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Aug. 29th, 2016

Susie's Qabili Pilau

Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

Not my recipe; this recipe for qabili pilau (lamb and yellow rice with carrots and raisins) was passed along to us by Noah’s friend Susie, and we ate it and loved every bit. Source is unknown. It’s fragrant without being spicy-hot (though it could be easily changed to be so) and while it has a few steps, it’s worth every one.

Qabili Pilau

Serves 4. 


  • 2 cups long grain rice, preferably basmati
  • 4 fl oz vegetable oil
  • 1½ lb lamb or beef or 1 chicken, cut in pieces
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ pint water
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 cup black or golden seedless raisins
  • 2 tsp char marsala or cumin
  • ¼ tsp saffron (optional but lovely)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, cumin, cardamom
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2½ pints water
  • salt and pepper


Brown 1 medium diced onion in oil. Fry until the onion is fairly dark. Add 1 lb lamb or beef cut into 1”-2” cubes and brown lightly.

Add 2 cups of water, 1 tsp. salt and 1 to 1½ tsp each (cinnamon, ground cumin and ground cardamom). Cover and simmer until meat is tender, about an hour.

Remove meat from the juice and set juice aside. Cut 3 carrots into matchstick-sized pieces. Saute carrots and 1 tsp sugar in about ¼ cup of oil. Cook until they are lightly browned. Remove from oil. Add 1 cup of raisins (preferably golden sultanas) to the oil and cook until they swell up.

Boil the meat juice and add 2 cups basmati rice, 1½ tsp salt and enough boiling water to come 2 inches over the rice. Cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender–but NOT mushy.

Mix the meat, carrots, raisins and rice together. Place in a large oven-proof casserole, cover and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about a half hour–or up to an hour. To serve–place on platter, making sure the carrots and raisins show on top.

Aug. 10th, 2016


Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

I’ve wanted to do a video game quilt for a long time. My original thoughts had focused on Space Invaders, but I realized that several people had done Space Invaders quilts, and I wanted to tackle a different game. I thought about games I’d loved as a child, and Pitfall was the obvious choice. There was a specific scene that immediately jumped to mind when I thought about this video game, and I thought, “Huh, it’s just squares, I can totally do this, right?”

From Pitfall. cnaThe scene I want
by domesticat.

I found some play-throughs recorded on YouTube, and screenshotted the moment I wanted: crocodiles with their mouth open, Harry in the air on the swing, and the scorpion pacing below. To my surprise, after I did more digging, I learned that the colors were changed in different versions of the game. I used this screenshot, too, because the Activision logo was clearer, but I didn’t want these more muted colors because I didn’t play this version of the game:

Clearer imagine of why I'm saving that Activision logo for last. cnaActivision logo better
by domesticat.

So, how to do it? Adobe Illustrator to the rescue. I overlaid a grid onto the screenshot, and sized it so the smallest detail on the screen – the teeth of the crocodiles – finished at ¼”. That created a finished quilt of about 52”x70”. I then started overlaying rectangles of color, simplifying and gently shifting motifs in a few areas to make the details fit to a quarter-inch grid. Luckily, most everything fit easily, and the few things I needed to massage didn’t require too much effort.

I color-matched based on the best screenshot, and made a labeled color palette indicating how much I needed of each color, so I could make one run to Fabric Depot to raid the Kona solids:

Pitfall, colors / sizes cnaPitfall, colors / sizes
by domesticat.

The person cutting the fabric was kind enough to give me masking tape, so I could label each color as it was cut. I won’t lie: I spent nearly 90 minutes agonizing over “which olive-green should I use?” and wailing THEY’RE ALL SO DAMN SIMILAR:

All fabrics for Pitfall cnaAll fabrics for Pitfall
by domesticat.

In this photo, you can see the ¼” grid in Illustrator, blown up to sizes that I could see from across the sewing table, plus some of the actual cut pieces I’d placed on my laptop to keep track of while I cut more. They were tiny, and were easy to get out of order if I didn’t pay attention: 

Watching my schematic carefully. The gridlines are quarter-inch marks. cnaCroc plan in progress
by domesticat.

It was worth it, though. I laughed and laughed when I had the first one sewn, because if I could make the crocodiles work, the entire design would work:

Well, that got intricate in places. cnaCrocodile #1 is swimming
by domesticat.

Seeing the scorpion come to life in fabric form just delighted me to no end. I have such vivid memories of watching it pace while I played the game:

A certain generation of nerd will look at this image and know EXACTLY what I'm up to. cnaThat. Stupid. Scorpion.
by domesticat.

Much of assembly was about “oh crap don’t mix up the really similar green colors,” like this moment, powered by a very large cup of tea:

Nearing the end of the tree / sky pieces. cnaPitfall quilt, canopy piecing
by domesticat.

I didn’t take pictures of the creation of the Pitfall Harry figure, but for me, the most important part was getting the oddity in the rope reproduced correctly. I remember as a child being annoyed and fascinated because the rope was never entirely even; there were always one or two dots of color that were a different size. I reproduced that oddity here, but didn’t do a closeup photo of it.

The Activision logo was the better part of an evening, but when done, I knew I had it right:

I need to fix the bottom of the 'C' and add a black stripe along the top, but the quilt top is otherwise ready to go. cnaLogo complete!
by domesticat.

I worried a lot about the quilting. I don’t enjoy free-motion quilting, but I wanted to make absolutely certain that those tiny pieces didn’t move. I opted to color-match and echo quilt around both sides of each of the tiny pieces, to ensure they would never, ever move. Here’s a crocodile, post-quilting:

Tiny tiny teeth! cnaPitfall: finished crocodile
by domesticat.

The back, as is typical for me, is a non sequitur; in this case, the Sloths and Toucans fabric by Sarah Watts from Cotton & Steel:

Sloth fabric from Cotton & Steel. Both of the recipients love sloths. cnaThe back of the quilt
by domesticat.

The backing of the quilt, by Sarah Watts for Cotton & Steel.(The recipients love sloths.) cnaSloths and Toucans
by domesticat.

I showed one of the recipients the backing fabric, while keeping the front of the quilt secret. Coworkers got photos of the moment when he saw the front for the first time. It was worth it:

Ty and quilt (1 of 3) cnaTy and quilt (1 of 3)
by domesticat.
 Ty and quilt (2 of 3) cnaTy and quilt (2 of 3)
by domesticat.
 Ty and quilt (3 of 3) cnaTy and quilt (3 of 3)
by domesticat.

Feb. 6th, 2016


Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

This quilt is a simple one, born out of frustration with a work project that ate a lot of time out of each day, and continues to do so. At the end of each day, I’d feel that I’d not actually accomplished anything new, and I’d be frustrated with myself because I felt like I’d wasted that day.

I started thinking about Misty’s “make something every day” artistic pledge, and I joked about it with her while we were attending an intro-to-letterpress class. She mentioned how this craft meant that you couldn’t necessarily get far with 20 minutes a day, but 45 would probably do better.

This quilt top so far has been comprised of 30-minute chunks of time stolen in the evenings. Because of the changes to the house (new flooring, new paint) I’ve been leaving the mini-blinds up as much as possible, and enjoying the light. I wanted to queue up something after Invariant that was its opposite. Not Japanese somber neutrals, but light. Bright. Soft.

Easter was coming, after all.

I pulled my Chopsticks pattern, which I’ve used once before, and gave myself a stern talk. It was okay to reuse a pattern. It wasn’t “cheating.” Yes, I’ve slowly been working my way through lots of the well-known quilt patterns, trying each on once (I’ve been waiting for everyone else to figure this out) and moving on, but I just wanted to put something together and FINISH something.

I’m sure most of you rolled your eyes and said, “you have to give yourself permission to reuse a pattern?” 

shutupshutupshutupIhearyou. I KNOW IT IS DUMB. Sigh. It’s good for me to get over it. Just pat me on the head and remind me that it’s ok.

I had a huge, long swath of white cotton that a friend had given me from her valiant failed attempt to make curtains (“can you use this?” was greeted with the evil cackle that quilters get when someone offers them 5+ yards of pristine neutral fabric) and I said, hmm, how about we take the rotary cutter to the Liberty cottons?


It’s not cheap, but it cuts like butter. It’s a joy to work with – anything that costs that much per meter had better be! – and I brought home plenty of it from London. I sorted through my pile and pulled the softest, lightest, most barely-there colors I had and cut deeply. I wanted something that felt clean, soft, like that first hint of crocus after a late spring snow. 

I’m hoping that with some careful cutting, I can use up some beautiful Liberty fabric as a backing, too. This quilt will be an indulgence – I just have to figure out who it’s for.


Jan. 31st, 2016

sunshine laws

Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

I think the idea of keeping up a blog is a charming, weirdly outdated thing, but I still feel the compulsion to keep one. I’ve thought a lot recently about the impermanence of connection in the digital world I choose to live and work in.

In the years since The Incident™ happened, I’ve become more and more private online, because the things I most needed to say were things I did not feel comfortable posting here. My only regrets about choosing to go dark for the past few years are the lack of records for me to point to now; those records exist in my email archives but do not exist here on this site. It means I’m harder to get to know on any metric that matters, and about the only way you can do it now is to be in the digital realm where I spend much of my day (a coworker) or to live near me in Portland.

I lost some friends in the divorce. Two former friends explicitly said “don’t contact us again.” I am fine with that; as the time to move away drew near, their opinions on the divorce were pretty clear, and their decision was not a surprise to me. I suspect I quietly lost a few others; people whom I only had contact with online. Online, it’s easier to let the current drift you elsewhere, and I can’t have been the only person who pared down their friends list on various social media. I expect others did too, and in the chaos of the move and everything after, a few people probably chose a genteel parting of ways.

Luckily, the one member of my family who had a strongly negative reaction to my divorce lives nowhere near me. The diatribe that got posted to Facebook got her unfriended and blocked immediately, and within a handful of hours I’d made sure that the screenshot and text of her message got shared out with our mutual family, so it was clear why I’d done so. The family equivalent of sunshine laws, I suppose. As it turns out, her posting a message that ended with “I hope you find someone who loves you as little as you love your family. You are a piece of shit” at me totally didn’t cause our shared family to jump up and wave banners.

Eventually, though, the cumulative changes mean you can write not about the divorce or its aftermath, but instead about the life you’re living now. I thought about this concept yesterday as I was driving; I needed new thimbles, and because of the exploring I’ve done over the past two years, I knew where I needed to go and didn’t need a GPS to get there. I didn’t talk about this learning process, but it happened, nevertheless. I got my thimbles, avoided the traffic bottleneck I’ve learned exists between there and here, and got home in time for Noah’s arrival.

…and, yeah. That.

Noah lives with me now. The 818-square-foot condo felt a little empty when I first moved in, that post-divorce oddness of walls either undecorated or with oddly-shaped artwork clearly brought from a different space. He brought little furniture, but boxes and boxes of books; his beloved Oxford English Dictionary lines the shelves of our (our? our!) living room, and the shelves in our dining room are full to bursting with everything from English literature to comics. 

His seventeen-year-old tuxedo kitty, who I was warned didn’t like anyone but him? She’s sitting in my lap, purring away, as I write this message. She’s become quite the little marshmallow in her old age. I slip her snacks when the other cats aren’t looking, and call her “heathen tuxie bitch” like the affectionate nickname it is. (“State of the household,” October 2015) She has what could be delicately referred to as a ‘sonorous’ meow – the less delicate among us might say she honks like a foghorn – and I’ve picked up Noah’s habit of responding “Noise!” whenever she starts proclaiming.

She’s quite the noisebeast.

Frankenstein is unwilling to wait for Noah to finish shaving before getting her chin scratched. cnaFeline supervision.
by domesticat.

We’re thinking of starting to host a regular movie night for friends.
I built a RAID array.
I bought a dishwasher.
I bought a washer and dryer.

Real washer. Real dryer. At last at last at last!What we had before was an all-in-one single-box unit that served as a (mediocre) washer and a (non-functional) dryer. cnaOn-calls FINALLY paying off!
by domesticat.

I’ve learned I like linen sheets better than cotton. Luckily, Noah agrees. So does Toph, his bouncy two-year-old cat:

Toph, in her preferred hiding place: buried in blankets. cnaToph, in her preferred hiding place: buried in blankets.
by domesticat.

I’ve gained weight. My hair is greying more rapidly. I’m developing a silver streak at my right temple.

I’m happy here. I need to talk with Noah about whether or not we want to combine our AAA memberships. I’ve never lived with someone I wasn’t married to, so I’m learning to navigate the waters of what can and can’t be combined. Much of our life is ordinary.

Pizza, cat-cuddling, and Galaxy Quest in honor of #alanrickman. cnaPizza, cat-cuddling, and Galaxy Quest in honor of #alanrickman.
by domesticat.

If 2010, 2011, and 2012 taught me anything, it’s to be thoroughly grateful for a healthy, peaceful, self-determined life. I don’t quite know how best to share it, but it’s happening.

From photo booth at Christmas party 2015. cnaAmy / Noah : 2/4
by domesticat.

Jan. 9th, 2016


Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

I’ve given up calling it anything else. Seven Brides is an obsession, a project that feels like it’s taking forever to finish and yet I can’t let go of. I don’t write that statement out of complaint, but instead mingled fascination, and gratitude. 

I wanted to find my art. I spent years watching friends find hobbies, art, passion, and wondered where mine was. Put me in a crowd of programmers, or engineers, and I’m the artistic one, but put me in a group of artists and I’m the nerd with a day job. After the fact, it made perfect sense that my art – because I’m choosing to give myself that word – would fall somewhere along the spectrum of logic.

I’ve been thrashing against the constraints of time in the past few weeks, trying to hit a milestone on Seven Brides that will change the way I photograph it, knowing that change will be immensely gratifying and emboldening to me. Explaining takes images, though. So let’s start with a rectangle. In fact, let’s start with the rectangle I’m trying to create, piece by exacting piece:

1 May 2010 - 11:57pm - This feels right. I love the interplay of light and dark. I wonder if I am capable of actually rendering this in fabric, or if I am overreaching.Blog entry: domesticat.net/quilts/seven-brides-seven-brothers cnaThe plan, I think.
5 years ago ago by domesticat.

I started out with small tests of different figures from the design, ensuring my pattern pieces were accurate enough for sewing. Once I determined they were, I focused on building the left-hand side, from top to bottom, so I could reuse my (limited) plastic pieces. This photo shows the left edge, top to bottom, completed:

2 August 2015 - 12:37am - Progress continues! The third sunburst is complete, but hard to photograph from this angle. English paper piecing: slow, but accurate.This quilt top is large. The height, which is complete in this photo, is 100'. The width, which is incomplete here, will be 110'. It's currently about 30'.If you're curious to learn about the pattern and its construction, see domesticat.net/2015/02/sevens-and-fourteens cna9 of 14 stars, 3 sunbursts
5 months ago ago by domesticat.

I built out and to the top right for a while, to give myself a top edge I could start working down from:

10 August 2015 - 10:22pm - Progress continues. Center medallion finally done. Nearing the halfway point on this #quilt top. #sewing #epp cnaProgress continues. Center medallion finally done. Nearing the halfway point on this #quilt top. #sewing #epp
5 months ago ago by domesticat.

I next focused on finishing the center mandala. My coworkers remember this part well; I worked on it during lectures during our company on-site. 

16 November 2015 - 10:55pm - I've completed the ring of 14 stars surrounding the focal starburst. I have another completed starburst ready to tack on, too. That's tomorrow. I'm close to the halfway point on assembly. cnaCircle complete.
1 month ago ago by domesticat.

I stopped photographing it then, because it was getting harder and harder to pin the (enormous) top to my design board. Even with the width unfinished, it was bigger than my design board, and I am short enough that taking it down and putting it back up became more and more of a chore. Eagle eyes will spot I was already photographing it with a 90-degree rotation, because that was the side I’d finished first. Frequently I have to remind myself that my photos show it rotated 90 degrees off from my plan, because I’ve not seen it right side up in many months.

My goal became RIGHT SIDE UP.

The only way to do it was to stop my slow gradual progress across the quilt, and focus on the top edge. Build it out enough that I could attach a temporary sleeve to it, so I could use my beloved photographic backdrop stands to hoist Seven Brides and photograph it right side up. This goal has become my miniature obsession within the overall obsession that is Seven Brides: even if it isn’t done, get it done enough so I can see it right side up when I photograph progress.

As it turns out, the progress photographs matter. They are my proof that my nights sitting here quietly, absorbing podcasts and television while I sew, are not wasted but are in fact progress. In a project this size, you cannot see progress on a day-by-day basis. You need weeks before changes become apparent when a single three-layered, seven-pointed star (light blue interior, lighter blue surrounding layer, encased in white) takes an entire evening to complete.

I’ve accepted that this quilt is an obsession. I’ve tackled virtually no new projects while working on it, because it isn’t willing to share me. I’ve tried toying with other ideas, but there just isn’t room, not when there is the siren song of “you could finish another figure tonight if you buckle down and start right after dinner.” It’s forced some changes in how I sew – I am now deeply opinionated about thimbles, and have gone back to contact lenses in no small part because I can stack on powerful non-prescription reading glasses to magnify my work. My thumb tendons tell me I am not infinite. I rest them frequently now, and am more protective of my hands at work because I know if I do not protect them, there are no other hands that will complete this project.

Sometimes my mind drifts back to the Hackleburg tornado, and how my closet thoughts that day included regret I had not tackled this project. That’s the woman I’ve promised this quilt completion to, and who I think about when I debate whether or not I will submit it for judging. I’ve shown it to a couple of quilters, and their opinion is that Seven Brides should be entered into a national show; this prospect is terrifying, but also satisfying. The prospect of letting others see (and judge) my obsession is nerve-wracking, but also emboldening. It’s the first quilt of mine that I think can withstand such scrutiny.

In the meantime, I’m on my couch this weekend, trying to hit my goal of completing the top edge all the way out to the right corner. Completing the edge lets me attach a hanging sleeve, which lets me photograph progress, which will do nothing but encourage me.

It looks like a woman sitting on a couch with headphones on, rocking out to Spotify playlists, patiently making one piece at a time. It looks peaceful. It looks quiet, but make no mistake, it’s still obsession.

Dec. 31st, 2015

2015 in books

Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

Unlike last year, I made my goal explicit: 50 books in 2015. Goodreads posted a lovely Year In Books page, which shows what I did this year, but I tend to capture this sort of thing for my own memory: (raw list here)

19 June 2015 - 9:28am - Cover view of the first 24 books I read in 2015.Grabbed from www.goodreads.com/review/list/145290?read_at=2015&vie... cna2015 in books, part 1
6 months ago ago by domesticat.

19 September 2015 - 10:16am - Blog post: domesticat.net/2015/12/2015-booksTotal books: 53Total pages: 20,088Shortest book: Beautiful Darkness (a comic)Longest book: SevenevesGrabbed from www.goodreads.com/review/list/145290?read_at=2015&vie... cnaBooks read in 2015, part 2
3 months ago ago by domesticat.

31 December 2015 - 11:50am - Blog post: domesticat.net/2015/12/2015-booksTotal books: 53Total pages: 20,088Shortest book: Beautiful Darkness (a comic)Longest book: SevenevesGrabbed from www.goodreads.com/review/list/145290?read_at=2015&vie... cnaBooks read in 2015, 3 of 3
3 hours ago ago by domesticat.

31 December 2015 - 12:38pm - 53 books.20,088 pages.From www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015/145290 cna2015 book stats
2 hours ago ago by domesticat.

(The 2014 list is archived here.)


  • I’m not enthralled, over all, by the idea of digging into series books. I tried on several first-in-series books this year, and only one (N.K. Jemisin’s) made me go back and read the second book in the series. Apparently I prefer narratives that are encapsulated in a single novel. 
  • I stuck to my goal of reading one Culture novel this year. Thanks to Banks’ untimely demise, there are no more books coming, and I like the idea of parceling them out. I have the rest of my life, and I enjoy the thought of having more Culture novels to read.
  • I have a bit of breathing room if I set a goal of 50 books for 2016. It’s clearly a reachable goal, given my bus commute. I do have a few YA novels on my to-read list, and they should make up for reading a few heftier novels.
  • For 2016, I should have a goal of finishing one of the big, chewy books on my list. Maybe Infinite Jest, or A Team of Rivals. Something that, while it only counts as one book in the per-book tally, should count for more if you look at raw page count. I want to ensure I’m reading a mix of fun, fluffy books as well as books that challenge me intellectually.
  • I did a pretty good job of reading broadly. There’s a good mix of fiction and non-fiction here.
  • I think Between the World and Me will be the book that sticks with most people from 2015.
  • I’m seeing a trend of the five-star books not always correlating with the most memorable books. While I didn’t give them five stars, the books I’ve found myself recommending to others have been Station Eleven and A Brief History of the Dead.

In text format for searchability, here are the books of 2015:

  1. My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha by Kerr, Jolie
  2. City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1) by Bennett, Robert Jackson *
  3. The Brief History of the Dead by Brockmeier, Kevin
  4. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Brosh, Allie
  5. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Wright, Lawrence
  6. Pure (Pure, #1) by Baggott, Julianna
  7. Wonder by Palacio, R.J.
  8. Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture by Cahn, Naomi R.
  9. Landline by Rowell, Rainbow
  10. Dept. of Speculation by Offill, Jenny
  11. The Three-Body Problem (Three-Body, #1) by Cixin, Liu
  12. California by Lepucki, Edan
  13. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Zevin, Gabrielle
  14. Alif the Unseen by Wilson, G. Willow
  15. Beautiful Darkness by Vehlmann, Fabien
  16. The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Jacob, Mira
  17. The Paying Guests by Waters, Sarah
  18. A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Harkness, Deborah
  19. Frog Music by Donoghue, Emma
  20. Station Eleven by Mandel, Emily St. John
  21. Declare by Powers, Tim
  22. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Calvino, Italo
  23. Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Nagoski, Emily
  24. Dubliners by Joyce, James
  25. The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Rothfuss, Patrick
  26. The Book Thief by Zusak, Markus
  27. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Marsh, Henry
  28. The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the Olympic 100m Final by Moore, Richard
  29. The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty, #1) by Liu, Ken
  30. Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1) by Carriger, Gail
  31. The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Kim, Gene
  32. Angels on Toast by Powell, Dawn
  33. Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram by Banks, Iain
  34. The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces: Decoding Churches, Cathedrals, Temples, Mosques and Other Places of Worship Around the World by Canon, Jon
  35. Let Me Be Frank With You by Ford, Richard
  36. Euphoria by King, Lily
  37. Seveneves by Stephenson, Neal
  38. Servants: A Downstairs View of Twentieth-Century Britain by Lethbridge, Lucy
  39. The Impresarios by Brand, Noah
  40. White Teeth by Smith, Zadie
  41. Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1) by Marchetta, Melina
  42. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1) by Jemisin, N.K.
  43. The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance, #2) by Jemisin, N.K.
  44. Between the World and Me by Coates, Ta-Nehisi
  45. Desert Solitaire by Abbey, Edward
  46. Surface Detail (Culture, #9) by Banks, Iain M.
  47. Newt’s Emerald by Nix, Garth
  48. American Elsewhere by Bennett, Robert Jackson
  49. The Distance by Giltrow, Helen
  50. The Bone Clocks by Mitchell, David
  51. Seeing Voices by Sacks, Oliver
  52. The Girl with All the Gifts by Carey, M.R.
  53. Delilah Lane by Brand, Noah

Nov. 10th, 2015


Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

A Penrose tiling is an aperiodic tiling consisting of only two tiles and containing five-fold symmetry. The wikipedia entry for Penrose tilings has good images and information about it, plus a couple of photos that help you see how the pattern might look when colored in.

I am aware of the existence of a few small Penrose quilts, but from examining the photos it looks like they contain at most three iterations of the tiling. Not surprising – it’s hard to find images to work from that have more than three iterations. I had to install Inkscape and use the instructions on this page to render out seven iterations of the pattern, but it’s in readiness for when I decide to tackle the pattern.

I have purchased most of the fabric needed to make this quilt, but am not yet ready to start on it. I have a couple of small quilts to finish up before I tackle this one.

Update, November 2015

See http://domesticat.net/2015/11/ends-and-means for how the story of this quilt unfolded, and ended.

Oct. 27th, 2015

Cat's Cradle

Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

Dear quilting world – we need to talk. Now. We need to talk about why an amazing, comprehensible, gorgeous pattern isn’t ragingly popular. Say hello to the Carpenter’s Square pattern.

I don’t have to sell you on this pattern, because it sells itself. It’s a striking, unforgettable design, more so because it’s not being made very often due to lack of patterns. Odder still: this pattern is old. By leaning on the research of others, small variants on this pattern appear to date back to at least 1880-1890. Some examples:

Oddest of all? Very few people are making quilts from this design, which is madness, because this pattern’s quite reasonable if you have a rotary cutter and a couple of good rulers.

First, a disclaimer

If a pattern was available for sale, I’d point you to it. It’s not. Georgia Bonesteel published a pattern in her Spinning Spools series back in 1990. You can buy it secondhand by searching for carpenter’s square block on eBay. That’s what I did, and when I read through it I discovered the pattern’s useless for rotary cutting, but it can be used as a blueprint. If it makes you feel good to buy a copy, go right ahead. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the original author will benefit. C’est la vie.

Next, a second disclaimer

We’re all adults here. You’re here because you want something different, and you’re willing to work for it. Great. I’m going to give you the basics, but you need to figure your own yardage, and settle on the finished size you want. 

The original pattern

According to the pattern, this is what the block looks like, as well as how to piece it. I have one piece of advice for you. DON’T. No no no. Not like this:

28 August 2015 - 10:50pm - I disagree with the construction of this block. There is an easier way. cnaCarpenter’s Square: original block depiction
1 month ago ago by domesticat.

This approach is wasteful with your background fabric (go on, figure out how to cut the corner pieces) and requires you to fit angles together perfectly between huge blocks. There’s an easier way.

How to adapt it

For the purposes of my pattern explanation, and my photos, my background fabric was white, and my foreground fabric was blue.

You’re going to make three types of pieces:

  • Plain background fabric. You’ll need squares and triangles. More on that later.
  • Strip set A: 3 foreground (blue) strips, 2 background (white) strips. You’ll need more of this strip set than strip set B.
  • Strip set B: 3 background (white) strips, 2 foreground (blue) strips. 

6 June 2015 - 3:00pm - To adapt this pattern for strip piecing, I needed two sets of stripes: one 3/2 blue/white, and the other 3/2 white/blue. cnaSisters
4 months ago ago by domesticat.

Your magic numbers are 1¾ inches and 6¾ inches.

All strips for your strip sets should be 1¾” x width of fabric. Press them with your seams toward the darker fabric. You’ll find they nest beautifully.

6 June 2015 - 3:44pm - The checkerboard portion of the pattern, when the seam allowances fall neatly, delights me. cnaUnpressed seam allowances
4 months ago ago by domesticat.

You will be making two types of blocks: the easy block, and the complex block.

Making the complex block

For this block, you will need both strip sets A and B. From both sets, you will cut off slices that are 1¾ inches wide:

  • 12 pieces from strip set B (3 background / 2 foreground), each 1¾ inches wide
  • 8 pieces from strip set A (3 foreground / 2 background), each 1¾ inches wide
  • 4 longer pieces from strip set A (3 foreground / 2 background), 6¾ inches wide
  • 1 plain square of background fabric, 6¾ inches

Build 4 checkerboards. Each checkerboard will have 3 of set B, and 2 of set A. Join them together with the longer A pieces, and a plain square, to make this piece:

16 August 2015 - 12:42pm - For a Carpenter's Square quilt top, you need two blocks. This is the complex block. cnaCarpenter’s Square quilt: the complex block
2 months ago ago by domesticat.

Swirl your seams toward the darker color. Pin before you sew; this pattern looks terrible if you aren’t accurate. Press your block when you’re done. Measured diagonally, It should be in the 25-26” range.

Making the simpler block

I might have lied slightly. This block comes together faster, but it’s more finicky to cut, and I don’t have an exact measurement for you.

For this block, you’ll need:

  • 5 plain squares of background fabric, each 6¾ inches
  • Strip set A (3 foreground / 2 background), for cutting triangles

You need two types of triangles, and they need to be long enough so you can seam the triangles together to get a … you guessed it … 6¾ inch square. They have to be cut a certain way, and you need to remember to leave yourself plenty of seam allowances. The two types of triangles you need from strip set A look like this:

16 August 2015 - 12:40pm - The triangles needed for a Carpenter's Square quilt top. cnaCarpenter’s Square pattern: triangles
2 months ago ago by domesticat.

You’ll need 4 of each type of triangle, and you will seam them together, like this:

16 August 2015 - 12:40pm - The triangles form a seamed square. cnaCarpenter’s Square quilt: how the triangles fit
2 months ago ago by domesticat.

Believe it or not, this part is as hard as the pattern gets. Honest. As long as you pressed your strip sets before working with them, you can pin them and get nice, neat joins. Your eyes will be drawn to these joins, so take your time and get them right. You will make four seamed squares, and join them with five plain squares to get this piece:

16 August 2015 - 12:41pm - There are two basic blocks you need for a Carpenter's Square quilt top. This block is the simpler one. cnaCarpenter’s Square quilt: the simple block
2 months ago ago by domesticat.

Remember, when you’re sewing, the bull’s-eye part of the seamed square always points outward.

Except for the edge pieces (and I have a recommendation about that, see below) … that’s it. Those are the only two pieces. Seriously. That’s ALL.


To get the look of the old pattern, these blocks should be sewn on point – meaning, corner, not edge, points up. The original version of this pattern required you to do diagonal seams inside the blocks to get a square block that looked on point, but wasn’t. I found matching the foreground stripes at the bottom of those big blocks to be more trouble than it was worth, plus cutting weird corner pieces to make a square block seemed silly. Why not just turn the pattern 45°, split it into two major blocks, and make it easier to assemble?

I would recommend one specific design choice, though. You’ll need to fill in the edges of your quilt with half-blocks to have a quilt top with straight edges. I would strongly recommend your half-blocks be from the simpler block, not the complex block, because it splits beautifully into a triangle:

  • one seamed square,
  • 2 plain squares
  • 1 of each of the triangles sliced from strip set A
  • a half-square triangle

In comparison, making your half-block from the complex block will require you to make partial checkerboards, which seems annoying to me.

Since the blocks are roughly 25”-26” on the diagonal, a 3x3 grid, when filled in, gives you about a 75”x75” quilt if you don’t add any sashing or borders.

Seriously, you can do this.

…and I’m going to make a couple of requests of you, if you do.

First, please don’t sell this pattern. It’s over a century old. If you calculate the triangle sizes for the edge and corner pieces, let me know and I’ll update this post. This pattern is beautiful and deserves to be seen and loved and done by quilters everywhere.

Second, I want you to take a moment. Give some thought to how art and artistry work in Western society.

Somewhere out there, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in farmhouses and towns somewhere not too long after the Civil War, there were women – almost certainly, women – who made quilts based off of these patterns. The few instances of Carpenter’s Square quilts that survive from the 19th century are collector’s items. Works of art, even: and we do not know the names of their creators. We know the names of painters – mostly male – going back centuries. We know their names and their lives. These pieces of art were made by women whose names and stories we lost in just over a century.

Treat your work like the art it is, and sign your name to it. We lost the names of generations of quilters because what they did wasn’t considered “art.” Make beautiful things, and let’s ensure we don’t lose any more names.

Oct. 6th, 2015

State of the household

Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

There have been some changes. More on that soon. The current state of the household:

  • Kolohe (my 11-year-old tabby): “Eh, whatever. Can has ear rubs, humans?”
  • Frank (Noah’s 17-year-old tuxie): “New cats? Whatevs. I’ve done this before. That food looks tasty.”
  • Toph (Noah’s 2-year-old):NOPE. Not coming out of the sewing room. I’m chickenshit.”

and then there’s Beryl. Oh, Beryl.


Frank: “Dude. Whatever. I didn’t even want a tabby.You can have him.”

Beryl: “DIE TUXIE SCUM. Oh, look. There’s my tabby. Everything’s okay now that I have my tabby.”

Cue purring.


So far, Kolohe doesn’t care, Frank has vague curiosity about the whole thing but mostly wants to sleep, Toph is hiding in my fabric stash, and Beryl has claimed the land under the bed as hers, hers, and only hers, to be defended with low hisses if Frank peeks in.

All in all, for day 3, this is pretty good. They’re cats. They’ll adjust.

Sep. 19th, 2015

The year books came back to me

Originally published at domesticat.net. Please leave any comments there.

With just a couple of days left to go in the year, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home brought me to my unspoken goal of reading 50 books this year. My ability to focus on books has been virtually nil since 2010, and I remember, earlier this year, how keenly I felt the loss. I was once a person who defined herself by her bookshelf, both of books read and books yet to consume, and that part of my life had stopped cold. 

Jacob went with me in the first week I was in Portland; I frog-marched myself to the library and not only got a card before I had an Oregon license plate, and managed to sweet-talk the librarian into setting it up with the version of my name that wasn’t quite legal yet. (“If you don’t, I’ll just be back to change it in two weeks” seemed to do the trick.)

I consider the 50-book total more notable given that I didn’t start the first book until April 28, and I didn’t finish it until May 10. It’s entirely possible that after a long reading hiatus, Paul Theroux’s travelogue of China was not a good first book to start with, but that’s what I chose. Something happened by the end of May, though: while it’s true I had become a train commuter in late March, giving me 40 minutes per workday to devote to reading, it took until the end of May for the zeal for books to kick back in.

Suddenly I was reading again, and not just reading, consuming books in a way that I can’t remember having done in years. I wanted to be reading, made time to read, and in fact was often a little sad to hear my train stop announced because that meant the end of the reading time. To be fair, though, I frequently would sneak in a couple more pages each morning while waiting for my building’s slow elevator, and while waiting for it to deliver me to my company’s floor.

28 December 2014 - 10:24pm - The books I read in 2014, screenshot 1 of 3.See domesticat.net/2014/12/year-books-came-back-me for more explanation. cna2014 in books: part 1 of 3
8 months ago ago by domesticat.

  • Riding the Iron Rooster Theroux, Paul
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1) Carson, Rae 
  • Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages Deutscher, Guy
  • Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art McCloud, Scott
  • Bucko Parker, Jeff
  • Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion Botton, Alain de 
  • Necropolis: London and its Dead Arnold, Catharine
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Shaffer, Mary Ann
  • A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance Juska, Jane
  • Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood Vincent, Leah 
  • Ready Player One Cline, Ernest 
  • The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1) Simsion, Graeme
  • The Minbar of Saladin: Reconstructing a Jewel of Islamic Art Singer, Lynette
  • Family Man Volume I Meconis, Dylan
  • Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran Hakakian, Roya
  • Chew: The Omnivore Edition, Vol. 1 Layman, John
  • Small Favor (The Dresden Files, #10) Butcher, Jim 
  • Astro City, Vol. 2: Confession Busiek, Kurt

28 December 2014 - 10:25pm - The books I read in 2014, a screenshot of the middle section.See domesticat.net/2014/12/year-books-came-back-me for more explanation. cna2014 in books: part 2
8 months ago ago by domesticat.


  • Turn Coat (The Dresden Files, #11) Butcher, Jim 
  • Run, Swim, Throw, Cheat: The Science Behind Drugs in Sport Cooper, Chris
  • Stardust Gaiman, Neil 
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist Hamid, Mohsin
  • Changes (The Dresden Files, #12) Butcher, Jim 
  • Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13) Butcher, Jim 
  • Cold Days (The Dresden Files, #14) Butcher, Jim 
  • Winter in Madrid Sansom, C.J.
  • Knitted Lace of Estonia Bush, Nancy
  • The Beauty of Fractals: Images of Complex Dynamical Systems Peitgen, Heinz-Otto
  • Temari: How to Make Japanese Thread Balls Vandervoort, Diana
  • The Years of Rice and Salt Robinson, Kim Stanley
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1) Ness, Patrick
  • Real Man Adventures Cooper, T 
  • Without Reservation: How a Controversial Indian Tribe Rose to Power and Built the World’s Largest Casino Benedict, Jeff
  • Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance Angwin, Julia
  • The Crown of Embers Carson, Rae 
  • The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, #3) Carson, Rae 

28 December 2014 - 10:26pm - Screenshot of the last 14 books I read in 2014.See domesticat.net/2014/12/year-books-came-back-me for more explanation. cna2014 in books: part 3
8 months ago ago by domesticat.


  • Envisioning Information Tufte, Edward R.
  • Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15) Butcher, Jim 
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane Gaiman, Neil 
  • The Book of Fine Linen Bonneville, Francoise de
  • The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files, #1) Stross, Charles 
  • Sex from Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules Mirk, Sarah 
  • Geek Love Dunn, Katherine
  • Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) Meyer, Marissa 
  • Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2) Meyer, Marissa 
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley (Ripley, #1) Highsmith, Patricia
  • Stories of Your Life and Others Chiang, Ted
  • The Miniaturist Burton, Jessie
  • The Martian Weir, Andy 
  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Bechdel, Alison
  • All The Light We Cannot See Doerr, Anthony

I’m grading myself a bit harshly. I had a goal of finally getting caught up on Jim Butcher’s Dresden novels, but I wasn’t sure where I’d left off, years ago. I opted to start rereading several books before Small Favor, which was the first new-to-me book in the series, so I started closer to book 6. 

Overall, though, I’m pleased. Noah’s a longtime fan of graphic novels, so he’s recommended several graphic novels to me that I’ve enjoyed this year. That’s a genre I’ve felt ignorant of for a long time. The same’s true for the recent rebirth of YA (young adult) literature; my ex-coworkers the teen librarians have provided an excellent reading list I’m still working through. I’ve also spread my reading time through craft books, non-fiction, and general fiction. Thanks to Noah, I’m starting to pick up some books about gender and sexuality. I worry sometimes that my love of science fiction will keep me from reading broadly, but reading through this list I can see that isn’t the case.

In 2014, I also acknowledged a silly (in)action I’ve taken, and will continue to take: I am holding off reading the rest of Iain Banks’ Culture novels, and not because I don’t like them. I love that series, and I was so angry and sad when Banks died in the prime of his writing life. I have the final three books in the series left to read: Matter, Surface Detail, and The Hydrogen Sonata. Once I read them there will be no more to come, and I have the rest of my life to get used to the idea of living in a world with no more Culture novels to read, so why should I hurry?

Maybe I’ll change my mind in 2015. Maybe I’ll decide to devour them in three smacking gulps. More likely, though, that I read Matter, and save the final two for other years.

What matters, though: I’m reading again at last.

My to-read list currently stands at 107. Let’s go.

Update, December 31: Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See finished up last night, so unexpectedly I hit 51! I’ve updated the list and the accompanying image.

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