Friday, December 31, 2010

Blog not Actually Abandoned

Have had a bit of a week, emotionally.

Much of the impetus in creating this blog was to have a chance to connect with friends. I've noticed lately that my interactions with many of my friends have declined precipitously. I'd hoped that making things easier, maybe putting the boring obsessive bits of my life in a neutral space might make others more inclined to converse with me.

The opposite has happened.

In fact, I recently had a (now former) friend opine that talking with me was a chore.

Things will be quiet as I reassess.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Three more books read last night!

Well, four-ish. One was an omnibus edition of two older Nora Roberts books.

There won't be as detailed a review as yesterday. All books were romances, and romances are a bit like Oreos. Some might be stale, some fresh, and some awesome holiday peppermint Oreos, but they are all, in the end, a common sandwich cookie. You know what you're getting, you know what you're looking for when you pick one up, and as long as the guy and girl end up together without a huge number of WTF moments along the way, it qualifies as a decent read.

The Nora Roberts one included two stories that are, well, old. One has a copyright of 1982, one 1984. If I were a cynical bastard (which I, of course, entirely am not. Of course) I'd suggest that they makers of the omnibus editions like to combine one decent book with one that is... dreck. So there was that. Also, ok, book written in the 1980s, early, but "Your sexuality is so overwhelming that it makes me want to rape you" is entirely not cool. Upside, both books took about 45 minutes to read, so the waste of time was not huge. Stale Oreo, but not so bad you spit it out in the sink in disgust. Just swallow quickly and mourn the ingress of un-tasty calories.

The next one was by an author I'm coming to like, Jennifer Cruise. Not a shining example of her work, though, and a note to publishers. If I open the cover and am baffled by the huge page margins and enormous font size, you are not fooling me into thinking that this is a long story, no matter how many pages that manages to pad things out to. Normal Oreo, maybe a little stale.

The last book, also by Jennifer Cruise, Bet Me, was fun. Good characters, good secondary characters, everyone behaved like their own agents and not just satellites orbiting the main couple, and good (and believable!) reasons why the two had to work to develop their relationship. All quibbles I have with this book are very minor. This book was an awesome peppermint Oreo.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hmm, what, Sunday? What?

Sunday is a day of rest, right?

And it was. restful, that is. I barely got out of my pajamas, and that was glorious. Nothing even remotely like a needle was picked up by either hand, and there was much rejoicing.

Half the day was spent putting about in World of Warcraft. I did the holiday quests on my character du jour, and got her archaeology up to 158, or thereabouts. While perusing an online leveling guide, it mentioned that getting that skill set to max level will take about 20-30 hours. So, right. Not a priority.

After getting bored with the game, I rummaged through the library book pile and came up with a handful of "want to read, should read, need to read." I finished up the last two stories in Mercedes Lackey's Trio of Sorcery (due back today, go me for getting it read at the last minute!). I don't know if it was because I read most of her work when I was younger and less discerning, or if she's not as enjoyable as she used to be, but I've found most of her recent work to be a bit unsatisfying. Sadly, these short stories were more of the same. I think she over-explains things, like a comment that a character is facing East in a game world can't just be stated by fiat, but is "She was facing east, as the setting game-sun was behind her." That's pointless detail, explaining something that doesn't need any explanation. It's unwieldy, and for me, at least, breaks the flow of the story. I will still read what she writes, but she's moved to library books, and I do not mind when they return to the library system.

The next book, Afterlight (written by someone or other, and I don't care enough about the book to go find the author's name, EVEN THOUGH doing so would have been easier than typing all this out) was one I picked up on the off, off, very off chance that it might be an enjoyable debut urban fantasy novel. I didn't have high hopes. I did make it farther into the book than I expected, 100 pages, before it got the ravening madness treatment, closed, and tossed onto the "back to the library" pile. Here's what went wrong: people who loved her unstintingly and backed her up all the time, having no agency of their own; the instant, I-can't-explain-it attraction to the "secret" vampire; the I'm-the-sexiest-in-the-city, I'm-the-best-tattoo-artist-but-I-don't-care-about-that, I-take-more-time-to-describe-my-clothes-than-my-friends-get-speaking-time; the 1337 kickboxing skills that make her feel invincible, but fail her just in time for the 'vampire hero' to rescue her; the bit where every guy who sees her wants to do her, but she's supposed to be genuinely oblivious; and the kicker... "Have you been drinking your Special Tea? The one that masks how delicious your blood is to the vampires, how one-in-a-kind it is?" Was this supposed to be an Anita Blake/Bella mash-up via Mary Sue? Does it matter? Will I read any more? (Oh, heck no.)

Finally, I read Weight of Stone by Laura Anne Gilman. This is a very well written book in which almost nothing happens. It starts with three people in a boat. Then the boat sinks, and they meet their fourth person. They decide to follow the source of the taint that is plaguing their lands with misfortune and strife, but when they touch land the mage is told to come home, so they turn around and go home. Then they all go their separate ways. Then they come back together again. Then the Mentor of the protagonist dies, and they go off to discover where the problems that plague them are coming from. They don't get there, but decide to turn around and come back home. The end, last book in the trilogy to follow. It is a very nicely written book, but I think it needs a few more half-hearted efforts by the protagonists to sail off and back and off and back and off and back again, completely pointlessly, before it would be really exciting. That said, I'm still totally reading the third book when it comes out.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The gift is given if not entirely done

I did get all the binding on, though. Might have been up until past 3:30, and awake and frantically finishing up as my brother came in and started depositing his presents around the tree, but that binding was *on* when mom opened the present.

She was pleased.

I told her I wasn't done, and that I'd need it back to finish up the quilting on the border. She looked at me, and completely seriously asked if I'd have it done by the end of January so she would be able to show it off to her quilting group.

Gentle reader, I didn't laugh in her face. But it was a near thing.

Later she was relaying the list of gifts that she got for Christmas, and couldn't figure out why she got the Angry Glare from me as she finished up. "I mentioned the quilt!"

But you forgot the snowman pillow! The heavily beaded and cross stitched snowman pillow!

(Oh, yeah. >.> )

Thanks mom. =P

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Or, now we come down to the wire.

Last night was a bust for doing anything useful. I came home, napped, but it was still well beyond my ability to do anything useful. I dithered while thinking I was going to start making the binding any minute now, but at about 8:30 I gave up on that plan and ended up reading a book instead.

There's only so far that stubbornness will take you before you deplete your stores of concentration, and I hit that wall last night.

Also, I wanted more light to see the grain of the fabric before I started making the bias cuts.

So, up this morning, square off my fat quarters, and in doing so I lost enough fabric that I could only get three strips per piece instead of four, which left me with not enough fabric to bind off the quilt. Boo!

I went back to Joann's, managed to get in and out without any major issues or long time in line (they had at least six cashiers working the tills). Then back home and a wee bit more dithering as the latest fat quarter washed and dried. I now have the binding made. My next step is to get the quilt trimmed and squared off, and the binding attatched.

Not a creature was stirring, right. I'm still going to be up past midnight working on this thing!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Getting close to the wire, and issues

While trying to quilt the border last night (and, well, early this morning) I kept having to stop and unpick things I had done because they pulled the fabrics out of alignment. Nothing I tried really helped, not careful holding, not pins, not lots of pins. At about 1:30 I had the idea to sew down the side of the quilt, as that would hold all the layers together and then get hidden under the binding.

It being 1:30, I made one seam, looked at it critically, decided that no one would *really* see the lumps after the binding was on, and it's fleecy backed besides, and that the next side would just have more pins.

Lots more pins.

Bringing back the steel industry one quilt at a time, that's me.

All of the corners have a quilted snowman. The bottom has a cute smattering of snowmen near the middle, the left side has a couple in the middle, and the right side has about six quilted in the top corner.

Tonight's plan is to sew the other three sides together, make the binding (eeeeeep!), sew the binding on (with the machine, at the very least, and hopefully get the hand-sewn side somewhere between 50% and 75% done. I am armed with a library of links and a great number of pins, so there's hope. Tomorrow I'll finish putting the binding on, wrap presents, and then quilt as many more snowmen as my fingers can hold out for.

My thumb hurts, my index finger occasionally aches, the index nail has developed a tear right beyond the pink where the needle rests when I'm sewing, the right wrist aches, and there's the occasional burst of numbness that I've been getting when I make a stitch. I didn't realize that this would be so injury-inducing!

Oh, and I also need to turn a little cross stitch into a little pillow.

And maybe sleep?

Maybe not.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mid afternoon again, isn't it?

Funny how time sneaks up on you when you're not looking.

All the quilt blocks are quilted. I have started quilting the snowmen in the border, and think that if I am strategic and try to quilt them at logical spaces instead of doing all of them, I might have time to actually finish this off on Friday.

I've been staying up a wee bit late (well, only past 2am, no big) to get this far. See: lunatic part of blog title.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wherein things go less smoothly than I had hoped

I thought 50M of the silver thread would be enough. I still have nearly two snowflakes left to quilt, and I'm seeing a lot more of the spool than I am comfortable with. I hope I have enough; it would be irksome to have to stop and go out to buy more. That would be a good hour gone, right there. Boo!

The rest of the quilt proceeds apace. There are only 9 small blocks left to quilt, and I am actually finished quilting on all the little green blocks. It's just five stars and four hearts left!

So the quilt blocks should be finished up tonight, thread depending. Which means that my focus now needs to shift to quilting the border. I'm thinking that I should quilt around the snowmen, white around their little round bodies and colors to match their little scarves. I've fully stitched one guy and an assortment of bodies and scarves, and I have to admit that it looks really cute to have little plump snowmen quilted all over. So that's the upside.

The downside is that there's over two hundred of them. I think. I haven't made an accurate count because I don't want to discourage myself, but I know the number isn't exactly small. So tonight's goal is to finish up the blocks (thread depending) then finish quilting the little snowmen on the bottom of the quilt border. Then I can do 'just' a side and a half on Wednesday and Thursday, and still have Friday free to attack the binding.

Wish me luck!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another day closer

... and deeper in trouble. So my optimistic ideas for the weekend turned out to be overly optimistic. Who could have guessed that? So I do not have two large blocks and nine small ones left. I have two large blocks and twenty-six small ones left. This is actually not far off from my initial hope, that I would have finished through row four by the end of the weekend. That would have left me with two large blocks and twenty-SEVEN small ones. So I did make extra progress. Sort of.

This weekend, many hours were spent making little tiny stitches. Then it was Sunday and the little tiny stitches got a wee bit bigger. My poor right thumb aches in every joint (yes, there are only two joints in your thumb, but they both hurt, so there.) and my fingertips are half starting to callous and are half dotted with little tiny tears from the tip of the needle. My attention span and focus are nearly depleted, as I wish to do practically anything other than work on this quilt anymore.

Tune in tomorrow to see if I can be stubborn enough to knock the quilt down to my preferred "One large block and twelve small blocks left" for Tuesday's goal!

P.S. My mom, loving, kind woman that she is, asked me yesterday what I had been up to all weekend. Um. Well. Nothing for you, of course, ha ha ha.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday, not the best day

It's nigh three, and I have thus far finished up one block for the day.

Off to quilt!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wherein I get slightly more lunatic

Twenty four hours have passed, so it's time for an update. I have managed to finish off 12 of the 25 blocks, with the thirteenth well begun. Of course, that was my plan for the close of day yesterday, and an observant person would note that we've passed three in the afternoon.

Details, details.

Given that it is the weekend and that I have more time to laze about and devote to such pastimes as frantic stitching, I have decided that it would be best if I finished off six blocks per day: three large and three small. If I can manage that, I'll have only three blocks left to quilt for Monday, then time on Tuesday and Wednesday to quilt the border, then Thursday and Friday to make and attach the binding.

That's how I roll. I'll make dramatic pronouncements that "Well, if I do THIS" I'll be able to hand off a gift with the squares quilted, at least. And as soon as it look like that might actually be feasible, I ratchet up the daily progress plans until I can fill every waking moment with an attempt to reach an even loftier goal.

I will admit that this is rather insane, and that I could continue with the plan to have just the squares quilted and finish up the rest later. My mom's a crafter, she knows how making gifts can go. But there's an ulterior motive to me finishing the whole thing up in a week. If I manage to get it done, I won't have to take it *back*. I'll be free, free!

Free to do something else overly optimistic, to be sure. Isn't it close to the time where we make resolutions for the coming year?

Friday, December 17, 2010


Welcome to my little corner of the internet. Sit, sit! make yourself comfortable. Can I make you a cup of tea? How are things with you lately?

I feel I should explain the thought behind the title to my blog. See, I have this little habit. Maybe you have it too? I take on projects that are, perhaps, mildly ambitious. Let's use this month's project as a handy example.

I decided late last month that I was going to make a quilt for my mom for Christmas. Nothing too big, or fancy. Just a simple nine-patch for 13 squares, and 12 plain blocks to fill in and make a five by five grid. It's just a lap quilt, something like 45 x 45 inches. I picked up an adorable snowman print for the large blocks, and coordinating red, green, and white fabrics for the nine patch squares. I spend a few minutes with some graph paper figuring out layouts for the nine patch blocks, and to make sure that I know how many blocks and strips of what size to cut out of my fabric. It is late November and I am feeling mildly smug.

Note: this is my first ever quilt. Smug is just asking for problems.

A list of things that didn't quite go as planned:

Cutting out the squares. Wow, that took something like five times as long as I expected it to take, and a trip to work with my cutting mat and fabric to make use of the delightful kitchen table that is long and waist high (entirely more useful than mine).

Washing the fabric. Hmm, the pieces were so flat when they went into the washer, and so incredibly wrinkled when they came out. What happened there, dryer? I only washed fabric and towels, so how did these things come out looking like existential origami?

Sewing together the squares. You'd think that having a couple pajama bottoms under my sewing belt would prepare me for a bunch of short little straight seams, right? Um. Ok, first off, I now have a much longer list of "if I do this it makes my machine cranky" than I had before. Also, while calico and broadcloth may both be 100% cotton, one is lighter than the other and will require many pins before the seams don't bunch up. Also, while the squares my have all been three inches, and the seams all a quarter inch, somehow sewing them together as a nine patch will have all the corners not matching up. More pins. Many more pins. As a matter of fact, the entirety of the 200 count pin pack is looking like a good amount.

The actual quilting. All right, I knew this step was going to take a bit. I'm hand quilting this, with the little squares getting cute little designs (red = hearts, white = stars, green = spiral) and the big ones get a snowflake. This is the part where being an optimistic lunatic really comes into play.

I started the quilting on Monday. It's now Friday. I have one week to get this finished up. I figured out that if I stitch one large block and 12 small ones each day, that I'd get done with the blocks on the 23rd, which would give me a Full Day to quilt around the outside and get the binding on.

(A wee pause while experienced quilters laugh goes here.)

Assuming that I could keep to that schedule, I'd have five large blocks done (there were a couple extra that would get added in to my planned amount as needed) and 48 small blocks done. I have four large blocks and 43 small ones done. This seems like I am close to my goal amount, and I am, but it is the reflection of every non-working waking moment spent huddled over the quilt and poking my fingers with the needle. Optimistically, I'll get this sucker done in time. But I'm going to have to concentrate and knuckle down like an absolute lunatic to get there.

This is an oft-repeating pattern in my life. I make lofty goals, set unrealistic time tables, then work like a fiend to get them accomplished. I'm an optimistic lunatic!