Booked Solid

I seem to have completely forgotten to blog about a rather big project Paul and I finished a while ago – the Japan photo album:


Back in January I decided getting through the backlog of albums was a challenge for this year. This album was the one on which we worked out how we were going to make them. I’d been thinking of Japanese stab stitch binding, but in the end the price of getting pages printed was higher than having an album made and eliminates the time and work in binding them.

It took us weeks and quite a bit of frustration to get this album done, and I have a few busy months ahead, so we’ve not started tacking another album yet. But hopefully we’ll get stuck into choosing and tweaking photos for the Europe one soon.


When the week ahead involves four days over 40 degrees C there’s no point making firm plans about anything. Staying as cool as possible was the priority. Being self employed means I can declare the days a ‘holiday’, though it does make for a pretty unpleasant sort of holiday.

It meant abandoning the upstairs and setting up downstairs. We slept in the guest room and I spent my days crafting, or attempting to, at the dining table under the aircon. I planned to tackle the refashion pile, and even wrote a long post about all the projects on it. But as good as aircon is it’s not good enough for trying on heavier clothing, and after three warm nights not quite cool enough for good sleep, in a less comfortable bed, my brain wasn’t awake enough for challenging refashions.

Pfft to plans, anyway.

On Wednesday I finally got to a Handweavers and Spinners Guild summer school workshop. Since I’ve broken my feet (have I mentioned that I have a pair of strained fascias from all the walking I’ve been doing in order to combat osteoporosis?) I’m not supposed to walk much and pressing the foot pedals in the Mini for long is painful, so Paul drove me there and picked me up later. Thankfully the guild is air-conditioned now. It was a Miniature Tapestry workshop and a great way to make another unbearably hot day pass faster. I’ll write a separate post about it later.

While I was there I succumbed to temptation and picked up one of the guild’s mystery challenge boxes. You grab a little chinese food box full of stuff and have to use at least 50% of it to make something. From the moment I started looking through mine I knew I wanted to make a figurine, and in the evening began sketching ideas.

And I spent half of Thursday staring at the contents in a state of dazed sleep-deprivation, the other half picking up and putting down refashioning projects. I did attempt to felt a figurine body, but that was a complete disaster. At least getting my hands wet did help to cool me down. All I made that day was a very simple leather bracelet.

Friday I was more awake and managed to finish a couple of crafty projects before tackling the mystery box again. This time I managed to make something – mostly by deciding I’d work out how to make a body later and concentrate on the clothes for now.

So I did craft during the heatpocalypse. In a bit of a stupor, and half of it on a completely new project, but at least the days weren’t completely wasted.

The Photo Album Project

This trip to Japan we did over Christmas was 100% holiday, which is, I suspect, why we launched into sorting photos as soon as we got home while photos from the half-work-half-holiday trips to Europe have languished in forgotten directories of the computer. And it’s probably that we were in Japan for eight days, not several weeks. Not long enough to be a little bit sick of the subject.

Another reason we have a bit of a backlog of trip albums is because the last few none were straightforward.

New Zealand 2012
It was a short trip and while we took some photos that would be nice to have printed, there’s really not enough for a full album.

European Tour 2011
I’ve not been able to decide whether to combine or separate the photos from book events and holiday snaps. Also, since we snatched a few days for looking around wherever the tour took us, it’s mostly big batches of photos in cities dotted around Europe, with lots of photos of things in museums and galleries that I took mostly as reference shots.

Mini Tour 2013
Ditto – except this time we spent ten days driving around the south of England so the non-work pics are mostly of that time.

Getting all these albums sorted was going to be a big project, so I’ve broken it down into smaller tasks, starting with a small one: the New Zealand photos. I decided to simply add some pages to the end of the album I did for our 2008 trip.

Which works except for that big “08″ on the cover. Maybe I’ll make a new cover.

I love that this album can be added to so easily – which gave me an idea that could sort out our album situation not just now, but in the future.

Why not have one album for each region or country rather than each trip, and then keep adding to them? I’m bound to do more of these work trips to Europe for work and I’ll just insert more pages in the album each time. We considered the Japan trip a ‘taster’ and intend to go back in a few years so we can add more photos to that one when we do. This also gives me a reason to print all the nice photos from the short holidays and day trips we’ve done locally: they can go in an ‘Australia’ album.

However, what I don’t like about the New Zealand album is that on the pages that contain several small photos I have to mix and match pics. Large pages cost more to print so if I have one photo that won’t fit or doesn’t match the rest I leave it out, even if it’s a good one. One photo per page makes the selection easier as nothing needs to match. Like in these albums I made for our Canada trip:

Which are great for when you’re showing people the photos, as four separate albums means four people can be looking at the same time.

To keep them together, the Canada albums live in a box. The New Zealand album has one, too, which gives me somewhere to put the bits and pieces I collect – brochures, tickets, etc. That led to me hitting on an even better solution: a box per country or region.

Now I have the best of both systems. I’m going to make A5 albums with one photo per page (two fit snugly side by side in the box) that I can keep adding to, and keep everything to do with trips to that country or region in one box, including my trip diary.

I got the pages printed for the New Zealand trip and added them to the album before I thought of this idea, so that album will stay in the large format. The rest will be smaller. I’m going to tackle the Japan album next as the pic selection is nearly done. I have a Photoshop template ready, I just need to figure out what to make the cover out of. Something flexible that doesn’t need glueing, as book cloth is a faff to work with and anything glued needs to spend ages being pressed while drying.

2014 House & Garden

What does the future hold for Chocolatetrudi Mansion?

Replace Carpets
They were visibly worn when Paul first moved in over ten years ago and now there are strips of missing pile and stains that won’t budge, as well as who-knows-what growing under the bits that were affected by various floods/leaks. I wonder if there’s anything cat proof out there…

Paint Exterior
Well, maybe not all of it. The rust on the old part of the verandah needs dealing with, and all the paler areas changed to the one colour.

We’re still considering getting it concreted as the lilydale topping creates a lot of dust. It would be easier for Paul to move his cars about and onto the trailer with a smooth surface, and it would reduce the weeds considerably. But if we do it, I want to use an eco product.

Doors & Locks
A nicer security door would be great, with a lock we don’t struggle with. And a new lock system on the kitchen door that doesn’t occasionally lock you out would be nice, too.

Guest Room Bed
I want the coasters on our current bed replaced with taller legs so I can put under-bed storage beneath it. Either that or buy a base with storage.

So lots of major work to the house in there. I’m analysing what can be put off and for how long. The driveway is the most put-off-able as nothing is deteriorating because of it. The paint could wait as the rust is only surface rust at the moment, but it and the mismatched light paint colours do look ugly. The carpet isn’t going to affect the integrity of the house construction and replacing it will involve moving more stuff than I want to think about, but it’s getting to the point where rugs just aren’t hiding its condition any more.

I have a big deadline in September and there’s weather to consider with at least two of these house fixes. That means they’ll have to happen in the next few months or in the last quarter of the year.

2014 Art & Craft

So, looking ahead, what do I see in my arty-crafty-diy future?

More portraits
It took only a few hours to finish Cat’s portrait – close enough to say I did two portraits in 2013. Just two, however. I’d like to increase that and I think the key is to work on two at once. I’ve got to get around to pinning subjects down so I can take reference photos.

Photo albums
I really need to get on top of these. I have trips back as far as 2011 that I haven’t made albums for. I’d like to set up an easy way to do it and start making a regular yearly ‘everything else’ album.

Refashioning & Sewing
It’s currently my biggest to-do list. I want to make use of my new-ish customised dress model, too.

I’m doing a mini tapestry weaving course in a few weeks and I’ve arranged to fly up to Canberra at the end of the month to teach a friend how to use a 2nd hand 4-shaft loom she bought last year. And now that the ruanna is off the loom it’s free for a new project.

Papercraft & Printing
My new Silhouette cutter is calling, as is the stamp making kit that I bought for it.

I’ve had a metal clay kit for over a year now. Well past time I tried it!

Machine Knitting
The Bond and Passap have been neglected for some time, and not for lack of yarn. I don’t want to forget how to use them!

So I’ve already lined up two new crafts to try (tapestry weaving and metal clay) and a big project (photo albums). There’s plenty of sewing to do and urge to not let established crafts languish. So business as usual, really!


Last year was one of flood and drought, when it came to creating and craft. Mostly that was because I also had intensive periods of work and travel that left little time for crafting, then relaxed stretches where I could dedicate weekends and evenings to creativity.

The year started with Bagapalooza, a big bag review and refashion project.

I also made a whole lot of plans to sort out my photo collection… and that’s as far as that went.

The AKL got a bit of action, as I wove up a few things out of oddments of yarn:

And snuck in a little forbidden knitting with rocket needles and velvet fabric cut into a long strip:

And whipped up some jewellery:

Time to dust off the Bond Sweater Machine:

After picking up a free old Bond machine I made The Mega Bond:

More Bonding:

Until I had to clear the table for some sewing:

I made map coasters:

And tried out a few more methods in the inkle book:

And tried some embroidery:

And started the Fast Diet.

The beginning of a new obsession, perhaps:

I made an envelope clutch for a themed party:

I dabbled in cross-stitch:

But for most of July I was in the crafty doldrums.

Got my act together. Started tackling the problem of the back of the house falling off. Solution: better engineered verandah. Bonus shade panels and new balustrade. (Completed in November.)
I finished a portrait:

And decided to tackle six to-do list categories over six weekends, and some projects I could do while watching tv.
I started with jewellery:

Moved on to tackle accessories and clothing refasions:

Plus dyeing:

Some simple quilting:

I made a bag out of a painting and another out of an upholstery sample:

I tried solar dyeing, and made gifts to take overseas:

I finished weaving a scarf and wove another, and did more inkling:

It was also the month for learning I had a small heart condition, osteopenia and confirmation I’ve reached menopause. Or peri-menopause. Whatever. But I’d lost 4kg on the Fast Diet, so I was feeling pretty healthy.

I spent most of October overseas.

Craft Day on the first weekend back kick-started my crafty brain.
I made a necklace:


And framed some cats I’d stitched over the winter:

I got the cards done early:

Though we only used a few, as we didn’t find the time for the write & mail part.

I ended the year stitching:

I also went camping and painted ‘in plein air’:

I made a cover for the day bed:

And made a door mat for Dad:

And I finally finished weaving the paua shell ruanna after a year and a half on the loom:

I stitched a heart, and a pair of eyes:

Then we went to Japan!

All in all a good creative year. The craft category challenge proved very effective, so I might do that again in future. Half of the garments I made on the Bond I’ve decided need frogging or adjustment, however, and it wasn’t a great year for weaving. But I seem to have found a replacement for knitting with embroidery. I’m not as obsessed, though. Yet.

Daybed Cover

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve removed the daybed from the workroom and put it in the lounge. It took me less than a week to stain the calico cover with chocolate icecream, driving home the need to make a cover.

When I removed the daybed I also had to empty the boxes I had kept under it and find other places to store the contents. One of the boxes contained several old pairs of jeans, leftovers from when I’d woven the denim rag rugs. It occurred to me that it would be a neat solution to use them up making a cover.

So I started cutting up the jeans. At first I thought I’d just open up the legs and sew them together in strips, but only a few were long enough to cover the width of the bed and I was worried the thick seams would be a bit uncomfortable to sit or lie on. Instead, I settle on a simple patchwork of squares.

I made a template and got cutting. 119 squares would be needed, and thanks to Paul seeing what I was doing and giving me another worn out pair, I had enough jeans to make it with a leg and a bit spare. I wound up cutting more than 119, though, as I decided to use the holey bits of jeans with another non-holey square of thinner denim behind. This cover is going to come into existence pre-distressed.

The sewing of the squares and rectangles together got done in batches, an hour here and an hour there:

I’d bought some topstitching thread for sewing the seam edges flat, but changing tension across the different kinds of denim meant it went all loopy in places. I eventually gave up and had to spend an hour or two unpicking it all. Red cotton topstitching looked pathetic, so I unpicked an experimental row of that too.

Finally I settled on the navy thread I’d been using already. So the holes looked more deliberate than simple wear and tear, I zig-zagged around them.

Then I lined it with black calico:

So now have a cover that matches the handwoven floor rugs which can be tossed in the wash and I’ve used up most of my stash of old jeans. Two items crossed off my to-do list!

Hobbit Doormat

So the day after my Silhouette Portrait arrived I set it to work cutting a stencil for me. You see, Dad requested the first of The Hobbit films for Christmas and that gave me an idea for a handmade gift.

Having done my research on paper cutters, I knew that the cutting mat tends to be too sticky when first used. I did a test run with normal office paper and it stuck so firmly I had to scrape it off. I then followed the suggestion of patting an old tshirt over it to deposit some lint. It still gripped overly firmly, but the paper I switched to for the stencils was glossy and resisted the stickiness better.

The words on the stencil needed to be quite large, so I had to cut seven pieces of paper and tile them together. Once I had my stencil assembled, I took it outside…

… got spraying with black spray paint…

… to add a famous The Hobbit quote to a doormat to go outside Dad’s hobby room:

Sturdy & Straight

The back of our house is no longer in danger of falling off. You can see the extra supporting crossbeams – one across the building and three connecting each sides the vernadah – and the bit of morning shade the side panels cast on the house here:

The shade covers more in the early morning and late afternoon, after which the verandah does it’s thing.

As a bonus, we have a new balustrade to replace the rotting, badly-made old one:

It all looks sleek and modern. And it’s actually square. And best of all, it won’t need oiling each year.

But as usual, one fix leads to another. The extension was painted to match the original part of the house, but all the windows, the garage door, the new garage and now the balustrade framework are powder-coated, and the closest colour available is a paler cream. The verandah posts need repainting – to match and to treat the rust coming through the old paint. Which means getting in a painter, which means we may as well give in to the relentless restrictions of ‘available Colourbond colours’ and get all the pale areas of the house, like the weatherboards, repainted as well.

Well, next year anyway. Along with new carpets, as they needed replacing ten years ago and are really showing their age now.

Bonsai Travel

Way back when I first started travelling I assumed that the three sizes of suitcases were a guide to how much to pack. The big one was for international travel and the medium for domestic, and the small one for weekends away. Then I started working for Lonely Planet Publications as a designer and one of the many wisdoms I picked up is that you should never pack more than you can carry at a run for a kilometre.

By the time I stumbled on I thought I had mastered the art of travelling light. Half of what I read on the site made me feel smug that I’d already thought of it, but the other half was new and inspired me to pack even lighter.

On this last trip I travelled for most of the month with only a carry-on bag and a large handbag, knowing I’d have to haul them off and on of planes and trains with a bad back and no Paul to help. It was only at the convention at the end that I acquired more stuff than I could fit in my bag, but at that point we knew we could relax because we we would be taking a friend’s bag home with us.

So how do I manage with one carry on sized bag? Here’s some of my rules of bonsai travel:

* Make a ‘template’ packing list of essentials to copy and modify for each trip.
* Dress in layers and choose separates that will go with all other pieces. Sticking to a neutral and one colour helps. Avoid light colours if you’re travelling for a long time, as you might not have time or products to deal with food and sweat stains, which dark fabrics hide.
* If you do take light coloured clothing, remember to take a light coloured bra. Otherwise, take dark underthings.
* Choose clothing that will dry quickly and does not need ironing. I have fast-drying jeans and you can get ironing-free shirts.
* Wash clothing every few days with the hotel shampoo, using a travel towel to wring as much water out as possible, then hang on hotel coat hangers, traveler’s washing line and bathroom rails (it’s great when they’re heated, but take care not to melt delicate synthetics!).
* A shawl or sarong, depending on the climate, can be used as a scarf, skirt, jacket, shade cloth, bag and blanket.
* Reversible clothing, or clothing that can be worn more than one way, is great for travelling. It’s hard to find so keep it only for travelling.
* Shoes should be comfortable, hard-wearing and will survive being squished in a suitcase (with socks inside to hold the shape). I like to take one nice pair in case we go to a swish restaurant, but not heels as they take up too much room. I found my perfect travel shoe for this trip – black leather mary-sues with a runner-style sole. But I’d still need waterproofed runners as well if I anticipated walking in wet grass. At least one pair you take should be easily removed and without metal embellishments, for getting through security.
* Use jewellery to add interest to your wardrobe. Rigid circular necklaces and bracelets might bend and take up more room, so avoid them. Thread chains through straws to keep them from tangling. Perhaps take one chain/leather cord/ribbon and interchange pendants. Avoiding metal jewellery also helps avoid hold ups in security.
* Buy flat or small souvenirs as they are are easier to pack. I’ve often bought A4 sized artwork on holidays. It can slip inside the inevitable souvenir book. Otherwise, plan to buy things you’ll use or wear straight away. I nearly always buy a souvenir t-shirt, and like to buy socks, jewellery and scarves. I’m also a sucker for little travel-sized perfumes – non-aerosol of course.
* Work out how much you’ll use of bathroom products and decant into smaller containers. I’m always on the lookout for small plastic containers that don’t leak. Just to be sure, keep them in zip lock bags with a tissue to absorb moisture.
* Keep a lookout for products you use in travel sizes. I’ll often find they are only available outside of Australia, so I pop into pharmacies and supermarkets to see what they have.
* Choose a restricted make-up colour palette to match your clothing. For this last trip I bought lip-liners from the Body Shop and sawed them in half. (Cover your whole lip with liner before applying lipstick and you’ll still have some colour left after eating.) I also took an old, emptied blush compact and squished some lipstick colours into one compartment and cream eyeshadows into the other, then bought mini makeup brushes. Another trick is to buy foundation with sun-protection in it already so you don’t remove or have to reapply make-up when using sunscreen. Moisturiser can double as make-up remover and shaving cream.
* On some long-haul flights you can gamble on receiving some useful items, like moisturisers, lip balm, toothpaste and bed socks. If you’re travelling business or first class you might get pajamas, depending on the carrier. If your gamble doesn’t pay off you can always buy some when you get there. Resist taking what you won’t use. Don’t worry, the airlines recycle what isn’t opened or worn. (And I still haven’t found a use for multiple sleep masks.)
* IPhones are brilliant as they can be camera, torch, alarm clock, book, guidebook, phrasebook, notebook and computer as well as phone. During the parts of a flight when devices must be turned off, or when the battery is running, I have a crossword puzzle book and tear out the pages as I complete them, and a small novel or anthology that I don’t mind leaving behind when I finish it. A top-up battery is well worth having on hand, too.
* On trips where you need clothes for one kind of trip then move on to another kind (business to pleasure, warm to cool climate) or when you really want to buy something large and/or heavy, post things home or to a friend or family member. I print out slips of paper with the address on it to take with me, so there’s no chance my terrible handwriting will cause mistakes.

I’m always looking for new ways to pack light. One product I want to get hold of for my next trip is a couple of hooks that can clip onto those annoying anti-theft hotel coat hangers so I can hang clothes in the bathroom to dry. Clothes nearly always dry faster in the bathroom than in the wardrobe.

One product that is impossible to transfer into another container and I can never find in a travel size is a hypo-allergenic deodorant, so this time I made my own using this recipe. I’m tempted to try making other products now – especially if the result is solid and dry so I don’t have to put it in the liquids bag to go through security.

But while seeking out and trying products for bonsai travel is fun, the most effective way to achieve it is to simply take less stuff. I nearly always find I didn’t wear or could have done without one or two items of clothing, and only occasionally wish I’d brought something else. Usually the latter is something I couldn’t have predicted, to do with the local climate, and in that case what I need is usually available there. The only garments I wouldn’t gamble on finding at my destination are wet/cold weather gear and a bathing suit.

Not every travel tip will suit every traveller, too. The site advises against using a bag with wheels, since the mechanism takes up space and adds weight. But my back won’t stand up to carrying a 7-8 kilo bag round, so it’s a compromise I’ve accepted I have to make. Fortunately, wheely bags are getting lighter and lighter.