Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Another Book and a Solution

When I cut the covers for this Celtic Weave Journal, I had an approximately 7 inch wide strip of the handmade paper left, enough I hoped that I could make a smaller Celtic Weave Journal for myself. That was near the end of August last year, and yes, I'd left it out on the worktable along with instructions, signature paper, needles and linen thread thinking I would get to it long before now. It is the last thing I need to work on to clear enough space to get started on the overdue baby quilt. The strip is actually not long enough to make front and back covers in the same manner as in the original book, but over the months I had an epiphany; I could make the covers like in the Butterfly Binding where the folded in side that will be between signatures is narrow instead of having to be as wide as the front of the cover. Now to decide just how that will work, what the width of the folds and ultimate size of signatures would be. Here I am experimenting with that by folding a piece of copy paper in various ways.

The paper I wanted to use is a 24 lb Ivory "Granite" Specialty paper by Southworth (bought on extreme markdown at Staples). The size paper I need to turn into my signatures is approximately 10 x 7 inches, preferably short grain since it will be folded in half to make 5 x 7 signatures. But normal 8-1/2 x 11 paper is long grain, meaning it folds with ease along its length, not so much crosswise. But 24 lb paper is relatively thin and I've folded similar against the grain to make signatures without much problem. I'd also been toying with the idea of printing lines on the pages, starting to think of how I could create a line document to print within the size of the pages once trimmed. I don't always know how I will use the books I make, but when I do have a particular use in mind, it motivates me even more. So as I mused, I realized this would make a great replacement book for one nearly full that I use for recording poems and quotations. Starting to get excited! More musings as I walk (where I do some of my best problem solving) about how to get lines printed since that use for the book really does require them, when I remembered a line pdf supplied by the book club. I checked and, since I have to trim down these pages anyway, I can make it work. There's my stack of printed pages ready to trim and fold into my signatures.

Frankly, there was a lot of puttering going on last week before I got busy on the book. I've been reticent to tackle the stack of fabrics on the ironing board but really they must go if I'm to work on a quilt, As I peeled them back to reveal so many beautiful fat quarters I've dyed, I knew why they had ended up on the floor. I didn't want to fold any of them up (I've had issues in the past getting creases out of fabric that has been folded and stored one on top of the other) and even if I did, I didn't really know how to "file" them. Then another epiphany: they could easily be clipped to hangers and remain flat. I've done it before and can't imagine why that hadn't occurred to me earlier.

There were also big yardage of Stonehenge fabrics I'd bought for a particular project, again, wanting to leave them as flat as possible because I was using such large pieces in work, and might well use them in other art quilts as they are the kind of thing that worked well with my nature pieces. But that project is long done, and I can't imagine any project that will call for them soon so I did do a fold in half so they would fit in the wire cubes where my batiks and hand-dyes reside. Next layer had some really small pieces (on the left of the ironing board) that I think came from friend Judi's stash - again I probably didn't want to fold them up and hide them away and didn't really know how to logically file them in the space I had anyway. Still have to figure that out, but with just a few more fat quarters to hang, I'm well on my way to having a functional ironing board again and a little more organizing complete.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

More Collage

I had started a spread in my big art journal before I was tapped to make the Scrappy Journal, which ironically would also include collaging. Although I was eager to work on my journal page, I thought of it as good practice, a trial run before I got to that part in my art journal. The theme for the page is my resolution word: organize. Laly Mille who I'd taken a class from, was art journaling her resolution word, and in running across a picture of a clock, I thought of my wish to organize my time and was inspired to do the same. Art journaling has two worthwhile components in my book. The page can be a place to experiment with new media, tools and techniques, and in the process of composing the collage it can unlock feelings, emotions and more, just like writing in a journal can, only here you are exploring visually. Laly often does written journaling on the page in pencil before anything else which I find helpful in focusing my mind on what it is I want to accomplish with this page or maybe just what I'm feeling at the moment. With that done, time to start covering the page. I started with laying down some watercolor paint with nothing particular in mind.

I started with watercolor because I wanted to conduct an experiment. I knew what happens when you scatter salt over fabric or paper that is wet with dye or paint. The salt sucks the color to it and you can get some interesting patterning. I'd read that you could do the same with what's in those packets that come in some many things to keep things dry. One of my medications comes with a rather large packet so I have quite a few saved waiting for the experiment. I was surprised to find that they are actually filled with tiny balls. Look closely at the above photo and you should be able to spot some that haven't drawn up any color. The "dots" are ones that definitely have.

And when brushed off, they do leave a bit of patterning on the paper, not as much as I'd hoped but there just the same. Now I know.

With the Scrappy Journal done, I could pull out this spread again, along with the things I'd set aside to collage on it. I'm finally dipping more into my stash of security envelops and chose blue ones as I want to keep this spread light and positive. Was so excited when I ran across large text reading "Getting Organized" which I amended to "Get Organized". "New Year" and the colorful strips of balls and stars are from a New Year's card I received after Christmas (some people just admit they will not get their greetings out before Christmas!). The lined memo paper needs me to add those things I want to get organized but other than not, not sure what the next step should be. I'm pretty happy with it right now, but just like in quilting when I hesitate to add the final step of quilting for fear of ruining what I've already done, I'm hesitant to try blending with paint or other things even though I know it needs something to make it even better and bring the whole thing together. It can sit while I ponder and do some more straightening and organizing in the studio.

Speaking of which, my goddaughter asked the other day how the organizing was going and I have to admit it's going slowly, still dragging my feet about where things should go if not on the floor. Bits and pieces are finding either a new home and where they should have gone in the first place. I'm trying to be more disciplined about putting things away as soon as I am done with them rather than my usual habit of leaving them on the worktable pushed aside for "later". It really is a helpful habit to get into. But I am making some disturbing finds, like the silk tie fabric from one floor stack that I really can't remember why I wanted to leave it out. Or more disturbing, while rearranging the small stacking bins I keep under the worktable and looking through the quilting magazines on one, I uncovered two books I don't remember buying, and neither have anything to do with quilting, so why are they there? What other mysteries will I uncover?

Worse still perhaps is that I know I have to clear off the ironing board, those stacks still a bit mysterious, because I am about ready to embark on the baby quilt for my goddaughter's latest baby. Not willing to attend to that as my excitement in finding a pattern and material for the quilt is driving me to get started, I began searching through my stash for the pinks I think I want to use. Well, you have to audition those pinks against what you just bought and with nowhere else to do it, I started working on top of the pile on the ironing board. Mired, I am absolutely mired in a mess and confused as to what direction to go with these fabrics. So I'm thinking today the ironing board must be liberated, the fabric auditioning set aside until I have space on the worktable again. I want to start cutting!!!! That should be incentive enough, wouldn't you think?

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Design Team Invite

The on-line Handmade Book Club that I subscribe to offers a 5-Day Challenge twice a year to the public for a small fee. You've seen books I've made through past challenges; it's a great way to dip your toe into bookmaking or increase your technical knowledge while adding new bindings to your repertoire. For awhile now, the club has been tapping members to be a part of what they call The Design Team for each challenge. Those who accept receive advance access to videos and instructions so that they can make additional inspiration books for the website in advance of opening up the challenge, incorporating their own style and twist on the challenge book. Guess who got the call a few weeks ago and suddenly panicked at the thought - yes me! Panic, because I know how long I often take to actually get around to finishing these challenges, and here I have a hard deadline of two weeks. Panic because I don't think of myself as a seasoned bookmaker (although I am), let alone a creative one who breaks from following directions to a "T" (although I often do these days). And I don't particularly like being put in the spotlight (although I do post my books here as well as in the Club's Facebook page) and part of what they hope I'll agree to is being interviewed in one of the daily Zoom meetings for participants during the challenge week. Eek eek eek! Yeah, you can see how insecure I am about this when I wouldn't for a second be insecure if it was about quilting. I eventually reasoned, "Why NOT accept?" and said yes to the offer. After cutting and folding a piece of watercolor paper for the cover, I decided to ease into things by stenciling the insides of it. I'd bought some new stencils in January that I was eager to try, and the willow one was a perfect size. I got out my Shiva oil sticks that have been gathering dust and chose a green that I hoped would mirror a green I planned to use on the outside cover.

Security envelopes, fabric strips, lace and tissue paper, just some of the things I gathered.

As for the outside of the cover, this is where I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" as I read instructions for adding collage to it. Not that I don't have plenty of collage supplies, I definitely do as evidenced by the more than enough piles of paper and fabric in the photo above that I pulled from bins and baskets, but I don't feel comfortable with collage, haven't done a lot of it and am often not happy with the attempts I've made. Well, consider this a push to get some practical experience, and that is exactly what it was.

The teacher suggested starting with torn pieces of text and other black and white ephemera. I worked with my many designs of security envelopes. Towards the end of working on this layer, I could feel myself loosening up as I added torn bits of orange from a magazine page, but also not exactly happy that my hard work here would soon be partially covered up. That is the one thing about collage that I have a hard time reconciling. But I forged ahead to layer two's suggestion of adding some transparent tissue paper. You can see it on the left of the photo of collage elements. I was so happy to have a place to use this, and it had the two colors I was working with, orange and teal. But again, there was one more layer to add that if I was not careful, might totally obliterate those lightening bolts. Took a deep breath and soldiered on, adding strips of batik and torn silk. Having a hard time feeling it. Having a hard time adding over some of that patterning of the security envelopes not to mention the lightening bolts. Trying to achieve visual and value balance. Not particularly happy. Let it sit for a day. Stewed over it in my head til the morrow.

I'd wanted to add some lace but failed to find what I was looking for first time around. Now I looked a bit deeper and found a tatted-like off-white strip of lace and then a much wider similar piece. The narrow piece didn't do much for me and not enough really to use on both sides. But the wide one - there was enough to run the length of the cover on both front and back. Maybe along the fore edge would look good. Nope. Right down the center struck me as perfect. But there still seemed to be something lacking. One more day to sit, consider, stew over what additions might make it better.

I'd actually gone ahead and punched sewing holes in the spine and signatures, but still kept analyzing the collage. When pulling fabric strips from a basket, there was also some lengths of yarn that might be the right color. As I wondered what I might use this book for, it dawned on me that it might be the perfect vehicle for organizing my yarn stash by inventorying it here, along with noting the pattern I might use for specific yarns and even keeping track of what I'd made from specific yarns and keeping their label and washing instructions there. Once determining that, it only made sense to add some yarn to my covers, and they turned out to be the bit that brought cohesiveness and balance to the collage.

There I stood, in some kind of triumph, and realized I'd not taken progress photos of the different layers. So above are some close-ups so you can peer through to spot various bits that make up the whole.


For me, that was the hard part. Sewing in the signatures was pretty straightforward, although a binding different from any I've done so far. The zig zag requires working with two signatures at once rather than one at a time. But to get the hang of the sewing, it was highly suggested that we practice on a scrap of file folder or such. I really have never been fond of practicing anything before diving in, but when cutting the cover, I ended up with a strip of watercolor paper the perfect size for this practice run that could easily become a bookmark, so I used it along with embroidery floss to get the muscle memory hang of backstitching the zigzags. It also helped me see if I liked the colors and order of the threads I planned to use to stitch the book together.


Here's my finished book for the Scrappy Journal Challenge. I love that zigzag binding and the collage is growing on me. It measures 4" x 9".

And here's a look at the inside. One of the perks of being on the Design Team was free access to custom designed pdf "Printables" so we could print lines, dots, dashed lines, and/or banner checklist pages for our signatures. I chose a mix of the banner checklist, lines, and dots. We'll see how well I like the way I distributed them when I start using this.

Teacher Ali's Version of Scrappy Journal

Our teacher is all about using up what you have this year rather than keep buying new things. This challenge is a perfect example of that, with her giving lots of options for the supplies needed. If you think you might be interested in participating in the challenge which will run the second week in March, everything you need to know about the challenge is on the site here, along with link to sign up and a special earlybird price if you sign up before February 26th. Come join the fun!

Tuesday, February 06, 2024


I don't know about you, but I find myself filling out surveys and questionnaires and leaving my e-mail here and there in the hopes that I will win whatever free offer I decide I wouldn't mind having. I remain optimistic that surely one day I will win something, but I never do, or so rarely I can't remember the last time that spending time doing this rewarded me with a prize. I've slowed down considerably lately - all these clicks and comments eat up time I should be spending elsewhere, and I very nearly jettisoned a recent survey from the Stella Lighting Company which makes lamps somewhat like the Ott lights I've used for years. For the record, I have a small portable task lamp, a floor lamp, two architect lamps with Ott daylight bulbs and I've also replaced the bulbs in my studio overhead fixture with Ott daylight bulbs.  I'd decided that while I didn't need another task lamp with daylight bulb in my life, I'd keep on Stella's e-mail list just in case. So hovering over the delete button, I paused and decided, oh let's just do it. Five minutes of my life in exchange for the chance of being one of three randomly chosen people to receive one of their lamps. Imagine my surprise when the email came announcing I'd won a lamp, a Stella Two, what color would you like? So suspicious was I that this was some scam that I spent some time over on their website to confirm that this e-mail was real and wasn't asking for any info other than where to send the lamp. It arrived last week and it is a wonder, doing much more than my Ott task light does and worth over $200. Go check it out here for all its features as well as other styles available. I'm thinking it might replace the architect lamp over my ironing board - places where it bends to adjust height and angle no longer tighten for a firm hold.

On the organizing side, I've made little progress in the studio, so hard to face those piles and decide what to do with them. However, I spotted this little basket out in my garage and realized I could use it to corral some of my tools specific to bookbinding rather than having to hunt for them on the work table or in the bin where I have a lot of bookbinding supplies. I already use a tall cup for shears and glue brushes and other taller items. Needles are another thing that I'm always searching for in that bin - besides the straight bookbinding ones, I have some curved ones used on specific bindings. But it's always an irritating sorting through other things to get to them. A long time ago a made some small zippered pouches in several sizes, all given away except the one you see in the photo. I checked to see if the needles would fit and they do. The pouch will go in the bin but at least all the needles will be in one place inside it.
Such a small step but it made me feel so good! What small thing have you accomplished lately that felt big once done?