Wandering at the Shadows' Edge

exploring potential and possibility

Lost in the Shadows

I’ve neglected this site for a long time. I didn’t mean to, but the road I was walking kept throwing obstacles in my path and I wasn’t doing much in the way of crafting. I was reading and doing some cooking, but mostly I was concentrating my writing. That has its own site over at J Lynn Baker.

It seemed like there was never time to update things here, and I have to admit that on some occasions, I just didn’t want to update.  I think in some way I felt it would take away from my writing. I’ve changed the way I feel about that – updates here count as writing. They’re non-fiction writing and I’ll be tracking the number of words I write here as well.

Another thing that brings me back to this site is that I have some major projects I’m working on. I’m going to document them here so I have a record of the process involved.

So, I took a fork in the road and got lost in the shadows for a bit. I’ve found my way back to a place I know now. This time around, I’ll try to keep a better record of the branchings in the path so I can find my way back if I need to.

Back from the Shadows

Wow…. I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I’d posted here.  Life got a bit crazy for awhile and I had some computer problems combined with getting a tablet that can do most of what my computer can do. But I’m back, and I have lots of things that are starting to happen – lots of projects on the list that I’m actually starting or finishing.  I’m going to make it a point to post at least once a week here, even  though I’m pretty sure my few visitors have forgotten about me by now! I need to keep a record of my projects and how they turn out, and this is where I’m going to do it!

Words from the Shadows 1: Phoenix Rising

I just finished re-reading a book so that I could read the next in the series.  I think I enjoyed it more this time, in part because I picked up more of the inside references.

Now, I have to be up front here.  I have met both the authors of this book and I’ve been supporting their work for several years and yes, the links to the books and Kindle versions of the short stories mentioned in this review are my Amazon affiliate links.   That being said, a review of the book can’t be impartial.  Then again, is any review ever really impartial?

The book in question is Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.  Phoenix Rising is a steampunk novel featuring Wellington Thornhill Books – a proper British Archivist for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and Eliza Braun – a field agent for the Ministry from New Zealand who is particularly fond of dynamite and black powder. It is the tale of what happens when two very different people are forced to work together.

There were three things in particular that I enjoyed about this book and that make it worth re-reading and recommending to friends and to my local indie book store.

  1. Steampunk is not just an aesthetic.  When goggles or a gadget is introduced, it’s put to use.  Not only that, the gadget and its use are well described – the hiss of steam and sound of gears and cogs moving is always noted, but never gets in the way of the story.
  2. There are dark moments and themes, but the story is not distopian or depressing.  It’s fun.  This is a Victorian Britain where there is crime and dirt and unfairness, but it is also a Britain with hope and kindness.  I’ve heard the book described as “the Avengers (1960’s TV- not comic books) meets the X-Files meets Steampunk.”  I think that’s pretty accurate.  I might add The Wild Wild West TV series into the mix although the novel (other than the opening chapter) never makes it out of Britain.
  3. There is depth to the characters and story.  There are many passing references to cases and to the characters’ pasts that make me want to know more.  And, over at The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, there is more to learn.  Pip and Tee  (and their publisher HarperVoyager)have allowed other authors to write in their world, expanding on agents and stories mentioned only briefly in the book.  The stories are available in e-book versions from several sources for 99 cents for individual stories to 2.99 for collections of stories. Here’s a link to the Kindle Versions.
There are other things that I enjoyed as well.  I got a kick out of the inside jokes and references, but then again, I’ve met or know of several of the people involved in them.  I also enjoyed the appearance of the Ministry Seven.  An unexpected yet wonderful use of  the unnoticed and “unimportant” in Victorian London.

Phoenix Rising is a book that can be read for simple enjoyment and fun – and the banter between the main characters will bring a smile to your face.  It can be re-read with equal enjoyment even when more attention is paid to details and themes.  I have no doubt that I’ll be re-reading it yet again in the future and the story will always fit the mood I’m in  and what I’m looking for.

I just hope that by the time I read  Phoenix Rising again, I’ll have had a chance to get it, and the follow-up (The Janus Affair) signed by Pip and Tee!

Words from the Shadows

Since this blog is a map of my wanderings at the shadows’ edge, I’m finding I need to start including a few things I hadn’t planned on. One of those things is what I read.

Now, I read a lot. Blame my step dad, who taught me how to speed read when I was in third grade. And I have feeling its only going to get worse because I just got a Kindle Touch for my birthday.

I can’t afford to buy books as fast as I read them, so very few of the books I post about here will probably be new – unless I can get advanced reader copies. Many of the books will be old friends that I return to when I want something I know will entertain me. Some of the books will be those that I use to research the various projects that I’m working on. So I may be posting about books from sci-fi and fantasy to the history of a particular period or how to make or do something.

I will start posting these reviews within the next week or so although I don’t know how often I’ll post them. I certainly won’t be posting about everything I read – just what I enjoy or find useful.

Weaving Embellishments from the Shadows

I’ve already posted some of my experiments with inkle weaving.  Having done those, I decided to try my hand at embellishing my weaving.   There are methods I wanted to try – brocading and pickup weaving.  For some reason, I decided to try the brocading first.

Method

Brocading involves the use of a second weft thread or threads.  Generally  you want that thread to be double or triple the weight/size of your warp threads. This cuts down on the amount of warp that shows between your rows.   The brocade weft is woven through the warp in a pre-determined pattern, which usually looks like a cross-stitch pattern. Basically, the brocade weft sit above the warp where you want it to show and below the warp where you don’t want it to show.  The regular weft thread is woven normally, with no adjustments.

experimental brocade pattern

A celtic knotwork cross-stitch pattern that I used to try brocading my inkle weaving.

This is

The Pattern

This is the pattern I decided to start with.

I probably should have started out with something a bit simpler.  Celtic knotwork really isn’t the easiest pattern to work with at first.

The advantage?

I realized I was doing something wrong with my first try pretty quickly.

The disadvantage?

It seemed like it took forever to get through one repetition of the pattern!

 

 

 

The Results

brocading 1st try

This is the first try at brocading. Obviously something went wront.

The First Attempt

This is my first attempt.  The bottom is the celtic knotwork – not even recognizable for what it is!

Not understanding what was going wrong, I decided to try a simple diamond pattern .

The result was a bit better – at least the diamond is recognizable!  But it’s not anywhere close to solid like it should be.

I went back to my instructions and re-read them, assuming that I had missed something when I read them the first time.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so much that I missed something as that I mis-read part of the instructions.  Having figured out what went wrong, I decided to try again on the same band of weaving.

 

 

Brocading 2nd try

The second attempt at brocading. The technique is right, but only uses a single brocade thread.

 

The Second Attempt

This is the second attempt.

This time I got the technique right.  the knotwork is more or less recognizable and the diamond is definitely recognizable.

The only problem I had with this one is the amount of the warp showing through.  Obviously a single brocade thread  isn’t enough to make a fairly solid pattern.

 

 

 

The Third Attempt

brocading 3rd try

The third attempt at brocading – the brocading weft is doubled

This is the third and final attempt at brocading my inkle-weaving.  The only difference between this one and the second one is that I doubled the brocade thread.  The patterns are both more recognizable for what they are and less of the warp is showing.  I think that in the future I will either triple the brocade thread or use a thread that is the equivalent of a triple weft.

Thoughts

Overall, I am very happy with the outcome.  I feel like I have a solid understanding of how the process of brocading inkle weave works now and I think I can also apply it to card/tablet weaving in the future.  I wouldn’t want to stop weaving in the middle of a pattern repetition – I’d be afraid I’d forget where I stopped. That being the case, I would want to keep my patterns small or make sure that I only wove when I had a good solid block of time.

What do you think?

A Gift of Simple Knots

I’ve had an interesting year at work so far. One of the admin assistants has been of particular help over the last couple of months, so I decided to make her a small gift to say thank you.

Having sat at her desk for two weeks, I knew her favorite color was purple and I knew that I had some purple yarn in my collection.

 

crocheted cowboy boot

undecorated crocheted cowboy boot, about 3 inches tall

Every year, my work place has a theme for our peak season. This year the theme was a country-western one. After a bit a searching, I found a pattern for a small crocheted cowboy boot and decided that it would make a good thank you.

The pattern looks a little more like an actual cowboy boot if you use two different colors and add the suggested decorations, but I only had one color of purple, so I just did the whole thing in that color.

Overall I was pretty happy with how quickly it worked up and how it turned out.  And the lady I was gifting it two was very happy with the addition to her collection of purple decorations!

I would certainly do this pattern again for other occasions.  It was relatively simple and quick and the outcome was close enough to the picture on the pattern to make me happy.

Small Weavings in the Shadows

Patterns and Sizes

My current explorations are in the area of inkle weaving.  I’ve been playing with patterns and thread sizes.

Black, yellow and white simple lines

simple alternating lines

Blues and white

bars, lacking contrast

3 sizes

same pattern, different colors and threads

I’m finding that the size 10 cotton crochet thread works up the quickest. It doesn’t snag on the heddles or pill and get fuzzy. The size 20 crochet thread might work up just as fast if my heddles were made of it rather than the size 10.

The size 10 crochet thread also seems to have given the cleanest version of the pattern, though that might be as much from the color choices as the thread size.

Heddle Variations

black and gray alternate heddles

non-standard heddle pattern, black warp, gray weft

The most recently completed piece of inkle weaving was an experiment with which warp threads I heddled.  In some spots I heddled two in a row and then left two alone.  The result was a sort of speckled pattern where the weft showed through where the heddles didn’t alternate as usual.  I’m wondering what kind of patterns I can come up with by coordinating various colors of warp and weft with heddle patterns.

 

Shadow Wanderings

It’s not easy to decide where to start my mapping of the shadows’ edge.  Do I begin by mapping out where I’ve been in the past – or at least what I can remember of it? Or do I begin by mapping the area I’m currently exploring?

My wanderings include writing, fiber arts such as crochet and embroidery, paper arts (calligraphy, illumination, bookbinding), cooking, a little bit of web coding, jewelry making and beadwork, podcasting and editing audio and video, clothes making, and explorations into brewing beer and cordials, and homemade lip balms and such.  And so, you begin to see the size of the problem!

I’ve explored a lot of different areas – and I’ll be returning, at least briefly, to most of them in the future.  So perhaps I should begin with where I am now?  At least most of my current explorations have been in the same general area – if perhaps observing different applications.

I think its time to stick that “You are Here” pin into the map.  So, here’s where I am now – let’s see where my wanderings lead me going forward!

 

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