parlstickare: geometric embroidery in bright blue, red and yellow (Default)
This year I finished the Thamesreach bunting! It took a long long time, but it was so worth it in the end. Not saying I'm volunteering to do more of the same kind, mind you. I've only come slightly further on the split stitch griffin for the shot glass pouch since last year, but, well, the bunting was definitely the primary thing on the to-do list.

I've also come a fair bit on the wedding cushion (no pictures, since I forgot to pack the connection cord between the camera and the computer), but it won't be finished before I go back to the UK. I hope to have it done by March, so I could send it to them in time for their wedding anniversary. Fingers crossed...

Plans for 2016 include finishing the wedding cushion, doing a small woollen embroidery phone pouch for a friend, and finishing the griffin shot glass pouch. I would like to practice making tassels and turks head's knots to go with a 14th century brickstitched pouch, but that is low on the priority list for now.

2014 crafts

Jan. 2nd, 2015 10:50 pm
parlstickare: geometric embroidery in bright blue, red and yellow (Default)
2014 was a rather meager year for crafting, but then again I did almost nothing in the first six months. I worked on the SCA bunting, and will continue to do so this year. I finished my needle book and my apple pin cushion, and have come quite a long way on my glass pouch. I have sketched the design for my friends' wedding cushion, and found out the hard way that a talent for drawing is awkward when you do the more stylised figures of scanian woollen embroidery. The people and animals come out looking all wrong and I have to re-do them.

embroidered needle book
Needle book

embroidered pin cushion with an apple split in half
Apple pin cushion

partly done embroidered griffin in split stitch
Griffin in split stitch, work in progress

No pictures of the bunting, I'm afraid; you'll have to be patient a bit longer.
parlstickare: geometric embroidery in bright blue, red and yellow (Brickstitch)
So that was 2013. A good year, if rather unremarkable eventwise. The main drawback was a computer ready for retirement mid-autumn, causing me to be without computer and internet until Christmas. Still trying to get a feel for the new one. There has been quite a few changes in software, not all of them for the better. Hopefully some of those might improve with upgrades.

Work was dominated by two huge rural sites, one Iron Age/Roman and one Roman. I’ve finished recording one of them and the other is still ongoing. I’m waiting for the phasing – a problem with large sites: ideally I should only record securely dated contexts, but if I have to wait for the phasing to be done, I haven’t got enough time for recording or analysis before the deadline – and once the phasing is done I can start analysing one site and do the final recording of the other.

I didn’t go to any conferences, but to two PZG meetings (i.e. the Professional Zooarchaeology Group, an association of zooarchaeologists in the UK who meet twice a year to discuss methodologies, new research, case studies etc), one on identification of canids (dog/wolf/fox etc), felids (cat/wild cat/lynx etc) and mustelids (badger/otter/marten/mink/weasel/stoat etc), and one on pathologies. Very fun and useful!

As I was without computer for so long, I thought I would have lots of time for crafts in the autumn. Erm, not so much. Or at least not in the sense of having things finished. I did finish my crocheted shawl I had been working on for a while, and it’s lovely and huge and warm. That was my first crochet since I guess I was about eleven/twelve. The pattern was very easy and very forgiving with uneven gauge. Thoroughly recommended. The only drawback is that it makes a equalsided triangle, and I would have preferred one with a wider angle so you could tie the ends behind your back without having a shawl that went down to your knees. Of course this is possible, by using other stitches, but it’s not something I would like to improvise as a beginner.
I also did a couple of needlebooks, some shown here, but the others are not entirely finished. The embroidery is done, but I need to add the lining and do the closing straps. I like brick stitch embroidery. It’s quite fast once you get the pattern (usually after the first two repeats) and enough mindless that you can combine it with watching tv.
In contrast, I haven’t yet quite “got” Scanian woollen embroidery, perhaps because it’s a figures, rather than geometric repeats. I’m still working on my pin cushion, but it’s perhaps telling that I started a new brickstitch needlebook rather than kept going with the pin cushion. However, I love the look of Scanian woollen embroidery, and I will persevere!

I also tried a different craft this year: wood carving. It’s something I’ve long wanted to do, but there hasn’t been many opportunities for it. There are weekend and week courses, but they are usually held somewhere in the countryside, and without a car they can be difficult to get to. Plus you have to add accomodation and food to the cost. But Barn the Spoon in London does day-courses, and I managed to book myself for one. If having the choice, his week-long courses (evenings, not full days) are probably better, as there is more time to absorb things. The day-course was eight hours, and after six I felt my brain was saturated with new knowledge. However, it was great fun and I’m now a proud owner of one spatula and two spoons. Not the prettiest spoons: chunky and uneven in the carving, but not bad for an absolute beginner. I can see the shapes of really pretty spoons inside them! Actually, one of the spoons turned out to be an awesome baking spoon, perfect for making doughs.

I went to two big dancing events: the Oxford Lindy Exchange and the Cambridge Lindy Exchange. Both had good bands to dance to and lovely dancers to dance with, but I think I prefer the Oxford exchange. Mainly because a sunny summer event (picknicks!) is far nicer than a rainy late autumn event. The Cambridge treasure hunt was quite fun though. Maybe we should nick the idea?

So what else did I do in 2013? I didn’t go to any plays, only saw two films (Much ado about nothing and Hobbit 2), didn’t travel abroad (apart from home to visit family and friends), but I did go to several exhibitions and read a lot of books.

I did some calculations and found out that there were so many high-profile exhibitions at the British Museum that it would be profitable to shell out for a membership. They are rather expensive, but you get free entrance to all special exhibitions, no need to book tickets, just go past the queue and head in! Quite good when all weekend tickets have been booked already on two exhibitions you just have to see. And 10% off shop and café is not to be sneezed at either, even if that’s not the main draw. So I got to see Ice Age art, things from Pompeii, South American gold artefacts and Japanese porn. I also saw the 17th century Cheapside treasure hoard at the Museum of London and the Viking exhibition at the National Museum in Copenhagen. The latter will come to the British Museum in spring, and since my membership card will still be valid then, I’ll probably see it again. After all, it’s free.

As usual, I read lots of books. I was very lucky this year, as my favourite author trio: Jo Graham, Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold, all came out with books. What I really love about their writing is the solid sense of history. Admittedly I’m not an expert in any of the time periods they deal with, so there may be things other readers would raise their eyebrows for, but I can’t feel that the characters are spokespersons for modern people, as sometimes happens, or that period social norms are ignored for character convenience. Also, as one reviewer put it: “adult characters acting like god-damn adults!”
- The Emperor’s Agent is the second in Jo Graham’s series about Elza Versfelt (a.k.a. Ida St Elme), going from naive socialite in Directoriate France to Napoleon’s spymaster (think Judi Dench’s M). It’s based on Ida St Elme’s memoirs, but also connected to Graham’s other series, The Numinous World (Black ships, Hand of Isis, Stealing fire), which follows the reincarnated soul of a person, sometimes woman, sometimes man, always with an affinity to the divine (admittedly, far easier to be “god-touched” in ancient Egypt than in enlightment Paris…). Readers of both series will probably recognise characters from the ancient world popping up in their new bodies in 18/19th century France. This is not a strictly historical novel, perhaps more historical fantasy, as Graham uses reincarnation, gods and magical rituals to good effect.
- If I had been very lucky I would have got two books in 2013 from Jo Graham’s and Melissa Scott’s series The Order of the Air, about a avation team/members of a magical lodge in the late 1920s and 1930s. But due to marketing, only Steel Blues (#2) was published in 2013, and Silver Bullet (#3) is due early this year. This series is actually part of the Numinous World, although there is very little cross-over. Elza’s and Michel’s new incarnations have a brief interacting with the team in Steel Blues, but you wouldn’t need to read either series to enjoy the other one. Steel Blues is a great team adventure in the same style as the previous book in the series, dealing with a cross-continental aviation race, a stolen necklace with a curse on it, a Russian countess (alleged) and jewel thief (verified), and the unsolved murders of the New Orleans Axeman.
- Death by silver, by Melissa Scott and Amy Griswold, is a detective story/gay romance set in an AU Victorian England where magic not only exists, but is fully integrated in society. Magic (here: metaphysics) can for example be studied at university, there are reputable (and disreputable) dealers in enchanted objects, correspondence courses in magic suitable for housewifes etc. The story involves metaphysician Ned Mathey whose client was found murdered by an enchanted candlestick the day after Mathey had performed a curse-removing spell from all silverware in the house. Mathey brings in consulting detective Julian Lynes (an old schoolfriend and currently friends-with-benefits) in order to solve the mystery and clear his own reputation. Book two, A non-conforming death, is coming this year, and I’m really looking forward to meeting Mathey, Lynes and Mathey’s awesome secretary Miss Frost again.
- Another praised book was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, which I expect to see shortlisted for the Tiptree award. In a far future world, where the Radch empire is expanding across space, one of its huge warship/AIs has found itself betrayed and almost entirely destroyed, its mind residing solely in a single ancillary (i.e. a human from a conquered world whose brain is entirely overwritten with the AI’s conciousness) soldier, rather than in the ship itself and in the hundreds of ancillaries it once was. And One Esk Nineteen is out for revenge, if she can get offworld and find the Radch emperor.

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