If It Ain’t Broke…

Well, I’ve had quite a day. I decided to try a new WordPress theme, because I wanted more choice on what appeared in the sidebar, but when I installed it my blog disappeared, leaving just a white screen. I couldn’t even get into the admin part to try and uninstall the new theme.

So I tried a few things, got Paul involved, backed up everything, upgraded, and eventually just left it to Paul, who eventually got it all working again by mid-afternoon. Funny thing is, I asked in Twitter if changing the theme was likely to cause problems, and got several replies saying ‘no’. Liars!

I won’t be trying THAT again any time soon.

Russian Book Bag WIP

Before I even saw Playing With Books, I’d come up with the idea of turning some of my excess foreign edition books into bags. In particular, these Russian editions, which have wonderfully cheesy covers:


(BTW, there are no chain-mail-bikini wearing women or Nordic-looking warriors in my books.)

I found a few tutorials on the net. All, as well as the instructions in Playing With Books, have you use a hardcover book cover as the body of the bag. This means the width of the book defines the size of the bag and how much you can fit into it. I had other ideas:


I pictured the cover becoming the back and flap of the bag. This meant that the the bag could be wider than the spine at the base, and I’d gain a bit more space inside. It also meant the bag would be a bit more secure. I’ve always referred to bags that are open at the top as ‘pick-pocket’s delights’.

I found some fabric for the lining and exterior – both which I’d conveniently already made some book cloth out of. And card to stiffen the bag and elastic for the sides:


Cutting the pages out was easy:


I cut two cardboard panels the size of the book and a base that looked ‘about right’:


Then I cut out fabric and lining, adding some pockets:


A bit of glueing and sewing later, and I’d got to this point:


When I had to stop, because I needed to buy a closure and a handle before I could continue. These I now have:


I’m just waiting until I have the time to put everything together. Then I have the perfect event to wear it to, this coming September.

Sketch Sunday 30


When I was a child my mother took up cane basketry as a hobby for a while. She made these little garlic baskets, and I forget how it came about but she ended up making hundreds of them to sell to people at my Dad’s work. I remember cracked skin and something that was fun turning into something that wasn’t. It was an early lesson for me on why it’s not always good to try to make money from a hobby.

Even so, I love these little garlic baskets. I have bay leaves stuffed into one, and the one I drew is pristine, Mum having saved it until recently, when she gave it to me.

Smaller is Better

Though my book pear looked fine in photos, in person it was much too bigger-than-life-sized. So I cut the template into two smaller fruit shapes, then carved up the big pear.


I like these even more!

Funny thing about representing objects at a different size to reality. Smaller than life size is fine, possibly cute. But if the representation is going to be bigger than life size, it kinda needs to be a LOT bigger. Just a little bigger looks odd and unsettling.


On Monday night I decided to cast on something new that wasn’t another mobius scarf, so I looked at my Rav queue. I don’t usually like to have more than two items on the go. Usually that’s a garment and a pair of socks. I’ll sometimes throw in an accessory on top if I’m getting a bit bored, or if the garment and socks are both too complicated for tv or portable knitting.

However, the Ivy League Vest is getting tedious. Mainly this is because I can only knit on it when my back is okay, and as work gets more demanding that happens less and less. I need steady progress to keep my enthusiasm up, and I’m not getting that with the vest.

So on Monday night I grabbed yarn for three projects and started swatching.

I started with a free top-down jumper pattern, but the needle size was waaay too small for the bulky yarn weight specified, and I was going to end up with a jumper that could stand up on its own. The other two patterns were from Wendy Bernard‘s Custom Knits. I wound up looking at the only garment pattern in that book for bulky yarn, the Lion Neck Cardigan:


The yarn I’m using (Paton’s Inca) is more robust than the one specified, and will make this more of a jacket than a drapey cardigan, but that’s fine with me. I’m just loving that I got 3/4 of the way through the yoke in one evening. The perfect antedote for fair isle in 4ply.

The other two patterns I want to make from this book are Pink:


And Slinky Ribs:


Both which I have yarn for, assuming the tension swatch comes out okay. I love top-down patterns. I prefer ones that have good, flattering shaping in mostly stocking stitch or rib over boxy, frumpy ones with fussy stitch patterns. I can see myself enjoying these AND looking good in them.

Looks like this winter I’m going to have a Bernardathon.

Possum Mobius Scarf

I think I may have formed an attachment to this pattern. Even though I’ve knit it three times (and despite frogging one of them) I still want to knit it again.

The long of it:

The short of it:

Perhaps the appeal is that it’s great mindless tv knitting. Yet I love wearing these scarves, too. As a friend pointed out, with a loop scarf you never have those annoying ends falling into stuff you’re doing. If it’s cold you loop it twice, and when you enter a warm place you take it back to one loop.

This one was knit from possum merino yarn I bought in New Zealand back in ’08. I’ve been eyeing some yarn friends gave me on my birthday – a collection of plain grey commercial yarn and grey and white handspun that I could knit in stripes…

Book Sculpture

The first Playing With Books inspired project I finished (but not the first I started) was a sculpture of a pear. First I cut a template:


And got cutting:


It was a relatively thin book, but as I got toward the end I found there was a little bit of creep from the line imposed by the template. On a thicker book this could be much harder to compensate for. When I finished, I fanned the book out:


Opening up the book took more work than I expected. The spine was very well made and resisted being bent back on itself. The instructions were for a paperback book, and while this is a paperback it has a spine construction more like a hardback, with stitching and glue rather than just glue. But after much folding and bending I got it to open fully:


I dabbed ink along the edge of the pages before gluing the front and back pages together and clamping them while they dried. I’ve since added a little twig as a stem.

It came out rather large for a pear. The instructions recommended making the template the full height of the book to avoid having to cut through the spine. I think two smaller pears would have been better. But the full height would be fine for a vase shape. I may cut this one up again. Depends if I can unstick the front and back pages without damaging it too much.

There are plenty of other shapes to try. I like the idea of a fairy ring of mushrooms. I also like the topographic effect you can get by cutting sections of pages in an unopened book. Perhaps with added castle…

Playing With Books

Warning: Look away now if the idea of cutting up books bothers you.

I’ve mentioned now and then that my day job is writing books. Some of them have been translated into other languages. Most of the time I get copies of the foreign language editions. Sometimes I get far more copies than I have time to find homes for – or else I only have one or two from a series and it seems unfair to lob them one someone when they can’t get the missing book/s. The growing towers of boxes filled with books has been getting to be a problem lately.

So when I spotted this book on a blog I got very excited:


I lost my reluctance to cut up books waaaaay back when I worked for a travel guidebook company, where we sometimes chopped up books to make them easier to work with, and where it was recommended that travellers cut out the sections of a guidebook you didn’t need, to reduce weight in your luggage. (The books were sewn and glued so that they wouldn’t fall apart if you did this.)

Also, working in the book publishing industry, you learn that millions of books are pulped each year. Turning a book into art or practical items seems a better destination, compared to that.

I also lost any delusions that old books have value after talking to an antiques valuer. Most books have little or no value as collectables. Some do, of course, so when in doubt it’s best to check before hacking up a book. (Unfortunately, the prettier the book the more you want to cut it up, but the more likely it has value as collectable.)

Anyway… you can’t really see it in the pic above, but there are a LOT of bookmarks in the book. Here are just a few of the projects that I want to try:


Envelopes. I also want to make cards and gift tags.


Mats made of rolled up pages. I can see place mats and a table runner in my future. Maybe coasters. Maybe even covers for a bookbinding project.


Various ball-shaped ornaments. I might do more non-Christmassy Christmas decorations this year.


And – I’m sure you’ve seen this before – books cut up to form sculptural objects.

I spent most of the last weekend trying out projects in the book. I have four of them in various unfinished states, and one completed one, so there’s going to be plenty of creative blog fodder in the coming weeks.

Instant Scarf (well, nearly)

Quite a few years ago, when I first went to the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show, I bought a hank of Colinette yarn. I was on a pretty tight budget back then, and it was expensive yarn, and I believed the guy at the stall who said I could make an entire top out of one skein.

Perhaps you could, if you were six years old. But I eventually hunted down some plain navy yarn that was a similar tape construction and made this:


In a moment of inspiration, I added little crochet donuts, and put little mirrors inside them as I sewed them on.

But I only wore this a few times. I’m just not fond of off-the-shoulder style tops. So it ended up in a bag in my wardrobe, and when I was doing a bit of tidying up in there the other day I found it.

‘Hmm’, I thought, ‘that colinette yarn band with the mirrors is so pretty, it’s a pity it’s wasted on a top I don’t wear. Hang on… it’s not that different to a mobius loop scarf.’


Instant scarf – if you don’t count the unpicking. The only down side is that the frogged navy yarn has wound up increasing the size of my stash.