Category Archives: Books

Stabbing Things with Needles – Twisted Stitches

Raiding the Stash

I have been putting a lot of emphasis on my Youtube channel and Let’s Play series this week, but fear not I have been working on some crafty things in the background. My artistic projects take a little more time to complete well, so these posts will probably be once a week or so.

Continuing with this month’s theme of stabbing things with needles, I came across my old embroidery hoops while cleaning my room. I have been on a mission to use up some of the crafting supplies I already own, so I decided to pull out my embroidery thread and see exactly how rusty I have become.

I love embroidery for the fact that with a few basic tricks and stitches you can make some pretty stunning compositions. Whether it is a pattern or more illustrative the entire picture is made up of a series of chain or cross stitches.

Wretched Resources

Gone are the days of your Gran’s “Home Sweet Home” framed cross stitches and heirloom embroidered table cloths. This should go without saying, but if you can draw or download a simple image from the internet you can turn pretty much anything into needlework.

Cross stitch makes this particularly easy because as long as you can line up an image to grid paper you can translate it into a sewing pattern. Same goes for embroidery, for which I play fast and loose and do much of my work free hand. I guess I am just a rebel like that…

For everything else there are literally endless resources for patterns on the internet or in books. Take for example my favourite: Twisted Stitches: 30 Corrupt Cross Stitch and Embroidery Designs.twisted-stitches As the title might suggest, this book does not contain any traditional cross stitch designs. Unless you think traditional cross stitch would have been better served with bunny roadkill imagery, in which case I would wholeheartedly agree.

This book is a nice combination of cross stitch pattern, sewing pattern and how-to book. It’s pretty much a one stop shop for completing 30 projects from start to finish. That way you don’t end up like me as a kid with a million useless patches of fabric that aren’t actually sewed into anything, but damn don’t they just look pretty. I still sometimes refer to this book when I need a refresher on certain types of finishes or stitches.

I got my copy on Amazon.ca but my friends in the states can also find it on Amazon.com. If graphic is not your thing Subversive Cross Stitch is another go-to of mine when I’m feeling particularly sassy.

What are your favourite unconventional stitching resources?

What I’ve Been Messing With

Over this past holiday Monday my friends and I had ourselves a good ol’ fashioned stitch-and-bitch party. Each of of brought our respective projects and sat around drinking ungodly amounts of caffeine and sugar.

As mentioned in the beginning, I decided to give embroidery another go. Lacking any patterns (I had not been able to dig out my copy of Twisted Stitches before I left the house) I did everything entirely freehand, which explains the horrid lettering in my first attempt. Oh well, at least the ventricles in my anatomical heart look pretty.

 

My second attempt yielded much more attractive results. They aren’t creepy exactly, but they are darn cute, and it also falls under the category of geeky. If it is not obvious I have Unravel on the brain. Unravel is a new platforming game out just this past week for xbox one and ps4. The main character being made of yarn lends itself well to being embroidered.

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It’s nowhere near finished yet, I am currently working on adding a background to match the style of the game. I aim to have it finished before the end of my Let’s Play. There may even be a speed-embroidery video in the coming weeks…

Starchip13

Stabbing Things with Needles

 

Sometimes all a girl needs is a barbed needle and a video camera.

Welcome to Twisted Tales Studio’s first project video of the year! As promised I have been working on a needle felting project. It is a little belated due to some technical issues, but it is finally DONE.

Not gonna lie, at one point in this video I stab myself full force with the needle, and it was about as pleasant as one would expect. It’s not a successful craft project until you screw up and draw blood, now is it?

Up next I was thinking of maybe doing one of the skeleton and muscle diagrams as a project. Thoughts?

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Stabbing Things with Barbed Needles

…Otherwise known as needle felting.

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For those not familiar with the craft, it is the art of stabbing various coloured wool with a barbed needle for hours on end. It is actually quite therapeutic after a bad day. Right up until the point when you stab yourself in the hand hard enough to draw blood. That may or may not have happened once in the making of this project already, but a teacher of mine once told me a project is not real until you bleed on it. That’s the rule.

I got into needle felting while in college when one of my textiles classmates literally blew my mind with a super adorable needle felt dragon in a tiny bird’s nest. I ended up making a ton of fun things a few years ago, including an shenani-goat for my D&D group (yes I do that too). Since then though I have seriously let it fall by the wayside and all of my rather expensive needle felting wool has been living in a tote under my bed.  IMG_0368

For my first video of the year has been seriously belated thus far and I was hoping to finish filming today, but a combination of my camera battery dying and losing the good natural light in my house has put it on hold for the night. I shall continue tomorrow with daylight and fresh batteries.

I hope to have this video up sometime early this week. Until then, here are some selfies with a white felted worm-looking-thing.

Starchip13

Comic Book Review: Porcelain, A Gothic Fairy Tale

Comic Book Review: Porcelain – A Gothic Fairy Tale

Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale
Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale

To take a break from the long winded series I have been reading lately, I had a friend recommend me something new. Sometimes you just need a solid stand-alone graphic novel in your life. My friends must know my taste very well because Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale suits me well.

Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale is a single volume graphic novel by Benjamin Read and Chis Wildgoose; published by Improper Books.

This is the story of a young urchin girl who climbs sneaks onto the property of the Porcelain Maker; a “wizard” who can bring porcelain figures to life. When she ends up living with the reclusive wizard all seems too good to be true at first. She later learns the secrets behind how these beautiful porcelain creatures are brought to life are darker than she could ever have imagined.

For those out there who enjoy classic fairy tales, not the Disney versions but the real Brother’s Grimm style stories of harsh life lessons, then this book comes highly recommended. This is not a happy ended sort of fairy tale. The third act gets seriously grim, no pun intended. I will try to keep this review spoiler free, so if you want to find out exact what I am talking about then you are just going to have to read it for yourself.

I also just have to give two thumbs up for the art style. There is a high level of detail and attention paid to the backgrounds. When a book claims to be a “Gothic” fairy tale I expect some Gothic style art, and in that aspect this book is spot on. The designs of the porcelain figures are wonderful. It makes me tempted to see if I could cast some miniature versions of my own.

Do I recommend this book? Most definitely. Go read it. Now.

Up next on Comic Book Reviews: Colder by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra.

Cheers,

Starchip13

Comic Book Review: Morning Glories

Comic Book Review: Morning Glories

Morning Glories Cover
Morning Glories Cover

This week’s Comic Book Review is Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma, and published by Image Comics.

This comic series wins the award for most misleading cover art ever. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the clean white background and illustrations of students in prep school uniforms. This is not a high school drama series … unless your high school drama’s happen to involve being held against your will in said school and seemingly senseless murder.

When I decided to purchase this series I asked a number of my friends what this series was actually about, but none of them could give me an accurate summary of the premise.

“You just have to read it for yourself,” was the constant frustrating answer I would always get from anyone who read the series. Even though nobody could give me an accurate description of the premise everyone who has read the books seemed to be hooked, so I thought why not give it a try.

Thus far, I have made it through the first two volumes of the series, and I have to say that it was actually an accurate description. I honestly still cannot accurately describe what is happening in the series so far. It guards its secrets well.

Here is what I have gleaned from Morning Glories so Far:

This series follows six students of Morning Glories academy: Casey, Zoe, Hunter, Ike, Jun, and Jade. They are all exceptional and troubled students who share a common birthday. They all receive invitations to attend the prestigious school and soon discover that they will never be allowed to leave.

The school has many secrets which include but are not limited to: ghosts, human experimentation, murdered students, murdered parents, kidnapping, arson, time travel, etc.

In the first couple of books the number of elements introduced is a mixed bag, and can be hard to follow at times. Some of the main characters’ motives are also questionable at best, and at worst I found myself wishing them harm (I’m looking at you Ike).

Despite – or maybe because – of these things I find myself wanting to read more and find out what the heck is going on. Why are these students important? What is the school’s end game? Does the mystery of the school have a scientific explanation or is it purely supernatural? Both volumes I have read so far leave a lot of cliff hangers and unanswered questions. Two books in I could not even begin to predict how Morning Glories will end.

As frustrating as this answer is to hear, this is a series that is difficult to summarize without giving major spoilers. You really do have to read the books for yourself to decide whether or not this is your cup of tea. The only thing I can say about recommending Morning Glories is that if you like supernatural, horror or thriller series you will probably like this graphic novel. There is some gore and other mature themes, so if that bothers you then I would avoid this series.

What I can say about this series is that is is crazy suspenseful, and the art style is fantastic. I guess if I had to make a recommendation I would say that if you got hooked by Lost (before it sucked) then this series will also catch your interest,

Thank you for reading. My next book review will be Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose.

Cheers,

Starchip13

Comic Book Review: Hack/Slash

Comic Book Review: Hack/Slash

In keeping with my theme of curious, cute and creepy things I bring another (comic) book review. This week I have been binge reading a comic series called Hack/Slash, published through Image Comics. This is a (literal) slasher comic series that all lovers of old school slasher flicks will enjoy.

Hack/slash omnibus cover
Hack/slash omnibus cover

So far I have worked my way through the first two omnibus volumes, and I am pretty much hooked. I am a big fan of old school slasher flicks and creature features like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Alien, etc. If you like those types of movies then you will probably like Hack/Slash.

The basic breakdown of this plot is this: Cassie Hack and her sidekick Vlad are Slasher Hunters. Slashers are evil murderous creatures born when a murder dies and decides he isn’t quite done killing just yet. Slashers come back from the graves as twisted versions of their former selves. To make matters worse they usually come back with some sort of supernatural power, which explains many of the classic baddies returning for a never ending strng of sequels. It is Cassie and Vlad’s jobs to kill them … and make sure they stay dead. There are of course back stories and such, but I don’t want to give too much away.

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This series definitely follows the old horror tropes right down to the tad-too-frequent nudity. Ya, even excluding the gore, this is not a safe for work read folks. Main squeeze, Cassie Hack, ends up with her clothes torn off in every issue more or less, and if it is not Cassie it is one of the victims-to-be. Blatant male pandering aside, Hack/Slash does not take itself too seriously, and there are some genuinely funny moments. This is particularly enjoyable for those of us who enjoy a little gallows humor every once in a while. The more lighthearted moments are an excellent tool for balancing out the … well … hacking and slashing.

The main characters of Hack/Slash are solid. Cassie has her moments when you wonder why the heck she keeps walking into obvious traps (and her choice in clothing), but as a whole she is capable of defending herself. When Cassie drops the ball there is always her partner Vlad, who is an obvious nod to big-baddies like Jason and Leatherface. This book makes me genuinely think these two characters are friends that would put their lives on the line for each other.

A nice little bonus of this series are the celebrity cameos that pop up from time to time. Again, I do not want to give too much away, but a certain possessed Good Guy doll may or may not be a featured slasher in this series. Read and find out!

If anyone is looking for good Halloween Season reading I would take a look at this series. Both hilariously self-aware and gut wrenchingly gruesome, I highly recommend these to horror fans.

I will be doing more Halloween reading in the next few weeks! Next up will be Fables and Morning Glories … in no particular order.

Guillermo Del Toro – The Strain

Since I have already established myself as a Del Toro fan I thought I would take a moment to talk about The Strain.

In anticipation of the TV show release I used by credit on Audible to get an audio book version of this novel. The biggest selling point for me on listening to it versus reading it (aside from needed to kill time in my morning commute) was definitely the fact that Ron Perlman is the narrator. If you are a fan of Perlman’s voice acting work then you will probably enjoy listening to this book. I will try to keep spoilers to a minimum while I talk about this book and the first episode of the TV show.

The Strain novel Cover
The Strain novel Cover

I actively avoided spoilers for this book so I could go in as blind as possible and I have to say it wasn’t entirely what I expected. Yes, it has vampiric monsters, but the title to me makes me think of something purely biological. Turns out there are some supernatural elements to these monsters in the form of some kind of psychic hive-mind link. It doesn’t take much away from the monsters though. It is still a unique concept on vampire lore. More importantly, these big-bads are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Twilight vampires. Finally, a book where the vampires sit firmly on the “villain” side of the morality line! Even the fence sitter monsters in this book aren’t really sympathetic.

The majority of this book follows the events surrounding Doctor Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather of the CDC as he is sent to investigate a commercial flight full of victims seemingly all killed of the same disease simultaneously.

There are of course a variety of other characters to round out the cast, including holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian and expert exterminator Vasily Fet.

As the epidemic spreads across New York Eph and his team must figure out the true origins of the vampire virus and scramble to save as many lives as possible.

The Strain Promotional Poster
The Strain Promotional Poster

As for the TV show The Strain, I am proud to say that the home base for this show is on my home turf, Toronto. As of this post two episodes have aired, and I have seen only the pilot. The first episode follows the beginning of the book quite closely. As I expected some character driven plot points have been rearranged a bit to reduce the heavy character-hopping in the book. This is handled quite well, and nothing important to the plot is lost in translation.

The cast of this show is strong. Staring in this horror TV series is Corey Stoll (the villain from Antman) as Eph, and David Bradley (Filch from Harry Potter) as Abraham. From episode one it is clear that Bradley is perfectly cast for the role of Abraham. I totally buy that he is a bad-ass old time vampire hunter from his first interaction on screen.  Likewise, Stoll is almost exactly what I pictured for the character of Eph.

The effects in the TV show so far appear to be done mostly practically, and enhanced in post with some VFX, which is a big thumbs up in my books. Being a special effects student in Toronto, I started hearing a lot about the studio and the preparations being made before shooting began. I was very excited to see what the team had come out with, and it didn’t disappoint. The design, although only briefly glimpsed in the pilot, look ghoulish and creepy. If you enjoyed the effects in Del Toro’s previous projects such as Mama, then you will like this vampire design.

Overall the pilot looks solid and I am intrigued enough to watch more episodes of the TV show. I will also be looking into buying the next two audio books in the series as the first book leaves off on a cliffhanger. If you enjoy monster flicks, then you will probably enjoy this show. The monster designs are solid and there looks to be enough gore to keep horror fans entertained.

For more information check out The Strain IMDB.

Discussion time! What are your favourite modern vampire stories? Books or movies are both fine!

Cheers,

Starchip13

Book Review: The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation

After a long grueling week I have managed to work my way through the second book that I ordered a few weeks ago: The Advanced Art of Stop Motion Animation by Ken A Priebe.

The Advanced Art of Stop Motion Animation
The Advanced Art of Stop Motion Animation

I’ve always had a soft spot for stop motion movies, and as part of my classes at school we got a mini lesson on the basics of stop-motion puppet building. On my long list of things that I eventually want to build is my own stop-motion puppet, but I like to do my research first before I dive into a project. I had an inkling that making these puppets is a time consuming process, and as it turns out I was correct. There are a lot of steps between designing the character to painting the finished product. I wanted a book that outlined all my steps and all my different options for puppet building, and in this book my money was well spent.

The Advanced Book of Stop Motion Animation has a long comprehensive chapter on the building of stop-motion puppets from design, to armature, to finishing. It also outlines the use of different building materials for different applications. Some stop-motion puppets are sculpted and cast in silicone or latex, while some are clay and latex buildup. Depending on the complexity of the puppet any number of materials can be used.

There is no one way alone to build the armature inside the puppet, and a couple methods are simple enough that a person on their own time could build it without the steep cost of machined parts. On the advanced end of the spectrum this book also goes over the minute details involved in making expressions with head armatures. The latter is probably a little beyond my skill level at this point, but one must always have long-term goals.

Also casting, casting, and more casting. Stop motion puppets often need to be repaired or replaced so casting the puppet is probably a good idea. If anyone is planning on making one of these puppets read this part of the book carefully. Casting an molding provides multiple opportunities for screw-ups, so don’t skim this part. I know this from personal experience.

The part of the book that admittedly goes a little over my head is the actual animation of the puppet. I have only a little knowledge on cinematography and the art of using a camera, but I did find this section easy to follow. Having visual examples of what all the settings on the camera do is definitely helpful. This section covers everything from camera settings to visual effects and compositing.

Of course, this book goes through the process of actually animating using a stop motion puppet. This part is actually more time consuming than making the puppet itself. A stop motion movie is comprised completely of a series of still images. A standard high resolution contains 24 frames per second, so its not hard to imagine how much time it takes to create even a minute of footage. There is a reason these movies take years to complete. This book gives all sorts of tips and tricks for realistic movement and efficient work. This is the only part of the process I have little to no experience with, so this book is likely going to end up being an invaluable resource.

If it is not clear by my overview of this book’s contents I clearly have the mind of a builder and not an animator. I spent a lot more time going over every detail of sculpting and casting, but someone who prefers the animation side of this art would also get a lot out of this book. Even a builder should know what types of movements will be required of the stop-motion puppet to get a better end result. This book makes for an excellent start-to-finish how-to manual. As a person who does tend toward building I think I will search for something more specialized in my next book order. Does anyone have suggestions on stop-motion building books? I would love to hear them!

I think next up will be a comic book. Perhaps Fables or Sandman? Also coming up soon are some more illustrations and some technical drawings I have been working on for a new side-project I have in the works. Things were a little tight this week between school and my internship, but I will get back to the making portion of my blog I swear!

Cheers,

Starchip13

Book Review: Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities

Welcome to Twisted Tales Studio’s book review of Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebook, Collections and other Obsessions.

Guillermo Del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities
Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities

To the shock of nobody, I have a rather large collection of books about my favourite directors, odd crafts and building techniques sitting on my shelf at home. I thought it might be fun to start including some reviews and recommendations on books and comics that fall in line with the theme of my blog. Where better to start than the book from the director of some of my favourite movies?

Unless you haven’t seen a movie in the past few decades, you have probably heard of Guillermo Del Toro. Some of his more well-known works include Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), and The Strain (2014). These are only a few examples, and each of them has Del Toro’s signature style. Much like Tim Burton, Del Toro films tend to have a look that is immediately recognizable.

Immediately when shopping for this book the title caught my attention. Completely by coincidence my blog has a title with a very similar flavor to Del Toro’s book, so of course I needed to order it on the spot. It is amazing how unconsciously we are drawn to other artists with similar sensibilities, even if we do not think about the reason why.

Moving onto the meat of the book, this one is more of a director’s notebook than an art book, so expect more text and interviews and less full spreads of pictures. Through a series of essays and interviews, this book is a comprehensive explanation of Del Toro’s inspiration and techniques he uses to create atmosphere in his films. There are tons of interviews that talk about the creative process behind the production of Del Toro’s movies, and the experiences in his life that influence his creative decisions.  If you are like me and you watch every single extra included on a DVD or Blueray disk, then you will enjoy this book.

Sample Page
Sample Page

As far as the visuals go, this book contains a lot of scans of his notebooks, and some concept art made for the movies are also included. The concepts drawn by Del Toro reflect the visual style that comes out in his movies. Every design element of each film is meticulously planned out, and there is tones of well hidden symbolism if you know where to look. As the reader, you get to see how a few pen and ink sketches scrawled with and endless sea of notes ends up as the final product in a film.

There are also some gorgeous photos of Del Toro’s house and work space. It is filled top to bottom with items collected from around the world, and of course memorabilia from his film sets. Seriously everyone, if I had the funds my home would also look like this. I am a firm believer in artists surrounding themselves in an environment that encourages their creativity.

For fans who love books about movies this is a good one to have in your collection, and it is certainly a must-have for all fans of Del Toro movies.Its easy to pick up and flip through for all the pretty pictures, but I honestly encourage everyone to sit down and actually read the articles. Its not a difficult read, and its an insightful look into film making and the creative process.

The book is bulky, and the price point is high, but this is to be expected with a full colour hard cover, so you really do get what you pay for. I was able to get an excellent deal when I ordered it off amazon and combined the shipping with other books, so I regret nothing about this purchase.

Now if you will excuse me I suddenly feel like digging up my Guillermo Del Toro movie collection and binge watching all of them.

Next up for consideration: The Advanced Art of Stop Motion Animation by Ken A. Priebe.

Among other things, I am in the planning process for making a stop motion puppet, and I like to hoard reference material for things I’ve never made before. Its pretty heavy reading, so hopefully I can get through enough for a proper review soon.

Cheers,

Starchip13