Tuesday, August 30, 2011

School Daze

So my first day of fall semester is officially over. I made it and I wasn't eaten by any freshmen. Tomorrow starts pre sixteenth century fashion history. The teacher already has a great link up which I wanted to share with everyone. It's to an exciting exhibit that was at the Fine Arts museum of San Francisco. Titled Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave the exhibit features gorgeous gowns and costumes made from painted rag paper. They are so incredible you would never know they weren't fabric from the photos. What's also impressive about these costumes is that all the patterns on the paper are hand painted and the whole costume is a real work of art. Check it out, it's really awesome.

Make sure and take a look at the videos on the right hand sidebar. They give you an in-depth look at how she creates her costumes and where her inspiration comes from. The videos also show her collection in much greater detail.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rose Daughter

One of my favorite fantasy books is Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley. Ok, I have to say I really love this book. It isn't new or popular but it's a book that I've been turning to for a good comfort story since I was young. Even on the night of my wedding I turned to this book to help me with all my stress so that I could sleep and be ready for my big day.

So why do I love this book? Well first of all it's because Robin McKinley is a fabulous author. I haven't really read anything by her that I didn't love. She knows how to spin a wonderful fairytale without talking down to you or going above your head. Her heroines are lovable and relatable and yet have flaws that make them interesting and realistic.

Rose Daughter is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Of all the fairytale retellings this is by far my favorite because it fleshes out the story and yet weaves it into something timeless and more in depth than the original tale. Maybe it's because the main character (Beauty) is kind, resilient and self reliant with a soft spot for plants (roses in particular). Or maybe its because none of the characters are black and white, her sisters for example are vain and selfish but not evil. Or it could also be that the way magic works in her world is interesting and enjoyable. Whatever the reason I can never put the book down when I start to read it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pulled out a plum

Today my craft adventure was trying out a new baking recipe. I am a subscriber to the Renaissance Magazine which full of fabulous historical information about the Renaissance and Middle Ages as well as reenactments. Issue number 80 contained a great recipe for plum bread in which you can use fresh or canned plums.

Because I have been recently frequenting the farmers markets I had a whole batch of plums that were becoming overripe. And just like bananas making bread out of them is such a great way to keep them from going to waste. I pretty much followed the recipe except that I used blackberry brandy. I just happened to have caraway seeds, and  they do give the bread an interesting twist. And I must say that the resulting bread was really yummy.

Plumb Bread
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
1 can crushed plumbs (or fresh, if in season)
Nutmeg (to taste - start with a pinch)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup brandy (or cream)

Cream together the butter and sugar. Gradually add beaten eggs. ix in the caraway seed, plumbs, and the nutmeg. Add the flour (sifted) along with the baking powder. Add the brandy or cream. Toss it in the oven at 400 degrees for one hour.

Renaissance Magazine Issue 80
Renaissance Magazine

Thursday, August 25, 2011

End of summer

One week left until college classes start again. This is a bit bitter sweet for me because I'm really enjoying my free-time this summer. But I love going to class and am really looking forward to this semester. For the fall I am taking my typical Japanese language courses and getting ready for Nagasaki.

But the best part of this year will be my art classes. Firstly I am continuing fiber art which I loved last semester. I can't wait to learn some new techniques! Also, I'll be taking a fashion history course, but it's in the art department, same teacher as fiber art. I don't know much about it but I love the teacher.

I definitely think I will be cranking out some great crafty stuff very soon. Last semester I felt like I was just getting started. This semester I'm feeling really inspired.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Study Abroad or Japan here I come

So things are falling together for my application to the USAC program which will allow me to study abroad in Nagasaki, Japan. I passed the initial application and was accepted into the program. Now I'm just trying to get all of the paperwork in. In order to go to Nagasaki I first have to:

a) Obtain a passport (yay! Just recieved it in the mail yesterday)
b) Fill out the application for the Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies (still working on that)
c) Obtain two letters of recommendation from important people who can vouch for you
d) Have a health exam, complete with x-rays...
e) Figure out financial stuff...hooray for student loans
f) Figure out housing arrangements

You would think that this is all straight forward, but here's the twist. I'm married and my husband is also going with me in the USAC exchange. I am still waiting to hear exactly where we will be staying. Normally the choices are a homestay (you stay with a family, a great way to get imersed in the culture) or a dormatory. Here's the problem, there aren't very many married couples who go and they aren't sure if a homestay will allow us to stay together. If we have to stay in a dormatory they are not co-ed. So there is a chance that we won't be able to stay together for several months while we are there. I am really hoping that they will find a homestay that will accept both of us...I am still waiting to hear back.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Suikawari Watermelon Game

Yesterday the UNR Japanese Talk-Talk club took it's annual trip to Lake Tahoe. It's been a long time since I've spent time at Sand Harbor, and the biggest thing I remember is sunburns. This trip, however, was really fun. There was a great mix of American and Japanese students as well as other cultures mixed in.

It was mostly fun in the sun, swimming, playing in the sand and eating. But there was one great Japanese activity we did which is called suikawari. Much like a pinata, the watermelon is placed on the ground, a person is blindfolded, spun around and given a bat or stick. The spectators then yell out right, left and forward in Japanese to help the person find the watermelon. Each person gets one try to smash it. The point of the game is to smash the watermelon enough that it can be broken up and given to everyone to eat. It can be much easier and more fun than just cutting it open.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Creature Feature

I went for a walk down by the Truckee River today. They have the coolest fountain with metal sculpted animals. Each animal is native to our area, and are often seen in the desert. My favorite is the coyote and the quail.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Timeless Crafts

This summer I went to the Valhalla Renaissance Faire in Lake Tahoe California/Nevada. I usually go every year because I love to dress up and experience the whimsy of a time long gone. My favorite part of the faire is the numerous people practicing traditional fiber arts. It is not unusual to see many people knitting, spinning, weaving, embroidering, sewing or creating lucet cords.

I myself enjoyed a bit of knitting on my cardigan called Vonica. The yarn I was using was Cascade 220 Sport in a natural color, 100% Highland Peruvian wool. Combined with wooden needles, this yarn is great for an in-period craft.

I had a really great time at the faire this year. The faire is filled with plays, musical performances, yummy food, craft and trinket booths and a general atmosphere of revelry. And although it rained the first weekend, I still had a blast all four days.

Valhalla Renaissance Faire

Sunday, August 14, 2011

It looks like a Yukata

So, I've mostly finished my yukata, all except the bottom hem. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I tried to be as clean with the finishing as I could. I don't have a serger so I did a small zigzag stitch on all the seam allowances before I trimmed them. As far as I can tell it fits just fine, the sleeves are just a bit longer than I wanted, but nothing too terrible.

I already have a vintage obi I use with my other yukata. It has a pre tied drum bow that clips onto the back. Very handy, and it looks great. I think it goes really well with this yukata. I won't know for sure how everything looks until I try it on, but it can be difficult to put on a yukata properly so I haven't done it yet.

I'll be wearing it to the summer festival in a few weeks, so we will have to see how it looks then. Otherwise I'm really happy with this project! It was super easy and fun.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Splurge

I couldn't resist buying two skeins of Lorna's Laces hand dyed sock yarn in the Mt. Creek color-way. It called my name and I succumbed to its dark temptation. This is one of the nicest yarns I've bought to date, I am slowly working my way up.

The colors are so pretty and I've decided to knit it into a Daybreak shawl by Steven West. I'm still deciding on the second yarn (the pattern uses two colors) but I have some ideas. I have a feeling that I'm really going to like working with this yarn.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spunky Bag

My current crazy quilt design is evolving out of a desire to do something less Victorian and a little edgier. I really liked the brown fabric with the teal polka-dots especially when paired with the other fabrics. I tried to keep everything coordinating even though some of the prints are a bit crazy.

All of the quilt fabrics are cotton fat quarter panels I have picked up here and there and added to my stash. I think most of them I only paid $.99 for and I'm only using a small part of each panel for a small project like this. It's a great sewing craft for someone on a budget.

The lining will be this great silky snakeskin print that I backed with interfacing to make it more manageable. And the back is a chocolate colored faux leather. I haven't decided on the type of straps yet, or the embellishments.

I was thinking about bordering several of the edges with lines of seed beads. I'm not sure if I want to use embroidery on this one. I think I might want to keep the pattern as a focal point rather than an embellishment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crazy Quilting The Complete Guide

I am really loving this book Crazy Quilting The Complete Guide by J. Marsha Michler. It has a really nice spiral binding that lets it lay flat and beautiful full color pictures and illustrations

The book is filled with some great crazy quilting techniques, both by hand and by machine. And it gives you wonderful insight into the tradition and history of crazy quilting. Also, this book contains a section detailing 100 embroidery stitches and lots of embellishment ideas.

This is a really lovely book, and a must have if you are interested in Victorian crafts, art quilting or mixed media fiber art. I love how the author shows such a varied range of fabrics and embellishment materials as well as a large number of project ideas. It is a well written and well thought out craft book.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Japanese yukata fabric search

The Japanese clubs I belong to are having a summer festival, they have one every year just as school starts. It's a really fun event with yummy Japanese food, games and entertainment. A lot of the girls like to wear a garment called a yukata because this is what is traditionally worn in Japan. A yukata is a lot like what we think of as a kimono (although in Japanese kimono simply means clothing) a long robe with long square sleeves and a wide sash belt. Summer yukata are usually made of cotton and unlined so they are nice and cool in the summer.

I already have a yukata but it is just a little bit too small. So I decided rather than deal with the wind flipping open the flaps and showing my undergarments, I am going to sew my own correctly sized yukata this year.

Finding the right fabric was difficult because traditional Japanese prints have large background color areas with clusters of designs (flowers, butterflies, etc.) only in certain spots. Most of the cotton fabrics I found were too busy or had the pattern too closely spaced to work for my yukata. Not to mention I'm also trying to stay on a budget.

I needed about 5 yards of fabric for the size I want to make which can be a bit pricey when you add it up. It just happened that one my local craft stores was going out of business and at this time everything was 60% off (though also very picked over) I scoured over the fabric they still had, and finally managed to find something that I like, works well enough for a yukata and had enough yardage left. After it was said and done, with the thread I ended up paying under $20 for my fabric.

I am now in the process of assembling and sewing it, which since it is mostly rectangles and straight stitching is going really quickly. I'm not using a pattern because this is such a simple project, I've just looked up a few tutorials and suggestions, and examined the yukata I already have. I am so excited to wear my own handmade yukata to the festival this year!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Smell the Roses

I've realized lately that I feel a lot happier when I stop to smell the roses. I know this seems really obvious, but when you are busy that seems to be the first thing that is forgotten.

I've been going for walks on my lunch break. Usually I stay inside in my own little world, but recently I realized that I should pay attention to my surroundings more. It helps that I work at a really nice college campus. So last week I took some pictures of the lovely things I've been enjoying.

Thank goodness for lovely things.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Crazy Victorian Bag

I recently discovered a really great craft that combines mixed media art, fiber art and quilting. It's called crazy quilting, and harkens back to the Victorian era when rich and poor alike used scraps, embroidery and embellishments to create fabulous creative quilts.

I decided to try my hand at this technique by making myself a handbag. Using faux leather for the back and sides and upholstery fabric for the lining, I crazy quilted just the front panel. I used scraps of fabric from my wedding as well as random bits from my stash, all in colors and textures that have a real Victorian feel.

Also new for me on this project was ribbon embroidery. I've done traditional embroidery before, so I'm familiar with some of the stitches. But working with ribbons is really fun and satisfying. There is also hand embroidery done with floss on most of the seams and some beadwork.