October : Tonks Part 2 (and five cloaks)

To catch up with the first part of this post, click here. 

Cloak 1: To continue the Harry Potter Halloween fun, I whipped up some cloaks. While in the pictures in my previous post Tonks was wearing a lovely coat from Necessary Evil (see here), I also sewed her a large, black cloak that’s more traditional Harry Potter style, and that can (and has been) easily repurposed for a ghost, evil sorcerer, mysterious figure, and the unfortunate family member at every Halloween event who never got a costume together.

Cloak 2: In addition to the black cloak, I also did a classic Harry Potter cloak, with a more peach-skin type fabric, and a red Gryffindor lining for the hood. 

Cloak 3: And now we go Tolkien! Tolkien is my dearest literary love (sorry Harry Potter; I must admit that you are just a passing, yet pleasant, fancy), and I have made three cloaks inspired by his works as well. The first is a Bombur cloak, done in a woven, gray-blue fabric. This is probably honestly my favorite of all these cloaks; I like the naturalness of the fabric, and the versatility—it can be repurposed again and again. 

Cloak 4: Aragon’s. This cloak was inspired by those worn by the characters in Peter Jackson’s version of The Lord of the Rings; although Jackson’s costume makers used a fabulous, textured fabric (delicately “made by the elves”, also good for camouflage) for the Fellowship’s cloaks, I used a slighter more dusty green, heavy woven. Very utilitarian; which, I think, is what Aragorn would desire. It was my first cloak and perhaps worst—I sewed the clasp on the wrong place and the whole thing has the tendency to try and strangle me, but we’ve gotten along well together nevertheless.

(the movie fabric)

(my cloak)

(close-up on the elvish leaf pin)

Cloak 5: This is turning out to be something of a cloak marathon! For this we must go back beyond The Lord of the Rings into the depths of the amazing work, The Silmarillion, which covers ages of the history of Middle Earth—chock-full of more epic stories and characters. Fingon (also known as Findekano) is one of these, who ends up traveling all the way to the dreaded Morgoth’s (even worse than Sauron, if you can believe it) fortress to rescue his friend, Maedhros, who has been hanging off the side, chained by his hand, for quite some time. The cloak is shorter, because Fingon needs to be unencumbered; he’s a warrior and, more specifically, an archer. The cloak is blue, which goes with the blues (and silver) of the rest of the costume, as those are the colors of Fingon’s house (he is a member of the house of Finarfin), and has a more complex clasp idea. It is closed by a twisting panel of fabric, secured by sew-on snaps, and over that I pin a brooch I made, displaying the insignia of his house. 

(close-up on twist-closure and House of Finarfin brooch)

All the cloaks here (sans the Aragorn one), where made based on this pattern:

A truly excellent investment (I made the tunic too and it also rocks).

Holy Guacamole! And apologies

The Snottor does not know what to say.

Loyal followers of his musings have likely noticed the current lack of them. We are now, he pedantically observes, in the month of November, and his beloved readership remains deprived even of his October pearl. There is no one, of course, to blame, but The Phlox. 

The Phlox has recently been seized by the affliction commonly known as “college applications”—she explains to the Snottor, who, be-scaled eyebrow raised, remains unimpressed. 

Needless to say, she has been grounded. During her convalescence, The Snottor will politely hold her hand to aid her in updating this site, as he does not grace technology with his esteemed presence.

Again, apologies. The Snottor has tried to deliberately ‘lose’ The Phlox many times, in similar instances, but consistently with limited success. She likes him an inordinate amount, despite his scolding. Unfortunately, he doomfully informs his readers, she seems to be sticking around. 

October : Tonks and Halloween

In a world where a person can, for under twenty dollars, buy a pretty awesome pink wig on Amazon, the arts of roleplay and custom-making get even funner. I scoured the internet for pictures of people’s Tonks costumes, inspired to make my own, and the results were rather disappointing. Some were really good, don’t get me wrong—but none exactly what I was thinking she’d wear. The shirt opportunities for her are also disappointing—I wasn’t able to find any good “The Weird Sisters” band t-shirt designs anywhere. 

So, here we go! I hit a local huge chain crafts-supplies stores for one of their $4 plain colored t-shirts, and got myself a pair of good fabric markers. I doodled out ideas a couple times on paper to get the general shape and ended up free-handing it—now, I’m no artist, but I was quite pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. Tonks is a fun character and I sure had a lot of fun with this—she remains my favorite dress-up.

September : My Wallet (Part Two) : My Faces

A full description, explanation and defense of my faces.

If this seems at all confusing to you, check out the first part of this post, here.

I keep Victor Hugo with me because of his great writing. Les Miz, I I have already preached, is a staggering work—deeply inspiring. It’s good to have that stern face glaring up at you.

I keep Jane Addams because she exemplifies the kind of courage I would like to have—her foremost goal in life was to serve others, and she devoted herself fiercely to becoming a doctor and, when health problems made that impossible for her, she was, despite a dark period of self-doubt and despair, able to adapt and change the lives of many orphans and young women for the better by providing them with support, home, education, and skills in her settlement house and other programs. She may be my favorite (the first face added), although it’s hard to choose. 

I keep Dorothea Dix for similar reasons. She, like Jane Addams, showed a courage during their life I long to be able to follow. Like most of my faces, she represents something I think I could never be but want to strive for nevertheless. She single-handedly embarked on a cross-country crusade to raise awareness concerning and improve the conditions of the mentally ill, who, in her day, where treated like animals—most often chained in unclean, dark cells. She single-handedly was able to evoke real change for these people throughout the entire country. 

I keep Abraham Lincoln because he shows what a person can do in the face of significant personal odds. He had severe depression and could get, at different points of his life, incredibly suicidal. The fact that in spite of these often crippling personal circumstances he was still able to do so much, be so steadfast, and leave such a lasting impact on his country is incredible, and a sort of “if he could do it so can you” kick in the pants.

I don’t know why I keep Ulysses S. Grant. He gazes roughly at me, mud-stained, hand against a tree, beside the official portrait of Abraham Lincoln. I think it is mostly because I am fond of him. Why he inspires me remains elusive to eloquent or illuminating description, but he does.

I keep Martin Luther King Jr. because of his bravery and faith. Like Ghandi, he is a beautiful example to me of the power of love. It was his sheer faith and the faith and love of his community that held the Montgomery Bus Boycott together for so long, as tiresome, dangerous, and lengthy as it became. Like Ghandi I feel he took the bravest stance of all in choosing non-violence to seek justice and change, and is a reminder, I think, to be your bravest self for what you believe in, no matter what personally is put on the line or exposed to a fierce offender.

I keep Alexander Hamilton because of his grit. His sheer productivity—he wasn’t going to sit around. While he aggravated a lot of people, he is an inspiring example to me of how to not mess around and really get stuff done. He clawed his way up and didn’t waste a moment. (that and I love how he couldn’t stop writing either–when I listened to the musical, it was the first character I’ve ever been able to feel such solidarity with, in that way)

I keep John Adams because of his self-discipline and deep thought. David McCullough’s biography of him is fantastic, if you’re interested in getting to know this great but often put-down man better. His personal morals, striving for better, self-discipline, drive, duty to his family, and need to serve others and his community as a whole are wonderful. I hope just because he gets a bad rap for his presidency and was on the bad side of many (he and Alexander Hamilton had a particular dislike for each other) you don’t write him off. Sometimes the worst presidents are the best men.

Can you tell I’ve recently taken U.S. History? 

The reason these people are so inspiring to me is simple. It’s not as much for their great accomplishments and admirable qualities—it’s for all the personal struggles they had, their self-doubt, despair, etc. It’s that in spite of moments when they felt they would never be able to do it, or that things look impossible for them; despite the same human self-doubt, fear, and direction-seeking we all share, they were able to do good in the world, the best versions of themselves. 

Writing this post has reminded me of all the other faces I want to tape in. I did.

Dickens, Gandhi, Thoreau, and Hemingway. Faced with the peril of making this post any longer, I shall abbreviate: for Gandhi, see my explanation of MLK and what the Ben Kingsley movie. For Hemingway, read this article  from The Art of Manliness. For Thoreau, tune in to The Snottor’s latest ramblings.

As for Dickens? I might put him in the same category as Grant. I don’t know why, exactly, explicitly–but I do know. It may be jealousy–I want to make as good characters as he did, write as well as he did. A reminder, I guess. It may be admiration–it may be because his writing was what inspired Jane Addams, that he stands an example of how writing about something you care about can really make a difference. I’m not really sure.

Whose faces would you tape into your wallet?

~Phlox 

WARNING: When I taped in Jane Addams’ face, I did not intend for, soon after, a tiny yet imposing peanut gallery to be scrutinizing my every move. Be warned: once you start, it becomes addictive, and you’ll keep wanting to add more. Just fair warning. 

September : My Wallet (Part One)

Now what you probably expected here was a sewing project. Right? I mean, I’ve sewn clothes, why not wallets too? I have sewn some, actually. But this isn’t about them.

When I was eleven my mother bought me my first (and current) wallet at a toy store. It was bright green, very durable, and covered with bugs. It went to Japan with me, it goes to classes with me, driving, paying for lunch, whatever I have to do. Still have it.

My mother thinks my wallet is the goofiest, most bizarre thing. I still don’t entirely understand this; it doesn’t seem goofy to me. Everything in it makes sense.

It is full of the faces of the people I admire most as reminders, a Shakespearean insult, wonderful quotes, found poetry from Lord Alfred Tennyson, and a fortune cookie message. It makes perfect sense to me! What better place to stash special things than something small you carry around with you most of the time? 

The only problem with this wonderful system is that I stuff too many things in my convenient see-through slot for the wallet to do its damn job—I can’t even fit my ID card in anymore. 

So, without further ado, here are some of the items it exhibits:

For the scoop on the faces, tune in later this month! 

Do you have anything special in your wallet? 

~Phlox

August : King Arthur (Part Two)

 

 

Did you know that there’s actually some archaeological evidence for the existence of Arthur? I think that’s pretty cool, myself—of course not the Medieval-esque Arthur or popular imagination—that setting never actually existed and is largely fantasy, established by some core retellings that were written in modern-enough English to inform most current retellings. The historical “Arthur” would have been in post-Roman-rule Britain, fighting wildly against the Anglo-Saxon invaders. This is a fun rabbit trail to go on. 

Part Two:

——

Part III

So strange and why did it have to be him and for who else in the whole world had Fate spent so much time, crafting it all out, and had it been smiling or grim when it had. For almost certainly it had and this was the sort of thing people wrote stories about. The sort of thing people carried with them but the two of them wanted to cast it so far away. So far away, so far away and why did it have to be him.

Him, him and neither one remembered exactly when it had been, what it had looked like meeting him the first time. Dear dear but he always smelled the same way and when they heard he was dead the knight sat down so hard and it didn’t make a sound, only hurt. Sat down so hard on his knees and he didn’t feel the bruises, sat down so hard because someone had to do something.

And she took a step and she tried to see the sea outside the window but afterwards she couldn’t have told you what it looked like.

Oh castle of joy. Oh castle of joy and she never prayed to the ones that watch over fruitfulness and they never gave her anything, she only prayed at the end and after all the ignoring but still never to them. 

She prayed and he carried her. Walking and you’d have thought a knight would bear burdens better and so it seemed he did. And the books must have been written wrong, the pages smashed and things were never supposed to end this way. Corpses are heavier and it makes sense. Heavier because she could not lift herself up with her breath and the things in her eyes, the things in her eyes that were sometimes there for him and sometimes it was for their friend. 

Their friend. 

Sometimes things can get so mixed up.

She understood that. Understood that sometimes things can get so mixed up that there’s really nothing, nothing and she was heavy in his arms, arms he couldn’t feel.

Asleep and she had fallen asleep like the wizard and like the king and people say they were all too great for the world and the man with one flaw lay down too because that king, that king was their friend.

Friend. They were all friends and why did everything have to end so badly and how many people would carry it with them, he certainly would not. Could not. Could not and he laid down and the water danced in his hair and he was always, terribly hers and his son was her phantom and his son was not their friend like the king was.

Like the king and why did it have to be him. Why did he, their friend the king, have to be the one.

The knight died breathing the dancing. Died but people never say any of them died. 

People say they are asleep in the land. They say they can never really leave it, that place. 

And the king took both their hands. 

And he tried not to be sad.

They say you can’t be sad up there.

Part IV. A Departure. 

There was, terribly, in him, desire. 

When he was young he had desired to serve and to see; he had fastened Kay’s armor for him, practicing alone in the stables till he’d get it right. It was desire that pulled the sword out, and it had not been for him. 

There was, terribly, in him, desire. For strict codes written right, to hold himself up, unflinching. For newness and goodness. Anyone can be good and in some things it’s not as hard as you think it might be.

He liked her red hair in soft waves but he desired the eyes, light-colored laughing, like they were hiding something. He desired friendship and warmth. Peace. And love; he loved Lancelot most but Gawain too and Kay still and sometimes he still wanted to rush, to help, with the armor.

He desired lavender tea in unexpected, early morning—the only one, in the lavender sky, awake. World paused in an illusion. And he desired his ink to come easily off his pen when he wrote, and when she wore green, of any shade, he desired nothing else.

No one ever talks about desire and loneliness in connect—despair, rather than that. And, more than despairing, Arthur mostly felt lonely. Most of the time.

Lips closed, seeded by the fire in the fabric of his being it grew, unfurling, slowly. He was not always sure which came first, actually. He was always sure, quiet reading, of the lady with red hair and the knight with black, the French knight. 

He was always sure he loved them, and for all his laughing—sunflowers, cornflowers—Arthur was a silent man.

Silent, a vessel, sitting. He smiled quietly, sickly, down at his hand. Tanned, light hair lacing gold-like up his wrist, closing his eyes.

And it anyone would ever have taken the char-pit and, in their arms, smelled his hair, they would’ve smelled lavender.

Ardently, quietly.

All in all loneliness can’t even quench it and he was still, at the end, Artur Ard Rhi.

He crushed small wild berries between his fingers and he did not cry. 

——-

Does any period of history or realm of mythology or lore captivate you? For me it’s the Celtic and Norse stuff that just inexplicably lights me on fire, for as much as I love the Classical world. 

~Phlox 

EXCITING NEWS : The Snottor’s Press

The Snottor, as the reader has likely perceived, is a lover of literature. Tending many flowers, he hears quite a bit of back-talking from them, and, recently, a bright gardenia suggested he sponsor some of the fledgling literary attempts he sees around him. 

Enter: The Snottor’s Press. 

The Snottor will now add a THIRD (things are getting slightly out of hand, he knows) prong to this blog, titled BOOK (the capitals are necessary for the exciting nature of this new adventure in the Snottor’s sage existence), wherein The Snottor will upload the novel of the poor little seedling he has condescended to patronize, bit by bit, every Friday. 

Being, as the reader has seen, a loyal follower of the Victorian tradition, The Snottor, with much love towards the esteemed Charles Dickens and George Eliot, has decided to upload this work serially. That is, every week the reader will get more. This lights a particular kind of fire under the author’s editing pants that The Snottor finds highly beneficial. 

NOTE: The uploaded work is a second draft. The esteemed Sunflower, Hibiscus, and Common Blue Violet, three of The Snottor’s favorite flowers, have already read and criticized, and the novelist has attempted to edit accordingly. However, as this novelist is still a very small flower, The Snottor advises the reader to pile on all constructive criticism thick, to aid in their artistic misadventures. 

So, prepare yourselves. This Friday is the first. With love, The Snottor. 

August: King Arthur (Part One)

There are few characters that have captivated the world so long, eternally, or malleably as King Arthur and his court have. Oodles of movie adaptations, a musical, stories, series, art, retellings, and poetry later, he remains a thick pillar indeed in not only British history and love but that of many other cultures and countries now, as well. I, as you have likely guessed, am not immune to this potent bug either. Behold, the first half of a short four-part cycle inspired by my love for these captivating stories:

——–

Part I

“What’s the flavor?” he asked, licking lips chapped on the edges and the chocolate was staining itself messily over them, it shined in the light. 

“Raspberry fudge. Arthur got it for me.” twirling the edge of the hem and it curled around her fingers. They were pale and would have looked nice with freckles. 

“Hm.” Arthur had good taste. He always did, in everything. Good taste because of the wizard who knew everything and really the king knew nothing. Nobody can be perfect. “Melts in your mouth, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know. It has flour in it, remember?” she raised an eyebrow and he nodded, of course, how could he forget. Forget because you don’t think about things like that on the long days, the quests when you think of her. 

“Right, right. Thanks.” And she was looking at him, through eyes just barely narrowed, just drawn up around the bottom, a little smaller. 

“Lancelot?”

The knight rose, stared back. He needed to leave. 

“Lancelot—he is a great friend, you know.” The knight leaned against the doorframe, and she was standing, unmoving. 

“He’s a great friend to me too.” 

Part II

They could not help but love him, either one and the knight would sit underneath the tree and say “Is it not terribly cruel that it should have to be him?” and she would nod and neither one knew they would be forgiven. For how can one know, how could one know that a man with only one flaw could sit like that and the wizard knew but they put him to sleep and-when-the-castle-fell-he-was kissing her, when-the-castle-fell-he-was breathing her in—and is it not terribly cruel that it should have to be him?

——-

Do you have an opinion on Lancelot and Guinevere? For or against? Do you like Arthur or hate him?

~Phlox 

July : Skirt (Part Two)

An Ode to Pockets

The pocket an article that, in women’s clothes, is sadly—tragically, in fact—disregarded. It takes only a casual, unsuspecting stroll through Target to discover this awful fact. Pop on a pair of jeans, maybe you like them—but try to tuck in your wallet, a small pen, a bag of peanuts, or even non-chalantly insert your hands—and you will be instantly repulsed.

This is because, dear reader, pockets in women’s clothing are a farce. They do not warn you, apologize for, or advertise this fact, but they are a farce: they’re a downright lie—and because we women (or, in my case, female flowers) own wallets, peanuts, small pens, and hands, we all suffer for it. 

Enter: making your own clothes.

While I am guilty of wearing many clothes not made by myself, from the moment I put this skirt on, the magic of making something for your own utilitarian (not to mention aesthetic) preferences became immediately evident.

The way my mind works is a little scattered—I’m sort of your classic absent-minded professor type, which isn’t necessarily a good thing—the majority of my writing ideas, musings, pieces of stories, thoughts, and a few slim eurekas come from my subconscious and when I’m going about my day, doing entirely other things. Immediately the pockets became invaluable—they easily fit a slim, medium-sized notebook and pen, without even looking like they’re holding anything.

My mother conjectured a small watercolor set and pad would fit too—at the farmer’s market today I found an immediate set of bags at my side to drop change, and, when I was living in college dorms a week this summer for a camp (at the very end of the hall and farthest from the bathroom, I’d add) they were great for toting my toothpaste, brush, and everything else I needed in the mornings.

Pockets are, to put it simply, gorgeously convenient. 

Have a pet peeve (or serious issue—they do abound) with the clothing industry? Or, if you already make your own clothes (or want to and have opinions about it), do you have favorite things you add (or would like to add) to your creations? For me it’s pockets (among other things). 

~Phlox

July: Skirt (Part One)

This is the part where summer starts getting looooooong. Even if you have a lot to do, it can get repetitive, and, in a desperate attempt to retain my sanity, I embarked on a seemingly simple sewing project. The pattern is from PurlSoho, and can be found here: https://www.purlsoho.com/create/2015/04/27/gathered-skirt-for-all-ages/

I finished it on the 4th of July, late in the afternoon, a sudden, hurricane-like gale buffeting the upstairs windows in a short, blurry, gorgeously wild blast. 

Do you have a favorite trick to try to beat, as some friends of mine lovingly refer to it, summer depression? 

~Phlox