Friday, April 27, 2012

FO Friday: Two Bags! Edition

I may have finally hit the wall on the Runaround Bag front, which is probably a good thing as I am sick to death of bias tape. I'm pretty much convinced that it's Satan's toilet paper.

I finished the bag on the right last week. Like the first Runaround I made, both the exterior and interior fabrics are duck cloth. Unlike the first Runaround I made, I didn't bother interfacing the exterior. As it turns out, it wasn't necessary; the duck cloth is sturdy enough on its own. 

The bag on the left was finished on Wednesday. I used cotton fabric from Waechter's (my favorite fabric store around here) for it. Since I tend to be pretty hard on my bags and use them to carry things like books and my eee pad, I decided to interface both the exterior and the lining. It took forever and was kind of a pain in the ass, but I'm really glad I did it. I think it'll hold up a lot better this way.

I also finally figured out how to sew in a zipper! I've been avoiding it for an embarrassing length of time, but decided to suck it up and bite the bullet when I was putting this bag together. Also featured: a pocket for my cell phone and pens, because I hate how those things always seem to fall to the very bottom, underneath two heavy books, a knitting project, my wallet, and my eee pad. 

Next on the agenda: a few envelope clutches by the same person who designed the Runaround Bag. I've already read through the instructions, and while they're way more involved than those for these bags, I'm pretty confident I'll be able to achieve some nice results. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Today I thought I'd write about myself for a change.

The semester is winding down, after all. I'm halfway through my last week of classes and my final week at my internship, and I am so relieved that my first year is almost complete. There was never any doubt in my mind that I'd make it through successfully, but this school year brought many more challenges, personal and interpersonal, than I expected and I got way more self-awareness (and related emotional discomfort) than I feel like I'd bargained for. It's given me a lot to think about, in both the best and the worst ways. I'd like to think that it's made me a better person, but it's really too soon to tell.

On the one hand, I'm incredibly glad that I made the choice to go for my MSW because I finally feel like I'm not only doing something productive with my life and education, but that I'm also really making a difference in the world and doing what I need to do in order to be fulfilled in some nebulous, philosophical, career-related sense. On the other, it's been very draining, emotionally speaking, for a variety of reasons. I didn't start school in the best of headspaces, a lot of my coursework has dredged up feelings and experiences I'd rather remain buried in the bottom of my subconscious's closet, and my internship, much as I've loved it, was a major downer (dealing with mental health and substance abuse in incarcerated populations is not what dreams are made of). Throw in the stress of continuing to work in the service industry in an effort to stay above water financially, and you have a very anxious, exhausted, stressed-out me who desperately needs a break.

Fortunately, it's coming. My last day of class is Friday. In between now and then, I need to write two medium-length papers, complete a take-home final, and take an exit exam with the rest of my cohort (that I am mercifully not expected to study for). I'm working this weekend, then I have all of next week off. On May 3rd, I am heading to Nashville to visit a few very good friends from when I lived there. On the 5th, I will drive north to Indiana to see my best friend from elementary school marry her college sweetheart. On the 6th, I will drive to Knoxville to visit my family. On the 7th, I will drive from Knoxville to Cullowhee to start the first class of my mini-mester.

The course topic of the mini-mester in question? Child Trauma.

The reading list for said elective in child trauma? Working with Traumatized Youth in Child Welfare, Collaborative Treatment of Traumatized Children and Teens: The Trauma Systems Therapy Approach, and Secondary Traumatic Stress and the Child Welfare Professional. 

Yeah, I know. Four and a half hours a day of that for two and a half weeks. I'm going to be such a joy to be around.

Once that's over, though, I will have all of June and July off, and my classes (and shiny new internship!) don't start up until the last week of August. I don't have many big plans for the summer. Most of them involve doing a few out-of-town things (I have two other weddings to attend in May and an engagement party to go to in June) and working five days a week at my job that pays me. The fact that I'm excited about only working full-time and dealing with my volunteering gig is, in my opinion, a pretty sad commentary on how nuts this past semester has been. I'm also looking forward to getting some reading done (and book reviews written for next semester!), knitting a bunch of things, and firing up my sewing machine.

Until then, though, I have papers to write.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I heard about this book from a facebook friend, and decided to download it when I came upon it while browsing the North Carolina Digital Library. I figured it would be a fairly quick, uncomplicated read, especially since I enjoy reading YA fantasy when I don't feel like thinking. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children didn't disappoint.

Sixteen-year-old Jacob has grown up listening to his grandfather's stories about his childhood, poring over the pictures he has saved throughout the years. Born into a Jewish family in Europe, Jacob's grandfather was spirited to a lonely island off the Welsh coast, where he resided in a children's home full of unusual children. As Jacob grows older, he comes to believe that his grandfather's stories were fairy tales and the photographs were fake-- until his grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances. Haunted by the memory of his grandfather's death and the mementos he left behind, Jacob travels to Wales to uncover the true nature of his family's history.

This book reads a lot like A Series of Unfortunate Events, so if you liked that, you'll probably enjoy this. Full of weird, old-fashioned photography and intriguing characters, it's a highly entertaining light read. 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Review: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Confession: I'm not really into memoirs. As far as genres go, they rank below everything except for crimesploitation, bodice rippers, sexy supernatural creatures (exception: Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and anything involving dragons (this includes tattoos) or spaceships, tying roughly with chick lit. I have a variety of reasons for that, but that's mostly because autobiographers tend to be navel-gazing, self-important liars. Or, more kindly, truth-stretchers. When I read an autobiography, I assume that a good part of it is at least exaggerated, and it has served me well over the years.

Apparently, James Frey embodies all of those negative aspects of autobiographers and is gigantic, plagiarizing jackass to boot. This is good, because it means I don't have to feel bad about thinking that A Million Little Pieces was freaking terrible and that he's a godawful writer. I kept finding myself wanting to take a red pen to the text and leave snarky notes like, "Dear James Frey, You are not e. e. cummings. Knock it off with the Quirky Capitalization; it highlights your Mediocre Writing and makes you sound like A Pretentious Jackass."

I also had a running monologue that was in the key of, "Oh my god, people actually believed that this guy was for real? Are you KIDDING me?" Like, seriously. People are so gullible.

2 out of 5 stars, because it's not as bad as Twilight and is mercifully shorter than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Friday, April 13, 2012

FO Friday: A bag for me!

My runaround bag is finished! Yay! I'm really happy with it, especially since I had to learn a few new techniques to make it. I'd never used interfacing before (in retrospect, it probably wasn't necessary since the fabric I chose was more heavy-duty than the quilter's cotton used in the original), and I'm not super great at gathering stitches. I also used bias tape for the first time, and while I should probably rip it out and re-do it, I'm pretty pleased with the first attempt. Yay me, and yay new bag!

It matches my favorite red shirt for the summer perfectly.

I'm probably going to make a few more, but they will be sans pleat-- I don't like how narrow it makes the top of the bag. It makes fishing stuff out of the bottom more difficult.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

WiP Wednesday: Sewing a Bag at Night Edition

Since the weather has gotten warmer, my knitting motivation has fallen off a cliff (happens every year, but even more so this year because it never got cold enough for me to wear my handknits much), so I've decided to use the time I was devoting to knitting for sewing a few things for summer. 

I'm working on a runaround bag. Two, actually, but I haven't started the second one yet. So far, I have accomplished cutting out the exterior fabric and the interfacing. Next up: cutting the lining and pocket fabrics, finishing cutting the interfacing, fusing the interfacing, and putting the whole shebang together. 

First on the agenda: bags. I love lightweight canvas bags (think bungalow 360); they're cute, colorful, and are usually big enough to hold the necessities: a book, my cell phone, my wallet, a knitting project, and my giant freaking water bottle (optional: small makeup bag, tablet, extra pair of undies, hair straightener). The downside to these bags is twofold: 1) they don't hold up super well and 2) I therefore have a hard time spending $20-30 on them. In the interest of having bags on the cheap, I decided to find a suitable pattern and make my own. The runaround bag fits the bill nicely. 

I went to the fabric store a few days ago to buy some fabric for the bags. The red and the black multi are together, and the cream and the stripes are also together. I'm not sure what I'm going to use the apple fabric for; I couldn't find a coordinating fabric that matched it so I'll probably hang onto it for a while. Since duck cloth was on sale, I only spent about $15 on the fabric, total. With the cost of interfacing, zippers, bias tape and notions factored in, each one will probably come to be about $12 in materials. Way better than $30, I think, and if the pattern executes well, I can re-use it for birthday or xmas presents this year. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review: Matched by Ally Condie

I saw Matched in the library about a year ago and considered picking it up, but decided against it because I already had a gigantic stack of books. I resolved to pick it up later and promptly forgot about it until a friend of mine mentioned having read it. She didn't particularly care for it, but since YA dystopian novels are my quasi-literary crack, I decided to give it a shot.

Like most of the YA dystopian novels floating about, Matched takes place in a world of extreme social control, and the main plot point centers around forbidden love and illicit words. If you think that sounds a lot like the plot to Delirium, you're absolutely right. The two books are very similar; both involve star-crossed teenage lovers whose relationship would undermine the authority of their society, and so they must fight the society in order to be together and blah blah blah.

The world of Matched is really similar to The Giver in a variety of ways: characters are scheduled to be born, attend school, marry, have children, and die, and job functions are assigned based on a series of aptitude tests. The high point of everyone's life is their Match Banquet, in which they are paired off with their future spouse. Cassia, the protagonist, is slated to marry her childhood friend, Xander-- but someone makes a mistake and she is also shown the face of a longtime classmate, Ky. Drawn to Ky, she makes a series of choices that threaten the safety of everyone she knows. It's a pretty standard plot and is enjoyable in a brain candy kind of way.

I much preferred Delirium, but I'm in the queue for the sequel, Crossed, so it's not all bad. 3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A couple of blog-related items:

1. I got a shiny new twitter account for talking about books, knitting, robots, and nuts. It's public and family-friendly! @abookworming
2. I am way the hell behind on updating my crafts and book pages. Given that I update them on the rigorous schedule of "when I can be bothered" (which usually translates to "when I have to write a paper"), it'll probably be sometime tomorrow.
3. The semester is over in a month, so I'll hopefully have more free time to write stuff here then.