Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas of Endless Cushions

Now is the winter of our bruised bottoms,
Made comfortable by this fine array of cushions

This is what I did for Christmas!

Ok, to be fair, the portrait cushion was a school project from some years ago, I just made a new cushion to go IN it. Likewise the three IKEA silk cushion covers, and there was one cushion that I made a cover for...

But Bunthulhu and the Stealth Ninja Pirate Bunny (minus the pirate- we really MUST get him a cutlass!) were all me!

Bunny, by Huw Davies

This is actually a second birthday present for the Polar Bear, as he decided no really, Ceiling Cat (see last post) creeped him out too much. I'm getting Ceiling Cat back and putting it over my desk.


Sneak sneak...

Sneak sneak sneak...

Skitter skitter tug...



Woohoo! Second stinky old cushion from a couch we threw out 6 years ago and was fourth-hand when we got it, GONE!!!

Also inspired by Bunny. We are above the moose-line.

This is what I do instead of wrapping things...set out little scenarios. Bunthulhu was left like that for him to find. The Stealth Ninja Pirate Bunny was hiding on his chair with a scroll pinned to him telling the Polar Bear to look in a certain file on the computer, where this series of pictures were waiting to be found.

The kitties got toys again, of course. Persephone got a stuffed pomegranate with a cloth dime-bag of catnip stuffed down inside.

And catnips mousies for my niphead rodent catcher (shhhhh, don't tell her the two brown ones were the same ones from last year, I stashed them away after last Christmas and they've been marinating in catnip all year!)

Jack, the Viking kitty got his very own spear, with a plastic test-tube in the shaft, filled with rice for proper spear-rattling. Also, a...Purple Thing.

He got a new ball and cardboard scratcher too, as both of his were dire. But I didn't make those so moving on... (though I actually want to try making my own cardboard scratchers. They're apparently not hard and we have enough boxes that need to be disposed of to be worth trying on)

They both got a lump of coal as well, stuffed entirely with catnip. PersePHONY (Persephone's "Evil Twin") promptly claimed those as both hers. Well, she IS the Evil Twin!

And my first attempt at cardboard construction, and the final destination of four of the cushions I made. We would like to attempt something similar in wood eventually. Possibly here if we stay much longer. I want to try it with a pegging system so it can be broken down to move flat.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chocolate! and some recent work

This is why living with a chef is awesome!

Leftover chocolates from a commission!

Milk Chocolate covered coffee beans (in coffee bean shaped mold!)
Chocolate Stars (plain, orange, peppermint, and some broke-while-removing brandy infused ganache)
Dark Chocolate Brandy Truffles in Milk Chocolate
Dark Chocolate Truffles in Cocoa

Chocolate Dripping Surprise.

So named by me because it's the drippings from the tray under the rack they were hardening on; surprise, because it's a mix of plain, orange and peppermint flavoured chocolate, and you don't know what you're getting until you pop it in your mouth!

Dark Chocolate Speculaas bark

Left over dark chocolate ganache which I suggested we could use to try truffles rolled in speculaas crumbs. The Polar Bear was tired and didn't want to roll more, so it was mixed in the crumbs and rolled it out on a tray.

This stuff? Is f*@&ing AWESOME! (and I do not use that term lightly!)

This is why living with cats is awesome! I was taking the chocolate pictures right beside Persephone's chair, and as soon as the camera starting clicking she started posing for Playkitten Magazine! Belleh snorgling ensued!

As for recent work...sadly, the tapestries have been temporarily abandoned.

Shortly after the last post on them, I wove the face and was entirely unhappy with it. The colours of the shadows were wrong, the colour of the lips was wrong, (actually, funnily enough, the colour I wove the darker shadows in turns out to be the perfect colour for the lips!), and both the eyes and lips were cartoonishly big, despite being woven across only two warp threads. There are no pictures of the face; it was that bad.

Since it would have taken a fair amount of time to unweave, I decided to cut it out. Careful as I thought I was being, I sliced through a warp thread. I wove a new warp in and it's fine, but I was upset and wanted some time to rethink how to do the face. At that scale, I'm thinking I'm going to have to embroider the features. One warp thread is too narrow, two is too large. Or else scale up the cartoon and weave a bigger piece. Which I kinda wanted to do before I started weaving, but since these were supposed to be Christmas presents, I thought small would be faster.

Then I realized I was in fact unhappy with the figure as a whole, which I think would look fine enough at a distance, but the difference between the light and dark areas are too pronounced close up (and since the piece is only 7" tall...), and too definitively separate, instead of blending into each other. I'm thinking I can solve the issue with more colour blends, and with some hatching in transitional zones.

And THEN I realized that what I learned while doing the background wall could make the whole wall better if I started over. Mostly that the grey looks great, but there needs to be more of it. It's supposed to be a bare hint of light off rough stone walls, and it works where there's grey woven in, but it looks strange with only scattered areas with light reflecting off them.

I'm going to start over. In the new year.

So I did this instead! :)

The Polar Bear's birthday present! Yes, that IS Ceiling Cat! His head is a bit squished to one side in this picture. I don't know why. The Polar Bear is a bit creeped out by it all, which I didn't expect...

I want to do another with a black cat and put it on the floor! Basement Cat! Hee!

Also working on this. Stem stitched Japanese Pampas Grass, and mokume shibori dyed in indigo.

And that's all I'm saying about this project right now.

Also, while we're not doing Christmas at all this year, (no money, and no family even remotely near enough to care), and therefore have not bothered to decorate or put up a tree, I couldn't resist doing at least this outside my door to amuse my neighbours and the Polar Bear, when I found out Simon Tofield of Simon's Cat had put out a printable cut-out of the cat. (if you haven't seen the Simon's Cat films GO THERE NOW!!!!!)

You can see what the characters are doing better if you click on the picture.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Ice" by Sarah Beth Durst

In the spirit of really really wanting to win this book... (I get an extra entry for linking to the contest)

Book (and movie) review blogger (Mrs Magoo Reads) is having a contest to win a copy of "Ice" by Sarah Beth Durst (whose blog is also listed in my links in the side bar).

"When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth..."

You can read the rest of the promo blurb here. Awesomely, Ms. Durst has also put a section on her website with retellings of more obscure fairy tales she's come across in her research for her other two books. Which makes me all kinds of happy! (even better, she retells them with snarky running commentary! Hee!)

Mrs Magoo is rather awesome too, I've discovered. Exploring her site, I noticed she reviews a lot of Young Adult Lit (a category which, frankly has some of the best books!) and being the nosy sort wondered if she explained why anywhere. It turns out that Mrs Magoo is herself part of the category's target audience! Now THAT's freaking cool!

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Tapestries in progress

New tapestries! Two 5-ish" x 7" portrait style miniature tapestries are in progress. I can't show you the cartoons as both the people these are for have the link to this blog, though I don't know if they actually follow it. In fact, I think I may not be able to show any more pictures of this one, after these.

I can get away with a few comments, though...

Weaving black and dark gray together is not as eye-boggling as I thought.

The purple, however, has been a complete pain. Warning: venting ahead. (but it ends with kitties!)

The idea was to create shading by weaving the darker areas with a black cotton perl thread, wound with a single strand of purple sewing thread, and the lighter areas with a purple wool thread wound with a strand of black thread. A quick few lines of the purple suggested it was thin enough to use with an 18 epi warp, so I wove up the the darker bit and began weaving the lighter area, only to discover within a centimetre that the purple wool was definitely too thick and the area of warp was buckling.

Unfortunately I didn't have any thinner yarn in a colour that was close to the sewing thread woven in with the black. I had some thinner plum purple, and a similar sewing thread, but since I had been sewing the larger slits up as I wove, I really really really didn't want to pull it all out.

I ended up using an idea I got from Kathe Todd Hooker's small format landscapes, of winding together a bunch of strands of sewing thread to make up a colour. Which then turned into a whole "Goldilocks" thing, (this one's too thick, this one's too thin, this one's got too much black). Worse, while I did have three cones of purple thread in very similar shades so I could wind more than one strand at a time, I only had one free bobbin, so every time I decided I had to change the thickness I had to wind the bloody things off onto an old thread tube, before carefully separating out the threads I didn't need while trying not to knot it all into a unholy mess, because you know, I'm too obsessive to actually just write the mis-wound thread off as a bad lot and start fresh; no, that would be too simple for me and my "these are Christmas presents" deadline!

(I did finally get it right)

The bright areas were done with a strand of fuchsia added instead of black. And I'm taking the day off from weaving. Dinner at friends, and since the power went out for an hour and the building doesn't want to heat back up because its -37C out there, I'm not going to even try getting anything done today.

Well, except make a catnip baggy to stick in a pomegranate soft toy for Persephone's Gotchaversary present. 3 years, I can't believe I've had the sweet little furface for 3 years already!

First day home; 10 months old approximately, just spayed that morning, skinny as a rail, huge ears slick with a final dose of ear mite goo, and utterly fearless as she explored the new domain she was now going to be queen of (the two boycats a mere inconvenience)

Persephone now. That mousie's getting some AIR!