October was not one of my best book months. It started off good with Middlesex but was up and down from there. My favorites are probably Button Man, The Men Who United the States and How to Tame a Fox. The last two books of the month were duds...in my opinion.
What are your favorites reads from October?
By Jeffery Eugenides, Narrated by Kristoffer Tabori
Middlesex is one of the most unique novels that I've ever read. The core story is about Cal/Caliope Stephanides and Cal is telling the story. But it's story that covers three generations and how decisions have affected his genetic makeup. Cal is intersexed: part boy and part girl. The book was published in 2003 so it was before our obsession with biological gender vs gender identity and, therefore, is refreshingly free of political overtones.
I think the book is a bit longer that it needs to be and if not for the great narration, I might have given up on it. But I'm glad I stuck with it. It's graphic in some places so that might not appeal to everyone but, otherwise, I think it's a good exploration of the randomness of how we come into existence and the choices that we make to deal with it. This one is positive, doesn't cast stereotype parents as evil and shows what a difference a good attitude and acceptance can make. We don't have to "fix" everything. Sometimes it's best to just be what we are.
The Secret Child
By Kerry Fisher, Narrated By Emma Spurgin Hussey
It's the 1960's, Suzy's husband is on a 15 month deployment and she gets pregnant. Today we would call it rape. But she has the baby and chooses to give it up for adoption to save the effect on her family. It's a decision that torments her the rest of her life and has consequences for her husband and daughter.
Half of the story is told by Suzy and half by her younger daughter, Grace. It's the age old story about decisions and unintended consequences. Even the right decision has consequences.
It's a well written book and it's definitely chick lit. I wouldn't want to read a lot of this kind of literature but this one was good.
I am Brian Wilson
By Brian Wilson, Narrated by Fred Berman
Brian Wilson is a musical genius. Often with genius comes other issues, especially emotional issues and that is certainly the case with Brian Wilson.
In this book we get a lot of the stories of the great impact that he had on the music industry, much of which is beyond the Beach Boys. We also get a look at his personal life and the struggles that he has daily to try to live a productive life.
It's all quite interesting if you can handle the scattershot nature of the way it's presented. It's impossible to keep up with chronological events. He jumps all over the place from one random story to another. I imagine that it's very much what his daily existence is like. I had a very hard time making it through.
By Christopher Moore, Narrated By Euan Morton
This is about the 4th book by Christopher Moore that I've read and I really should know better by now. His books are meant to be humor and they sort of are. I personally think that he tries to cram too many genres into his books. This one is part historical fiction, fantasy, mystery,mythology, satire and humor. It's too clever by half.
The story is about a "sacred blue" paint used by famous artists over the ages. The story opens with the death of van Gogh and the desire to determine if it was suicide or murder. Baker/painter Lucien Lessard along with Henri Toulouse-Lautrec set out to find out.
It would have been great a a straight up fantasy/historical fiction novel but the addition of crude humor, for the sake of humor, detracted from the clever storyline. It's probably the last of his books that I'll read.
Emma by Jane Austen
Narrated by Emma Thompson, Joanne Froggatt, Morgana Robinson
Of course I've read Emma before! Many times. But Audible has a new program where subscribers get 2 free listens of Audible-exclusive programs each month. This was the only of the 6 options for September that I was interested in. The narration was spot on.
By Andrew Gross, Narrated By Eduardo Ballerini
This is a historical thriller set in NYC at the formation of the mafia. The story is told through the Rabishevsky family. One brother starts a garment company and another gets involved with the street thugs that later become part of the mafia. It's an interesting story of NYC in the 1920's and 1930's and includes some real life mobsters and prosecutors.
The Men Who United the States
By Simon Winchester, Narrated by Simon Winchester
This book is a wonderful perspective on the development of the United States because it focuses on the explorers, inventors and forward-thinkers that created the tools that united our vast land. He does digress into some personal stores here and there but they are pretty interesting stories. You will learn a lot of history told in a wonderful storytelling narrative.
I read another of his books last year, The Professor and the Madman, about the development of the Oxford English Dictionary and I loved that one too.
How to Tame a Fox
By Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut, Narrated by Joe Hempel
I told you above about the new Audible program where they provide 2 free downloads each month. You have 6 to choose from and I'm determined to get my free listens. This month I chose a 3 hours interview/podcast-type program nammed "Hi Bob" by Bob Newhart and "The Queen: Aretha Franklin". Both are about 3 hours each and now I've discovered that I don't really like a podcast format. But they are great for listening to when I go to bed to help me get to sleep.
I was happy to get back to my "real" books after that and the next one I selected was "How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog)". By now you know that I'm kind of into genetics. Not enough to study it, but I do like reading about the study of it.
Apparently about 60 years ago a group of scientists in Russia were interested in understanding how the dog became domesticated from the wolf and if that evolution could be repeated in foxes. Dogs were the first domesticated animals and that happened thousands of years before sheep, goats and other animals. The scientists though that if they could select foxes for tameness that they might be able to see how the domestication process works. Surprisingly, the experiment worked quickly and very well. Within 10 generations (a decade or less) they had fully-domesticated foxes. What was interesting was what other traits changed as the foxes became tamer. Somehow, the researchers kept this experiment going for decades through much upheaval in Russia and now there's extensive genetic research happening on the tame and control foxes. The story is fascinating and you will be happy to knwo that if you have enough money that you can get your own pet fox.
Milk! A 10,000 Year Food Fracas
By Mark Kurlanski, Narrated By Brian Sutherland
I loved Mark Kurlanski's books on Paper and Salt. They were informative and fun. Milk, unfortunately is mostly boring. There really isn't anything "fracas-like" about the history of milk. There are a few tidbits of interesting information in the book, like the Swill Milk Scandal, but you can read about that on Wikipedia without dredging though this book that seems about 50% narrated recipes.
The book is further hindered by some very poor narration. I sped the book up to 1.25 just to get through it. My advice to you is to pass on the milk.
America for Beginners
By Leah Franqui, Narrated by Soneela Nankani
Oh the tedium!
I had heard great things about this book and it was even compared to Behold the Dreamers, one of my recent favorites. It is NOTHING like Behold the Dreamers except it is about foreigners visiting the US for the first time.
The story is about a Indian woman visiting the US for the first time to try to find her gay son. She is guided by a recent immigrant from Bengal and an aspiring actress who needs money. It takes half of the book just to introduce all of the characters and most of the book is comprised of internal dialogue from one character or another. I made it 6 hours in and just couldn't take it anymore. I was ambivalent about all of the characters and wanted to slap most of them and tell them to buck up and get on with their day.
(Fortunately this one was free from the library so I didn't feel bad not finishing it!)
It was a bummer to end on 2 bad books but I have hope for November!
In my continuing quest to unpack all of my fabric from the AQS show, this week I had a major victory getting the Stash Packs added to the shop. To celebrate I'm putting ALL of the Stash Packs on sale this week!
All 22 Stash packs are 20% off through Sunday! This includes the Color Wheel Stash Packs. These are usually 11% off but they are also 20% off this week. Time to stock up and maybe get some early holiday shopping for your quilty friends. Stash Packs make great gifts!
Stash Packs are great for applique artists and art quilters. Need leaves? There are 3 green-themed packs to choose from! Earthworks and Cobblestones are great for tree bark, ground and roads and there are several blues for water and sky elements.
The trees outside are finally starting to change color and that meant that it was the perfect time to restock my two favorite Autumn-inspired gradients.
Want to seem them in action? Here are art pieces by Louise Hall and Leslie McNeil using these gradients.
This weekend turned into more of a weekend of chores. I did some hand applique while I watched football yesterday but I mostly continued my efforts to get the inventory from the AQS show put away. I think I'm about halfway done at this point. There are only 3 big bins left in the middle of the living room floor. Believe me, that's progress!
I did take a couple of sewing breaks and made some progress on postcards.
I didn't love my last iteration of the tree cards so I pulled out some dyed cheesecloth and metallic mesh ribbon and gave my trees some background. Then I hand stitched sequins and an bead for a star. I'm happy with this one.
Now they are all ready for their backs and edges.
I also figured out a new direction for the cat postcards. Estelle had this cat stencil that's going to work perfect. In my stamping supplies I also found these little cat paws. My plan is to get these done this evening.
This week's featured quilt is by Rachel Derstine. Her quilt, Marsh Sunrise, is made with the Sunshine and Shadows Gradient as the background. She wrote a great blog post at Artful Quilting and Sewing about the process she went through to make this quilt, including painting the fabric for the foliage.
You can see more of Rachel's beautiful work, follow her blog and buy her art at Rachel Derstine Designs.
For sharing, Rachel received a 20% coupon for the shop that's good for 3 months! If you have made anything with my hand dyed fabric I hope you will consider sharing it in the Customer Gallery. The only rule is that projects have to be complete. It doesn't have to be made totally from hand dyed fabric, just include a recognizable amount.
In between this rabbit hole of the cat postcards, there have been some football games so I've been steadily making progress on my applique blocks. I seem to have a routine where I alternate 4 flower blocks and 4 moon blocks. That seems to keep both projects moving along and keeps the boredom down. Last night while watching my Hokies choke, I finished the 4th of the latest Loony Moony blocks.
It will be a long time before I get bored with this project.
This is my favorite fabric of this group. I just love how the gray-blue weaves across the middle of the moon. If you want to do a moon project yourself, I've added tons of new Shibori fabrics in the shop, including a Stash Pack of fat eighths.
I just had to lay out the blocks that I've finished so far. This is about a third of the total number of blocks that I have prepared.
Well, not a fail so much as way to involved to make.
I didn't post yesterday because I simply didn't have anything interesting to tell. I was just getting involved in this mess and the story had to wait a day.
I had to sidetrack off of the Christmas cards because I remembered some upcoming birthdays. One is my sister-in-law. She and my brother are serious cat people.
I was on Renaissance Ribbons recently looking for some ribbons for another Christmas card idea and I saw this cat ribbon. I just had to get it for JJ's birthday card. Of course I had no idea how I was going to use it but my deadline is looming and it was time to figure it out. Yesterday I started to work on ideas. It's a narrow (3/4") ribbon so it needed another element as the focal point for the card.
I rejected about a dozen ideas before I decided that a foundation pieced cat would be just the thing. I was already about 3 hours into the project by the time I got the cat drafted to my liking. Time to print the foundation papers.
(It kind of looks like a snake ready to strike the cat, doesn't it?)
But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Let's give this thing a try.
An HOUR AND A HALF later I had exactly one card made. I have enough ribbon for 9 cards! I don't really love the card but I will keep it and send this one to JJ. I know that she keeps all of the cards that I send her and she'll appreciate that it's a cat and hopefull will give me a "A" for effort.
Now I'm working on idea #2 for the remaining 8 cards. I don't know what that's going to be yet, except that it will be easier.
You won't want to miss ready today's post with a great sale and new Shibori fabrics!
Black Shades and Solid are the Fabrics of the Week!
Before the AQS show I dyed a ton of Black Shades Packs and Yardage. The show wasn't as well attended as everyone expected so I brought home lots of extra inventory, including some of my popular blacks. Now you get the benefit! This week the Black Shades Packs and Yardage are 20% off!
The Shades Packs come in Fat Quarters and Half Yards.
These are great to have in your Stash and also make great gifts for your quilty friends.
While you are stocking up on great deals on Black, don't forget that ALL of the Color Wheel fabrics are on sale every day! That includes the dark, medium and light Stash Packs shown here and the Shades Packs in all 10 colors! Check them out in the shop.
The past 2 weeks I've been really busy restocking my Shibori fabrics and, hopefully I've responded to one of your requests to be able to get more variety in smaller cuts.
I've been asked many times to sell Shibori in smaller pieces. Some people just want more variety and many people want to make something like my Loony Moony project. So people seem to want something between charm packs and fat quarters. How about a happy medium of fat eighths? I created this set of 8 fat eighths of a variety of shibori colors. The colors do transition across each piece from very dark to light so, if you are making moons, you will get a variety across one piece to give you 3 6" moons. If you like these Stash Packs I'll make more in the future.
But, don't worry, I have LOTS of new half yard Shibori pieces for you too! Check them all out in the shop.
Gradients Back In Stock
Christine Cetrulo used the Thrive Gradient in her Mother Earth Art Quilt.
This weekend wasn't my most productive ever but it was nice. Friday I spent most of the day reliving my high school years with my best friend. She died in August and I wanted to collect photos and stories for her, now adult, children. Aside from the emotional aspects of it, the chore required a good bit of excavating and reorganizing. But it was fun to revisit photos, reread the yearbooks and decide which photos and stories I could actually share. Some things just need to remain our secrets forever! Her son and daughter appreciated it so it was a day well spent for all of us.
Saturday I met with some friends who are interested in starting a SAQA group in the Richmond area. If you are or know any art quilters around this area who might be interested please let me know and I'll pass on your contact information.
But Saturday evening I got back to my sewing room and got started on the Christmas tree postcards. I usually start with a test card and that's what I did this time too.
I found a hand dyed backing fabric that I liked and stitched the tree to the card....easy.
I have a lot of beads and sequins left from when I made those Cracker Box ornaments and decided that the tree needed decorations.
The cool thing about beading on a postcard is that you don't have to be too worried about tying off the threads. Fusing the backing on the card holds all of those threads in place.
I'm not sure if that's going to be my final decoration design but I do like the dyed background so I did get background fabrics fused to postcards. I have a stash of dyed cheesecloth so I might see if adding some of that might add a nice extra dimension.
These are one of my goals for the week. I also want to get the binding done on Antelope Canyon, load and quilt 2 QOV quilts and I still have tons of things from the show to put away.
Time to get to work.
Stephanie Wilds, of Wilds Fabrications, made our feature project this week. She used Under the Sea gradient to piece the darkening sky for her peaceful scene of music-making around a fire.
It's the same technique and fabric that she used in her Chalk Cliff s quilt that she shared a while back.
For sharing, Stephanie received a 20% coupon for the shop that's good for 3 months! If you have made anything with my hand dyed fabric I hope you will consider sharing it in the Customer Gallery. The only rule is that projects have to be complete. It doesn't have to be made totally from hand dyed fabric, just include a recognizable amount.
After I finished quilting Antelope Canyon I've been slowly quilting out a bunch of thread trees on the excess batting and backing an the edges of the quilt. These will be for one of my Christmas card designs. I finally finished them off last night and was able to take the quilt off the frame. Now I have a lot of cutting to do.
These are from the last batch that I stitched out a few months ago.....you know I don't like my Christmas card-making to become a last minute thing! I started these in the summer.
I'm growing quite a nice forest.
The best part of this is that it was a great opportunity to clean out some bobbins. I bet I emptied at least 20 bobbins stitching out these trees.
Let's not forget the other thread that I've used. I used the blue on Antelope Canyon and the other 2 on the trees. There's just enough left to stitch the trees to the postcards and to bind Antelope Canyon. Oh, I do love an empty cone of thread.
I started playing around a bit with the layout. I'm thinking about using some of my waste fabrics for the background and stitching on a few beads. These should go together quickly.
Now I just need 2 more design ideas for the rest of the cards.
I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.
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