New kitten in the house

I recently got a 6 month old kitten, Leeloo, to pair with my cat Apollo, who is 3 years old and has been a part of the family for a little over 10 months. We have had Leeloo for over a week now, and the introduction process hasn’t been going as smoothly as I would like. I apologize for completely diverting from my usual topics of crochet and book reviews, but I would really appreciate some insight from others who have successfully integrated two or more cats into one household.

Here is the back story to how we got Leeloo: a few weeks ago, my husband and I were walking around our apartment complex one evening playing Pokemon Go. As we were walking past a clump of bushes, I saw a little grey kitten dart into them. I managed to coax her out and check her collar– no tags. She was very dirty and felt a little thin, so we took her upstairs and put her in the bathroom with food, water, a bed, and some toys. Apollo was quite fascinated by her, though she just hissed at him. I spent some time with her in the bathroom to calm her down so she could sleep, and she was just the sweetest little thing: head-butts, winding between my legs, curling up on my lap, and purring like mad. When she stretched herself up to rub her face against mine, I felt a little tug on my cat-loving heart.  Continue reading

Advertisements

WIP Wednesday: Experiments in blocking

My mother-in-law asked me last week if I would make a baby blanket for her cousin, who is about 6 months pregnant. My previous attempts to make a blanket have been unsuccessful. I tend to like smaller projects that finish up more quickly, and I also like projects that have a lot of variety. However, I have been wanting to make the Klimtchen blanket (also known as the Babette) for a long time, and I thought that, if someone else would (gently) be holding me accountable, this would be the best time to do it.

Another hurdle that has previously given me pause with a lot of projects is that some require blocking, and I have never had adequate supplies for it. I finally caved and bought a foam blocking mat and some rust-proof pins. I also found this great tutorial on steam blocking acrylic yarn projects. Steam blocking has the benefits of both speed and softening the fabric, and holy crap have I become addicted to the process. It is SO SATISFYING to see the patches go from scrunched up messes to flat, soft, perfect squares.

So far I am having a blast with this blanket. The colors are definitely all over the board, but it’s keeping things interesting for me, and babies like bright colors anyway.

Apollo is a big fan of the blanket so far.

 

Coraline: A crocheted adventure and pop culture review

I’ve been fascinated with “Coraline” ever since I saw the movie in theaters in back in 2009. Even though I was 22, it tapped into feelings from my childhood that I think most people experience as children: the assumption that adults don’t understand or listen, and the wish that there was another magical world parallel to our own. Also, a lot of people have difficulty pronouncing my name (even though, like Cor-a-line, it’s REALLY not that difficult). The visual aesthetic also recalled that of another of my all-time favorite movies, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which makes sense because both movies were directed by Henry Selick.

Me as “grown up Coraline” for Halloween 2014. I made the dragonfly barrette and green “viewfinder.” It was too hard to find a yellow raincoat, yellow Wellington boots (not pictured are the tan, knock-off Uggs I wore because the color was the closest I could find to yellow) and orange/pink striped shirt.

As I was finishing up my crocheted Coraline doll, a thought occurred to me: if I love the “Coraline” movie so much, and I love Neil Gaiman, how have I not read Coraline the book yet? I bought a copy years ago, but for whatever reason, I never got around to actually reading it. Thanks to the magic of my public library’s audio eBook system and an abundance of boredom while I dog-sat at my boss’s house, I started and finished the (relatively short) audiobook in 3.5 hours. I was absolutely tickled to see that Neil Gaiman himself did the reading of the audiobook. He has the most fabulous voice, which I first discovered when I went to a book signing party for The Ocean at the End of the Lane back in June 2013 and he read an excerpt from the book.

I have decided that I love Coraline the book almost as much as I love the movie, which is rare because I (like most other people) tend to prefer the original source material over the movie renditions. Perhaps it’s because I love the movie’s aesthetic so much, which the book was not as readily capable of conveying. Nevertheless, I love the way that Gaiman creates his children’s stories through the lens of how he saw the world when he was a child, which is slightly twisted and fantastical. Had I not read The Ocean at the End of the Lane first and heard him speak about his autobiographical inspiration, I don’t know if this would have been as immediately apparent.   Continue reading

WIP Wednesday: Too many WIPs

I’ve got a lot of projects going at the moment. The green Dumpling Kitty in the bottom left and center pictures is actually done, but I am working on another version that is orange (by the way, it is available as a free download on Ravelry). The Van Gogh scarf is very much still in progress and will be for a long time. What I’m really excited about right now is my Coraline doll. Obviously, she doesn’t look too much like Coraline at the moment, but after she gets arms, has all of the parts sewn together, and a haircut, I’ll be adding her defining accessories: a pink and blue butterfly barrette, a green triangular viewfinder (attached as a necklace), and perhaps a burgundy satchel.

Book review: Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton

I checked out Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton on March 2… And, after renewing it 4 times, I finished it on May 25. I have to admit that I was overall pretty disappointed with this book. It had such potential to be a critical view of the contemporary art world– indeed, the introduction made it sound like that’s what the book was going to be– but instead, it was almost 300 pages of progressing kiss-assery that embraced the superficial players of the contemporary art world, and more specifically the art market. Admittedly, most of her subjects talk about their involvement in the art world with varying levels of amused derision, clearly aware of the ridiculousness of the decadent game they are playing. But considering that the book was published in 2008, it could have at the very least concluded with a profound statement on the excesses of the wealthy before the Great Recession (though it’s not like all of the rich people were adversely affected by the Recession– far from it). Instead, she just talked about her writing process and thanked every. single. person that she talked to for the book (except for a few  that wanted to remain anonymous). I suppose that it was too dangerous for a writer who wanted to maintain her reputation to bite the hands that fed her information for this book.

Seven Days focuses on seven aspects of the art world: art auction houses, a graduate-level art school critique at CalArts, art fairs (specifically Art Basel in Switzerland), the Turner Prize, working at Artforum, a visit to Takashi Murakami’s studio, and the Venice Biennale. While Thornton’s prose provided a gripping read, it was drenched with the pretension that one finds all too often in the art world. At times, this book was downright painful for me to read– not because it was too difficult to comprehend, but because it exposes a darker side that art history-romantics like me don’t like to think about, which is the commodification of art. Throughout her seven “days,” artworks (and artists) are continually treated like baseball cards: collectors, dealers, and curators talk about whether or not an artist, who may be red hot at the moment, will be relevant in even a couple years. Collectors trade names amongst their friends, donate money and/or lend works to museums to increase exposure, and show off their wealth and egos in auction houses to see who can outbid the other, all in an effort to build up their own collection’s monetary value and status. When you think about it, the collecting missions of the wealthy have largely dictated the major art historical record, which makes one wonder how skewed the perspectives of the various facets of art history may be. And the artists, who have signed up to be a part of this world, play along, hoping that their work will one day be memorable, if not profitable while they are still alive.  Continue reading

WIP Wednesday – Girl in a lamb hat

I said not too long ago that I didn’t have any interest in doing paid commission work… Meet Miss E, my first paid commission (of a crocheted piece, anyway). One of my coworkers saw some of my other dolls, and she asked me to make a doll that looks like her 18 month old daughter in her favorite lamb hat. I’ve been in a bit of a crochet funk lately, and it was nice to have inspiration given to me by someone else’s request.

I think I’ve finally perfected getting the dolls to stand freely: adding custom-cut bristol board “inserts” in the bottoms of the feet so that the soles stay flat. These are in addition to ball bearings and wadded up t-shirt strips as stuffing in the legs, both of which help weigh it down and maintain its center of gravity. I’m still trying to figure out the neck situation, though. I think it might be too thin, as the heads definitely flop around a bit. My first dolls didn’t have any necks, though, so the heads looked like eggs with faces on top of a pair of shoulders. Maybe a thicker neck is the key. And good lord, I have got to figure out an easier way to make mouths with embroidery floss.

WIP Wednesday: Van Gogh scarf

vincent_van_gogh_-_almond_blossom_-_google_art_project

Vincent van Gogh, Almond Blossoms. 1890. Oil on canvas. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Source

This one is going to be a WIP for a while. I am attempting to emulate Vincent van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms painting in a scarf which, for the moment, means that I am making a blue scarf that will eventually have lots of flower appliqués on it. The base scarf is my bus-crochet project, since I don’t have to think much about what I am doing because it is just rows of double crochet stitches. What I’m trying to decide now is how to make the flowers.

When looking at the painting, the flowers appear to be almost white; however, after doing a little research on some of the preservation issues facing many of van Gogh’s paintings for another post I wrote, I thought that maybe the blossoms had originally been pink, but the red pigment has since faded. Being as anal as I am, I had to look up what real almond blossoms look like. As you can see, they are dark pink in the center and pale pink to white in the petals. The center also has a distinct greenish, star-shaped sepal (I think that’s the sepal…) around the pistil and stamens. From what I’ve read, almond blossoms are generally white, though some can be pink.

(Apologies for the excessive use of photo filters on the collage above– apparently I am less perceptive of yellow tones when I am half asleep on the bus in the morning). I found a nice sky blue yarn at Michael’s, and last night, I experimented with four different iterations of crocheted almond blossoms (although the pattern I did a couple of variations on, which is from 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet by Leslie Stanfield, is supposed to be for a meconopsis flower). I’m thinking of going with 2 or 4 for the blossoms. 4 is slightly more work because it includes a slip stitch layer of light pink yarn on the outer edge of the fuchsia, which I have to admit is a little bit of a deterrent. I mean, I’m probably going to have to make 100 of these if I want to achieve the effect I am currently picturing, and crocheting through a slip stitch is kind of a pain. However, I feel like the fuchsia in 2 is too intense juxtaposed directly next to the white petals. I would love another opinion from anyone reading this post!

WIP Wednesday: A teeny tiny bed

Good lord, I love the tweed stitch (also called the seed stitch, moss stitch, linen stitch, or granite stitch). Anyway, this bed might be done. I can’t decide if I want to make a pillow for it or not. Either way, it looks more comfortable than my bed.

I’m considering crocheting a mandala next, largely because I want to perfect my skills (I’ve only crocheted 2 “mandalas” before), but also because it will make a nice rug in a teeny tiny bedroom.

Book Review: Lust for Life by Irving Stone

vincent_van_gogh_-_sunflowers_-_vgm_f458

Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers. 1888. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London. Source

Even though I’m often in a mess, inside me there’s still a calm, pure harmony and music. In the poorest little house, in the filthiest corner, I see paintings or drawings. And my mind turns in that direction as if with an irresistible urge. As time passes, other things are increasingly excluded, and the more they are the faster my eyes see the picturesque. Art demands persistent work, work in spite of everything, and unceasing observation.
– Vincent van Gogh, the Hague, on or about 21 July 1882, to Theo van Gogh (Letter #249)

It’s been a long time since a book made me cry– and I mean actually cry, not just get misty-eyed. I honestly kind of hate admitting that fact, as this book is very much an artifact of 1934 (when it was first published): while it is undoubtedly a classic, it is also a modernist (i.e. heroic and slightly masculinist) telling of the artistic life of Vincent van Gogh. Furthermore, one cannot help questioning the veracity of the biography because many parts had to be speculations by Irving Stone because of how the book is written. Nevertheless, I, like many others, am a fan of van Gogh’s work and have always been fascinated by his tragic life story. And, in all fairness, credit is due to Stone for his research of van Gogh’s 700+ letters to Theo, as well as his admission at the end of the book that some of the scenes were informed imaginings.

I’ve decided that this review is going to be not so much a full-on book review of Lust for Life, but rather several analyses of parts of the book that align with things that have been discovered about van Gogh and his work in recent years. Also, because I listened to the audiobook over the course of 3 weeks instead of physically reading it, my ability to cite specific quotes will be limited, and I apologize in advance for any discrepancies between my interpretation and the source material.  Continue reading

WIP Wednesday – A farewell hat

The two things I have been working on this week have led to a bit of pain in the fingers and wrist of my right hand. I put down my projects over the weekend and played copious amounts of Minecraft with my husband, and though my hand felt good again on Monday, it is now sore again. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how I am getting older (I am going to be an ancient 30 in July), and I thought that this might be a sign of that. In an effort to find relief, I did what everyone does: I Googled it. It turns out pain from repetitive motion is very common amongst people of all ages, as well as from gripping your hook too tightly or finger position can also contribute to pain. I found some useful articles about warm-up stretches and exercises, how to prevent pain, and treating pain. But I digress. Why have I been in pain for the last week? Because I have been making a hat for a coworker who is moving on to other things after the end of this week. Even though winter is technically over, she hates the cold and snow, and I am hoping that she can get some good use out of a thick cable-crochet hat in future winters. Continue reading