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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Genre wars.

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In August last year (yes, it has taken me a while to write this post!) I was invited to attended an event presented by the English Teachers’ Association of Queensland. The aim of the event was to give english teachers an overview of shortlisted book in the Children’s book council of Australia’s Book of the Year award and was presented by the Young People’s Librarian at the Toowoomba Regional Library, Liz Derouet.

Liz outlined each book and gave some personal comments about what she thought of the writing, plot and her experiences reading the book. She was well informed about each novel and it was clear that she had read most of the books, although she did admit to listening to the audio versions during her morning and afternoon commute to save time. The list of books was extensive, and as I flipped through the numerous pages of notes, I ashamedly realised that I had not read one of these books. Not a single one.

Time for a confession. My reading habits are very… escapist. I pretty much live on a diet of fantasy and science fiction, with the occasional Billie Letts book (My favorite is The Honk and Holler opening soon. There is something about her feel-good depiction of American poverty and heartache that just gets me everytime). I have preferred this genre since I was a kid, and while I did diversify my reading at times (I spent one summer reading every Kinky Friedman book I could get my hands on), I always strayed back to the dragons and space ships. Who knows what influences or experiences lead to a particular reading preference? It never really bothered me. Until now. Working in a secondary school library meant that I was frequently asked to recommend books, or for books that are similar to other books. This was fine if  the kid was into Raymond E. Fiest, but anything else? Forget it! I had no idea.

So then began the genre wars. I made a concerted effort to read books that were not fantasy/sci-fi. I started with Margo Lanagan’s Sea Heartsnot a complete departure, but a start at least. This book is amazing. Please go and find a copy and read it immediately! Lanagan has created a whimsical, but dark tale about greed, love and loss, in language so beautiful it will make you weep. Seriously. It is that good.  Not a bad start, I thought, to my foray into other genre

Cover of Sea hearts by Margo Lanagan

Cover of Sea hearts by Margo Lanagan

Lets just say, since then, my reading habit strayed back to the escapism, just the young adult escapism I can borrow from the library.

I think the idea that has made me struggle with diversifying my reading, is the contrast between reading as a form of enjoyment, and reading as professional development. I definitely see the need to read widely as a librarian, so that we can make informed recommendations and to better understand what our users are interested in. We also need to read to ascertain whether certain titles are suitable for young audiences especially in a secondary school library (I am not talking censorship here, there are just some books that seem suitable, but are  not appropriate for teenagers. Sometimes the only way to make that decision is to read the book).

Despite the stereotype; Librarians do not spend all day reading. It is not our job to read every book on the shelf, rather,  it is our job to know our collections and to be able to link users with resources that are meaningful to them. Reading every book that we think our users would be interested in is impossible and illogical, and would take us away from the fundamental elements of being a librarian.

So maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up about my reading choices, which are in essence a form of relaxation, along the same lines as yoga or gardening. However, I think it is vital to be in touch with what is popular or seminal in the reading lives of our users. During my time as a fledgling librarian, I have learnt that it is vital to establish and maintain a network of people and resources who can help you stay informed. Suppliers, colleagues and events, such as the one I attended, and the the students/users themselves all assist in developing an understanding of what is needed in a that particular library.

Are you a librarian/Library sciences student? I would love to hear about your reading habits? Did your habit change after you become a librarian?
 

 

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One stitch at a time: embroidery

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On the weekend, a dear friend asked me about the embroidery technique I had used in some recent pictures I posted to Facebook.

Luckily, I had run a tutorial on embroidery some years ago for a Brown Owl’s session, so had already done a tutorial sheet, which I will happily share with you.

Image of an embroidery of a ship

The image I posted to facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Design

Let me just point out here that I pretty much taught myself to embroider, and I am sure that if an embroidery elder saw my work, she (or he, I guess) would probably have a fit!  I like my embroidery to be fairly fluid, freehand and I am not too worried if the fabric puckers, or the patterns shows through the stitching. I enjoy the process.

Usually my designs are in block colours and fairly simple, with very few details or small areas (although I am getting better at that). I usually free hand my design using a normal fineline, black art pen or a non-fading fabric pen (keep in mind you might want to wash the final product, so you have to use something that won’t run….much). I find the non-fading types are the best as you might take months to complete your embroidery, and you don’t want your design to fade halfway through. The other method I use is to sketch the design on paper, then use some transfer paper from Sublime Stitching (they have white transfer paper too, so you can use dark fabric). By the way, these guys are fantastic! they have the radest patterns (their tag is ‘this ain’t your Gramma’s embroidery’!) and the most beautiful threads and accessories. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you are not so confident at drawing/designing and you don’t want to contemplate the complete yawn-fest of designs at spotlight and lincraft.

Fabric

I know there are special embroidery fabrics out there, but they seem to cost a fortune. I usually go for something light, cotton or linen, with a reasonably large weave. Seems to work just fine.

Needles.

I use a size 6 embroidery needle. But experiement. That might not work for you.

Fabric onto hoop

You will need a hoop. I go for the good old fashioned cane ones, as they are cheap and you can usually find them at the op shop.

–       Separate the two sections of hoop

–       Position fabric over smaller section of hoop and place larger hoop over top

–       Tighten screw half way

–       Pull fabric so that fabric has no creases

–       Tighten screw all the way so that fabric won’t move as you are sewing.

If tightening that ridiculous metal screw on the embroidery hoop is too much for your fingers, get one of those rubber page turner things that secretaries use, turn it inside out, place it over the screw and the little rubber bumps will turn it for you.

Thread

Embroidery thread (sometimes called ‘floss’) is made up of lots of individual strands. Depending on what kind of stitch, or thickness you need, one or more can be threaded. I use one strand doubled over for most of my work. Check out markets and op shops too. Sometimes people get rid of their old thread.

– To help separate the threads, pat the top of your length, the threads will part making it easier to separate.

– To get one thread out, simply grab the thread you want in your fingers with one hand and use the other hand to pull the other threads down. Do it slowly and it helps not to have a super long length.

– Don’t forget to knot the thread.

Time to stitch!

There are heaps of complicated stitches out there. If your are only wanting to fill in a design, with no fancy raised bits, these stitches will get you there.

Split Stitch

Is pretty much all I use! its fast. And sexy.

BAck Stitch

Satin Stitch

Check out YouTube- there are so many instructional videos on there it isn’t funny! Sublime Stitching also has a delicious range of books.

Some Tips:

  • Don’t drink red wine and embroider. Drink white, it doesn’t stain.
  • Be super OCD about your threads. If you get serious, you will end up with ton and keeping them in containers or bags will mean they won’t get tangled
  • Be kind to your eyes, especially if you embroider at night. A good lamp is the best.
  • Be prepared to stuff up. knotted threads, lame designs, paw prints on your fabric are all apart of the journey- go with it!
  • Find a good framer. If you create something amazing, you’ll want to preserve it. (I use these guys)

 

Photo of embroider

Example of an Embroidery Elder’s work- my great Grandmother did this… by candle light

 

Please share! If you are an Embroidery Elder, I would LOVE to hear from you!