Wednesday, December 31, 2014

(Lack of) Sewing Plans 2015

Last year I had such grand plans.  I thought I would tackle some of my most coveted designs, have a fabulous wardrobe, and love my sewing life.  Of course, reality was quite different.  The past several years have started with me being excited, optimistic, and rather ambitious with my sewing ideas.  But, well, after a few years of not getting much (or, well, any) of that actually accomplished, I think my plans for the coming year will be a bit more... reasonable.  So my plan for 2015 is... NOT to have one.  I mean, really, my favorite designs always seem to come from fits of inspiration when I just can't not sew something anymore.  The fabric calls to me, and things get made.  Plans to have a well rounded wardrobe that was seasonally appropriate consisting of my favorite things have all met with failure.  So, I've decided to give in to the madness.  This year I am going to:

Yup, I'm going to sew what I want, when I want.  Granted, I'm going to have to finish a load of commissions first, BUT if I get a spare moment for myself, I will sew as my whims dictate.  A wool coat in the middle of August?  Why not?  A spring dress in the middle of November?  Might as well.  Random sewing is better than no sewing, and no sewing is what's been happening.  I want, no, I need to change that.  The desire is coming back, and I've got projects stacked to the rafters.  Some of them need to get done!

Although I'm not planning anything official, there are a few things I do want to accomplish this year:

(1) An awesome coat.  Like any kind of awesome coat.  I've got so many ideas!  And patterns!  And fabrics!  I just want to make at least one of them.

(2) Cosplays!  I would like to do at least one day at one convention in cosplay this year.  Because sewing needs to be fun again.

(3) The Elaine coat.  I've been promising this to my sister for 2 years.  The pattern plans have changed, but the inspiration and nagging haven't, so this needs to happen.

(4) Skating practice costumes.  Seriously, the seamstress shouldn't be wearing costumes full of holes.

(5) A ponte pencil skirt.  I keep wanting to wear one, but I do not have one.  It shouldn't be that hard!  It needs to get done.

Like I said - my plans are not extensive, or detailed, or specific.  At this point, if I can sew even one thing that can be worn out of the house as not pajamas I will consider this year a win.  That's where things are right now, and I have to be ok with that.  So, rather than having a detailed plan going forward, I'm going to Sew Random as time and whatnot allow.  I've certainly managed to stockpile enough stash to let my creativity run wild at this point.  Anyone else feeling bogged down by schedules and wardrobe planning and life?  Or just looking for an excuse to run higgeldy piggeldy through their stash?  Who want to Sew Random with me?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Year of Sewing: 2014

This was, yet again, another year of sewing surprises - at least in terms of what was produced.  I had oh-so-grand plans at the start of the year - I was finally going to tackle all of the styles I'd been dreaming about for years now.  What I actually managed to sew... was quite different.  In fact, only 6 of the items I sewed this year were for me, and half of those were skating costumes.  Percentage-wise, well, it's pretty abysmal.  Especially considering that the 3 non-skating things consist of 2 pj bottoms and a knit top with an overly-stretched out neckline that hasn't seen much use outside of the house.  Here's a rundown of the numbers:

1 Top
2 Pants (PJs)
0 Skirts
1 Dresses (for my sister)
1 Coats/Jackets (for my sister)
0 Sweaters/Cardigans
3 finished, 2 half-finished Skating Costumes (for me)
27 Skating Costumes (for others)
2 Costumes/Cosplay (for others)
3 Home Dec/Crafts

Total Items Sewn = 40

The numbers are pretty sad.  My output is about half of what it was last year, and nearly all of the garments were fairly simple makes.  I never finished the figure dress I sewed for nationals (the stoning is as of yet incomplete), though I hope to get it done for some local events in the coming season.  I also never managed to photograph the white dance test dress I made.  I really need to do that sometime...  Granted, my post-nationals melt-down didn't help any, and I hate to say I feel as though I'm barely recovering from it just now.  On top of that, though I haven't really discussed it much on the blog - I've been dealing with a fair bit of inflammation from auto-immune flare-ups, which in turn has led to a not insubstantial amount of weight gain.  I can still mostly fit into my sewn garments, but they just aren't as comfortable as they used to be, which doesn't give me much motivation to sew more using my already tested and altered patterns.  I was feeling fantastic at the start of the year when I was living fully AIP (auto-immune protocol), and I think I really need to get back to that strict structure for at least 1-2 months, force myself to have a realistic bed-time, and re-introduce foods more slowly this year, because the food-reactive inflammation is definitely back and it isn't fun.  I didn't intend for this post to turn into a discussion of health issues, and how weight impacts sewing - though you are free to discuss this in the comments - I'm just saying it has been a harder year than I imagined it would be, I haven't been feeling fantastic lately, and it has definitely impacted my desire to sew.  Anyway, these are things to deal with looking forward, but this post was really supposed to be about looking back at the past year.

While last year's run down of my top projects were mostly all images of me, this year nearly all of my favorites were created for other people.

(1) Black/Silver Skating Dance Dress

The one thing I really loved that I made for myself was the skating costume I ended up using as a dance dress this year:

It was a costume I had originally planned to use only for testing or as a nice practice dress, but everyone was very complimentary, and it has ended up being one of my favorite skating costumes, ever.  It is super comfortable, and I think it has a nice impact on the floor.  Between this dress and my peacock dress from last year, I think I am definitely finding a signature style for myself.  I don't want my costumes to be repetitive, but, well, don't mess with what's working for you, right?

(2) Black Coat Remake

My sister requested a coat re-make sort of on a whim, and I was inspired to buy the fabric, cut it out, and sew it together in something like a week.  The results couldn't have been better.  Definitely one of my favorite makes ever, let alone this year:

The perfect medium-weight coat.
The lining might be my favorite part...
(3) Dirndls!

When I got asked to make two sets of dirndls for Oktoberfest (in Germany!) the Burda fan-girl in me was super excited.  It was a lot of work, but I was also very pleased with the outcome!  It was super fun to sew something so out of the ordinary, and I have to say I was pretty pleased with my ability to please two different clients - both in terms of fit and style.  It totally makes me want to sew more non-skating costume pieces in the future!

And, umm, yeah.  That's about it.  Not nearly as epic a run-down as last year, but, well, I still managed to turn out a few pieces that I really liked this year.  Was this year everything I wanted it to be?  Well, no.  Not even close, really.  Did I learn a lot about myself and how I want sewing to fit into my life?  Yeah, I think I did.  Is this going to help me make informed decisions for the future?  I hope so.  For now, I just have to get through the massive pile of costume projects I have built up.  After that... Well, we shall see.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Year in Review: BurdaStyle Magazine 2014

I have to say, this has been quite an awesome year for BurdaStyle magazine.  We've had some truly outstanding issues, full of some fantastic patterns, designs, and styling.  I've been very excited about a lot of these designs (though this hasn't translated to actual sewing, for several reasons that will likely be discussed in tomorrow's post).  In case you'd like to review the issues in depth, here is a link to my posts from the year:


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Skating Accomplishments 2014

This has definitely been an up and down year for me as far as skating is concerned.  While I did accomplish many things I had been working towards for a long time, I also had quite a few failures as well.  Costume sewing stress had combined with it all to produce a... less than favorable feeling about the whole thing post-nationals this year.  I'm not ready to be done, but I'm also not going to deny that there was some serious burn-out happening after nationals.  All in all it has been an interesting year.  Maybe not the best, but then one learns more from failure than from success.  So I guess I'll call this a learning year.  In any case, a few highlights:

  • Was part of the National Champion Large Show Group (and made all the props for said performance, including a 6-ft tall replica of Van Gogh's portrait)
  • Participated in World Class Figures
  • Placed 3rd at Regionals in Classic Solo Dance
  • Passed 10th and 11th International Solo Dance Tests
  • Passed 7th Loop Test
  • Skated (but did not pass) my American Gold Medal Dance Test
  • Judged at the US National Championships

I actually accomplished most of my goals for the season, so I suppose I should be really happy with the results from the year.  Looking forward, I think my future plans are more focused more on the judging side of things - I should very much like to increase my test commissions to #4s (which allows a person to judge gold medal tests), and to increase my competitive judging commission to include the CIPA (international) events.  With work being crazy as it has been, it will be difficult to find the time to study, but I'll just have to figure out a way to make it all work.  Skating wise, I really just want to re-take my gold medal dance test for American solo, and hopefully take the team test as well this year.  It is quite a few months until testing is available (it can only be skated at an invitational or regional meet), so anything could happen in the meantime, but, with a little luck and a lot of work, all of my junked-up joints will hold together long enough to make it happen.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Reading Round Up 2014

Although I haven't been as good about posting to my blog this year as I have in the past, I didn't want to skip my traditional end of the year wrap-up posts.  It is crazy to think that this is the 5th year I'll be doing this.  It really doesn't feel like I've been blogging that long.  Time flies...  Anyway, on to my first review post - my year in books.

Books Read: 28 (though I'm trying to finish a few more in the next couple of days)

Favorite Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Favorite Sword & Laser Pick: The Martian by Andy Weir (it would be The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, but since I technically read that last year it didn't seem fair to pick it)

Honorable Mentions:  Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson and The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

I feel as though this has been a good year for me as far as reading goals are concerned.  From last year the things I wanted to accomplish were:

(1) Read at least 24 books (2 per month).  Score!  I managed to hit my goal in November, so I'm quite pleased with my progress as far as quantity is concerned.  Like last year (when I read 16 books), this is the most books I've read in a year since finishing grad school!  I'm actually rather excited by that fact.  I think following along with the Sword & Laser book club has helped - having a set schedule for reading certain books has pushed me to finish them in a timely manner.

(2) Read all of the Sword & Laser book club picks for this year.  Well, I sort of didn't read the August pick (The Name of the Wind) but only because I read it very recently, and didn't feel the need for a re-read quite yet.  But I've managed to follow along with all of the others, and only finished late for the month of June (because of skating stuff, mostly).  I've also found a local book club that has started meeting to discuss these books, so it has led to some real-life friend making, which has been nice.

(3) Read more sewing books.  Kinda half-met this goal.  I mean, I've read a few sewing books this year, but not too many, and nothing detailed enough that I feel as though I've learned much new information.  I have signed up for a few courses on Craftsy though (Black Friday sales were awesome!), so maybe some visual learning will happen in the near future.  Basically I think I'm at a point where I know my skills need to improve, and I'm really interested in learning things that will help me achieve that.  I was hoping books might, but this year they didn't too much.  Perhaps I'll read more interesting sewing books next year?

(4) Read more science books.  Failed on this one.  I started to read one, but it was so long and in-depth that I had to put it aside to keep up with the book club choices.  I do want to finish it though, as the writing was quite good.  With any luck I can get back to it soon.

For next year I think I am going to focus on content more than quantity.  Right now my reading goals for 2015 are:

(1) Continue to read the Sword & Laser picks.  I think I won't be quite so dedicated as this year, but I've had a lot of fun reading the books and going to the local meetings, so I think I would like to keep up with that next year.

(2) Finish my half-read books.  I have a lot of them.  I would like to get my "Currently Reading" list down to 3-6 books instead of the 12-14 I have now.  Granted, 3 of them are cookbooks, so they don't really count, but, well, I should actually read the introductions so I can mark them off as "read" at some point.  Also, it would just make my soul lighter to say I've finished the Silmarillion.

(3) Read more sewing books, especially vintage sewing books.

(4) Read at least 2 science non-fiction books next year.

(5) There are a lot of science fiction stories coming to television/movies/web series in the next year.  I would like to read as many of them as possible before the tv shows come out.  They are including, but not limited to: The Shanara Trilogy, Childhood's End, Ringworld, Leviathan Wakes, Old Man's War, The Man in the Highcastle, Dragonriders of Pern, A Wrinkle in Time, the Outlander series (currently running on Starz), and Asimov's Foundation series.  I've already managed to read Redshirts and The Magicians.

Are there way too many books for my to read to actually accomplish all of my goals for next year?  Yeah, pretty much.  At least it gives me a lot of options.  Anyone have any really good books they read this year that they want to share?  What about reading goals for next year?  Or learning things from alternative sources, like Craftsy or video tutorials?  Feel free to tell me what you're reading in the comments!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review: Mitosis

I've been trying to get all of my book reviews written for the books I've read this year.  Then, to take a break, I read another book.  Well, novella, technically, I suppose.  Anyway, trying to get all the open-ended things closed up on the blog before heading into the new year, so appologies for a million posts in a day.  Anyway, here is another book review!

Mitosis is a fun (very) short story in Sanderson's young adult Reckoners series.  The premise of this world is that Calamity has happened and a few people of the Earth have been granted super-powers.  Which in theory sounds great, but in actuality is not so fun when you consider that only evil people get to use their powers.  An underground resistance, known as the Reckoners, have started to fight back in Newcago (the city formerly known as Chicago).

Mitosis is set between the events of the first and second books in the series, and provides a small glimpse of how life has changed for our team of evil-fighting Reckoners.  There isn't much to say about the story that won't spoil the plot, but, basically, a Reckoner's work is never done, and there is always another Epic to fight.  It is fun to see more of the Epic superpowers and weaknesses that exist - the characters haven't quite figured out the rules to the Epics' powers yet, so any extra tidbits are fun clues for both the characters in the story and the reader.

This story is very short - I was able to read it in less than an hour - but it is fun.  It was great to read it as a refresher for this world just before the second installment of the main series (Firefight) is about to be released in a few weeks.  I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who hasn't read the first book in the series; firstly, because it will spoil the ending of the first book, and, secondly, because this story would probably feel a bit dry if you didn't already have a more detailed picture of the characters built up in your head.  I can't know, but I highly suspect, that this events of this story won't be required to appreciate the upcoming second book, but it was a fun quick read nonetheless, so if you are a fan of the Reckoners series you will probably enjoy this brief adventure in Newcago.

Book Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Although I managed to finish several short books in an epic one-day reading binge shortly before Thanksgiving, I seem to have gotten quite far behind in reviewing them.  The first book I managed to finish reading, but the last I've managed to review, was the November Sword & Laser book club choice -  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a story about bounty hunter Rick Deckard as he works to eliminate several illegal androids who have escaped to Earth.  Throughout the story one of Deckard's main motivations is gaining the bounty so he can afford to buy a real animal, which are rare and expensive status symbols after the radioactive fallout has destroyed or mutated much of the life remaining on Earth.  Throughout the story there Deckard questions the distinction between androids and humans, with much of the emphasis placed on empathy as a singularly human emotion.

This novel served as the inspiration for the 80s classic Blade Runner.  While the premise and many of the characters are similar, there are quite a few distinctions between the film and the novel.  The movie is a bit more action packed, and sets Deckard up as more of a traditional hero.  In the novel, his morals are a bit more ambiguous.  The novel also explores more themes, such as faith, hope, and depression, in greater depth.  The film provides more closure at its conclusion, whereas the novel leaves things more open for the reader's interpretation.  Although similar, I think the differences make each version well adapted to its format - the film left out details that would have been confusing to the viewer and slowed down the story, whereas they provide cultural context and interest in the book.

Overall I liked this book quite a bit.  I very much enjoyed the character of Isidore - a "chickenhead" who is too affected by the radiation to leave Earth.  Supposedly mentally damaged, he often provides the most clear and reasonable perspective of anyone in the story.  Although some of the details were a bit odd to read at times (especially some of the details of Mercerism - Earth's new dominant religion), overall the details gave a very reasonable picture of what a possible post-apocalyptic Earth could be like.  The idea of Empathy Boxes is quite fascinating, and something that I could easily picture happening in the very near future, even without nuclear fallout.  Social media for emotions... really isn't that far fetched.  The story was interesting and fast-paced, and contained some cool ideas about how futuristic societies will share human experiences.  The ending was perhaps a bit less straightforward than I had hoped it would be, and it certainly isn't a very uplifting book, but the writing is quite good and the ideas are interesting to consider.  Although it would probably be appreciated more by a fan of the science fiction genre, it isn't overly complex, technical, or lengthy.  An interesting and enjoyable read, and one that I would recommend to almost anyone looking for something interesting in the sci-fi genre.

Book Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things

I'd heard a lot of good things about Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles series before I read it last year, and at this point I know I'm probably going to be a Rothfuss fan for life.  So when his new novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, came out I snapped it up immediately.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a bit of an odd story.  It follows Auri, one of the characters from The Kingkiller Chronicles, as she goes about her week.  Auri is probably one of the more interesting characters in the series - a clearly broken slip of a girl who lives in The Underthing, the forgotten passages and chambers below the University attended by Kvothe and many of the other characters in the main series.  Auri personifies all of the objects around her, and has an obsessive need to have everything in its proper place.  She spends the majority of this story trying to find an appropriate gift for Kvothe while trying to find the proper places for some of her new acquisitions.

By many of the ways people tend to judge successful writing, this should not be a good book.  To be totally honest, it is not the most exciting story - it's a bit like reading about someone going grocery shopping.  As Rothfuss himself points out, he spends 8 pages detailing the process of a girl making a candle.  On the other hand, this is a beautiful bit of writing.  Seeing the world through the eyes of a girl who isn't quite all there makes everything strange, and wonderful, and fascinating.  Seeing the world through Auri's eyes is wonderful and heartbreaking all at once.  As the story goes on, it is increasingly easy to empathize with this poor girl, and a lot of her seemingly crazy observations hit a bit close to home.

My only quibble with the book has been echoed my many a Rothfuss fan - the Forward and Afterwards are unnecessary.  He starts off telling you not to like the book, and sort of concludes by making you feel awkward if you didn't.  These bits would have been fantastic blog posts for his fans, but they didn't need to be bookends for this piece of writing.  It is strong enough to stand on its own.

For fans of the Kingkiller Chronicles, no, this is not the book we have been waiting for.  It does not answer all of our burning questions or conclude the tale of Kvothe.  It gives us tidbits, and hints, and glimmers, but it doesn't really tell us anything we didn't already know, or at least strongly suspect.  And while that is probably wildly frustrating for some, I'm perfectly ok with it.  I love this awkwardly rambling story about this tiny broken girl and her need to put things right in the world.  It is the subtleties and hints and unspoken things that make it such a great piece of writing.  It is a completely opposite tone from Kvothe's bombastic telling of his own story, and that makes it absolutely perfect for a look at Auri's world.  This probably isn't the sort of story for people who see themselves as the hero in their own life, and want to read about sweeping tales of adventure on a grand scale.  But for those of us who see ourselves as the broken sidekicks in the stories of others, well, this is a story for us.  It isn't exciting or adventurous, but it is sad, and sweet, and beautiful.  And that is enough.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Dresses for Every Occasion

Ok, so a few months ago I reviewed the BurdaStyle Wardrobe Essentials book, and came to the conclusion that I probably didn't really need the dress book, but I somehow ended up getting a copy anyway.  Amazon informed me that my order would arrive March 9, 2015, the product page states that the book will be available in January, but the button says you can order it now.  My copy came today.  Good job on arrival predictions and cohesive information Amazon!

The layout of this book is essentially the same as the Wardrobe Essentials volume, with a few of the technique discussions changed to be more appropriate for the included patterns (no discussion of fly front zippers, as there are no trousers in this volume, but they do discuss working with jersey fabrics in detail).  In general my assessment of this book is pretty much the same as the previous volume: that this book is aimed at an intermediate home sewer who is new to Burda patterns.  My complaints are also similar: NO NEW PATTERNS and I think they could have made a more varied and interesting collection.  Long-time Burda users know the ubiquity of the infamous "Burda sack dress," so I wasn't surprised that they picked a few for the book, but I sort of felt it was a bit too much.  I think they tended towards easier designs and simpler silhouettes, and I wish they had chosen a few more complex designs, and at least one ball gown - Burda has so many good ones in their catalog!  I will say I did appreciate, however, that for their vintage re-print patterns, they included both the modern and original dress drawings/photographs, which was very cool.  For regular Burda users I will caution that this book DOES include seam allowances, unlike the pattern magazine.  Here is a conversion of patterns to the magazine numbers:

Vintage Chic Sheath = 09-2012-109
'70s Simple Luxe Lace Dress = 09-2012-108 (Cover Dress)
'50s Summer Sundress = 07-2012-133 (Vintage Reprint)
A Little Bit Audrey Sheath = 11-2012-138 (Vintage Reprint)
Beguiling in Blue Jacket and Skirt = 12-2012-101 (Jacket), 12-2012-108 (skirt)
Très Tweed Mock Two Piece = 12-2012-141 (Vintage Reprint)

Red Hot Mini = 06-2012-134
Blue Angles Asymmetrical Dress = 02-2013-110
Purple Party Tunic and Cowl Top = 01-2013-123B, A
Summer Origami Sheath = 07-2012-131

Hand-Stamped Tunic = 06-2013-133
Summer Tie-Dye Lace-Up Dress = 07-2013-122
Sunshine Bangle Wrap Dress = 07-2013-125
Urban Ikat Sleeveless Dress = 02-2013-114
The Jersey Plunge V-Neck Dress and Top = 09-2013-101B, A
Blooming Bouclé Cap-Sleeved Dress = 03-2013-110

Delicately Scalloped Skirt = 12-2012-105
The Artful Jacket = 12-2012-115
Princess Taffeta Dress = 11-2012-121
Sophisticated Silk V-Neck Dress and Pleated Lace V-Neck Dress = 08-2013-116A, B
Fit and Flare Frock = 10-2012-128
Little Black Dress = 12-2012-110

My conclusion is essentially the same as for Wardrobe Essentials - this is a great book for someone who is an intermediate seamstress wanting an introduction for Burda patterns, but it isn't really necessary for anyone who is a long-time subscriber to the magazine.  While seam allowances and extra instructions are nice, they aren't strictly necessary for a more advanced Burda user.  It also doesn't have patterns covering the higher size ranges.  I think the book serves its intended purpose well, but I don't think it will be of much interest to those who already have the patterns, or don't like Burda's general style.  I do think this book would be a great gift for someone who is still newer to the hobby, as it has a good variety of styles, the patterns are a nice range from very easy to mildly challenging, and the book is quite a good value considering the number of patterns included.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: The Night Circus

When Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus was chosen as the December Sword & Laser book pick, I was curious - I hadn't heard anything about it before ordering my copy.  I was expecting something different from the usual castles and wizards, and what I got was a fantastically unique world that didn't disappoint.

I often order used copies of books.  Usually the physical aspects of the slightly musty books with mildly bent bindings aren't worth noting, but when my "good" copy of The Night Circus arrived in the mail, it was clear that this book had been through it.  And by "it" I mean something resembling a car wash.  Coffee stains evident on the pages, the covers full of what one can only assume to be acid-induced pot marks, the binding worn through, a warp so bad that the hard-cover book has no hope of ever lying flat on a table again.  And, for some reason, the battered exterior of this text only added to the charm of the story within.

The Night Circus is the story of two young magicians trapped in a mysterious battle of unknown rules, who work to create a mystical circus that can only be visited at night.  Although the plot and characters are fairly interesting (despite being rather predictable at times), what makes this book truly special is the atmosphere it creates.  The sights, the sounds, the smells - it really does make you feel as though you are a spectator at a classy and mysterious circus.  The stories of the characters are woven together to create a wonderful sense of the peculiar life of the performers, and of the fans who become obsessed with tracking the circus's every move.

I wouldn't say that the plot or characters of this story are highly original - indeed, the star-crossed lovers scenario is nothing new to the works of fiction, and the outcome of the story could have been guessed from close to the start of the book.  Indeed, the romantic interactions would have been nauseatingly trite if the rest of the story wasn't so superbly constructed around it.  Happily, the book was about so much more than one romance.  I was never really surprised by any of the "plot twists," but, then, everything that happened in the story seemed to flow together quite nicely.  Well, perhaps not one or two of the events leading to the conclusion, but I think the story had earned my suspension of disbelief by that point, so, I'm willing to go with it.

This book is definitely one that epitomizes the idea that "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey."   I wouldn't say that this book lacks plot - there is definitely enough of a story going on to keep the reader interested - but the real fun of this book is exploring the circus and all of the fantastic people who inhabit it.  The prose has a lovely lilting quality to it; I think I fell in love with this book after only a few pages because of it.  Even the style of the printed text adds extra flourishes that contribute to the feel of the story.  It was the sort of book I didn't want to put down, and itched to pick back up as quickly as possible.  I suppose I could understand how someone might not be excited be the easy-going plot or the subtle characters, but I fell under the spell of this book quickly and completely.  It really was a magical book and one I highly recommend.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review: Legion: Skin Deep

I read Brandon Sanderson's first Legion novella when it first came out a few years ago, and totally fell in love with Stephen Leeds and his amusing assortment of "aspects."  So to say I was ecstatic when a sequel was announced is a bit of an understatement.  I preordered Legion: Skin Deep as soon as I was able, and was recently excited by its arrival - both in ebook and hardcover forms.

Like its predecessor, Legion: Skin Deep, is a bit of a departure for Brandon Sanderson, who is more well-known for his lengthy epic fantasy sagas.  The main character is Stephen Leeds, a detective who is brilliant, but a bit eccentric.  He has a mental condition in which he creates personalities to house his vast collections of knowledge.  The only problem - he has to pretend that his imaginary friends are real, which means providing them with food and shelter, which can be a rather costly enterprise.  Hence his desire to use his special consulting skills to bring in an income.  In this story, Stephen is hired by one of his friends to investigate a missing corpse that has company secrets stored in its DNA, which leads to a fun detective story full of the usual hijinks one would expect when dealing with spies, assassins, and imaginary bodyguards.

While I really enjoyed this installment of the Legion story, I have to say I didn't like it quite as much as the first novella.  The novelty of Stephen's unique condition has worn off somewhat - the reader already knows how it works, so we don't need to spend any time trying to figure that out.  There are additional tidbits about his condition that pop up in this story, which are quite interesting, but aren't really critical to the story as a whole.  Although Stephen has dozens of aspects, many of the same personalities are heavily featured in both stories, and I really wish we had been able to meet more of his wacky personalities in this book.  I also wish we had found out more about the quasi-mysterious woman from his past.  These, however, are only minor complaints - this was still a fun story that was quite enjoyable to read.  And, while the amount of information revealed about Stephen's past is annoyingly small, the lack of it does seem to indicate that there will be further installments of Legion in the future, which makes me a happy fan.  All in all it was a quick, fun read full of a bunch of crazy characters I have grown to love, and, although I didn't find this story to be quite as riveting as the first installment, I very much look forward to the further adventures of Stephen Leeds and his imaginary band of of crime-fighting counterparts.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Haven't Been Sewing, But I've Been Baking!

So... I haven't been doing a lot of (blogable) sewing lately.  Which is probably because I have been doing waaaaaaaaaay too much baking for the holiday festivities.  I've been trying a lot of new recipes, both from new cookbooks (that I really should review, because they are fabulous), and from the internet, with mixed results.  The good thing is, I've found some really delicious things to make for holiday treats.  The bad thing is food prep is cutting into my sewing time.  But, well, trade-offs.  I'm inexplicably proud of the way things turn out when I follow instructions.  Or, well, when I don't follow them, exactly, but things turn out anyway.  So, allow me to entice you:

Yes, that is a Darth Vader gingerbread man.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Newsflash: Burda Spring/Summer Collection Early Preview Posted

The German Burda website has posted the early preview for the Spring/Summer Catalog Collection.  Although the early preview only shows us a limited number of styles, I have to say already, I think I'm going to like it.  The styles are tending towards a flowy, easy vibe, but I'm sort of digging it.  Let's see what they've got for us so far:

I really like the color blocking on this dress!
Chic, simple, but still fun.

This sheath is loose-fitting, but I like how the drape of the
fabric prevents it from being too boxy.  It's cute.

Love this suit - it looks relaxed but not too big.
Loving the collar and single button.  Also, I want those pants!

The print is a bit crazy, but I'm rather liking these pants as well.

Probably they are trying to sell us the blouse,
but look at the fit on those jeans!

Not caring for this blouse as much... I think the under-hem is hitting in a weird area.

Basic high-low top.  Fine, but not overly exciting.

Sort of blah on this boxy top as well.

Love this skirt though!  I know it's just a circle skirt,
but the fabric combination is so cute!

Loving this skirt as well.  Makes me want to put it on and twirl.

Basic maxi dress, but I like it, especially the neck line.

Simple wrap dress, very practical for throwing over a bathing suit.

This shirtdress is simple, but cute.

I'm thinking this is in the petite section, but that jacket is AWESOME.
May have to get this pattern anyway, and grade up.  The skirt is cute too.

Sack dress.  Meh.

Oversized blouse for the plus section is fine, but not overly exciting.

Loving the taper on these men's trousers.

And the jacket is sweet too!

Normally don't care much about the kids clothes, but how cute is that bag?
So, what are you all thinking?  Anyone else as excited to see the full collection as I am?  Or does this look like more of the same from Burda?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!

Monday, December 15, 2014

More Pillowcases of Awesome

Look!  I sewed something!  And actually took pictures!  And blogged about it!  On a sewing blog!  Crazy-sauce...

Anyway... So, apparently making slightly embarrassing pillowcases has become my unofficial official birthday gift sewing thing.  The fact that I can make a set in *mumblecoughlessthananhourmumblecough* has absolutely nothing to do with it becoming my go-to item.  *cough*

In case it wasn't obvious, I made these for a big comic book fan - the Marvel print is from Hancock Fabrics, and the really fun old-school comic book advertisements was found at Michael Levine's in Los Angeles.  Used the same Crafty Gemini Youtube tutorial that I've used in the past, with continually awesome results.

Love this print!

Those of you who spend too much time on the internet may have noticed one of these fabrics popping up in a really awesome bag project by a really awesome blogger who just finished making something else really awesome.  What can I say... great minds love the same fabrics?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Newsflash: January 2015 Burda Preview Posted!

The Russian website has posted the full preview of the January BurdaStyle Magazine.  2015 is here!  I am so not ready - it feels like everything has been happening so fast!  The preview went up earlier this week, but this has been my first opportunity to sit down and blog about it - why does time always seem to move fastest between Thanksgiving and Christmas?  So much to do...

Anyway, new Burda.  I have to say, looking back, 2014 was a stellar year for the magazine.  So many fantastic issues, and fantastic patterns, which I hope to review in my traditional end of the year wrap up.  Personally, I'm a bit sad because I haven't had much time to sew from them (and there are so many things I want to make!), so I have to say I'm having a bit of a mixed reaction to this January issue.  On one hand, there isn't anything I'm dying to make, which is good because it isn't adding to my immediate to-make list.  On the other hand, I was hoping to have a bit more to be excited by.  I don't know... this might be a bit of a sleeper issue for me, because there are a lot of simple designs that usually don't interest me on my first go-through, which usually come back to excite me when I look for something to use with particular stash fabrics I have.  So, in a word, I'm a bit lukewarm on this issue.  Nevertheless there are a few interesting things to see, so let's take a look:

First, a view of the coats and jackets:

I was really excited when I saw this jacket in the early preview...

Newsflash: New McCall's Patterns Posted

I have barely started any holiday sewing (and I'm still drowning in commissions), and work has been a bit crazy lately.  Not to mention all the holidaying (and food making for said holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), so my blogging has gotten a bit behind the times.  Which is why it is crazy to think that McCall's has already put out their Early Spring Pattern Collection, and yet, here it is.  When I looked at the overview images I thought I would get through a release without wanting any new patterns, but a lot of the alternate views and line drawings have swayed my mind.  I don't think there are a lot of new designs here - we've seen most of the trends in the past several releases, and there isn't much new with the silhouettes, but there are some surprisingly fun details hidden in this release.  Let's take a look:

M7081 - Love this dress!
The gathering on the front, the collar, the fluffy skirt -  all in all a very fun dress for spring.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Newsflash: Spring/Summer 2015 My Image Magazine

I've been buying My Image Magazine since they first came out in late 2010, and I've been quite pleased with the few patterns I've sewn up so far.  (Really must sew more from them!)  So, usually, when a new magazine is announced I jump on it right away.  However, I'm a little bit... less than inspired by the latest release of the magazine.  Normally there is a nice collection of practical clothes with some fun details sewn up in some crazy print fabrics.  And, well, the practical clothes and crazy prints haven't changed, but for me this issue definitely feels like it is lacking in the "fun details" aspect.

All of the line drawings look pretty basic or very similar to past designs.

I do actually rather like the shorts though.

I like the way the coat looks on the model, but the line drawing is rather dull.
Might be a good pattern for a busy fabric though.

I really like the jacket/skirt combo on the right, but mainly due to fabric choices.

I also like the blue dress quite a bit, but, again, very similar to past designs.

It looks like we might be getting more detailed instructions than in past issues though.
It is definitely a positive selling point!
Is it just me, or does this issue feel somewhat... uninspired?  I'm liking some of the other changes I'm seeing (more interesting photos, more detailed instructions), but I'm just not excited by the actual patterns.  Anyone else feeling the same?  Or am I missing how versatile this pieces will be in a spring/summer wardrobe?  Feel free to discuss in the comments!