Birthday Album

Nearly six months after the event, I have finally finished my 40th birthday photo album.

The cover is a strip of flyscreen mesh, with the first cassette I ever bought, 1982 With a Bullet attached. The ‘buttons’ to the right are the little wheels from inside the tape. Underneath them are velcro dots.


The photos and invitation are bound together and to the cover with the stab stitch method, using a black ribbon.


I sized the photos to 6×4″, then set them into 7×5″ files so I had a border in which to type a caption, and some room to the left for the binding.


On Saturday I set up the photos from our trip to New Zealand a few years back in a similar way and yesterday they arrived from the processing company. They’re much bigger – 12×8″ – and therefore were a LOT more expensive. But I’m aiming for a ‘coffee table book’ look for that album. Same binding method, but with a more conventional cover. That’ll be this weekend’s project.

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Impromtu Skirt

Today I found myself sewing. This is something I usually avoid. It came about after a thought process that went from considering getting out the knitting machine and making a skirt out of the wool I recently tried to knit then frogged because it was too scratchy. But I’ve always been a bit wary of knitted skirts and their potential for stretching or felting/pilling on the most worn parts (ie. the posterior).

Why not weave it instead? Surely there’s a skirty-thing I can make without much sewing? I remembered that odd little book Ashford put out – The Ashford Book of Projects. The one where the instructions for some of the projects end with “go buy a commercial sewing pattern” or else a few paragraphs of very basic directions, which make it really only suitable for an experienced sewer.

I am an experienced sewer, even though I don’t like it much, so I decided that before I warped up the loom and spent a few hours weaving then cut up the fabric, perhaps I should test one of these patterns first. So I got out some purple fabric I’d woven on the Knitters Loom a few years ago but never found a use for.


Fortunately, the book is full of patterns made from the narrow strips the smaller Knitters Loom produces. I wanted to do the wrap around skirt, but I didn’t have quite enough length of fabric, so I settled on the Back to Black skirt.


Soon enough I had the woven fabric in a skirty shape, complete with zipper. Then I went about the fiddlier task of making a lining. I realised as I sewed the lining on and went to turn it over that I’d set the zipper in too high, so instead of turning it I folded it over and top stitched it. I figured that, since wool makes me itchy, it would be a little extra protection. And a nice bit of trim.


I tried it on, took a photo and discovered something unexpected. The shading that had formed when weaving the graduated yarn, coupled with the way the fabric had lined up when sewn together, gave me very obvious belly and thigh highlights and a crotch shadow:


I tried turning the skirt around, so the zipper was at the front. Unfortunately, my zipper inserting skills aren’t what they used to be.


So I moved the zipper to the side. Much better.


Still, I wasn’t that happy with it. I was finding that, despite the lining, the prickliness of the wool was still bothering me. And the skirt was a bit big. And I was really a bit ‘meh’ about the colour.

Then I reminded myself it was a test skirt anyway. The pattern was descipherable once I’d written it out as steps. The zipper was the most fiddly and annoying thing, but if I did the wrap skirt next time a zipper wouldn’t be something I’d have to bother with.

But then I’d have to work out what I’d do about the ‘fasteners’ the instructions tell you to attach. Fabric woven from yarn is much more prone to fraying than bought cloth, and I’m not sure any buttonholes would hold together for long. Perhaps loops instead?


While shopping at Zart Art for bookbinding materials, I spotted this marbling kit. I did marbling waaaaay back in year 11. This looked like a cheap, child-friendly version, but I figured that was a good way to dabble without spending a lot or having to clean up oil-based paint.


The first mistake I made was to use a black plastic tub, which meant I couldn’t see the inks very well. The second was to put too much ink in…


… and when they say you can run it under the tap if the ink bleeds… well, it didn’t work that well. But the second piece, as you can see, was much better – little bleeding and more defined edges.

Some of the inks didn’t go so well together. Blue and black weren’t so good, but ‘red’ and black worked fine.


Overall I was a bit disappointed about the colour saturation. Everything came out pastelised, and dried even paler. Then just as the novelty was wearing off, this happened:


I tell you what, it was kinda freaky to lift up the page and see a face staring back at me!

Sketch Sunday 20 (feat. Bookbinding)

Sketch Sunday has bonus bookbinding to counter its lateness. Last Friday night I made this book:


Inspired by books made out of recycled materials, I raided my collection of paper shopping bags. I often reuse the plain bags as gift bags, but the ones with shop names printed on them just build up. Sometimes I stuff them full of recycling from the workroom and use it to cart it all downstairs, tossing it in the recycling bin, bag and all.

But I love the idea of practising bookbinding techniques on free, rustic materials. First I cut up all the bags, trimming off bulky bases and handles. It occured to me that the cardboard lined handles of one bag would make interesting covers, with the gap for the handle allowing a peek at the interior. Fun cloth tags from a pair of jeans just begged to be used as book cloth, and followed the shopping theme.

Once finished, I considered what to use the book for. I could glue stuff into it – perhaps more tags from garments, or business cards. But I had an itch to draw all over the cover, so I got out my calligraphy pens and inks.


By the time I’d finished the cover I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to doodle. I would put the book by the armchair in the tv room and doodle during ad breaks and boring articles in the news. So that’s what I’ve been doing:


Which has been so much fun. When I showed the book to Paul he instantly understood the concept and started describing the sort of doodling he does. Patterns mostly.


This is the sort of doodling I do when stuck somewhere and I don’t have any knitting with me, or it would be inappropriate to knit. I’ve always found it interesting how sketching is more acceptable than knitting in some situations. Nobody minds if you sit and sketch at their party, for example, but would think it rude if you knit (though it depends on the kind of party).


The text from the bags simply provides something for doodles to grow from. This is something I’m familiar with, because I’m usually doodling on whatever is to hand, like those booklets they give you at awards ceremonies or weddings to let you know what order the proceedings will take.


Not all the sketchbooks in An Illustrated Life – one of the inspirations for Sketch Sunday – are full of drawings. Many are contain doodles. My doodle book has made me realise I may be getting a bit too precious about what I draw for Sketch Sunday. It reminds me that my weekly contribution doesn’t always have to be a work of art.


One of the good things about this blog no longer being exclusively about knitting (and other fibre crafts) is that I don’t feel under pressure to finish things so I have something to blog about.

However, I’ve gone a bit in the other direction. The lack of urgency to take a photo of the last FO, along with it being too hot to contemplate putting on knitwear, means this one is a bit late:


Bramblewood in Naturally Naturelle. I ran out of yarn at the end of the second last repeat so it’s a little shorter than the pattern says, but it’s still a comfortable length. I like it, but I’m not as enamoured as I am with the Argyle Vest. The shoulders are a little wierd – why bother with the raglan shaping? – and the neckline seems very square in person. But otherwise it was a fun knit and made a nice, wearable garment.

The Ivy League Vest is going slowly. I’ve passed the ribbing and done a few rows of the pattern, but lately I’ve been too restless to sit and knit of an evening. Instead I’ve been working on book binding projects and testing book cloth instructions.

Speaking of which… I’m having a productive weekend, with one book finished, another 95% done and materials coming together for a third. But if anything, production is being held back – by the one thing I haven’t been able to get hold of yet: white linen bookbinding thread. I can see a trip to town in my near future.

Homemade Book Cloth Experiments

I’ve been experimenting with making book cloth this week. Making the wheat paste was easy (there are plenty of recipies on the web). The first book cloth making instructions I followed were these, which have you cover the back of the cloth with paste, lay down the tissue paper, then add another layer of paste. I tried this on a piece of light cotton and a strip of denim. After leaving it overnight to dry I found that the paste had come through the cotton and created shiny marks. I had wondered why it was that you could make book cloth this way, when the whole reason for glueing paper on the back of fabric was to stop glue coming through to the front and creating – you guessed it – shiny marks. However, the denim was fine, so this method is probably fine for thicker fabrics (and what I suspect the author of the tutorial was using).

So I went looking for another tutorial and found this. I tried it out at lunchtime and within an hour (with the air con on) it was dry, with no shiny marks on the front. Success!


The next challenge was to try a larger piece. I needed a bigger waterproof surface to work on, and these boards covered in Contact that used to be the sides of an old homemade art folio were perfect for the job. The new instructions have you put the tissue paper down first…


… then paint it with paste…


… and then lay down the fabric and gently smooth.


However, I found that the tissue paper tended to expand when wet and formed wrinkles. Those wrinkles created a rippled effect on the surface of the fabric. So I tried again, this time applying the glue from the centre and gradually working outwards. It was much slower, but I got very few wrinkles.


That wasn’t the last of my experiments, however. I tried the first instructions again, changing the surface I worked on and using less glue, and still got shiny marks. I also tried the second method on thicker fabric, and while the tissue paper has adhered it doesn’t seem as secure as it is on the thinner cloth. So perhaps the first method is actually better for thicker fabrics. I will definitely be testing any fabric too different from plain light cotton before I jump in and make book cloth from it.

And I’m going to try using the pieces I’ve made on some test books before turning the pile of fabric I’ve gathered into book cloth. If they don’t work after all, I could have a pile of useless fabric instead.

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Junk Mail Treasure

I’ve started regarding what arrives in the letterbox with new eyes. After seeing a couple of crafty uses for envelopes that bills and such come in – the ones with the ‘security’ pattern inside – I’ve started saving them. Suddenly there’s a little tingle of anticipation when the mailman arrives to see if I’ll find a new pattern.

Our local council sent us three free calendars. One we’re using, the other was too ugly and went in the recycling, and the pretty one full of local artist’s work has been cut up for use in projects. Like these:


More matchbook style notepads.

Buy or sign up to something, and they’ll try to rope you into buying or signing up to more. But these attempts just provided more fodder for crafting:


The Mini brochure became several notebooks of different sizes. Small ones to keep in my Mini, larger ones for Paul to use at the Mini Club.


The shopping list pads are bound to end up in something else.

Book Bound

On Sunday my friend, Beky, and I attended a basic bookbinding course at the CAE. It was run by the witty, informative and inspiring Geraldine Pomeroy.


We had a great time folding, sewing and gluing away all day. I got from the class exactly what I was hoping for: those little tips and bits of advice you just don’t get from a book – like to not make great big holes with the awl, or that you don’t have to use waxed thread, and to avoid synthetic tapes because pva glue may not work on them.

At the end of the day (and after a night with it squished under some heavy books) I had this:


The spine is red book cloth and the cover is card covered in an interesing paper with silver flecks in it.


The paper is a good weight and quality for writing or sketching on.


We made our own headband, which has given me ideas for making interesting headbands out of ribbon or embroidery thread.


I’m even more hooked on this than I was before, which is why today I went to the local craft shop, Zart Art, and then braved the scrapbooking and quilting sections at Lincraft.


Okay, not all of this is for bookbinding. I bought a roller for print making, some clear plastic for a little sewing project and a marbling kit (though I’m hoping the marbled paper I make will be good enough to use in a book). The cutting mat and scissors are more general purpose, too – I only had small versions of both.

But for someone who dislikes sewing, buying a bundle of quilting fabrics was a bit strange and unsettling. You see, I found tutorials on how to make my own book cloth, which means I’m not limited to plain colours, but can turn any fabric flexible and robust enough into covers or spines – or both.

So there’s plenty to play with here. I just need to find some white linen thread. I have some in natural which I got from a weaving supplier… which makes me wonder if they’d have it in white, too…

Dyeing Day

After the storm last week I kept finding myself eyeing downed branches from eucalyptus trees and thinking about dyeing. Near to home there was one particular branch that wasn’t cleared up by Saturday, so in the afternoon I went for a walk to get it. Unfortunately it had gone quite dry, though it is still possible to dye with dried leaves. While dragging it home, I discovered that the gardener for the block of flats across the road had been trimming trees, and there was some fresh gum tree branches on the pile. So I nabbed them as well. It made for quite a pile in the cat run:


The fresh leaves were nicer to touch, so I started ripping off leaves. It turned out that it took only one of the smaller fresh branches to make up a kilo of leaves. (According to my book, Eco Colour, you need around the same weight as the textile you’re dyeing.) So my green waste bin is now half full of gum branches and leaves.


Then it turned out that my pot wasn’t big enough – something I’d forgotten since the last dyeing experiment. I only got a little under half the leaves in.


I set the leaves simmering, and in the meantime set up another pot to dye a t-shirt. I’d tried solar dyeing it before and only managed to darken a stain. This time I had some green tea that Paul had accidentally bought instead of peppermint tea. To add an extra bit of experimentation to the mix, I wrapped the t-shirt around some rusty nails.


Once the leaves had simmered long enough I took them out, then introduced half the yarn (Cleckheaton Country 8ply) and kept stirring to make sure the dye bath never went beyond steaming to actual boiling. I poured a kettle full of boiling water over the tea bags and t-shirt, and decided to leave it at that rather than risk I’d run out of gas for the camp stove.


After the yarn had steeped for the right time, I turned the heat off and left it to cool in the pot overnight. This morning I repeated the steps with the second half of the leaves and yarn. As you can see, the yarn is now a honey colour. Which is nice, but not very ‘me’. I’m thinking of getting one of those really big soup kitchen pots and more leaves to overdye the yarn, and see if I can get the kakhi green the book says you get if you dye in an aluminium pot.

The t-shirt, however, was a great success:


The tea made very little difference, but the nails left a blue-grey imprint that is fabulous. And it goes perfectly with the porcelain pendant necklace I bought at the Northside Makers Market that morning.

On Sunday I went to a bookbinding class, but I’ll save that for another post…