Annual Autumn Tag 2018

I’m still trying to get my lighting situation under control, but until I do I might as well look like I’m an 80s photograph come to life.

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The Curious Creations of Burlesque Barbie*

*And I don’t mean that as a bad thing at all. It’s just all so perfectly pristine and I mean, look at her waist. I’d totally love a Curious Creations doll play set.
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When a friend first sent me a recommendation for Netflix’ shiny new Goth foodie miniseries, The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, I was intrigued – the premise wandered weirdly on the fine line between reality and the realm of the fantastic (one of my favourite lines ever!) so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I pressed play a few days later.
Curious Creations indeed veers between scripted storyline comedy and cooking show where the host plays an exaggerated version of herself. Christine is a burlesque Martha Stewart-meets-Morticia Adams beauty, impeccably dressed in beautiful vintage. She floats through her ornate mansion like a dark Disney princess, gentle, pale, fragile and beloved by all her little friends. These little friends are, naturally, not adorable mice in hats nor tiny birds (the only time a tiny bird makes an appearance it’s already dead). Instead, Christine lives with cat mummy Rankle (who would like to remind you that he used to be worshipped like a god), a furry monster in the basement and a less-than-clever werewolf, among others. Rose, the depraved, perverted frankenstein roadkill creature will burn herself into your retinas and memory, for better or for worse. None of these housemates are particularly helpful, the tentacle monster in the fridge and the ghost in the mirror aside. The latter is played by Dita von Teese and at least gives fashion advice.
Norman, on the other hand, is perfect. Christine’s love interest (whom she meets while bringing a picnic to her Grandmother’s) is exactly the kind of over-the-top happy 50s guy you’d expect as an extra of Pleasantville. He wears plaid, Buddy Holly-ish glasses and an exaggerated, toothy smile with the loveliest dimples. Who cares if he smells like fresh blood, right?
The Curious Creations themselves though balance the sometimes slightly repetitive comments from (and about) Rose – they are STUNNING. Christine McConnell might not be a professional pâtissière but makes up for it with her impressive skills in the design department. Most of the projects are impossible to make in just an afternoon, so all we get to see are a few details and hints how to go about it should we ever decide to go megalomaniac and attempt something similar ourselves. Each episode features small projects, too, though. Christine covers about everything from baking to nut-based spiders to dress- and candlemaking and does so with a great sense for aesthetics. No wonder she did promo for Tim Burton.
Alas, this wouldn’t be an honest review if I didn’t include the next bit.
I admit that I’m not quite sure if this fault is original to the program or rather something that can be attributed to the format it makes fun of – the scripted casuality of very American, very white-toothed cooking and crafting shows. At times (not always!) the whole thing seems… stiff. Rehearsed. Over-pronounced. A tiny bit too slow, moments that are drawn-out just a few seconds too long. Lovingly scolding glances from Christine to her critters in particular. Maybe it’s because the “look, we’re adorably psychotic” thing wasn’t my favourite with Wednesday Adams, either. Maybe it’s because I find Rose more grating than likable. Or maybe I’ve just seen too much not-so-great puppetry-supplemented children’s TV.The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
I think what I want to say is that it’s either too much, or not enough. With the right timing and something to make it more visibly over the top it would work out just a tiny bit better. The series doesn’t shy away from being camp, so why do it script-wise? Get me some old-fashioned cliché dialoge! Hell, give me screwball! It’s vintage! It fits! But that’s about the only real issue I have with the entire thing, and I’m picky, so it barely counts. To sum it up, it’s reminiscent of the Fullerverse (much like Mockingbird Lane meets Pushing Daisies) with a generous dose of Burton mixed in and some extra vintage cherries on top, and it’s mostly about food, so I’m in. It’s so very aesthetically pleasing, I hope it’ll get a second season. Maybe with more recipes (or at least links to a recipe collection – on the other hand I could buy Christine’s book for that). But that’s just wishful thinking, and it’s pretty good the way it already is. Have you watched The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell? How did you like it, and what was your favourite creation? And who’s your favourite housemate (mine’s Bernard, but only if Norman doesn’t count)? Happy Halloween! _ _ _ _ _ All pictures except for the first via, and they belong to Nexflix.

10 Things I ♥ in October

October Favourites 2018
Rosa de Jong’s chocolate design, the Gentleman felter’s hares, Karolina Żebrowska
& The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell on Netflix
  1. Remember Rosa de Jong from my August favourites? I’m so smitten with her design for the B&B Chocolate Bars. If you know me you know I have a minor obsession with retro-ish hipster food packaging, and this totally falls into that category (I need to look out for those when I’m in Amsterdam next time).
  2. 竹田の子守唄 (Takeda no komoriuta – Takeda Lullaby) is so heartwrenchingly beautiful, especially in the Akai Tori recording from the late 60s. It’s strange how much it reminds me of Suo Gan, another lullably from a completely different place (Wales) in its overall vibe. Maybe I’m just easily moved by melancholic lullabies. That it’s a song with a history of protest and liberation and that it was banned on national broadcast makes it even more intriguing.
  3. I started – late to the party, but the hardware wouldn’t allow it earlier – to play Witcher III – The Wild Hunt, and I love it. While I’ not a huge fan of Medieval Fantasy Batman Geralt of Rivia himself I’m absolutely smitten by the scenery, the music and the fact that you get unlimited space for crafting material.
  4. The Gentleman Felter does such adorable, lovely and incredibly skilled work. It doesn’t help that one of his more frequent motifs is hares, and there’s this mouse (which isn’t even the main attraction of this piece) and this badger… it’s a wooly, cozy version of Wind in the Willows, Redwall and Brambly Hedge. So, right up my alley. Give him a follow on Instagram!
  5. The Dresden Files audio books. While I’m already at Proven Guilty (thats book, uhm… 8?) at the moment I’ve started listening to Storm Front, the first volume of the series about the only wizard in the Chicago phone book. This version had me the second I heard who was reading it – James Marsters, famous for playing Spike the vampire in Buffy. Not only is his voice fantastic for the material (and makes the first book far more bearable than my head-voices), it’s also hilarious because of Harry Dresden’s personal relationship with vampires over the course of the series. So, highly recommended.
  6. Karolina Żebrowska makes Vintage fashion videos on YouTube. She’s also pretty snarky doing it from time to time so of course I love her.
  7. Trollhunters. Ugh, I love it so much. Especially Toby, but as this is “knight-errant-in-training and lovely somewhat-folkloric creatures go on adventures” with the visuals of Hellboy (thanks to Guillermo del Toro being one of the main makers of this thing) it’s pretty much a given that I’m smitten. We’ve binged our way through the first season first half of the first season that has just as many episodes as the following full seasons and has a season-ish break to its second half and even though I wasn’t 100% happy with the transition to season 1.2, I can’t wait to watch more of this âventiure.
  8. How fantastic is this Quidditch Cat Tree from Epbot?
  9. Just in time for Spooky Season Netflix released The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. Although not really a cooking show the short series – only six episodes – makes fun of the format while allowing the viewer glimpses of the life of a burlesque goth Disney princess, her decadent creations and her enchanted undead critters.
  10. Autumn is finally here in all her I-can-see-my-breath-cold, rust-coloured, rainy, last-bits-of-October-sun glory. I can finally wear layers again. There are pumpkins. Oh, Autumn always makes me so happy.

Dajana Pouch

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I feel like this pouch is a bit of a throwback to aesthetics longe gone for me. Five years ago or so I would have made this for a Mori Kei co-ord, and ten years ago I’d happily worn it to school. This time, however, I made this as an experiment and as a scrapbuster.

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I had been thinking about making some sort of hip pouch for work – something to catch my knife and gloves, a pen, tips and the odd onion or potato that’s still there when the cart is already gone, so this was a bit of a prototype. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make a follow-up version, but making this was fun, anyway.

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It’s far too light in colour for me, even though I like the sturdy woven texture of the main fabric, but the more I worked on it the clearer it became to me for whom this was intended. I had a very sweet colleague until a short while ago (she left us for greener pastures and a workplace where she doesn’t freeze her toes off in winter – she’s not good with the cold), and the pouch started calling her name to me.

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Her name is a derivate of Diana, Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt, protectress of innocence. Especially the latter fits my Dajana very well, and the light colours – slightly warmer than pure white, as is the moon most nights, and with circles into the back fabric reminding me of our natural satellite – match her lithe figure and subtle frailty so well.

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I still had this button – a single one – in my stash and after a bit of a debate with myself if mother-of-pearl wouldn’t be more reminiscent of the moon I went for it, weaving in memories of the hunt with all the other tiny meanings in this piece.

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I gave it to her around Midsummer when I still didn’t know she would leave us, but now she’ll have a little reminder of our time with us as long as she chooses to hold on to it.

Oh, and she liked it, too, by the way.

Elderberry Dye Experiments

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A while ago I received a blessing of very ripe elderberries. I’d been wanting to get into botanical dyeing anyway and the berries had to go (they were a gift, so I wasn’t going to just throw them away), so head over heels this became my first dye project.

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I mordanted almost all things with alum, except for paper, one of the small doily cutout thingies and the doll apron that I threw in for good measure and because I wanted to know if it would make a nice gradient with something that had already been dyed in black tea. By the way, there’s one piece missing in this account of my elderberry adventure, a big silk scarf that came out beautifully but is nowhere to be found as of now. F*cking gremlins.

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Anyway, I love how the silk pochette came out – our local thrift shop had a surprising amount of blank silk scarves and handkerchives a while ago and craft supply hoarder that I am… you know where this is going.
I tied this one to a shelf above and let only one corner steep in the dye batch, and the somewhat patchy result is so lovely. I didn’t wash this one yet, without a pH-neutral detergent the risk of ruining the colour was too big, but it doesn’t rub off and I doubt it will ever need cleaning, so I might as well just leave it at that.

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As I’m approaching the whole thing in a very experimental manner I still have no idea what makes some pieces take the dye better than others – just look at the doilies above. All of them are cotton, all of them were mordanted the same way. I really like this surprise factor, to be honest.

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And I absolutely love to throw in other materials, as well. I happened to have these un-treated wood beads lying around anyway, so putting them in the bath was only the next logical step. When you’ve got a new hammer everything looks like a nail.
The darkest one is from the basic dye bath, the magenta one came from some of the original spiced up with (what feels like) litres of vinegar, and the greyish-blue bead is from a try with soda, to make it more alkaline.

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I’ve been known to throw dozens of printer pages into tea baths to make them look more ambience-proof for LARP, so taking the same step here wasn’t very far-fetched. I left the pieces in there for different lengths of time, and isn’t the darkest purple absolutely amazing? The tiny irregularities don’t bother me in the least, quite the contrary, for me the unpredictability is one of the greatest things about not doing this very scientifically.

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Okay, I lied about the not-so-scientific part. I never had decent chemistry lessons (half a year, and the teacher wasn’t only incredibly sleep-inducing but also very fixated on stuff so advanced that I never really learned what fun things you can do with acids and alkalines), so I was really fascinated by the effects the addition of vinegar and soda had. I made test strips for a dye journal, not with detailed measurements (“tiny bit”, “lots” and “heaps” are not quite that accurate), but it’s a start!

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These two last pieces were ones that were already dyed – the apron with tea for gradient purposes (see above), and the grapes with store-bought green Simplicol after I found the thing at the thrift shop and found it fitting for a LARP character of mine. She never got to use it because the green was very solid and clashed with the rest of her apperance, but I think I’ll give it another try now. I was surprised at how well the elderberry dye came through, and I don’t mind the gradient leading to the leaves.
The other gradient came out lovely, as well, very subtle and powdery. I might try that again sometime.

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What really surprised me was how little berries it took to get all this colour. The amount I had fit in my hands cupped together. I think them being so ripe was a big factor, but I still wonder if I could get a more permanent dark colour (like the darkest piece of paper, for example) with more berries, or if I could coax some other colours out of them (the collateral fabric above has hints of green that I really like).
The time for that might be over for this year but I’m already looking forward to next years harvest. And of course all the other dyestuff I’m going to try, because guess what, I’m totally hooked.

UFO Friday

UFO Friday is my (usually) bi-weekly series where I show you what projects I’ve been working on (UFO standing for UnFinished Objects). For more of these, look here and for every other week’s feature, Finished Things Saturday, look here.

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While it has been uncharacteristically warm for mid-October lately, Nature starts taking what it hers and the herbs on my balcony slowly start to get ready for winter. High time to start my tiny harvest and preserve what I can get, and the first one to get cut back was my lemon verbena.

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It’ll need a bigger pot next year either way so we’re considering re-potting before we take the plant in for winter – verbena doesn’t fare well in our climate during the cold months. I’m looking forward to brewing the first infusion from this harvest – it’s my first own beebrush, and I’ve always loved the smell of the leaves so much!

The next step is trying to make cuttings, just in case something goes wrong (and because more plants are always a good idea), and then I’ll go on to harvest my curry plant.

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And in the crafts department I’ve been struggling with a skirt – I think I had to re-make the lining three times before it worked out as it was supposed to be. I’m always a bit wary when it comes to projects like that, afraid that they will not have been worth all the trouble in the end, but I decided to see this one through. Do you have similar sentiments sometimes? I’d love to hear about that in the comments (please tell me I’m not alone!).

Have a wonderful weekend!