Mini Sketchbook

A few weekends ago I heard about One Bag, a site dedicated to the art of travelling with one piece of carry-on luggage. Having had lots of practise, I’ve got quite good at packing light (if I do say so myself) and I was chuffed to see that the site recommends a lot of the ploys I’d already worked out. Some of the tips were new to me, especially some of the product recommendations. Iron-free fast drying men’s shirts and ‘travel jeans’? Yes, please!

This drive to lighten the load got stuck in my psyche, and next thing I knew I was applying it to my handbag. I looked at the things I cart around with new eyes. The most obvious unnecessary weight was my sketchbook. I’m carrying around a big wad of paper when I’m only ever going to fill one or two pages at a time. So why not just carry around a few pages and replace them as needed? Of course, I’d need a cover for support… suddenly I had my first bookbinding project post-tour.

First, the paper. I bought a ream of multi-purpose paper for life drawing a few months back. Ideally, I’d make one signature of paper out of each sheet. I got cutting and folding and got a nice long sketchbook shape.

After considering a few materials for the cover, including leather and suede, I realised they were just going to make it heavier. So I decided to use plain grey board support card. A bit boring, but I could decorate it. Then I remembered my alphabet stamps…

The spine? Good old duct/fabric tape. The binding? A piece of elastic.

Voila! A basic single signature sketchbook that I could refill when used then, when I had a number of sketched-upon signatures, I could bind them into a nicer cover.

Except for one problem. I weighed my old spiral bound sketchbook (100 grams), then the new one (90 grams) and was disappointed to find I hadn’t reduced much weight in my bag at all. So I repeated the whole process, cutting the paper into smaller proportions and using thinner card. And weighed it.

60 grams. That’s better.

And then, because I had the tools and materials at hand, I started on one of my Projects for 2011: the certificate portfolio:

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Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned From Stash Busting

Well, not everything

Being a writer, the whole ebook thing is hardly recent news, but I’ve only recently started reading digital books for pleasure. I’ve been reading books on screen as part of my work for years, helping writer friends by reading their manuscripts and providing feedback. In fact, some years the only books I read were manuscripts, because for a few years there I found reading very difficult.

You see, I have chronic upper back issues that make reading while sitting up for more than half an hour painful – sometimes for days afterwards. The bigger and heavier the book, the worse it is. Physiotherapists tell me I should lie down to read, and I’ve found the Book Seat helps a lot, too.

Some years back I had some kind of chronic fatigue thing set in, and every time I lay down to read I’d fall asleep. I also found it very hard to concentrate on anything for long. I barely read anything for a couple of years, and then even though I slowly got over the fatigue I found it really hard to get back into the habit.

Still, I’ve been gradually regaining my reading mojo. Last year I read ten books. Ten! This year I’ve read that number in six months. I may never get back to my 50+ books a year habit, but things are improving.

Unfortunately, there was a lag between the drop in my reading habits and the drop in my book buying habits. I have quite a big to-read pile of print books. In fact, my to-read pile is a to-read bookcase. And on top of that I admit to ‘hiding’ unread books among read ones in my other bookcases.

Like many people, now that I’ve decided I like reading ebooks, I can’t help looking considering those print books a little differently. I still prefer to read print books. They feel and smell nice, are easier on the eyes, I think a house full of bookcases is immensely comforting, and they don’t vanish the next time you update your iPhone software.

But reading them hurts.

So the other day I went through my main fiction bookcase and removed everything I hadn’t read yet. I added them to my to-read bookcase and counted a total of over 100 books. Oh dear. If I continue to read at a rate of ten books a year, it’ll take me ten years to read them all. And only if I read what is there and nothing new. There are always new books to read: books by friends, new releases by favourite authors, books Paul reads and recommends, books publishers send for me to read and provide quotes for.

I don’t want to take ten years to read these books and I need the space they take up. But how am I going to get through 100 of them any faster than that? Well, thinking about this, it occurred to me that there must be some wisdom in all that yarn stash busting I’ve done. So I listed the ways I could apply it:

First: cull
The easiest way to reduce yarn stash is to simply sell it or give it away. In fact, a stash bust can be an excuse to get rid of yarn that you don’t really like, but have been feeling obliged to hang onto for some reason. I got ruthless in the same way with my books, getting rid of the series by writers I met once or used to chat with on a forum, but never got beyond the first book (or chapter), the sympathy buys, and the guilt purchases. Sometimes having spend my hard-earned cash on these books is support enough.

Then there’s the bargain yarn. I’ve been as much of a sucker for bargain priced books. And gift yarn. Most of my ‘gift’ books are freebies sent by the publisher, and I need to remember that I don’t have to read them.

I will also be applying the ’50 page rule’. If a book hasn’t hooked me by the time I get to page 50, out it goes – and the rest of the series. Heck, if the first chapter has me wanting to claw my eyes out or rinse my brain, I’m not even going to continue to chapter 50.

Second: prioritise
There are definitely yarns that I’ve been dying to knit. Some I’ve been dying to knit for years. Same with the books. They went to the top of the pile. As did ones by friends that I want to read. There are also some books that I bought for research purposes. I’m intermingling them with the others, so I’m not reading all research all the time.

Though the ones I’m least interested in are at the bottom of the pile, from time to time I’ll pick something up to see if it passes the 50 page rule. If it doesn’t, then at least I can remove it. If it does then I’m reading a good book, so there’s nothing to lose.

Third: restraint
A total ban isn’t always practical. When stash busting I usually make exceptions and, looking back at my last Knit From Your Stash rules I can see plenty of parallels:

I will not buy more yarn/books except…
Yarn for weaving – Books for research
To make gifts – Manuscripts for friends or to provide quotes for
Extra yarn to complete a project – Ongoing books in a series I’m hooked on
Yarn from a special yarn store – To support a specialty bookshop
If I run out of yarn while on holiday – If I run out of books on holiday
Yarn given to me – Books given to me
Charity knitting – Books with proceeds going to charity

Fourth: encouragement (cheating)
Seeing a tangible reduction helps me feel like I’m getting somewhere. With yarn stash busting there’s one big ‘cheat’ that I don’t mind resorting to: I count the yarn by grams not meters. Mostly this is because some yarns don’t list meterage, whereas I can always weigh it. The ‘cheat’ within using this system is that the heavier weight yarns knit up faster so if you knit them first you get a satisfyingly quick initial stash reduction.

With books I’ll be counting each tome, not the pages. So reading the shorter books first will make a bigger initial impact. But there’s still an advantage in reading bigger ones. They’re more likely to be the first of a series, and if I end up disliking it then I could get to cull 3-7 books.

Fifth: Rewards
I don’t like to set time limits on a yarn stash reduction these days, instead I give a little cheer whenever I get the stash down to a set round number of kilos. Call me crazy, but that’s reward and motivation enough. With books the aim is to read more of the books I already own as well as make space, so I think I’ll be pleased whether I read more of them or simply end up with more space free on the to-read bookcase. For the next six months I’ll see what works better, then see how I want to proceed next year.

I went to Bendigo…

But not for the Bendy Show. There was a photography exhibition on there last weekend that Paul wanted to see, so I took the opportunity to duck into the woollen mills for some yarn I’ve been meaning to get more of, which isn’t available on mail order:

Um… well, yes. Not very exciting. It’s craft yarn for weaving a rya rug out of old shirts, sheets and fabric offcuts. But I did buy some yarny yarn, too:

Some purple cotton to go with the leftover green I bought too much of for a baby blanket (to make more baby blankets) and some of their only-available-in-the-shop sock yarn (which comes in colours you might look for if you thought WW2 was still on and wanted to knit socks for soldiers).

The Bendy Show is on this weekend. Unfortunately – or fortunately for Paul – the photography exhibition finished last weekend so there was no chance to do both in one trip. Also, the train service to Bendigo is currently replaced by busses, making the trip a long and painful one, according to a friend who lives up there, so I won’t be going to the Show. I don’t mind, though. Got plenty of yarn to knit and weave already.

Ironwood Scarf

For my first bit of weaving after the trip I wanted something simple to ease myself back into it.

A few years ago I saw some scarves in a tourist information shop that used thick handspun for the warp and a thin weft. I’d also seen a similar combination in the Touch Yarns shop in New Zealand. I’d been hesitating to make anything from the few balls of my own handspun, for fear of ‘messing them up’ but I decided it was time to be brave and try out this method.

I’m so glad I did. The scarf is drapey, despite the thickness of the main yarn. It’s also lovely and soft. And you can’t see it from these photos, but the handspun was plied with a thin metallic thread, so there’s a touch of glitz. I used black Bendy Classic 3ply for the warp and it gives the scarf a woodgrain look. And I finished the ends with hemstitching so I didn’t have to knot the handspun.

I liked the method so much I’ve warped up the loom with scrap yarn culled from my leftovers stash, using multiple ends for each warp thread and the same weft yarn, to make a Leftovers Stashbuster Scarf.


Look! A finished object!

Pattern: my own toe-up heel-flap sock pattern
Yarn: Patonyle
Comments: I started these while waiting to catch the plane to the UK on the first day of May, carried them all around Europe with me, finished the first sock just before flying home nearly two months later, then finished the second on Friday night. Probably one of the slowest sock knitting projects I’ve done, but only because I didn’t get much time to knit it while travelling.

I did a lazy rib cuff (k1p1 rib on one row, knit the next):

I so love this colour. Such a rich reddy red. I don’t know if Patonyle still comes in this colour, but if it does I’ll be buying more.

I’m messing about with ideas for the next pair of socks, but also cast on for a bigger project:

River Tweed, using Cleakheaton Country 8ply.

Studio Reshuffle Stage 1

On Saturday, with Paul’s help, I got stuck into moving furniture in my renamed ‘studio’. Being the hopeless optimist that I am, I planned for it to be done by lunch. Not a chance. It was done by dinner, though. Except for a few things I couldn’t find a place for.

Rearranging a room is a bit like pulling apart machinery and putting it back again – there’s always a leftover part that doesn’t seem to fit any more. But so long as the machine still works…

I don’t know yet if the studio ‘works’, but it all mostly fell into place the way I planned. The end of the room is now a good space for making art. The table fit snugly next to the black shelving. I found a frame that had once held a print, until it fell off the wall and the glass shattered, and Paul says he has a piece of canite that should fit so I can have a inspiration board behind the table. And I want to put up a rack above it, for pegging things up to dry.

Because the drawing board now blocks the window, I was able to open up the blind behind, which made the room brighter. (I’ve kept it closed because occasionally an old guy would appear in the property behind ours, and stand there grinning at me. Creepy. I haven’t seen him for ages, though, and in a year or two the trees I planted along the back fence will be tall enough to block the view.)

Before I started the reshuffle, while I was waiting for Paul to come up and help me, I had a flash of inspiration and drew another floor plan that would more effectively divide the studio into two areas, one for work, one for art & craft.

But it involved moving everything, and I really couldn’t face that. So I’m calling it Stage 2, which may happen in about six months. By then the sunlight coming through behind the drawing board will be getting too hot, and it’ll be good to move it sideways against the wall. And I’ll be finishing one work project and starting another, so it’ll be a good time for changing my work desk position.