Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reading in 2015 - Mothers Grimm

Mothers Grimm by Danielle Wood

Mothers Grimm
A sly, cheeky and blackly comic telling of mothering, heartache, heartbreak, desire, love and death.
In the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, Rapunzel’s mother trades her firstborn child for a handful of leafy greens, and Hansel’s step-mother abandons him in a clearing in the forest. In ‘The Goose Girl’, the queen sends her daughter away to her fate with a bloodied handkerchief tucked in her bosom, and in ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Mama’s best efforts cannot prevent one little prick from having disastrous consequences for the heroine.
Danielle Wood’s Mothers Grimm brings characters from these stories into the modern world in a collection of four long stories that interrogate contemporary womanhood and motherhood.

Happy endings not guaranteed.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don’t give this book to a new mother!
Although, if you are looking for back-up to support a decision not to procreate then this may be just the thing to wave around and force upon your breeding friends with a smug, ‘I told you so’ running through your mind if not actually on your lips.

The most honest thing I can say for this book is that it is depressing. It condenses all the heartache and pressure of mothering – as the mother of a new born, multiple toddlers, a teen, an adult – but is missing all the lightness and joy and sparks of bliss that make it worthwhile.

All parents have times when they feel there is no way out. Times when you wonder how different you life could have been. Times when you wish your partner was that fairytale prince from the Disney brand of childhood brainwashing. Times when you stand back and let the helplessness wash over you and sweep away all rational understanding of your responsibility for your own happiness. That in itself is normal. What is not normal, and not okay, is when that is all there is. All these characters are stuck in the helplessness exactly at the point of despair – and that makes for a difficult read.

On the plus side – the writing is really very good. Each story is very different in style and carefully crafted even though sometimes you are left wanting more. There are some interesting (if uncomfortable) reflections on how the words and actions of a mother can stay with a daughter throughout her life, shaping -distorting?- her own experience when she becomes a mother and grandmother. There are phrases that will resound with you, strike you and stay in your mind for a very long time.
  • ‘It was something Meg had not known until she had children, how easily please can be made to stand in for for fuck’s sake.’
  • ‘The effect is like having your uterus torn out through your earholes.’
  • ‘This, then, was a baby. Not a blank thing, after all, Liv discovered. Not an outline to be inked in by parents and teachers and other good influences – not like that at all, but a whole person, ready made.’
  • ‘But there was something in the watchful set of her face, the twists at the corners of her mouth, that hinted to Lauren of dangerous disappointments, resentments and judgements.’
  • ‘I’d never yet thought of my life as a thing whose shape and dimensions were within my own control’
  • ‘And although ‘I love you’ is perhaps the biggest part of what I want to say to you, it’s still not even close to all.’
The prologue is, to me, where the wit and humour promised by the blurb is contained. It is an amusing piece of writing to which most mothers (and others) will relate. I wouldn’t call any of the four stories ‘darkly funny’ or witty. Dark for sure, sad, heart-breaking or heart-wrenching, despairing. Forget happy endings, there is no happiness anywhere to be found.

The final story , Nag, didn’t really catch me first time round. Maybe I was saturated by that point. I re-read it while writing this review and it spoke to me in a way the others didn’t. It is a very different writing style, a woman reflecting on her life and her relationships with her mother, partner, mother-in-law and children. It is really worth a read but probably lost at the back of the book. Take some time out and read it in isolation from the others. It is reflective, poignant, quite well crafted and probably the thing that will make me seek out more of this authors work.

To sum up – worth a read and probably fantastic for book groups. Expect to feel a bit side-swiped after reading it. My copy will be going back on the bookshelf for a while as I would like to re-read the stories with a bit of distance to see if my response changes.

Note: Review is from an uncorrected proof copy

View all my reviews

Friday, March 27, 2015

The year so far

This year I have been:

playing with pretty yarn

to make pretty things
completing long-in-progress projects

chasing a few rainbows


discovering new and surprising things

indulging in a bit of culture -

- in all its forms
and taking a bit of time out to enjoy a good story.
2015 has been good to me so far :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

And so it is 2015 - and three months!


I'm really not sure how we are almost into April.

Seems I've been busy.

Reading in 2014 and Reading Aloud in 2014 were a lot of fun for me, and Jack managed to put together quite a few book reviews for Reading Aloud that I've saved on the computer somewhere and never got around to uploading. I think I will just morph them into 2015.

The 'Kick the Bucket' challenge AJ and Rachel put together for 2014 was also fun, and saw me complete quite a few ancient projects. I've recently completed a quilt that was in progress for almost exactly 10 years, and it is now on my bed being used every night. I'll share it as soon as I get round to taking some photos.
I think I will continue KTB this year as the work in progress list hasn't really shrunk much at all, and there are a few projects I didn't get around to sharing.

We have a recent new addition to our family - our cattle-x-foxie puppy Gypsy. We think she is now about 7 months old and she came to live with us in January after being dumped and rescued by Working Breed Rehab.

She has filled a big hole left after we said goodbye to our last girl, Chloe, back in July last year. She is also the reason I don't seem to have a much time as I used to... puppies need a lot more attention than 10-year-old dogs!

So if I'm AWOL, it is probably because I am walking the dog, or replanting the sunflowers she has dug up, or taking her to obedience training, or filling in the holes in the lawn before my husband finds them, or throwing a ball, or
just curled up on the couch enjoying puppy snuggles.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Travel bag

Project - Travel Bag, my own design
Started - Around May 2014
Finished - June 2014

We headed off to Fiji for a week at the end of June.

I really wanted a travel bag that would have pockets to keep the passports and travel documents safe but handy. I wanted it small enough to prevent carting too much stuff around with me, but large enough to keep the essentials contained in one place.
I couldn't find anything I wanted in local shops and did some web searches and found a few bag patterns that were cross body style with multiple zip pockets, but they were all smaller or larger than I was looking for.

I grabbed some paper, jotted down the ideas I liked and then started sketching.
I came up with a design I liked, dug some fabric from the stash and got creating.

The outer fabric is Ikea upholstery weight fabric (stash), the lining is a green shiny remnant that has been used for lots of things (stash), the zips are chunky open-ended ones purchased specifically from Lincraft and the bag rings and slide adjuster are from Voodoo Rabbit. I also used a heavy weight interfacing from the stash.

I ended up with a rectangular satchel, with a single adjustable strap, so it could be cross-body or shoulder-bag style.

There is an external zip pocket for tissues, sunscreen, panadol, room keys and other small bits.
Behind the zip pocket is a slip pocket big enough to hold a magazine or ipad.

The top of the bag has a recessed zippered gusset.

Inside the bag on the rear side there is a zippered pocket on one side that extends the depth of the bag. This was designed to hold the passports and travel documents.

Inside on the front side is a slip pocket divided into three, to hold my mobile phone, a pen and a notepad. I could tuck my sunglasses in them as well.

The bag is large enough to hold a water bottle, my wallet, hairbrush and a few other small things if required.

Good things:
I loved the external pockets. They were great for stashing things like room charge receipts.
The inner pockets kept everything organised and the small size meant I wasn't overloaded with stuff because we simply couldn't take it in the first place.

Bad things:
The strap and rectangular bag rings didn't work so well. The strap was a bit on the short side for comfort, and the bag rings slipped sideways causing the strap to gather. I'd make a longer, wider strap next time, with an extra layer of interfacing, and round bag rings.

I wasn't overly fussed on the fabric I used. I think a denim or unisex print would be more my style, and might mean that the males in the family would be happy to carry it when necessary.

 I've kept the diagrams and directions that I wrote out as I made it, in case I want to make another one.

I would probably make the sides a bit deeper next time, and play with the strap - possibly a fixed length strap rather than adjustable.

I was pretty happy with this bag. It served us well on our trip, and after a good wash it has gone into rotation with my every-day bags.

Note - white fabric is not a good choice for a bag!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

KTB - Broderie top (and some extras)

Project - New Look 6392 Broderie top in size 3
Started - probably in 2007? It was part of a number of outfits I made for my niece who is now 10.
Finished - November 2014
Gifted - Christmas 2014
It is amazing what you can find when cleaning out the stash. While looking for something else I came across this pattern bundled up with the white broderie already cut up to make a size three top with the puffy sleeves.

I had started it as part of a gift for my now-10-year-old niece. The other items had been finished and gifted but for some reason I never sewed this one up.

I had some dragon and cow fabric already selected to make clothes for my 2-year-old niece and her dolly so I decided to use this pattern and finish the top as part of a set.

I packed up the lot and carted it off to quilt camp in November and had the top, cow shorts and dragon dress completed pretty quickly.
It must have been the elastic casings in the sleeves that put me off last time. I did 8 sleeve casings this time and they ended up pretty neat.

The whole reason for making the clothes was to have matching dolly clothes for the Kinder Doll I gave my niece for her first Christmas in 2012. I called her Ruby but she now goes by 'Dolly'.

Dolly already had a top made in the same white broderie fabric so the matching shorts were quick and easy. The dress took quite a bit of time because I wanted to make similar sleeves and end up with something that was close in appearance to the big dress. It was fiddly but fun.

My nieces parents skyped us on Christmas Day and saved the gift to open while we were online (which was such a thoughtful thing to do).
She put the dress on straight away, found Dolly and dressed her as well and then went and posed in front of the mirror. The rest of the clothes got modelled as well and although the size 3 was too big it was fun watching her play.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

KTB - Rainbow Dropstitch Scarf

Project - Easy Dropstitch Scarf
Started - August 2013
Finished - August 2014
Gifted - September 2014

The Easy Dropstitch Scarf pattern is a free download from Ravelry.
It is an easy pattern for a beginner that gives a result that looks far more complicated than it really is, but I recommend using a thicker yarn than I did. Use something slippery for the best result.

I used Opel Sockenwolle - sock yarn and 4.5mm needles.
I picked the pattern because I wanted something easy but lacy.
I picked the yarn because it was in the stash.

The scarf took far longer to make than I ever intended partly because the yarn was so fine, partly because I kept putting it down, partly because I got sick of it half-way through.

I pulled it out again in winter and got it finished and blocked in time to send it to my sister for her birthday. She lives in the coldest place in the country so scarves don't go to waste. I did take some post-blocking photos but can't find them, so this work-in-progress shot is the best I can do.

Monday, December 29, 2014

KTB - New Look 6429 Mock-wrap Dress

Project - New Look 6429 view D. Knit dress with mock wrap detail.
Started - Who knows? Probably about 4 years ago.
Finished - 28 December 2014

This dress has been sitting in the sewing cupboard for years. It needed the hem to be unpicked, reshaped and resewn, dangling threads removed and floppy facings fixed.

The fabric is a really stretchy jersey knit I picked up on special but is really too stretchy to hold the shape of the dress well. A firmer knit would hold the design lines much more effectively. The fabric pattern was difficult to match and you can see that it is printed off-grain, so the front panel looks like it is hanging skewed.

I remember that I got most of the dress put together in a day or two but wasn't happy with the fit so shelved it.
I remember pulling it out again and adjusting the wrap front and sewing the hem, only to put it on and be dismayed to find the back hem had a big dip at the centre back and the skirt was too clingy and revealing over my stomach and hips. I stashed it away to deal with later.

This week, seeing as the sewing machines were out, the room was tidy and I was on a bit of a roll, I decided to pull it out and finish it off once and for all.

I figured out that the droopy hem was because I had lengthened the back bodice but forgotten to remove the same amount of length from the back skirt. Over-locking before folding up a hem wasn't the greatest idea on this fabric either. I unpicked the zig-zag hem, lay it out flat and trimmed the entire hem using the rotary cutter. I pinned them hem up, pressed well and then stitched in place with a twin needle.

The facings didn't sit well (an issue with everyone who has reviewed this pattern) so I trimmed them back to the edge of the top-stitching, creating more of a bound edge.

All in all, the dress isn't a disaster. it is light and comfortable to wear, so may become a round-the-house dress.

I don't like the cling across my stomach but that is more about accepting my body shape than a design fault with the pattern.

I love the back - the v-shaped waist line sits perfectly. I'm wondering if I can combine the back design with a more fitted front bodice?