knowledge that was brought over in the colony ships. It’s a rather apt issue relating to real life today.

I have to say, I did read this book with a bit of sadness, knowing that the author is now gone. I know that her son is continuing the Pern series, but the continuations are never quite the same as the originals. I’m definitely grateful for the wonderful hours of reading that Ms. McCaffrey gave me, and I’ll miss her for sure.

The Knitter’s Book of Socks – Clara Parkes

Much like the cookbook I just read, I don’t normally read knitting books all the way through. This is also one of the few authors that I will automatically get her next book, even if I haven’t previewed it first.

The first part of this book breaks down exactly why socks are different than many other knitted pieces (because they’re made for feet, which have a unique set of requirements for comfortable wear), and exactly what kinds of yarn will best suit those requirements. There’s a lot of interesting reading in that section – there was a lot of information I would never have thought of to take account of when making socks, and it also helped explain to me why I like some of the sock yarns that I do.

There are also patterns – running a fascinating gamete of styles and techniques. A number of these are going into my Ravelry favorites, and a few might even make it into my queue. I’ve been on a sock hiatus, but this book may be just the thing I needed to get me out of that.

If you knit socks, you should definitely read this book – you’re sure to find it fascinating.