Coptic Bound Travel Journal

I’ve been wanting to try a coptic bound book for a while now. The Chain Stitch Sketchbook used a similar method, but with one needle and the stitches at the top and bottom row of holes aren’t a nice loop of chains. The teacher at the book binding class said coptic stitch with multiple needles was fun, so I was pleased when Eco Books had instructions for it.

Pretty crap instructions, as it turned out. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A friend’s 50th birthday was coming up and I know she loves interesting blank journals. I knew she was going on a big trip to the UK later in the year, so on the weekend I dug up the road atlas from that trip (again) and selected some pages from central London to cover the covers with. I bought some good quality acid free paper for the pages, and selected some blue embroidery thread out of my stash for the binding and a matching ribbon.

After several days waiting for the cover to dry, I spend an evening sewing up the book. My first attempt involved lots of unpicking as I realised my kettle stitches didn’t look right. When I finished, I found the stitches still didn’t look right, and the spine was very loose and sloppy.

So I looked up coptic stitch tutorials on the internet, and discovered that I was putting my kettle stitch in the wrong place. So I cut the binding off and started again, with green thread. This time I got it right.


I made a little pocket on the inside of both covers, for collecting mementos:


My earlier attempt was so sloppy it would never have stayed upright like this:


Much better. And who knows? Maybe my friend will find herself in London, near the V&A or the Palace, and in need of a map.

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New Weaving Projects

Last week I wound the warp for the next twill blanket. Instead of winding the yarn into balls first, I wound it straight onto the warping board:


Over the weekend I tied the warp to the table loom and started weaving. I wanted a 3 x 1 twill this time, and to change direction so it zig zagged. I also decided to alternate between 3 x 1 and 1 x 3, so I decided to zig with one and zag with the other. My first try had 9 shots of each:


But I decided this made stripes that were so narrow they cancelled out the graduating effect of the yarn colours. So I tried again with 17 shots of each:


I’m liking that a lot more.

I also warped up the rigid heddle for the second bamboo scarf:


Remember how I said I kept the full balls for the weft because the yarn was too slippery for cut ends to stay put? Well, it turned out the second ball had two knots in it. No avoiding of cut ends. So I’ve been thinking about how I could get around this, and I’ve decided that I’ll leave the ends hanging, and put a bead and a knot on them. And rather than having just two of these, I’ll cut the weft at intervals so the beads are spread all over the scarf.

Who knows, maybe it’ll be one of those time when fixing a flaw leads to a better result?

Finished Knitting!

Another pair of socks from my Socks For Others sock club are done:


Yarn: Crystal Palace Panda Cotton
Pattern: My toe up heel flap pattern, with added ribbing
Comments: For a friend who is allergic to wool. I’ve knit with this yarn before and it does a pretty good job of making wool-free socks. The odd thing is, the colours did the usual flashing thing, but differently on each sock.

I made some progress on the Ivy League Vest the next night, but after that I was seized by a sudden need to knit a mobius scarf out of the handspun alpaca I got at the Adelaide Hills Market last January.


Halfway through after one evening of knitting. It won’t take me long to finish this one!

Palm Leaf Holiday Memory Book

There are many bookbinding methods, and many hybrids of bookbinding methods, and while I have ones I like the look of and ones that don’t thrill me, I really want to try them all at least once. The palm leaf book, for example, is one I couldn’t see a useful purpose for, but I wanted to make one some day.


It’s always bothered me a little to throw out excess photos. Back in 2005, new to this digital photography thing, I took all the snaps from my UK/Paris trip to my favourite photography shop to get them processed. They had two pricing structures: one with photo retouching and one without. I assumed retouching meant levels and contrast and such, and since I’d done a course on such things a few years before I decided to do it myself.

What they meant was cropping. Since this was my first go at having digital photos processed, I didn’t know that the images were a different proportion to the photo paper. So when I got my photos back, heads and feet were chopped off.

When I pointed out that ‘retouching’ and ‘cropping’ are quite different things, the woman at the shop went all defensive and snarky, and it was quite obvious this had happened many times already (so why weren’t they warning customers? Going to small local shops might be more expensive, but the trade off is supposed to be good service.). That’s when Paul pointed out that Harvey Norman had processing for about a quarter of the price, had helpful staff, and their computers prompted you to select how your images would be cropped. Needless to say, I never went back to the camera shop.

I had to get about 70 photos reprocessed. We also wound up culling quite a few when we put our trip album together. What to do with the old photos? Well, looking through my bookbinding books recently, I hit on an idea.


What can you make out of an out of date road atlas and left-over holiday photos?


Well, you cut up the photos into strips and cover two pieces of card with pages from the atlas.


Then you drill holes and thread them all together into a palm leaf style ‘memory book’.


The order of the photos is random, and there are no captions. Some of the photos are quite abstract once cut down into strips. But each of them reminds me of a moment during that holiday. Being small, you could slip this in your pocket, unlike the big album we have of the trip, which is a bit big to leave out to flick through at leisure.

I’m now tempted to make one from the leftover photos of our Canada trip last year. Or take deliberately abstract photos, perhaps in black and white, so make an ‘arty’ version. I can see the appeal in the palm leaf method now. It’s a very simple and novel way to make a book. (Pun not intended!)

Twill Blanket #1

It’s done. Actually, I finished it last weekend, but I’m really behind on posts.


Here it is drying. I wet finished it by giving it a vigorous wash by hand to full it slightly and spinning it dry.


I was amazed at how fulled it was afterwards. Almost too fulled. All I did was stir and massage it a bit with my hands! Both yarns aren’t machine washable, and Vintage Hues practically felts when you look at it. Fortunately I still have some definition between the colours:


It’s a good size for a lap blanket, for keeping your legs warm while watching tv or using the computer.

Fused Plastic Bags #2

A few nights ago I dragged out the ironing board and gave plastic bag fusing another go. I had some clear plastic in the form of packaging and a shopping bag, so I layered it over the souvenir bags, then cut up lots of plastic bags for the inner layers.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that successful this time.


The design on this bag doesn’t really show well once the bags have gone all wrinkly.


On this one I used the clear plastic shopping bag, but it didn’t fuse at all… except in areas of light coloured printing so I can’t peel it off. Also, one of the inner layers didn’t fuse at all, so I ended up with two thinner pieces.


The clear packing plastic didn’t fuse either, but fortunately it peeled right off again. This is the only fused bag attempt I’d rate as usable, and even then the outer edges haven’t stuck properly. I’ve noticed that all of the tutorials instruct you to sew around the edges. Perhaps this is why, and I was lucky with my first attempt that it fused so well.

So it seems results can be variable. It probably comes down to the type of plastic. I also noticed plasticy fumes this time, where I didn’t the first time. Trouble is, it’s hard to tell what the right or wrong type of bag is – though I’d wager clear plastic is the wrong type since neither kind I used worked. Fine patterns are going to be obscured by the ripple effect, which also seems to vary depending on the type of plastic, too.

Still, if you’re willing to accept that it sometimes won’t work and don’t mind experimenting (and have good ventilation) it’s an interesting way to use up shopping bags. I reckon you’d get to know pretty quickly which bags work or don’t. JB HiFi bags certainly stick well!

There Has Been Knitting


The Ivy League Vest is growing very slowly. Well, it’s not the best knitting to be doing when your head is all fuzzy with a cold, and it required constant attention so not good when your back is out. Every time I knit a few rows I frog a few rows. And the prospect of knitting a few rows and then frogging a few rows has me reaching for this instead:


The current Socks For Others socks. These are going slowly, too. But I’m on the home stretch now that my back is better, and with the cold gone I should be able to get stuck into the vest again, too.

I must admit, knitting hasn’t been thrilling me lately. I’m blaming it on several things. Firstly, my attention is obviously being attracted to other things (bookbinding, weaving, etc.). Secondly, browsing the knitterly web isn’t getting me all enthused as it used to be. That’s partly because there’s so much lace knitting going on. I’m not a shawl-wearing sort of person and lace and lace knitting is just not my thing. Not even these mini shawls. I know the way people wear them, with the point at the front, is the latest trend, but to me looks like they’re wearing a bib!

The latest trends and looks are the other reason I’m not thrilled by what I’m seeing in magazines or Rav or whatever. They’re all a bit frumpy right now. All fine yarn, complicated stitch patterns and unflattering styles. Oddly, this makes me want to snub my nose at fashion and knit a big cosy wear-at-home sort of jumper. In bulky wool. In plain stocking stitch.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I have knitwear overload in my wardrobe. I really don’t need more jumpers, cardigans, gloves, scarves, hats, etc. And that keeps swinging me around to weaving blankets and floor rugs. The former is great for using up stash and are wonderful gifts, the latter is something I don’t have too many of (yet).

But I expect the knitting mojo will return. It always does. I have some non-frumpy patterns matched up with stash yarn in my Rav queue, and while I’m not planning to go to the Bendigo Sheep show, and I’ve culled quite a bit from my stash lately, there’s still plenty of yarn here to keep me in knitting for a long time yet.

My Cunning Plan… & Eco Books

A couple of years ago we had a housewarming party, and I asked guests to donate any old jeans they had to ‘a craft project’ I was planning. I got a lot more jeans than I was expecting. The project was a rag rug, which has been in my lounge room ever since, and I’ve decided to make another one. To do that I needed more cotton rug warp so recently I rang Glenora Weaving & Wool and, of course, a few more things slipped into my order:


It turned out I was three issues behind on Handwoven. Quite good issues, too.


I also ordered a sample card of linen, because I noticed that the price of a reel of linen for weaving (right) is about the same as the price of a reel of unwaxed linen bookbinding thread (left), yet there was four times as much in it and came in a range of colours.

Only down side is that I don’t really need four times as much. Especially if I buy a colour I’m not likely to use too often.

Another recent purchase, thanks to Fishpond for giving me a $10 off voucher, was Eco Books:


Though I was lusting after it, I’d hesitated to buy it because I’m getting quite a collection of books. But my justification for getting yet another bookbinding book is that it has one technique in it that none of my books appear to include: coptic binding. Like on these cassette tape books:


This palm leaf book gave me an idea for using up excess photos from holiday albums. (Though I’m not doing the tree bit.) I’ll be posting about that one later this week.


This one caught my eye and made me wish I liked coffee. It’s made of coffee filters and looks like some sort of tribal artefact.


I do, however, drink tea. But I’m not sure I’d want to attempt to save all the teabags required to make this Faux Leather Journal. And I suspect that the tea bags used in this are the cloth type, whereas the tea I drink uses paper bags that break down in the compost.


And does this look familiar? Yep, some books made from fused plastic bags.


While the book is full of interesting (and sometimes amusing) ways of turning stuff you might throw away into books, I found the format a little lacking. The actual bookbinding methods are at the back, and are described rather than step-by-step, which is a bit vague and seems to assume familiarity. But the individual project instructions can be a bit in the other direction – telling you to how to do something that’s a bit obvious. Some of the projects are followed by featured work by the creator, some don’t. Some have multiple photos and cover more pages than they probably need, while others get only one page and you’re left wondering what they look like inside.

It has the feel of a book that was cut back and re-arranged at the last moment. Another bit of strangeness is how some projects have been blurred to hide the brand name of the packaging they were made of, if they were made from cigarette packs, credit cards or bar coasters (but not beer cans). While I don’t question the need, I wonder if the artists were warned not to use such products, and why the projects were used if they ignored the warning.

But overall the ideas in Eco Books are fun, inspiring and instructive, whether practical or not, and I have plenty of bookmarks in it to remind myself of materials I’d like to recycle, and binding methods I want to try.

Fused Plastic Book

One bookbinding method I’ve been wanting to try is long stitch. This involves stitching the pages directly to the cover, and most of the examples I’ve seen use something flexible for the cover, like leather or cloth. Now, I don’t really want to try it out on expensive leather, and you know how much I like sewing, so I was on the lookout for something else. When the fused plastic bags experiment worked, I had just the right thing.


The paper was from a cheap old pad of leftover printer stock. I added some bright orange office paper I’ve had for ages, to match some orange embroidery thread binding from my stash of leftovers.


I was concerned that if the holes for the binding were too close together the plastic between might split, so I spaced them out a bit more than the depth of the signatures. This means the spine curves a little.


There was plenty of ‘fabric’ to make it a wrap around cover, so I used two plastic orange buttons to form a closure. The embroidery thread is waxed, which gives it enough grippyness to hold the book closed.

I really enjoyed making this book. It’s a fast binding method that didn’t involve any glue. There are lots of decorative variations to the spine stitching that I can explore. And I’m pleasantly surprised at how well the fused plastic works, and I’ve started cutting up more plastic bags, ready to make more.