Week 6 of Designing a Creative Travel Journal

Travel Journal alpha

What happened to Week 5? I didn’t do my homework. 😦 The load was light, anyway, because of Thanksgiving in the U.S.

Instead, I started working on my alpha prototype in Week 5, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it all in just the one week of Week 6. I have a new job (tell you about it when I take some photos!), but haven’t managed to slough off the old one, yet…I’m giving my old boss till the Christmas holidays to find a replacement for me. So I worked 6 days last week, will work 6 days every week for the next 3 or so. Not so terrible, I’ll survive, but I haven’t had time to do any groceries or blogging or even laundry…it’s just a big grey block of work and, when I get home at night, The Prototype is waiting. So then I make a coffee and sew pockets until 1 or 2 in the morning, because I am not going to drop out in the last quarter, I’ve done way too much to just let it all go.

Anyway, the idea is still to make both a journal “jacket” and a specially bound travel journal, and for these two to work together. I have run out of time to make the bound book for this week, so I will present that as part of the Beta model, next week. Here are just pictures, and some notes, about the journal jacket part, which was a lot harder to put together than I thought it would be, though I have to say that I am thrilled to have learned SO MUCH about stitching all sorts of pockets, zips, even an expandable three-part pocket that fans out to a 90-degree angle. Go, me! (Hey, I can pat myself on the back…I have been living on rice with soy sauce and an occasional tomato, from the plant on the back deck, for 5 days…)

The photos with annotations were the ones I submitted to the course, but I’m throwing in a few more for this post, to give you all a better idea of what’s been included, changed, etcetera…

By the way, the photo at the very start of this post is shows pages of our old marbling experiments journal. For a few years in the Philippines Kris and I marbled our own papers and fabrics for the journals we made; we weren’t using any of the proper stuff—there was no carrageenan, or special marbling paints, or ox gall. We used rain water, cheap local acrylic house paints, and manioc starch for the size. Still, we managed to get our patterns to a pretty good standard, amazingly. The green marbled fabric on the cover of the journal, in some of the photos below, is one of ours.


I envision a travel journal (book), together with a sturdy “jacket” that I can put the journal into. The jacket has multiple pockets to hold not only the maps and paraphernalia of traveling, but also the art materials he/she might use to create a more personalised and artistic journal. Unlike the journal—which I imagine will become an inactive but cherished receptacle for the traveler’s memories and impressions when it is filled—the jacket is re-usable.

I work 6 days a week, so I didn’t have time to hand bind the travel journal (book) itself…sorry! But I’ve done so much work on this thing, already, that perhaps I should be viewing this “Travel Journal Jacket” as a separate design from the actual “Travel Journal”! Maybe I’ll just finish off the book part for the beta prototype next week.

NOTE: The rubber stamps are a heart, a star, and an unhappy face, representing “Like this” (or “Love this”), “Important” and “Dislike this”. The stamps are meant to be used to flag entries where the traveller wants to rate an experience. I found this solution preferable to Moleskine’s use of symbol stickers which, of course, always get used unevenly, and run out too soon.

NOTE: There are three of these large pockets with zippers that run along the edge of the journal jacket…see first illustration for placement of all three.

Just a final photo showing where everything is, from left to right: a  green journal has been strapped in, some maps and papers are in the expanding pockets, pens and brushes fit snugly into elastic loops, and there is a stamp pad and a glue tape gizmo in the tool pockets at the right. Also, yes, those are my feet, spread very far apart! 🙂

Travel Journal alpha
Travel Journal alpha


Enforced holiday stitching

embroidered patchwork

I took advantage of some enforced isolation over the holidays to do some stitching and a spot of machine sewing. Our broadband internet dongle (USB thumb drive) short-circuited a couple of days before Christmas; added to the internet deprivation was a cyclone that threatened to hit Darwin around Christmas Day (and was exhibiting many of the same movements and characteristics as Cyclone Tracy, which pretty much flattened Darwin in 1974)…

that meant strong winds, rough seas, staying home, tying everything down (the old “Batten down the hatches” routine), and getting the emergency anchors, heavy-duty chains, and everything ready, in case things got really bad.

All I remember of the Xmas week is that it was grey with rain, the boat pitched and rolled, we had no idea what the cyclone was doing because we had no access to the meteorology website, and I spent some solid time stitching and reading.*

I have begun another batch of crazy patchwork panels to use as journal covers…the bright colors and wiggly vines of chain stitched leaves were a nice way to evoke gardens in happier climes.

faux doily

Also started an embroidery of a faux ‘doily’…it would probably have been easier to crochet the thing (I learned crochet in 5th grade, but I cannot stand doing it, it bores me to tears) but I like the way I can replicate the ‘doily look’ without having to link the elements to each other or follow the usual rules. My rosettes will hang, frozen in a ‘space’ of blue fabric, untouching and untouched by the other elements of the doily, forever. Hello, Miss Havisham.
Salty's Bag

And I tried my hand at a canvas shopping bag, for the first time, ever!

Using remnants of the upholstery fabric that I used to make Salty’s curtains, enclosed seams, and adding a crazy patchworked pocket to one side, this bag is crazy-strong, and won’t fall apart after three uses, like those idiotic, so-called “environmentally friendly” made-in-China shopping bags that the Evil Supermarket Conglomerate, Woolworth’s, sells by the thousands for 99¢ apiece, and is trashing the planet with. Those things are no better than the crappy plastic bags they replaced; they take even longer to break down, and they are damn ugly, besides.

Get real, mate. The fact that the fucking thing is colored green does NOT constitute a valiant move on your part to help the environment. Selling millions of cheap, rubbishy bags, and then patting yourself on the back for making a donation from the proceeds, to a charity, is corporate wankery.

Anyway, I’m giving this shopping bag to Salty, to thank him for his patience and his generosity. It took me forever to finish his curtains; so much time, in fact, that I didn’t feel right asking him for any money for the job. I felt like I was ripping him off. But he paid me, anyway, and he wasn’t tight about it, either. What can I say? He’s a first-rate guy.

A pattern for the shopping bag is coming up, as soon as I do the diagrams. Because it was a slight pain in the arse to figure this bag out, from scratch and total inexperience, I may as well pass on what I managed to learn. I don’t claim product perfection, just another pattern for yet another shopping bag.

I actually own some bag and tote patterns that I purchased off the internet, but upon looking more closely at them I decided there were some specific features I wanted in a bag, that the “quick-and-easy” kinds of patterns had avoided:

I wanted a bag where the only seams were in the natural corners of the box…no seams running down the centers of the bottom or side panels, and which become weak spots in shopping bags. Also, I wanted the front, bottom and back of the bag to be made from a single, continuous piece of fabric, so that the weight of the grocery load is distributed between the reinforced hem around the bag’s opening, and the handles…not on some seam that connects the bottom to the front and back.

So that’s what I did over Christmas…a time of the year made special only by the threat of a killer cyclone, and the fact that the pub was closed. 😀

*Julian Barnes‘ The Sense of An Ending, and Haruki Murakami‘s 1Q84

Bakin’ the Biscuits: part 1 of ice-cream sandwich tutorial

Felt ice-cream sandwiches tutorial: part I

As promised, Part 1 is up, over on from Hell to Breakfast. Apologies all around for the yellow cast in the photos, and the rough instructions, and the nail polish (ye gods, I will never be able to atone for the nail polish…)

Part 2 tomorrow, in proper light (my eyes are killing me! Aren’t laptop screens shocking?!) G’night!

The finished wren softie

nutmeg done2
Put the wings on this morning. Nutmeg is done.

Did I say something about the wings being “the easy part”? Hah. I was cursing and swearing, and nearly ruined the embroidered wings when I tried to turn them right-side-out. You can see the rough patches on the front of wings, where the machine stitching came undone (all that pushing and stretching opened it up) and there were no seam allowances left to stitch back up after I’d gone and clipped them with pinking shears (Doh!)

For a while there I really thought I would have to embroider the wings all over again. But I managed to whip-stitch the openings, and he looks a bit ruffled, but still cheeky.

And this is just the prototype! Now I have to go back to the start and make up the real one. *sigh*…when the only thing I’d truly like to make at this moment is a martini…)

nutmeg done3

nutmeg done1

High and dry

giant moth rises over Tipperary Waters

Started the morning with this Radiohead song, apt for the weather we’ve been getting lately. 20°C in Darwin this morning…although on the water it is probably a couple of degrees lower, in this gusting south-easterly wind. It’s not painfully cold or anything, but it certainly is a chilly morning—my fingers couldn’t properly feel the needle I was stitching with—and the May we’ve just had has been the coldest on record since 1960.

I found this furry little wedge of gold pressed to the outside of our window, peering in with those beady eyes as though wanting to come in and get warm. It’s the same color as my marigolds, and I wonder whether this is the culprit who seeded my plants with voracious caterpillars, two weeks ago. My poor marigolds had gone from being lush and green, to looking like naked umbrella skeletons, in a matter of days. I had to inspect them with a torch every night for nearly a week, and pull the tenacious little buggers off the leaves…

wing for a wren

I started stitching the wings for Nutmeg The Wren after breakfast, and finished one by noon. *sigh* It seems to go so slowly, sometimes, all this hand-embroidery…sometimes I just want it to be over and done, so that I can move on to another thing on my To Do list, which is growing exponentially every week. The To Do list gets me every time: I am chronically worried that people, or the situation, will give up on me or pass me by before I can do all the things I am supposed to do. How do you speed up something like an embroidered bird’s wing, without abandoning the idea to embroider it at all? Craft is such a slow process: building the design up with lines of thread…a stab down, a stab up…the minutes and hours vanishing at an alarming rate. Even stitching two-handed, it took me half a day…and for what? One little golden brown wing.

It’s pretty...

At least it’s pretty. 🙂 “Rearranging the deck chairs aboard the Titanic,” Kris would call this. There are major deadlines and big scary projects bellowing like the monsters in Tartarus for my attention, and I chose to finish a little bird’s wing, instead. Avoidance tactics, of course. I employ them brilliantly.
wing for a wren


Scribbled a short letter to a friend last night,  and when I went to dig up her postal address I found the little packet of googly eyes that I bought a week ago at the dollar shop…my first-ever googly eyes! Can you believe that I’ve never played with these things before? I stuck some on the envelope, and it magically turned into Mr. Letter. I just love his expectant, guileless expression. It’s so true, everything looks better with googly eyes stuck on.

Mr. Letter

Headbands :: How To Work Them Into An Obsession

Headbands: How To Work Them by Jane Greenfield & Jenny Hille (1990, Oak Knoll Books)

The book Headbands: How To Work Them by Jane Greenfield and Jenny Hille (Oak Knoll Books 1990) was waiting for me at our post box yesterday. What a yummy, nerdy bookbinder’s book! Seriously, you can keep your “craft porn” books full of pretty colored pictures and the stylist’s arrangements of flowers and ceramic bunnies: My favorite craft books are dull-looking things with black and white pages, unimaginative covers, plain, practical, often cheaply printed…but the pages are packed with techniques, tricks, diagrams, long paragraphs of erudition—the sort of information that a devoted craftsperson can sink her teeth into and take sustenance from!

Books by Keith Smith, for example, Aldren Watson’s beautiful pencil-drawn instructions, or Manly Bannister’s utilitarian textbook…my copies of these books are dog-eared and dirty from years of use…I go back, again and again, to these masters of the fundamental lessons.

And now I can add Headbands…  to that short list of precious bookbinding books! It’s full of delightfully clear drawings and instructions on how to work 14 different headbands. I really bought it to learn the coptic headband, but fell in love with all the others, and I can’t wait to try each one out!

What is a headband? It is possible to make books without headbands, and yet a headband, if it has been stitched on, is a functional part of the book, providing strength to the binding, pulling the signatures at head and foot together, protecting the edges of the signatures or gatherings when the book is slid in and out of a bookshelf. Faux headbands have been available for a long time…but these are glued on to the spine of a bound book, and are purely ornamental.

The headbands pictured here are examples of the most basic headbanding technique (headband with a bead on the edge), and while I did learn to make them from my new book today, I have had the instructions for the very same headbands in a few of my older books…I just never bothered to read them! Instead, cocky and impatient, I made up my own way of doing headbands, and I thought they were pretty slick, until I learned the proper way. *Um, so, yeah, rock and roll (and rue)…*

Today’s headbands, I happily concede, came out so much prettier, and they are neater, too.

And, suddenly, I want to put a headband on everything in sight…I can’t get enough of stitching them, and I have run out of bound text blocks to put them on!

Last night I had visions of stitching a headband that continued onto the covers of a book, and went all the way around, becoming a sort of ‘piped edging’. And that got me thinking about edging quilts this way. Help! I think I’m possessed.

I loved using the variegated threads to make these, and unusual color combinations. I have used a bit of silk thread, but mostly I used whatever I felt like using…some Klippans Lingarn linen threads, some DMC Perle No. 5, some crochet yarns. I love traditional techniques, yes, but I don’t believe in slavishly recreating things from the 15th century: I’m not interested in making replicas—that’s not very inventive or creative, and I like to experiment with things, and to use what I have on hand, and I don’t like being told that in order to make something I have to first buy “a traditional such-and-such from some Snooty & Sons, est. 1708, purveyor to H.M.”!