I must say, I have never been so close to rage-quitting a book halfway through since I read The Courtship of Princess Leia. As I write this now, I’m only halfway through it, and I think the only reason I’m going to keep reading it is to find more things I can hate about it.
People have been recommending The Outlander series to me for many many years, and I’d just never bothered to pick them up. Well, I was out of things to read and figured it was about time I do so, and yes, I heard there was a TV series and I wanted to be a book-snob when I watched it. I don’t know how, but somehow I got the impression that the series was, well, weirder. Darker. Stranger. That it was about people who get lost in the cracks, lost in time, yes, but in the dark weird way of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, or Charles deLint novels. I thought the characters would be the outliers to society, people who are foreign wherever they go, who fit nowhere, and so created a land where only the strange was normal. You know…. London Below. Where did I get this impression? I honestly have no idea. Maybe I’m thinking of an entirely different series, and this one just fell into my lap instead.
Anyways, what I was not expecting was a harlequin romance with a lot of extra words and some real history written in as if to make me take it seriously. Even then, I probably would have been okay with it. I’m a big fan of saying as long as a book is entertaining to me, and enjoyable to read, I’ll call it a good book. I don’t necessarily need a deep philosophical message, or a darkly gritty cast of characters, or a unique landscape, or even any originality at all. I can be a big fan of trashy romance novels. I read, and even sort of enjoyed Twilight. That’s right, I’m saying it out loud. She lost me with the later sequels, and I’m not saying its a healthy story for teens or that it should get the attention it’s gotten. But I enjoyed parts of it, and it was not as offensive to me as this book.
Something about this story so far just sets my teeth on edge. I’m only halfway through it, and I had to stop to express my rage while its still this potent. Right, so the main character is Claire. She was living in 1945 with the husband she’d just reconnected with after WWII (he was a soldier, she was a nurse) when wham bam she falls through a time-hole in Scotland and is taken back 200 years. (view spoiler)[Where she generally makes trouble by not acting correctly for a woman of the time, and being a mystery in a politically awkward time where people hate mysteries. She finds out that her husband’s ancestor was pretty much an evil dick, and makes friends with a dashingly sexy scotsman who has his own dubious history and dramatic reasons he wants to take revenge on said husband’s ancestor. Whoops, under some very contrived circumstances she is suddenly compelled to marry this sexy scotsman she is so attracted to, to save her own life, of course, yes…. Right, I was totally with you up until that moment. Unbelievably contrived and classic romance novel, sure. Still, I can envision some great costumes, and there’s some fun sex scenes. Sure, the sex scenes make me uncomfortable, because, you know, SHE’S STILL MARRIED TO HER HUSBAND AND ALL. And she dithers, constantly, about oh she misses Frank (husband) but something keeps drawing her to Jamie. His animal magnetism. And, well, she couldn’t NOT have sex with him, they NEED to consummate the marriage or it won’t count and she’ll still be in danger!
But then, of course, given the first time she finds herself alone (really, the FIRST time, in the last three months, that she finds herself alone?) she realizes she can run back to the stone circle where she came through the weird time portal. So off she goes…. and gets captured by the English (and the evil ancestor of her husband). Where he takes her to his office, tries to find out who she’s spying for, and then proceeds to nearly rape her. When (drumroll please) the husband arrives to rescue her! Yipee! Whatever, I’m not entirely enjoying it, mostly because I was expecting something completely different, but it hasn’t lost me yet. My expectations don’t change what’s written, I just have to be in the mood for a romance, so I’ll read it as if I was…
Until of course, the new sexy scotsman husband takes her back to safety and proceeds to beat her. Because its good for her. And she needs to learn the consequences to her actions. Because as her husband its his duty to teach her to right her wrongs, and his men and the soldiers they’re traveling with expect it.
Um, excuse me, what? Oh, she’s angry that he beat her so badly that she couldn’t sit down last night, but then he tells her a story about how his parents beat him when he was a child, and it was very beneficial and helped him learn. And she forgives him, after all, she DID act a bit rashly (by running away from a marriage she was forced into) and she DOES need to think about consequences (like how it made HIM feel to watch her being nearly raped). So yes, she forgive him, for beating her. And then he says, “You should be grateful I went easy on you. I enjoyed beating you so much, I really wanted to have sex with you afterwards. You should be glad I didn’t demand sex from you right then as my husbandly right.”
And she says “Oh, I love you! But if you ever beat me again I will cut your balls off.”
At which point he swears upon his dagger that he will ever be loyal to her, and never beat her again in rebellion or anger (note that he can still totally beat her again if its for her own good), and will she please have sex with him now? (hide spoiler)]
And this is where I stopped reading, so enraged that I needed to get my thoughts down on paper and express my disappointment and hatred RIGHT NOW.
I will keep reading, at least to the end of this book, if not the rest of the series, on the bright side because I want to know if it gets better. After all, so very many people recommended it to me. And on the dark side, because I want to keep finding things to hate about this book.
So far though, I’m mostly curious that the internet has not raged about this book before now. I can’t count the number of hate-filled posts have passed through my tumblr about everything from Twilight, to Frozen, to con girls and costumes and all the rest. And no one has raged out about Outlander before me? Is it just because I wasn’t expecting this and everyone else just already knew about it?
Faux-nthropologie (okay, maybe that's a stretch...)
Get the Look:
So, I saw that beautiful tshirt with its elegant cutouts on pinterest, and I thought to myself “I could do that!” So I did. Then I thought to myself “I should share how I did this!” So I am. This is my present to all my faithful readers who are here at my 201st blog post. (Not really, actually, thats a complete coincidence. But still, 201! Holy crap.)
I made some minor modifications to the pattern for my own amusement which you can choose to follow, or not, as you will. I added a bit of flare in the back, and used a tutorial for petal sleeves. I also thickened the crosspieces, because the knit I was working with was pretty thin and I was worried that going too narrow would be just be difficult and annoying. That knit, by the way, I found at Joanns for $4/yd.
Feel free to go with your instincts, change things up, and make a shirt that YOU want to wear.
For this tutorial, you’ll want to use a comfortable 4-way stretch knit, and contemplate using a serger, or double needle. You should also have a basic tshirt pattern that you’ve used before and know you like. (If you don’t have such a pattern already, I highly recommend this Deer-and-Doe pattern. Its free, simple to follow, and looks great on everyone!.) I used bias-tape made of the same fabric to finish all the edges in my shirt, but that’s not necessary. If you want, you can simply use a fold-over hem. This site has some great tutorials on a variety of ways to finish knit hems.
So, to make this shirt you’re going to want to modify the back pattern piece of a generic tshirt pattern. The front and sleeves will stay exactly the same. I’m going to use some pretty impressively crappy paint sketches to illustrate my points.
Trace the back pattern piece out on some large sheets of paper. If your pattern is a piece that is “cut on the fold” flip it over so that you have a full piece, exactly like the piece of fabric you *would* be cutting out for the back. Find and mark the center line of the piece.
Then, on one “half” of the pattern piece start at the shoulder neckline and draw a dip and a line that crosses the center line, and goes all the way to the opposite shoulder. Starting off parallel to that line, but a few inches lower (how much lower is up to you, that will determine the width of the crosspieces) draw another line that that crosses the centerline, and then curves back towards it to end in the middle of your back. If those words made absolutely no sense, as I suspect is the case, just look at this image:
If you want a more flared effect like my brown shirt, continue the line diagonally to end somewhere on the other half of the shirt pattern. If you want a straighter/tighter back to your shirt, just follow the centerline straight down.
This is your NEW back piece. You’re going to want to cut out two of them (but mirrored, obviously.)
Next, I would recommend finishing the lower edge of the cutout and crosspiece on BOTH back pieces in whatever way you choose. It’ll be easier to do it now than later. I’ve highlighted the edge I’m talking about in purple below:
Then sew the shoulder seams together. You’ll end up with a funny kind-of T-shaped thing, with the crosspieces of each back pointed toward the center.
Next, you’ll want to finish the edges of the neckline and the top side of each crosspiece.
After that, you’ll want to sew up the seam in the center back. Go only as far as the bottom of the cutout curve. Also go ahead and put the sleeves on, or if you’re doing a tanktop finish the edges of the armholes.
Then, you’ll want to sew up the side seams. Go from the edges of the sleeves, all the way through the armpit (making sure to match the sleeve seams) and down the shirt to the bottom hem. Finish the bottom hem in whatever way you see fit.
Finally, you’ll want to attach the crosspieces to the inside of their OPPOSITE shoulder seam. You might want to put it on and play with their placing for a couple of minutes. The angle at which you end up sewing them can make a difference.
And you should end up with something that looks sort of like this:
This whole concept is also pretty easy to tweak and customize and get creative with. As I mention, I also added some petal sleeves. (I used this tutorial).
You can also cut different shapes, or even do multiple crosspieces.
I haven’t been brave enough to try more than two crosspieces on each side yet, but I think you could end up with an incredibly complex and beautiful pattern.
Or instead of the leaf-like oval cut-out at the bottom, I think it’d be pretty easy to make a shape more like a heart, or go with super straight lines and make a triangle. The possibilities are endless!
If you want to see some higher resolution shots of the shirts I made, check out these posts.
Feel free to share your success and even your failures with me! I’m curious to see if anyone else has any luck with this.
Do you find that working for a fabric company inspires you to create your own clothing more than you would if you worked somewhere else? Or does it simply allow you greater opportunity to create what you want?
I would say that working for spoonflower definitely allows me a greater opportunity to sew. One of our benefits is a certain amount of free yardage, and simply having that to play with is a huge bonus. It gives me a chance to try patterns I’m uncertain of, or work with fabrics I have little experience with, without worrying about the cost of such experiments.
There is also the benefit of working in close quarters with many other sewing enthusiasts. If I’m curious about a new technique, there’s almost always someone nearby who’s tried and can give me some pointers.
I can certainly find my proximity to spoonflower inspiring sometimes. There’s such a wide choice of fabric designs, certainly more than in generic fabric stores, and I can find the weird and odd and off-center designs that fit my personality better. Coming across a truly wacky or wonderfully beautiful design during my work can definitely inspire specific articles of clothing in my imagination. Some of them even end up in reality, eventually.
Sometimes though, that can become as limiting as it is inspiring. When I get some free fabric from work, I find it difficult to convince myself to pay full price for fabrics outside of spoonflower. And while spoonflower is fantastic at what it does (digitally designed and printed fabrics) it doesn’t do everything. I have to force myself to work outside of that comfort zone sometimes, and experience fabrics that we don’t offer at spoonflower. We’re never going to be able to print on velvet after all, or many other heavily textured fabrics. And printing fabric in solid shades just doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes I depend a little too much on the fabulous fabric design, and its ability to hide my own flaws in sewing. Working with simple fabrics and solid colors forces you to be much more careful and and correct in how you sew a garment.
However, spoonflower’s influence in my sewing has been overwhelmingly good in the long run. Simply being surrounded by fabric on a daily basis has encouraged me to sew much more than I think I ever would have had I not had the opportunity to work there.
Oops, I've been busy... Belated New Years: A Year In Books
Yeah, so I know, its been 8 months since I made an appearance. I’ve been busy. Which is a sad excuse, because no one else on the face of the earth has ever been busy AND kept a blog. Because if you were busy, what could you possibly have to write about in the blog, AMIRITE?!
Anyways, so in 2013 I read a lot of books (though not as many as in previous years, or even as many I’d hoped.) I certainly didn’t write as many full-length reviews as I promised I would.
Apparently there was only one book I felt deserved 1 star: A Princess of Mars (John Carter #1). I didn’t even finish it. Here’s my review: “I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. Maybe someday, when I’m more in the mood for dated sexist writing. Or maybe someday when I bored and desperate and don’t have a pile of ACTUALLY good books to read.” And I stand by that. I probably should read it, someday, because that series has a place in the history of sci-fi. But…. not while I have actually good books to read.
I read thirteen books that I felt deserved five stars. Most of those were actually re-reads or childhood favorites. There were two that were completely new to me and I really felt deserved the title of favorite book of the year.
The first is Anglemaker, by Nick Harkaway. This is the author’s second novel, and even though I was pretty impressed by the first one (Read my review of The Gone-Away World), this one completely blew me away and shows that the author is still growing and improving his skill. The plot switches back and forth between present day Joe Spork, who wishes he could be a simple clock-maker and ignore the legacy of his mobster crime lord father, and WWII spy Edie Bannister, a kick ass lesbian lady whose brilliant mathematician girlfriend just wants to save the world. Fancy clockwork, perfectly evil and hate-able villains, little old ladies who are more than they appear, noble mobsters who steal from the rich and give to the poor, all of these make an appearance. Its a pretty perfect book in my opinion. Reading it allows you to escape into the perfect adventure where you find love and save the world and people who have been fighting for the powers of Good and Truth.
The second book I’d recommend, The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence is really quite the opposite of that. Its a story of normality, and real life, and the tiny battles we all face in life: acceptance of difficult things, unfairness, our parents being weird, the world just not understanding. And yet, it wasn’t the usual “coming of age” story full of morals and “lessons learned” and other things that usually come off as condescending crap. This book struck me because it was so completely different from anything I had been expecting of it. And I found it touching and emotional in surprising ways as well. Here is what I wrote on goodreads: This was a fantastic read. I really had no idea what to expect, and even then it wasn’t anything like I expected. It is a wonderfully witty funny story about a boy with a rather unique outlook on life. Possibly because he was struck by a meteor at age 10, or possibly because his mother read tarot cards for a living, or possibly just because he was born that way. Or, well, its a witty funny wrapping around a compelling and deeply emotional core. Read it. It is good.
I promise, I’m also going to try to catch up on posting various sewing projects as well. Though probably not in the order in which I actually sewed them.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was definitely one of those books that just by changing one or two things it could have been FANTASTIC. The fresh look at zombies and vampires and fantasy creatures in a modern urban setting was nice. This is no True Blood, or Twilight, or even Charles DeLint, it is definitely its own thing, and I loved that unique view. I loved the concept, a human woman writing a travel guide for unnatural creatures visiting New York, awesome. It had a good sense of humor, definitely some silly moments, some witty lines. I understand that its supposed to be a fluff book, and I wasn’t looking for anything too serious.
But… I got so sick of plot twists that entirely revolved around the romantic history and sex life of the main character. Really? I mean REALLY?! She’s supposed to be a strong intelligent driven woman, so why is it always about the MEN in her life???
Why is it always about the fact that she slept with her last boss who was actually married? Why is her coworker a super sexy incubus who somehow talks her into going to a bdsm sex club and nearly having sex with her in front of a crowd. (Which, of course, she doesn’t protest at the time, but gets pissed about later). And of course, her next door neighbor just HAPPENS to be a super sexy knight in shining armor, employed by Public Works, the secret police force of the unnatural world. And OF COURSE the big evil of the climax of the book just HAPPENS to be her ex-boyfriend’s wife, who is a voodoo queen coming to take over New York City, and also has a personal vendetta agains the main character. I mean, really?!
That just pissed me off no end. The villain of the book is the wife of the man the main character slept with. Think about what that says for a moment. And, by the way, the married guy in question isn’t portrayed as evil, or a true shithead, just a kind of weak, icky womanizer. When the main character runs into him again, not only does she NOT kick him in the balls, or at least punch him in the nose, she saves his life. Twice. I’m not saying he deserved to die, and good for her taking the moral high ground. But she also doesn’t even TELL HIM HE’S A SHIT HEAD FOR LYING TO HER AND CHEATING ON HIS WIFE. Neither woman knew about the other, the guy is the one who’s really a freakin’ jerk AND YET its the two women who end up battling each other with constructs in central park. I’m not saying every woman who’s ever been cheated on by her husband is automatically a good person, but COME ON. That just left a nasty taste in my mouth. Especially since every other plot device was also SOMEHOW related to the main character’s sex life and the fact she slept with her last boss who happened to be married. Ick.
But enough about that. One of the other things I really liked about this book is that the author is local. Not in a super flattering light, but its still mentioned. And that makes me smile, because I love where I live, and I love that interesting people who are succeeding at their dreams are living here too.
While this book definitely had things I didn’t like about it, it had enough things I did like about it that I will continue to read works by this author. I want to support local authors, but also because I think the flaws that so bothered me are somewhat from her being such a new author. This is apparently her first largely published book, I’m excited to see where she goes. Hopefully she’ll find her strengths in her humor, and her fun new look at urban fantasy, and NOT in her sense of “romance” or dependence on male characters as plot points.
I love my birthday, I mean really really love it. And to a certain extent, I don’t understand people who don’t love their birthday. I can understand not liking cake, so eat pie, or hamburgers, or whatever you want to eat. I can understand not liking the attention, so avoid people. Don’t like parties? Well, don’t throw one. Don’t like presents? Make that clear, and tell people why, and they probably won’t give them to you. What I can’t understand is the fear of getting “older.”
Well, okay, I “understand” it, I just refuse to give into it. I think it’s entirely the wrong way of looking at things.
Every year that passes is a success. You survived. You made it to where you are, and it wasn’t easy. And there will never be a point where it becomes easy. You don’t cross a line where it all starts to make sense, it’s life.
Having a birthday isn’t a time to look at all the things you thought you’d have accomplished by now, that’s all backwards. Birthdays should be about going, “Look what I did! Look who I AM. I did this, I made this, I saw this, I am this.” And it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or made, or saw, or been, because the mere act of doing those things is a huge accomplishment. That’s life, and you’ve survived it, you’ve made it this far.
Birthdays are literally a celebration of life. To me, saying that you don’t enjoy your birthday also says that you don’t enjoy being alive. Everyone seems to imply that I only feel that way because “I’m young.” Bullshit. There’s no line you cross where life comes easily, and its not a reason to celebrate the fact you’re still alive. Oh, I only like birthdays because I’m not 30 yet? Bullshit. I’ve been waiting to turn 33 and throw a Hobbit Coming of Age Party since forever.
I fill my birthdays with tiny rituals. Things that make me feel good about myself, feel good about the world, feel good about being alive. Why would I do anything else? It’s MY birthday! Every year I make a mixed cd of all the songs I want to hear that day, songs that make me happy, or that move me, or feel beautiful. Every year, I try to do something outside, surround myself with trees, or flowers, or anything thats alive. Because I’m alive, and no matter what you believe in, thats a pretty amazing mystery, and if there’s one day a year when I should think about it, this is it. But I like over romanticized silly faux-philosophical meanderings like that. I also do shallow things like eat whatever I want, get a hair cut, follow my every whim, hang out with only people I want to.
Maybe I’m just selfish like that, but its been working for 25 years so far, so I don’t really plan on changing it. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t feel on your birthday, its guilt. You have 364 other days to worry about the things you should or shouldn’t have done, to feel down on yourself, or to be annoyed with people around you, or be unhappy. Don’t do it on your birthday.
Don’t do anything you don’t want to on your birthday, if you can help it. And if you can’t help it, then don’t let it overcome you. Don’t give into the world’s expectations for your birthday. If you don’t like parties, don’t have one. If you don’t like cake, don’t eat it. If you don’t like people, take some time to be alone. If you don’t like being alone, surround yourself with people you love. Don’t think about the things you haven’t done, revel in the things you HAVE done, no matter how small. Celebrate YOUR life in whatever way makes you feel alive.
And there’s my platitude of the year. Sermon done. Happy birthday to everyone. :-D