Sep 11, 2015

something that is not books

I am having fun getting back into an old favorite passtime: jigsaw puzzles. My four-year-old is pretty good with puzzles and becoming bored with the twenty or fifty-piece ones she can do alone and even our small collection of 100-piece puzzles she still needs help with. She wants to do "the BIG puzzles" with me. I have a small collection, some of them I've had since I was a kid myself.

I'm culling some out now and hoping to eventually acquire new ones. I want to keep puzzles I'll enjoy doing again and again (similar to how I keep books I want to re-read) and I've come to realize I am particular about my puzzles, what kind of challenge I like, and what makes them enjoyable or frustrating. I like a certain piece size and number- less than 500 and it's not challenging enough, more than 1500 and it starts to feel tedious. I don't like puzzles with uniform cuts (all pieces having two 'bumps' and two 'holes' and they go in straight rows like a grid) but ones that have unique, funny shapes that you can eyeball and try to match from the jumble on the table.

I'm also particular about the kind of picture- I want something that is striking or pretty to look at when it's done and something that has a variety of visual textures and colors which makes it fun to put together. So even though I love M.C. Escher's work, I found the puzzle of his House of Stairs incredible frustrating to assemble and I don't think I'll ever work that one again! I also don't like them so tiny and minute in detail it's like a find-the-hidden-object game. The one exception so far is a 1500 piece jigsaw I have of the painting Proverbidioms by T. E. Breitenbach. My great-aunt had a print of this on her wall and I remember as a kid always staring at it, trying to figure out what sayings all the images represented. I was delighted to find it as a puzzle. My ten-year-old enjoyed helping me put this one together a few years ago, and we tried again to identify all the sayings (and failed). It took us a long time, too.

So. I'm thinking of maybe joining a puzzle swap site, if I don't just donated my unwanted puzzles. I have a number of puzzles on my shelf that are now in the "iffy" category- not sure if I want to keep them or not. I decided to work them each again, to make a decision. It's also a fun activity my youngest enjoys doing together. I've done them all before, so to make it a bit more challenging I deterred from my normal strategy, which usually is: make the boarder, then sift out pieces that have the greatest constrast, or the most interest (faces in particular) and work out from there going from specifics to general. Thus the background usually gets done last. This time I decided to do it backwards. I still made the boarder first, but then deliberately worked the background, going general to specific. It was still fun, and made putting this puzzle together take about a week (done in many short sittings) rather than just a few days.

I also had fun taking photos of the assembly stages (click on the first image to see larger and use arrows to skip through them):
There's a little family story behind this puzzle. I used to get puzzles at garage sales and thrift shops (never again- too often they have missing pieces). This one had five missing pieces and my older daughter (four or five at the time) was sooo disappointed. She loved the cute kittens. So I made substitute pieces out of cardboard covered with a layer of white paper, colored with colored pencils and sealed with clear packing tape, burnished with the back of a spoon. I will probably never do that again- these are rather large pieces and it was still very hard to cut the tiny shapes right. But they do fit in the puzzle, even after re-working it a few times over the years. Can you spot them?

I've hung this puzzle up on my four-year-old's wall, just like I once did with her older sister. She was delighted. We'll be starting another BIG puzzle soon. I might keep sharing pics- it's fun to do and I thought you might be interested in occasionally seeing something other than books here.


Cath said...

What a pretty puzzle! I'm a big fan too and always have one on the go. Just finished a 1500 piece one of a Victorian style vase of flowers. It's *so* pretty. I'll put a pic up on my blog in a few days.

bermudaonion said...

I love jigsaw puzzles! My mom, my sister, and I do them whenever we get together.

Jeane said...

I kind of went on and on about it, didn't I? But I'm really enjoying puzzles again!

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

A puzzle swap site sounds great! And I love your strategy for doing puzzles from the outside in -- the stages pictures are adorable.

Ravensburger (I think) does a series of puzzles that are "Doors around the World" and "Windows around the World" -- something like that? And they're really good puzzles. They're 1000 pieces, which is a good number for me, and it's a lot of fun to put them together.

Jeane said...

I knew some of my fellow book bloggers were likely to be puzzlers too! Yes, I like Ravensburger and Springbok the best so far. I know there's some puzzle swap sites out there, but the rules seem a bit more complicated than for book trading, so I'm not sure yet if I'll join in on that.

james b chester said...

I love the series of pictures. It's fun to see it come together, and, I admit, fun to see someone else figure it all out. ;-)

Literary Feline said...

We enjoy doing puzzles too. :-) It's hard to do the bigger ones that take many sessions to complete because of the cats--they can't help but jump on every surface possible though. We need to be more creative in our methods, I guess.

My dad was a big jigsaw puzzle lover and always had one going. The more complicated, the better. He used to mount some of them and my mom's house is full of mounted puzzles. I inherited a couple when I moved out.

Jeane said...

My cat is constantly jumping on the puzzle table. So far he hasn't knocked anything off- he does like to deliberately knock items off counters when he's not getting attention, but so far he hasn't done this with puzzle pieces. Maybe they look too small to him, not worth the bother.

Literary Feline said...

I think my older cat would be fine. He'd just sit on them. My younger cat though . . . She plays with everything and anything. Nothing small is safe when she's around.