Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Penelope's webs

I've been feeling down about my WIPs lately. It seems like I only choose things infinitely big to make, and not having anything done to write about or use is frustrating. It's like Penelope's web - she decided to make a robe in which she worked on all day and frogged at night to stall her suitors (I read that in an English mythology site, I didn't even know this word! Hope it's right...) who came along after her husband, Ulysses, left to the Odyssey. This Garden is all about culture, huh? ;-)

Anyway, the difference here is that Penelope WANTED her robe not to be ever done, and that is definetely not my case! So I'll start a series of posts in which I'll inventory everything I have started over here and try to identify the reasons why things never come to an end. And try to make a plan so they actually get done!

I'll ask for your patience, maybe the next posts are not interesting for you... but it's something I just have to do. If I have a better view of what is holding up each one of these projects, maybe I can finish them!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why I love Amazon

A few days ago, after a long wait, I was surprised by a huge package that arrived by air mail from the US. A happy dance, many little cries and scissors later, and I found my order from Amazon!

International orders usually take a long time to arrive - unless you're filthy rich and, then, why bother ordering online? Go over there and get what you want! Anyway, I've ordered a couple of months ago, and one of the books I wanted - Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches - was sold out after I confirmed the order.

Amazon sent me an e-mail a while later about the unavailability (and look at that, the book is on the catalog again...) and just because I asked if they could add to my order the book from one of their associate sellers - which they couldn't - I got a credit with no time limit for use of 5 dollars.

All that time later, when my package arrived, look what was inside:

I've started reading Crazy Quilting - The Complete Guide, by J. Marsha Michler, immediately! The book is small and spiral-bound, protected by a hard cover. That makes it really easy to carry in my bah, it holds up open on the desk while you read it, and it won't be easily damaged (which, for someone crazy about books, like me, is essencial!). The content is wonderful! There are many ways to make a crazy quilt, all thoroughly explained, some projects for inspiration and tons of step-by-step instructions on stitches, using beads and stuff like that. I highly recommend it, I'll probably talk a lot about this book around here!

This is a knitting classic, my second book by the famous EZ: Knitting Without Tears, by Elizabeth Zimmermann. I still haven't started reading it, but it was very well recommended.

Oh my... this one is eye candy! Royal School of Needlework Embroidery Techniques, by Sally Saunders, Anne Butcher & Debra Barret, is the official book (as far as I understood by the things I read on the web) of the School of Needlework that exists until today in England, sponsored by the royal family. Don't you think that sponsoring exquisite handmade works is a sign of high level of civilization? Anyway, the pictures os embroidered works in this book are absolutely impressive, they look like painting. One of the most expensive I bought, by the way. I am glad just to browse it, when I get to read a little more of it I'll tell you what I think.

Another eye candy! It was because of this book that I bought satin ribbon, The Silk Ribbon Embroidery Bible, by Joan Gordon. Imagine the things I can make using this book and the Crazy Quilting one! The projects are gorgeous, the ribbon flowers... ooooohhhh how beautiful! More useful comments after I read more of it, I promise!

In the lack of Mary Thomas's, another embroidery stitches dictionary: The Embroidery Stitch Bible, by Betty Barnden. I found the explanations fantastic, vey clear and detailed. I'd like to make a sample with this book, learning one stitch a day. But with the size of my WIPs list, I don't know... we'll see. It would be a good idea now, wouldn't it?

And at last, the Encyclopedia of Needlework, by Therese de Dillmont. This book I was not quite sure if I would buy or not... it has been written over a hundred years ago, and it covers many needlework techniques. I wasn't sure because I read in many comments at Amazon that the quality of the pictures was really bad. I asked Vince, from Works of Hands, if he thought it was worthy it (he also owns Works of Hands' Library, where he shows off the IMMENSE collection of books he has, and this one is part of it). He said that, despite being a book that does not explain things in detail, it had great value and should be part of the library of everyone who takes embroidery seriously. Imgine if that didn't sound like a challenge? heheheh Well, Méri also consults the online version with a certain regularity, so I thought "what the heck" and bought it.

Here's a warning for you: DON'T BUY THIS BOOK! It's the most recent edition, but, inexplicably, ALL PICTURES HAVE BEEN EXCLUDED! When I started browsing the book, I didn't know what to do. Later I came to the conclusion that it wouldn't be good for me like that. I even thought of printing the online images and leave them together, but... you have to agree with me, if I bought the printed edition to ease my learning, that wouldn't work. So I headed to the Amazon website and asked to return the book.

Amazon is a company with many years in the market (about 10, at least, right?), and their system is highly realiable. To return a book you go to the right page, pick the book you want to return from you order, inform the reason to return it, print a bar code and the address to glue on the package and send it back. That simple.

After I was done with the preparation, I ran to the nearest post office - I had to run because I left work earlier so I could get there before the post was closed (the hours are terrible). When I got there, I asked the attendant for the cheapest way to send it to the US. She said "36 reais" (over 15 dollars). Lucky me I didn't have that amount in my wallet, and the post doesn't accept cards - they don't make things easy now, do they?

When I got home, I started thinking: what if when the package arrived there Amazon said that in the book description it said there was no pictures in it (I saw that later), and that therefore they wouldn't refund me the delivery? I wrote them explaining that to return the book I would spend around 15 dollars, and that I'd only do it if I were certain of the refund. 15 dollars is a whole other book, you know.

What did Amazon do? Oh, figures... They agreed that the delivery was too expensive, they said they were sorry for the problem I had, and therefore they would give me the refund for the book, the delivery and that I DIDN'T HAVE TO RETURN THE BOOK.

Do you know how many companies would treat me that well here in Brazil? Very little, I assure you. That's why I continue being an Amazon customer, although the international delivery is expensive - but they always have the books I want, and in general, even with the delivery, I end up paying less then if I placed the same order in a national store. Go figure.

Aren't you just dying to know what I'm gonna do with all that now? :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Crazy about knitting

In the last weeks, I've been crazy about knitting. That is partially my friend L.'s fault, she introduced me to the group Crazy Knitting Ladies - which, despite the name in English, is mainly formed by brazilians. (there are some people from other countries, if I'm not wrong, and also a few boys, something rare in the world of knitting)

The amount of messages per day is immense - sometimes just people congratulating others for the works they've completed. Other times there are links for patterns, questions, and stuff like that.

I'm still working on my first knitting project, the brown bag I've already shown here. But since it's kinda big, it takes a while to finish. Actually, I was a little tired of working only on my WIPs, they're taking too long to be completed. So I decided to do something small and quick for A Make a Month. I was going to make a new sewing project, I have even drawn it - but the needles called me up! So there I went to look for a small pattern in Ravelry.

For those of you who don't know it, Ravelry is a community of people who knit (and crochet). It's a big hit, by the way. There you can find free and paid patterns, and I needed something free, easy and quick. I found lots of cool stuff, which I've added to the list of projects I want to make from Ravelry itself. This one looked like exactly what I wanted:


A pincushion! Isn't it cute?

The problem with this pattern (Peyote Pincushion, by Iryna Klionava) is that it needs a set of four double-pointed needles, which I didn't have (note the past tense - I've just received a package on the mail...). So I thought: the most important now is to a) make a project that finishes fast and b) uses something I already have, according to the rules for A Make a Month.

Which made me decide to make a simple little square, with a crochet yarn. That's right, I haven't even used wool. That yarn is so pretty, I wanted to use it no matter what. It's been here for ages! I thought it would be nice if I used it with the knitting board, but it really is too thin. For the pincushion, that was no problem!

I've used the needles my mom lent me and the Monalisa yarn. Look what it turned into:

I also had the filling (I have a big bag of that!), so I was only lacking fabric to make the internal part. If I had only put the filling in, it would keep coming out of the knitting holes.

It was then that I found out that I don't have plain fabric! I've started buying pieces of fabric for patchwork after I've had a few classes, and usually the stores make up kits of printed fabrics. I think they even make up kits with plain fabrics, maybe they just haven't caught my eyes... but the fact is that I wanted a plain white fabric, so the colors in the knitting showed up more.

Then I remembered: last year, when I visited a patchwork event, I've bought a fabric in stripes - those that come with large stripes of matching prints. When I got home and started looking more carefully the things I had bought, I've noticed that one of the stripes had a flaw in the print, and a dirty mark that wouldn't leave even after I washed it. At the time, I've called the store many times, but they said the fabric was sold out in the supplier's, and that I could go there and pick something else in exchange. The problem is that the store is across town, and for São Paulo that's a big deal! So that I gave up exchanging anything, I had already paid for the fabric, would I have to pay to exchange it?

Now guess the fabric color... that's right, white! So I cut exactly where the flaw was to make the internal part of my pincushion.

The fabric looks like regular cotton, also printed in white. The prints look painted over the cotton, which made the sewer pencil not to erase. Imagine if I had made this mistake on another project... I would not be happy with that yellow mark showing on my patchwork! Lesson learned, always mark the fabric on the wrong side (I should've known better...).

I've cut a rectangle, sewed by machine (YES! I've used my dear machine!) and left an opening. Turned it right side out, put the filling and closed the opening by hand.

I've also hand-sewn the knitting. Simple, fast and I've used lots of things that were stuck around here.

Does it get any better than that?