How not to ‘Halloween’…

Love it or hate it, Halloween is upon us once again. Today it is a vastly different experience than the one that the Celts traditionally celebrated. For them it marked the reaping of the harvest, the end of summer and an opportunity for the dead to cross over to the living world and scare the daylights out of everyone. Sounds like great fun so far!

For us however, Halloween has become an attempt at recreating what is largely a Northern Hemisphere celebration – with Southern Hemisphere seasons, beliefs and inclination. And more often than not, if we try to emulate what we see on TV we are destined for disaster. So here is a cautionary tale of ‘How not to Halloween’. Sadly parts of this aren’t as fictional as I would like them to be.

CB249_PUMPKINS_JCKT_RVSDLet us think for a moment… the pumpkins will have only just been planted and won’t be ready until around Easter next year. So now we will have to attempt to carve something sourced from the local supermarket. We pick out a nice Crown pumpkin and overlook the insipid grey colour and lack of grandeur. Beggars can’t be choosers. All it needs is a scary face carved in it and a candle to highlight your excellent pumpkin cutting skills. You take your sharpest knife and start to cut the top off what is arguably the toughest skin on any vegetable available*.

image_proxy[1]After you get back from the doctor, you decide that it is probably wise to do away with the carved pumpkin as you can’t afford to lose the use of your other hand. You may still be able to salvage it as a Halloween decoration however, as it is now rather realistically covered in blood.

Meanwhile, your kids are dressed up in the scariest costumes you could find at the local Opportunity Shop and are already dreaming about the sheer weight of the lollies that they hope to get. They wonder momentarily if that pillowcase is going to be big enough.

Leaving Hubby home in charge of the lollies; you venture forth into the bright sunlight with a handful of ghosts and witches in tow for the trek around what you thought was a friendly neighbourhood. How wrong you were. You find yourself greeted by grouchy people who can’t even fake being nice for the kids. They love to point out the error of your ways for daring to try and experience what is largely an American custom. Others will wander openly around their living room while your kids knock on a door that will never open. Some will go to the trouble of putting out ‘No trick or treaters’ signs to save you the energy of knocking. I like these people. We each know where the other stands.

Cover of The Halloween encyclopedia

Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom. There is the occasional legend that will gush over the kids costumes and hand over a lolly or two. But after an hour and a half of what amounted to a crushing failure; we head home defeated. I console the kids with the fact that if we’re lucky, their dad won’t have eaten his way through the entire bowl of lollies at home. It has been a rather disappointing experience. The kids don’t understand why their Halloween bears little to no resemblance of the ones that they have seen on TV. Let’s be honest – it’s still won’t be dark for another hour or more.

When we get home we find that the only other people that have come around trick or treating were teenagers who didn’t bother to dress up. And when my daughter finds out that they made off with her plastic skeleton that I’d propped next to the ‘bloody’ pumpkin; she probably won’t forgive me.

Cover of Halloween book of fun

I know that there are houses somewhere that are re-enacting their version of Halloween – I’ve seen the lollies disappearing from the shops. Maybe next year I’ll save myself some time and heartache and just ask them where they live. At least then we can be assured of a guaranteed result!

So if your kids are begging you to join into Halloween this year, you think you can avoid these amateur mistakes and you are looking to earn some easy brownie points; here are some books to help you achieve this.

Cover of Halloween activitiesCover of Halloween crafts Cover of Ghoulish get-ups Cover of Twisted cakes Cover of Trick or treat

Or try our –

And safety first!

*Try softening the pumpkin in the microwave first. I may have learned this the hard way!

Knit ME! Knit ME!

Cover of Knitted Animal CoziesOne of the best things about being a librarian has got to be unpacking the boxes of new books. It’s like a little bit of Christmas every week!

As soon as I pulled Knitted Animal Cozies out of the box, I just knew this was my latest favourite craft book. The animals are so desperately cute and adorable, I just wanted to knit them right away. I found myself wanting to take up drinking coffee just so that I could knit myself a woolly Sheep Cafetière Hug. Or even golf, because who wouldn’t want cute, fluffy, puppy cozies for their golf-clubs?

Once I recovered from the cuteness overload, I realised it’s written by Fiona Goble, who just so happens to have written several other crafty favourites of mine. I actually like Fleecie Dolls so much I bought my own copy! And once I’ve knitted all the cozies I need in my life (maybe I’ll skip the Tortoise Stool Cozy) I rather think I’d like a Knitivity.

Cover of KnitivitySince most of the cozy projects are knitted in chunky or aran weight wool, or are pretty small, they should be quick to make — unlike Grandpa’s socks which I’m still working on 10 months later (the end is in sight, though, I’m 7 inches down sock number two)!! And if you’re new to knitting, the book has great, clear instructions on how to knit, including how to do the various stitches in the patterns.

Go on, you know you want some knitted animal cozies too!

 

Saturday is crafts and music day at Central Library Peterborough

Bug craftWant something fun and free on Saturdays this month?
You can Get Crafty from 11am to 12pm at Central Library Peterborough. This week’s session is printed bug craft, and upcoming  slots on making fantastic forts, Picasso faces, and CD dreamweavers.
See all the Get Crafty sessions.

On Saturday afternoons from 2 to 3pm you can enjoy music performances.  This Saturday 6 August it’s children’s entertainer Floyd: “Calling all babies and tamariki, let’s sing sing sing”.
See all the Saturday music sessions.

Want some more Saturday sessions? There are Super Saturday Storytimes at Shirley and Upper Riccarton Libraries.

Super-Saturday-with-text

UFOs of the crafty kind

Cover of The UFO Dossier by Kevin D. RandleUFOs. How they do vex me! Don’t worry, I’m not one of those “I want to believe” people who sit around with tinfoil hats on their heads. I’m talking about crafting UFOs. Un-Finished Objects. You know, those projects you start with a hiss and a roar and all sorts of good intentions, but just never seem to get finished. After a lifetime of crafting, I’ve got a dossier full of them, let me tell you, and they “fool and confound me”* just like the flying saucer kind.

I promised myself a while ago not to start any new projects until I’d finished my UFOs. And I have been diligently working on the quilt for The Young Lad — I’d intended to have it made in time for his move from cot to big-boy-bed, but that was three years ago, and I’m still not half way done. But as for the clothes for myself, or the cushions and curtains for my sewing room… well, lets not even go there… And then, after making myself that promise, you know what I went and did? Only promised Grandpa a pair of hand-knitted socks for his birthday — which was in February, so they are rapidly becoming UFOs themselves.

Cover of Seed Bead Chic by Amy KatzBUT the library Gods smiled on me recently when Seed Bead Chic fell into my hands and gave me the inspiration I needed to finish a UFO that had been dogging my life for, oh, only about ten years already! This project was a necklace for a dear friend of mine. Not only did I keep changing my mind about what to use for the pendant, whenever I tried to work on it, nothing turned out at all the way I wanted it to, and I threw it aside in disgust.

Finally, it is a UFO no-longer. I actually, really and truly finished it! I even took a picture to prove it! What do you think?

Seed bead chic project

I like it so much, I’m even thinking I’d like one myself. (Uh oh. Is that the sound of another UFO approaching?)

* To paraphrase Kevin D. Randle author of The UFO Dossier

Christmas traditions and amigurumi

9781452103600OK, so as I write this I’m munching away on Easter chocolate, and Christmas is so last year already, but I’ve been wanting to tell you about one of my family’s Christmas traditions. Every year, I make each of the kids a handmade gift. I didn’t even know that they’d noticed, or cared particularly until two Christmases ago when I said to Miss Missy that I didn’t think I’d be able to make her anything because I was running out of time.

But Mum, you ALWAYS make me something for Christmas! It just wouldn’t be right if you didn’t!

Wow, OK kid! I just couldn’t say no after that, could I? So at the last minute (and I mean seriously – I was stitching at like 5 minutes to midnight Christmas Eve) I whipped up a patchwork and applique cushion for her bed.

This Christmas (or is that last Christmas already now?) my problem wasn’t time, it was coming up with what to make. Miss Missy is a newly minted teenager – the smocked dresses, applique T-shirts, or cutesy hair accessories of years past just weren’t going to cut it. What to make was on the back of my mind for months, when I found the perfect thing: a crocheted amigurumi unicorn.

Now I had a new problem: I don’t crochet.

I don’t mean that I CAN’T crochet. I can; I learnt how years ago when I was in school (Steiner education, you know). I just never got good at it. My first attempt was supposed to be a hat for myself. But I gave up in disgust when the other kids in my class were wearing their beanies already, and all I had was a misshapen things that looked like a floppy sunhat – not for my head though, all it would fit was my Sindy doll (if you don’t remember Sindy, she’s about Barbie’s size!). It suited Sindy but I wouldn’t call the hat a success!

d2364bbd-d097-4ee7-80c4-9e70d8bce6f7A few years – and many successful non-crochet craft projects later – I tried again. This time, I decided to make some snowflake Christmas tree decorations.  They looked so pretty in the pattern book I thought it was worth giving crochet another try. Well. I stuck at it, and made three snowflakes for myself, as well as a few for friends. But sticking with it didn’t make it any easier. I was constantly making mistakes and having to undo everything. I had to concentrate so darn hard I couldn’t enjoy it.

No. I decided I liked crochet about as much as going to the dentist.

9781784940645But, for Miss Missy, I put all that aside, and set to with her gift. Turns out, I still don’t like to crochet, but I really do like amigurumi! They are so cute, it makes the frustration worth it! In fact, I decided to make another amigurumi as a gift for a friend. And when I saw a copy of  Boho Crochet I decided that the Christmas tree really could use some more crochet decorations too. Maybe crochet isn’t quite as bad as the dentist…(though I don’t love it enough to crochet myself a trophy head for the living room wall).

After beating crochet into submission, I’ve felt drawn to books on crafts I’ve never tried. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who’s keen to learn new crafts, so I’ve put together a list of some craft and hobby books that struck my fancy. Some I’m an old hand at, some I’ve never tried, but all gorgeous!

Related Resources

Naughty Knitters

Cover of Knit your own kama sutraHere’s how my Winter Word Association works: Winter; Wool; Knitting; Afghan Squares – no, wait, tried that three years ago and the dog died before he got his little blankie.

Time for a new knitting direction.

Sex Sells and it was inevitable that knitters would eventually want to sex up their hobby. And that’s where Knit Your Own Kama Sutra steps up to the crease, providing us with teeny tiny little knitted figurines that contort themselves into naughty positions. I’ll say this much for it, you’d have to be a pretty skilled knitter and be going easy on the mulled wine for these little sex fiends to avoid getting their knickers in a twist! Oh, and best of all, the author goes by the name Trixie Von Purl.

Cover of WTF KnitsIf, however, you have taken a religious vow to resist the temptations of the Kama Sutra, there’s still WTF Knits into which to delve. Author Gabrielle Grillo has been scouring the net for four years to bring you weird knitting projects to sate your jaded appetites. If you come from a family that is squeamish about rude words, bodily functions and black humour, for heaven’s sake don’t make the mistake of leaving this little beauty lying around on the cross-stitched footstool in your boudoir!

Cover of Novelty KnitsAlthough my final recommendation looks wholesome enough, there is nevertheless something covertly creepy about it. Novelty Knits has patterns for thirty-five sweaters with large motifs ranging from coiled snakes, bananas and even a boiled egg (I am not making this up). Joanna Lumley loses her grip on glamour wearing two of these sweaters. These are the sorts of sweaters you knit in the first fervour of love because no one told you they are the kiss of death to any fledgling relationship.

But let me stick one final needle in the mix here: Could it be that knitters are weirder, wilder and more perverse than needle workers? Or are there Sexy Sewers out there as well?

Locked and loaded for the Zombie Apocalypse

Cover of Zombie SurvivalIt’s Zombie Awareness Month. Do you know where your cricket bat/lawnmower/blunt object of choice is?

No, but seriously, it IS zombie awareness month. What’s more, it’s nearly over and I haven’t even revised my evacuation plan or topped up the first aid kit in case of the Zombie Apocalypse. I deserve to get my brains munched, frankly.

But fear not! For your library is practically overflowing with zombie-related reading and viewing. So here are my picks of the best of the shambling undead.

Watch

Better check out some fight sequences and bone up on your best zombie combat moves –

  • The Walking Dead – We’re between seasons with everyone’s favourite zombie horror TV series, but why not got back and rewatch the first season before Rick went feral and facial hair took over his face? You know, back when the post-apocalyptic world was a kinder, gentler, better groomed place.
  • Warm BodiesCover of Warm bodies – A zombie as a romantic lead? Seems a bit unlikely but that’s the premise of this film starring Nicholas Hoult of TV show Skins.
  • World War Z – Where the zombies are fast and really good at climbing, the little monkeys. But are they a match for Brad Pitt in “action” mode? Well, they give it a good try at least…
  • I am Legend – Not technically zombies because they’re not dead (much like the ones in World War Z) but if you spend time quibbling about such distinctions during the apocalypse you’ll likely become someone’s afternoon tea, so just enjoy the ride (and make note of Will Smith’s survival skills and strategies).
  • Shaun of the dead (we’ve got this as a double-DVD combo with Hot Fuzz). Just the rom-zom-com to lighten the mood a touch.

Read

Board up the windows and hunker down with some reading material –

Make

No actual zombies around just at the moment? Make your own with the following crafty titles –

I think you’ll agree that’s plenty to be getting on with, but if you’ve got an hot tips for zombie reading or preparedness please do make suggestions.

New, cute, and perhaps crazy knitting for winter

Cover of Mini knitted woodlandI get together with some friends fortnightly in an informal craft group, or “stitch and bitch” as one participant calls it. The cosy surroundings and good chat lends itself well to trying new things and meeting new people. It’s interesting to see what crafts people are into and at what level of skill they’re at.

Whether you are a group knitter or solo, here are some of the unusual titles I have seen in our libraries recently –

Cover of Knitted rabbitsCover of Woolly woofersCover of More monster knitsCover of Knit your own kama sutra

Cover of Knitting rugsCover of Arm knittingCover of Vingtage knits for him and herCover of knitted miniature animalsCover of WTF knitsCover of Knit your own petCover of Knit your own boyfriend

You’ll find more knitting titles in our collection, as well as titles published in 2014 & 2015.

Our Internet Gateway recommends some great craft websites too. World Book Craft Corner has access to thousands of engaging projects suitable for a broad spectrum of hobbyists – from beginner to expert, for children and adults.

CINCH, our community directory, lists local knitting groups and a variety of handicrafting groups that you could join.

Often we are looking for time out from our busy lives to do something just for ourselves. Consider starting your own knitting group with your friends. No experience necessary.

Hey girl, I know you just gotta craft all day

Book cover of Toe-up Socks for Every BodyD’you know what I wanted more than anything else when I was a kid? White, lace-topped socks. You know the kind I mean, right? I thought they were the prettiest things ever, and I never got any. Mum made most of our clothes, because it was actually cheaper then. While I loved the pretty dresses she made me, I did NOT love homemade socks! They were always bulky and itchy, and they were definitely not cool.

At some point in my youth, my homemade dresses became decidedly naff as well. I think “homemade” had connotations of dowdy, old crafts that only Nanas would make.

Book cover of Twisted StitchesWell, if the books in the library are anything to go by, “homemade” is not just for Nanas these days! Want to embroider a cheeky “Tweet this!” cell phone case? we’ve got you covered! Zombie amigurumi more your style? We can help you with that too!

As you may have guessed from my blog-handle, I love to craft, and I just love looking at the craft books in our collection.  I often take them home and drool over projects that I will probably never make. I’ve put together a list of some of my favourites – including the cute, the quirky, and the downright outrageous – so that you can drool over them too. We even have loads of sock books (but no, I’m not planning on making any!)

Get creative at Craft Corner

Craft CornerAre your creative juices threatening to spew forth like so much Red Zone liquefaction? Do you need an outlet for your inner artist?  Then break out your glue gun, stencils and sparkly bits and have a look at World Book’s Craft Corner! This newest online sensation has thousands of activities with easy, clear instructions, photographs and illustrations. These projects are suitable for a broad spectrum of hobbyists – from beginner to expert, for children and adults. Every craft also contains a list of materials for easy reference and can be printed, e-mailed, or saved in its entirety to your computer. You can learn to:

  • Make your own Victorian wreath;
  • Knit your own “Popcorn scarf”;
  • Stencil greeting cards;
  • Weave your own friendship bracelets;
  • Create your own costumes.

You can also share your projects by logging into the site by creating your own My Research account. Here you can enter the steps and images for the crafts you’ve made in four simple stages. You can then preview the project and save it to your account, where World Book may share it with the rest of the crafting community.

Access this catalyst of expression from home or in libraries through the Source or the catalogue record. Joy!