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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Monday, April 30, 2018

An Ancient Art Form - Bobbin Lace with Eva Caye

Please welcome Eva Caye to The Far Edge of Normal. She has numerous hobbies, but her latest is bobbin lace. I love fiber arts, but this one looks too complex for me! All photos in this post are hers. She was kind enough to explain it to me and share her fascination.
Bobbin lace is a complex knotting and weaving of thread to make decorative lace. Wood bobbins are used to hold the thread, which is pinned to a pattern on a pillow or bolster, as you work.

You can use two types of pillows. I made my own circular one, which is for long laces, and then there are flat ones, which are for bigger laces like collars or hankies.

What got you interested in bobbin lace?
I've been crazy about tatting the past six or seven years and had always come across beautiful samples of bobbin lace
and thought, "Oh, too complicated. I could never do that." But one of my Facebook friends said it was pretty easy all told, so I started the way I usually do: getting tons of books on the subject!

There are many more bobbin lace books out there than there are tatting books, so you can get them fairly cheaply. I don't know if I spent more than $4 on all but one of these books. The CD was more expensive at $6.95 (eBay). And on the right is a pricking that you use to make the design.

So where would you suggest people start if they're interested? After buying the books of course!
You can make it easy on yourself and get a kit -- Lacis makes these.

Or you can do the freakish crafty thing and assemble everything yourself! I purchased the bobbins unfinished, sanded them, and color coded them by pairs before treating them with boiled linseed oil. Also pictured: a size 13 crochet needle or beading needles, and thread -- this picture shows pearl cotton size 8.

You also mentioned you enjoy tatting. Please tell us a little about that.
Tatting is fascinating because you need so very little to do it, and you can do it just about anywhere. If you know how to shuttle tat, all you need is a shuttle, thread, and something to cut it with.

I tried for about five months to teach myself to shuttle tat, 20 minutes a day, but when I discovered there was such a thing as needle tatting, I was utterly amazed at how easy that was!

I've only ever seen the shuttle tatting. Can you explain more about needle tatting? It sounds almost like tatooing.
Hah! Yeah, that's what makes it hard to find things on eBay -- their search engine likes to 'interpret' what you type!

it's so easy because there are only two stitches you can make, and you usually make them together: two half-stitches makes the 'normal' stitch. There are occasions you can do a half-stitch in rows, but needle tatting makes it so easy because your stitches are automatically uniform.

Here are some of the things I've tatted:

Lace fan
Valentine's Heart 
Wedding Cuffs with beads

Christmas Ornament with beads
Beautiful work! One last question, why do you do lace work?
To be honest, I'm a pretty rough-and-tumble kind of gal. I learned how to crochet from my grandma when I was eight, took it up again in college, dabbled whenever I wasn't reading, and realized all along that I was 'rough' on my yarn. I decided I needed to learn something delicate! Tatting came first, and shuttle tatting is supposed to be easy but I couldn't get the trick of it. Needle tatting is much, much easier!

And, on that first bobbin lace project, what's supposed to be a caterpillar is more like a centipede because I'm strangling the threads too tightly, hahahaha!

Anyway, both tatting and bobbin lace take time and gobs of patience. You'll pick out a lot of your first pieces, but that'll just teach you more about how the threads set and so forth.

Actually, in my book Fidelity the main female character does tatting (and all kinds of crafty things). I even have her making Imperial emblems!

Thanks so much for sharing this fascinating look at lacemaking!

Eva Caye also writes books - check them out!


Monday, April 23, 2018

Author Interview - Renee Carter Hall

Please welcome Renee Carter Hall to the Far Edge of Normal!

Renee Carter Hall works as a medical transcriptionist by day and as a writer all the time. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, including Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and Podcastle, and she is also the author of two fantasy novels, By Sword and Star and Huntress, both of which have won C├│yotl Awards for anthropomorphic literature. Renee lives in West Virginia with her husband, their cat, and more books than she will ever have time to read. She can be found online at and on Twitter as @RCarterHall.

Tell us about your writing - What genre do you prefer to write? What books, stories, other publications that you've written are your personal favorites? Anything new coming up?

In a nutshell, I write fantasy and sometimes science fiction for ages ranging from middle grade to adult, and I love adding in anthropomorphic animals or fantasy creatures as characters whenever I can. It's hard to really choose favorites among my stories, but I think Huntress is one of my best works, parts of which still kind of impress me and feel, in a good way, like they were written by someone else. I also have a soft spot for "The First Winter" (from Wishing Season) for its voice and tone, and my recent "Promises to Keep" for what I feel I was able to convey in a brief space.

Right now I'm making plans to spend the summer completing my next novel, The Second Life of Bartholomew T. Lion, a story about abandoned toys that's been on the back burner for far too long.

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?

I'm pretty boring as far as hobbies go, honestly; writing is the main thing I'm into other than my day job. I used to draw and paint but haven't done much in the way of visual art for a few years now. I do enjoy baking, though to be honest, I like recipes that start with a mix (Betty Crocker FTW!). 

As far as movies and TV, I never get tired of watching Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I love animated films, especially the hand-
drawn Disney classics like Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, and Tarzan. I don't get into a lot of TV series, but I was so happy last year when we got Internet speed fast enough for Netflix and I could finally watch Stranger Things, which was awesome and gave me a story to escape into when I really needed that escape. And for comfort viewing, I still go back to the shows I was into as a teen -- mostly Star Trek: The Next Generation (once a Trekker, always a Trekker) and Mystery Science Theater 3000. 

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to music, and do you want to share your playlist?

I'm almost always writing to music. Many of my short stories have wound up with theme songs, and there are other songs that still remind me of projects I've retired unfinished. Lately I tend to write with a Pandora station in the background (new age, ambient, or instrumental chill), and I've also been trying out to see if it helps me focus.

If I'm offline, I'm usually listening to Ultima Thule, an Australian podcast that provides roughly 90-minute blocks of "ambient and atmospheric music from across the ages and around the world," as they say in their opening. Being part of the Oregon Trail generation (analog childhood, digital adulthood), I can really appreciate how the Internet makes it so easy to find good writing music.

Nice links! I know I'll be checking those out.
"All writers must have cats, especially if they write fantasy or speculative fiction." Do you have a stand on this one? Any cute pictures of your kitty or other pet?

I never felt like a real writer until I had a cat.  My original feline writing partner was Bijoux, our dilute calico who was part of our lives for almost 13 years until she passed away from lymphoma last December. Now I have a writing-partner-in-training, Kiki, another dilute calico (though that wasn't intentional). Right now we're still working on "stop biting my pen while I'm writing." That's fine for my Zebra Sarasas that cost a buck or two, but it ain't gonna fly when I take out the Waterman Rhapsody fountain pen! 

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?

What organization suits a writer best will depend on their genre/type of writing and their individual goals, of course, but I can personally recommend Codex for speculative fiction writers and the Furry Writers' Guild for those who write anthropomorphic animal characters. Networking in both of those groups has led me to opportunities I likely wouldn't have had otherwise.

Advice boils down to: Keep reading, keep writing, keep learning. Do those three things and it's impossible not to improve over time. Read widely, in your genre and outside of it. Read the how-to books and the writing blogs -- one of my favorites is Janice Hardy's Fiction University -- but then put them aside and start writing, and be willing to trust your own instincts and intuition.

What writers inspired you to become an author?

My first stories were written and illustrated in crayon, so going back to the source means returning to the books I loved as a child and a teen. I loved the humor of Lois Lowry's books like Taking Care of Terrific and her Anastasia Krupnik series, and I was really into Ann M. Martin's Baby-Sitters Club books. Books like Bambi, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, and Ratha's Creature appealed to my love of animal characters, and I would definitely count those, along with Watership Down and the Redwall books, as influences for my own animal characters. I've also been a longtime reader of Stephen King's books, and if I look closely I can see his influence here and there in my writing style, too. 

Beyond just authors, though, I'm heavily influenced by storytellers from other media. I consider both Steven Spielberg's films and the work of Jim Henson as big influences, and I draw inspiration from both their personal and professional stories.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?

I've recently found out that I've been selected as a participant in the 2018 Art & Words show this September in Fort Worth, Texas. I won't be able to be there in person, but two pieces of my flash fiction will be read at the show's opening -- one of which will have been written in response to a piece of visual art from the show. I love these kinds of cross-media collaborations, so I'm looking forward to being part of it.

Congrats! Sounds like a very cool event. 
Describe your ideal writing spot.

A rainy autumn day, just cold enough for a fire in the woodstove, with a cup of tea in a handmade mug, a sleeping cat to keep me company, and a story that's becoming as real to me as anything that ever truly happened.

That was fun. Good luck with your writing. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 2, 2018

On Hiatus

I'm taking April off. Between my son's wedding, camp nano, and a whole lot of other family stuff, I'm swamped.

So I'll see you in May.

Meanwhile, if you have a recipe you'd like to share, or book news, even if it's just a great book you recently read, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!