Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Hey kids. Are you getting "malware detected" messages about my blog? I have run the diagnostics and Google tells me "no malware detected." They should remove the warning soon. But rest assured, you can visit safely. Onward...

Today, I bring you links to two different versions of the "alternative 15 sided biscornu": one by tintocktap and the version pictured here by Lady Kell who has elegantly named it the "biscofleur." {via Craft Gossip}.

This piece also leads me elegantly to the review of Monica Ferris's Blackwork. You probably thought I gave up reviewing her books, if not reading them altogether. But somehow they pulled me back in.

It's the same crowd plus some microbrewers--one of the owners of the local brew pub is accused not only of witchcraft but also of murder. So in addition to having to keep track of the needlework thread (as it were), Ferris must also remember the details associated with Wicca and microbrewing. Since my knowledge of Wicca and microbrewing are tiny compared with what I know about needlework, I'll focus on that.

First, Betsy takes a blackwork class which gives her fits. For a needlework store owner, she often seems slow-witted and maladroit. It's backstitch for goodness sake, not brain surgery! Oh sure, she inherited her shop from her dexterous needleworker sister. But how long does it take before you stop being all fumble-y? My goodness, so much time has passed that Jill and Lars got married and had two children. Get with the program, Betsy!

The teacher says that blackwork is done on evenweave, which is mostly true. Then she hands out Fiddler's cloth for them to work on. I suppose sticking with an Aida fabric is good for the easily-confounded beginners, but Fiddler's cloth? So homespun for the elegance of blackwork, don't you think? (she asks wrinkling her nose). Wouldn't you just stick with white?

Someone makes a design for a "thread manufacturer," actually, it's Shelley. No reason to keep it a secret. Then Betsy asks, "is it Herrschner's?" Maybe Herrschner's does provide floss to designers, but they wouldn't be classified as a thread manufacturer. Surely every shop owner could distinguish that. Maybe I'm wrong about this because as much as I pretend to, I don't know everything about the industry. I'd be happy to retract this criticism if I were corrected by a reliable source.

The big doozer occurs when Irene, that extraordinary stitcher, brings in a piece of needlework that is stunning yet eerie:
The darkest shades (of purple) were at the top, fading quickly to uneven swirls of pinky lavender across the middle. It was an angry sky dotted with little clusters of X's, like leaves blown in a stiff wind. Near the top, just under the darkest purple dye and cradled in a thin, uneven line of purple cloud, was stitched a white sliver of moon.
The bottom quarter of fabric was also stitched--mostly cross-stitches--in browns, tans, and grays scattered with vertical stitches that made Betsy think of a weedy lawn or garden in late autumn. In the center was a big leafless tree--the knobby, crooked limbs proclaimed it an oak--and stuck rakishly on an upright limb was...Betsy leaned over the design.
A witch's hat. From a lower branch, lifted into a curve as if in a stiff breeze, hung the skeleton of a fish, and among the lifted roots of the tree was a half-buried but very realistic human skull.
Well that's different! Irene has dyed the fabric herself, and can get Betsy "all the yardage she needs" so she can sell the design in her shop. You can imagine Betsy's reluctance. However, it's the description of the fabric that demands attention. On page 69, it is called linen. By page 71, Irene is explaining that she got a great deal on "congress cloth" when one of the local stores went out of business. At least the latter part of that sentence is accurate. (But really, shouldn't Betsy be all rankled that one of her Monday bunch has gone to the closing sale of a competitor and got 15 yards of congress cloth for $7.50? She's not.) As Spinster Stitcher has explained, Congress Cloth is "canvas lite" but not, as it turns out, linen.

Those are my main gripes with the needlework. The mystery is fairly clever and actually has an interesting twist. Much more readable than others in the series.

You can see earlier reviews here and here.


Silverlotus said...

Bargh! Why?! You'd think Monica Ferris would have researched things a little better.

I haven't read this yet. I've pre-ordered the paper back version, mostly because I want the design in it. I am sure I will cringe at all the references to Wicca. Oh well, it isn't the worst cozy series I've read. I couldn't even get halfway through the first book of one that had something to do with knitting.

Karen said...

You do better than I do with these books; I stopped reading them because I was tired of all the needlework name-dropping. It's like the author reads needlework websites and just throws stuff into the books to make it sound like she knows what she's talking about. Doesn't work for me.

Alice said...

I've never read any of these... might just do so for the clever mystery. I can probably let go of the stitching stuff... probably.