Monday, December 31, 2007

last day of 2007, first ever guest post

This is for you, anonymous commenter from my last post who asked how I made a shield out of felt. But since I didn't, I asked my crafty husband to weigh in. Here he is:

First, take a bamboo slat left over from building your backyard fence and bend it into a circle. (Soaking it in the warm bathtub your child has just vacated helps with flexibility). Pre-drill a couple of holes at the overlap, thread some hemp twine through them, and then whip the twine around the overlap for a firm fit. The diameter of this shield is about 20", a dimension determined more by the available felt and the flex of the bamboo than any other considerations.

Next, attach the felt to the bamboo frame, again with the twine. A tapestry needle is crucial here, as it punches a nicely-sized hole through the felt without any risk to your flesh. I don't know the name of the stitching I used, but you can see how it cinches the felt around the outside of the frame while tightly fitting within. A rustic look is good.

Stencil, paint, embroider, or otherwise decorate the felt; I stenciled it after sewing the felt to the frame in order to ensure a centered design. I would also note that Athena's shield was generally depicted with Medusa on it as well, but I didn't want serpentine overkill.

The cross-bracing was added to take the slack out of the felt, as well as to provide attachment for the handles. The tension of the bowing keeps the bamboo in place, but a little hot glue helps.

Wrap a short piece of bamboo with the twine and cut a narrow strip of leather, suede, or some other sturdy yet soft material to match. These are the handles. Actually, the arm goes through the former and only the latter is strictly a handle. I made the strap extra-long to accommodate future growth. I also tied the handle and strap to the cross-bracing, to allow for adjustment.

Then, take a couple of blurry pictures with your borrowed camera and post to your wife's blog for posterity.

Speaking of which, let's not end the year without a picture of the Christmas table linens Angelique made (yup, those are scraps from Iris' curtains all right):

Happy new year to all and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

coming up for air

How was Christmas at your house?

Ours was wonderful, even if pictures, taken with a borrowed camera, were not. Please do not adjust your set. A Nikon D40 is on its way! (Thank you, Santy Claus!)

The only picture I got of Iris looking happy about her crown, as opposed to striking her strangely somber 19th-century-child-portrait pose, is terminally blurry, but here it is anyway:

Opening her crown prompted a change from pajamas to dress-up clothes. Here she is reading a new book in full fractured-fairy-tale regalia: gown, crown, and Athena's breastplate, complete with head of Medusa, a joint project of her father and me. (He gets most of the credit. The idea and design were all his. I just embroidered the details.)

He also made her a shield of Athena, boldly proving that the freezer-paper technique is perfectly suited to felt.

And now Christmas is over for another year. Actually, make that another three weeks. That's when my sisters-in-law are coming and my father-in-law is returning for a belated celebration with them.

Until then, a little breather and ringing in the new year, which – whether because of or in spite of a lot of changes around here, I'm not sure which – is going to be a great one. I just know it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

farewell to the marvelous barking camera

So my camera died last night, a quiet little death in the pocket of my coat. Probably the only time that camera has ever been quiet about anything. Cause of death: the dreaded E18 error, but I have no idea what brought it on. Last time (yes, it has happened before), the cause was all too clear: Iris tried to manually push the lens back into the casing. That time we were able to have it repaired, resulting in the camera adding a crotchety clackety-clackety noise to its repertoire, which already included birds tweeting when it turned on and a barky little "rarf!"-ing sound that I never figured out how to disable every time I pressed the "shutter" button. Now, silence. (Cue "Taps.")

In theory, this is an opportunity to go all-out and buy my dream digital SLR, or at least a Nikon D40. You wouldn't know it from the point-and-shoot pictures I post, but I am actually a photography buff (buff is such a funny, dorky word – like saying "photography is my bag" – can you picture me now in a field vest stuffed with accessories, a big old camera hanging around my neck on an embroidered guitar strap?) with not one but two film SLRs to my name. I love them, but I have become well and truly addicted to the instant gratification of digital photography.

Alas, I don't think a digital SLR is in the cards right now. We are probably looking at another point-n-shoot under $300. The question is, will it be another Canon? My brand loyalty to Canons goes back to my trusty AE-1, which is almost as old as I am, and which I got in a trade for the camera which took my baby pictures. Talk about dependability. But I've been burned twice now by the E18. I've heard good things about Fujis and their ability to take clear pictures in all levels of natural light, which is important to me. Any advice? I've got a loaner through Christmas, thank goodness – actually, thank my father-in-law, who never travels without a full arsenal of consumer electronics – but as soon as the stores re-open, I'm going camera shopping.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

it's about time

I am finally getting my elf on and making some Christmas presents. What I have not been doing is making my usual internet rounds (and I probably will be scarce until after the holidays), but the reason has changed a bit. Before, it was because I was in denial and did not want to expose myself to bandwidths of holiday cheer and other people's festive preparations, which would only make me feel simultaneously Scroogier about my own lack of festivity and panicked at being so behind in my own preparations. Now, it's because the panic has caught up with me and I am so busy making up for lost time. In other words: it's not you, it's me.

Now that I have finally gotten into gear, I feel a lot better about everything. Not only knowing that Christmas will come for my loved ones this year, but when I am making presents, that is when I truly feel the Christmas spirit. Not to get all hokey on you, but the Christmases since I gave up Christmas shopping have been the best of my life.

By the way, did I mention we got a menorah this year? Actually J made one out of bamboo left over from our powder room floor. We were having dinner with friends during Hannukah, and Iris was full of questions about their menorah, which led to the telling of the Hannukah story, which captivated her, and a little gelt after dinner didn't hurt either. I love the Hannukah story and the symbolism of the candles myself, so I may have enjoyed this addition to our holiday ritual as much as she did.

Anyway, here is a sneak peek at a present now completed, but which I cannot show in its entirety because its recipient has been known to lurk around here. I promise full disclosure later.

My mother doesn't hang out in cyberspace, so I can be a little more bold. Guess what I'm making her?

OK, that wasn't much to go on. How about this – now can you guess?

Felting those sweaters sure was fun – I just let my front-loader do the work.

I was playing with the idea of making Little Miss Dress-Up a crown for Christmas, especially since she has recently promoted herself from princess to queen, but then this injected pure inspiration into my veins.

I whipped this little number up last night after Iris went to bed. Very satisfying to go from vague idea to checking another gift off the list in such a short time – and to be happy with the results! By the way, that's supposed to be an iris there on the front, not tonsils as someone (coughmy mothercough) thought. I know you wouldn't make that mistake, but I just want to be perfectly clear.

OK, back to the salt mines.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

let it snow let it snow let it snow

As has been well documented on this site already, I am not a big holidays person. I am about as likely to get into the Christmas spirit as I am to win a gold medal in pole vaulting (or anything, for that matter – I have no idea why pole vaulting was the first feat of athleticism to leap, no pun intended, to mind). I try not to be too Grinchy about it, but I would not mind skipping Christmas altogether. I used to fantasize about spending the day alone in my apartment, eating chocolate, drinking Champagne, and watching videos. That was when I was single, of course. I should have gone ahead and done it then. Now that I have a child and a husband whose abundant Christmas spirit is so infectious, I sometimes wonder if I just might catch the bug myself, that is obviously not an option.

For me, the real highlight of winter is snow. Probably because I grew up in the south, where winter was just rainy and a white Christmas seemed like a fairy tale, snow is still magical to me. While people all round me are grousing about delays and inconveniences of one kind and another, I am happy inside. I love to walk in it, make footprints, hear it crunch under the soles of my boots, see it pile up on tree branches and rooftops. I love to sit inside under a blanket with a hot mug and watch it fall outside the window. I love its silence. I love the way the sky and the ground are the same color when it snows.

Today it is raining. I started this post the day before yesterday, when it was snowing, and have only just had a moment to finish it. That's the way things have been around here lately – no wonder I have gotten nothing made for Christmas. Nada. I better put on my pointy elf boots and hat and dust off my workbench or kiss my handmade holiday aspirations goodbye, and really, let's face it, nothing brings out the Grinch in me like Christmas shopping. Shudder!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

truer words were never (well, seldom) spoken

as Iris jumps off a banquette in the neighborhood Belgian beer/burger joint where we have gone for lunch (quel extravegance!) for the tenth or eleventh time:

"Why is the waitress letting me jump off this?"

"Because she is deferring to our judgment as your parents, and probably finding it lacking."