Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Of French Knots

Well, back to life in Missouri.

Obama and McCain are somewhere in the vicinity, as are some angry cumulonimbi. Between dodging the heavier periods of rain and giving creative answers to the pollsters who call every hour ("I'm an abolitionist Whig who strongly supports the legalization of absinthe"), I have been fuffing about with string and things.

One thing I still like to do with string is make tiny little compositions entirely out of French knots (フランスノット).

French knots are a terrifically easy embroidery stitch that, when clustered together, make a cool, carpet-like texture. It's like pointillism with thread.

Red dogwood branch on a scrap of denim twill... well, it kind-of looks like dogwood. Just like pointillism, French knots don't allow for the sharpest detail.

Geometric flower on cotton shirting... or at least I think this is shirting. I don't know enough about fabric. As a base for French knots, just use a cheap, square-weave cotton fabric.

Even more fun than making figures, in my opinion, is just making little fields of French knots in different colors. It's good for using up all the little scraps of floss and yarn you might have left over from other crafts. You can stretch your finished abstracts over things, too, and make little bitty artworks.

A tiny pillow, about 3cm square, covered in some knots. It's fascinating, if completely useless.

A pattern of knots stretched over a pebble.

You can make French knots on any fabric with a moderately close weave that doesn't stretch. IE, gauzes, gossamer and knits are no good. (ガーゼ、ニットなどが使いにくいので、木綿を使った方がいいと思います.) Your knots will slip through to the wrong side of the fabric when you pull to tighten them, and you'll get frustrated and give up on French knots forever, and that'd be a damn shame. Use plain weave cotton instead. Beyond that, all you need is a needle (longer ones are easier to work with) and some bits of colorful string/yarn/thread/floss etc. (木綿以上、長い針と色々なきれいな糸しかいらない.)

The stitch, if you missed it, can be found here. Very simple.

EDIT: Here's one more example.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's Very Confusing

When you lose the power to reconcile yourself to someone you love. Someone in your own family, who has been there at every holiday. Every wedding, every party. In the photographs since you were born. Even since before you were born.

It's not like breaking up with a boyfriend, or a falling-out with a friend. It's much, much harder.

This person has pictures of me in her house, as a baby and all through my childhood. We have pictures of her in our house. She is assigned to be my godmother. She was at my mother's funeral, and we cried together.

She has been a guest in our home. All of my family have been guests in her home. But not anymore.

Not me, anyway.

It didn't take much to get expelled from the household; tensions during a family outing turned into an official "I don't want to see you anymore."

Shamefully, I admit that I was so hurt -- I agreed immediately.

I know something is wrong with this person. She becomes more and more nervous at each occasion we have to visit. Her temper flares so often now, I wonder if the trouble isn't medical - a chemical problem, or a psychiatric one.

It wasn't fair of me to give up so easily; to get upset and lose my composure. I've never been smooth under fire. I'm even less so after a long day.

So when she came down on me, in public, in the presence of other members of my family who had (until then) been having a relatively pleasant time, I snapped. I didn't have the finesse to be an adult to someone who used to be an adult to me.

To be fair, I wasn't being treated like an adult. Being an adult, in the school I've learned it from, involves compromise and patience. Not deference, not resignation. Certainly not public humiliation.

Nevertheless, I'm ashamed. My failure to keep cool cut the day short for everyone involved. Friends went home early and family split up. Worst of all, the one person who needed this vacation the most - my own father - was rudely and unnecessarily pulled into the fray.

This is the thing that really hurts me. I let myself break down, and my failure was used to hurt someone I love. My father, for whom I am very concerned, who is already coping with much more stress than is due him. It has ruined his one vacation, and probably severed his own ties with this woman.

We are leaving for home a day early, skipping a large family meeting. The stress is too much for anyone involved to continue as planned. My father will undoubtedly spend the whole night worried for my sister and myself, as we are both sleeping (without any feasible recourse) at the home of the very person who would like me never to return.

I can't undo any of the day's errors. I can only resume my adult persona and issue apologies to those who were involved, and hereafter always maintain my distance from this person.

This member of my family.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Remember the little guy from this post?

He's a big brother now. :D

New pattern coming up soon, honest. (I've been on a writing kick lately, and more words = less images.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sources d'Quex

Pinks and greens, and eff yeah, I get to use a stock photo that I've wanted to use for so long. Damn. Feels good. やっとこのブログを変えたんだ。ウ・レ・シ〜〜〜。。。。っすが、このスタイルもちょっといやだね。-_-; まだまだ変えなきゃ。

When I'm not sleeping or making material stuff, I like to hunt around for stock images, brushes, textures, typographic elements, etc for the making of immaterial stuff, i.e, digital graphics. (Technically, that is what I should be doing first and foremost; sleep and material goods can come later.)

One delicious place to find said elements is Stock.Xchng. Lots of free stocks for student work or mock-ups. Also a good source for quality reference images (better than an open GIS, anyway).

楽しみしてね〜 ヾ(。・w・。)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

the obligatory "Om Nom Nom"

Because it's birthday season, I can get away with composing a few snacks that are normally banned from the premises. I always aim for the same three: cake, lemon squares, and puppy chow. (Taiyaki would be the fourth if I had the skill to make it.) In any case, I have recently discovered that "puppy chow" is not in everyone's vocabulary, let alone in most standard cookbooks.

We shall rectify this situation!

Puppy Chow (puh-pee CHAow), noun: A homemade treat composed primarily of chocolate, peanut butter, and crunchy cereal. Intended for human consumption only. Do not feed this stuff to dogs, or to diabetics for that matter. (V. sweet)

And now, a recipe. Please note that puppy chow, like krispy squares, is in every respect a homemade sweet. Amounts and flavors can be fudged, tactics are customizable, and clean up
will be necessary. Let the mess begin!

Ingredients! ...and commentary!

One (14oz) box crispy corn cereal squares

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 and
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups confectioner's sugar

You can use any brand of sturdy, puffed corn cereal, but the traditional one is Chex. (Chex rhymes with Quex.)
The butter is necessary to make the chocolate/pnut butter mix liquidy enough to coat the cereal. If you use more chocolate, you'll want to add a little more butter, too.
Vanilla extract is optional. It makes a subtle difference to the chocolate element of the flavor range.
If you use crunchy peanut butter, the coating step becomes more difficult by several orders of magnitude. It
can be done, but not pleasantly.
Other flavors of chips make for exotic chow. I have heard of great love for butterscotch and white chocolate.
Be liberal with the powdered sugar. It's the key to getting the pieces to be "pieces" and not "clumps."


0) Get a big pot and a slightly smaller pot that fits inside it. We're rigging up a double boiler. (If you have an actual double boiler, go get that instead.) Put some water in the bigger pot, then nest the smaller pot inside of it so that the water comes up against the bottom and about an inch up outside of the little pot. Put the whole thing on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. This is all so that when you melt your chocolate, it actually melts and doesn't burn like it would if you just put it in a single pot directly on the stovetop.

1) Melt the chocolate chips. Add the peanut butter, vanilla, and margerine when enough of the chips are melted that you can stir the mixture together. Keep melting and mixing until smooth.

2) Remove the mixture from heat and add the cereal. Stir the cereal around in the mixture to coat all the pieces as well as you can. It helps if you use a flat spoon and use kind of a "folding" motion. Don't be afraid of all the crunching that this step produces; most of the cereal survives crushinating.

3) Get a big container with a lid that you can shake. Big tupperware works well... so does a paper grocery bag. Anything large that can stay shut. Put a thick layer of confectioner's sugar in the bottom of your shaking device, then dump in the sticky mess of coated cereal. Cover it with another layer of sugar, then close it up tight.

4) Shake it like you mean it. No, but seriously. Shake the container very, very well. Your goal is to get the surface area of the sticky cereal bits into contact with as many sugar particles as possible.

5) Open the container and check your chow. If there are any huge clumps, break them apart, add some more confectioner's sugar, and repeat step 4. If everything looks okay, try a piece. It should look like processed dog kibble, but it will taste awesome.

6) Store in an airtight container and hide the container from your voracious family keep it in a cool, dry place. Serving size is about 1/3 cup of chow, and this recipe makes about 10 bazillion servings (something like 40~50, actually).


今日は私の誕生日でがんす。♪(´▽^ )ノ⌒☆

I have officially been here for 24 years now. That's six years more than I was aiming for. イエイ〜!

On a completely different topic, here is a graphic of an inuhariko that I've been vectoring. I turned the vector into a stencil and painted it out on an old piece of wood, so now it's at least something concrete, if not an actual figurine.

Inuhariko (犬張り子 in Japanese kanji) is the small figurine of a dog, traditionally made of a paper/plaster combination like papier mache, intended to ward off evil in several regards. For expectant mothers, an inuhariko was said to ensure a safe birth and a healthy child. For children, inuhariko (sometimes wooden toys instead of delicate paper figures) were expected to keep the child safe by frightening off evil spirits and dangerous creatures. Other dog-like figures, such as shishi and komainu, share this demon-scaring skill in Japanese mythology. In modern times, inuhariko charms and images are used as a general wish for safety and good fortune.

I'm too old to need an inuhariko watching over me, but its always nice to have a little luck. ^-^

PS: I'm thinking I'll put this guy and some other graphics on t-shirts or something, 'cause I've always wanted to try it. Any sites better than zazzle for this kind of thing?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I am so full of watermelon right now.

In honor of Independence Day, a craft that is just about as old as the nation: tatting. It's a form of lacework with definite advantages over other lace methods:

1) can be done with only minimal equipment (thread, needle or shuttle, hands)
2) easy to design your own patterns
3) infinitely easier than bobbin lace

Anybody can tat. If you know how to crochet or knot at all, it'll take you less than five minutes to figure out tatting on needles. Shuttle tatting is only a little harder (the hardest part of it being actually finding a tatting shuttle*).

These are some basic medallions (tatting in a circle) that I did waaaay back in high school.

The internet is full of tatting tutorials and instructions, better than anything I could come up with. Some places to start:

Handy Hands
Vintage patterns

And now, back to watermelon-eating and making a mess of my portfolio. ^-^ Cheers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

... --- ...

Fact: Ku enjoys codes.

Fact: Today is the one-hundredth anniversary of the SOS.

Ergo: Ku is happy.

Morse was one of the first I ever learned, and it's still one of the easiest to cypher, excepting the fact that if one doesn't use it daily, one tends to forget it.

...which is exactly why we have the internet.

Image shamelessly stolen from NASA. Thanks, NASA.

PPS: I'll get back to tutorials soon, I swear.