24 November 2020

From book to wreath - upcycling library discards

Rustic wreath made from book pages.

Our local public library is an active community center and programming continues even during a pandemic.  Via Zoom, artist and enthusiastic library employee Janelle lead a group of us through the process of making a rustic wreath from a discarded library book. 
Find more ideas about repurposing discarded books in publications like this.
First, we registered at the library's website and then, masked of course, retrieved a kit of discarded book and cardboard circle, the base for our wreath, as well as a length of twine, from the front desk.  To cut your own donut, the outer dimension of the cardboard "donut" is 13", and the inner hole is 3 1/2". 

Cardboard "donut" is base of wreath.
In addition to a discarded book, other materials include:
Glue gun and plenty of glue sticks
Discarded book 
32" or so length of twine for hanging loop

My discarded book was a hardcover so I followed the lead of another participant and removed the covers and spine. This makes it easier to remove the individual pages. Initially it felt very transgressive to destroy a book, but then it became oddly liberating. I separated most of the pages and was ready for the next step.
Pages removed from book, and stapler.
Next, roll each page into a cone shape and secure the shape, either by stapling near the base or with tape. You can also use the glue cone to form the cones.

Cone, stapled at base.

Now, you can either make all your cones first, or glue them on to the cardboard as you go. Janelle's three-row wreath used about eighty cones, and I decided to make my cones first. All the cones will be slightly different; don't worry about it. The key with this project is to embrace the words "wonky" and "rustic."

Bin of approximately eighty cones.

Time to start applying the cones to the base - but first attach the twine for hanging, as shown below. 

Make a loop, bring ends up through loop and knot.

The first row of cones is glued to the back of the ring - this will make sense once you move onto the second ring of cones. I glued four cones as "compass points" to better gauge the placement of the remaining cones, so they would radiate out evenly.
First cones glued to back, about 3/4" in from the center.

Note direction of cones - facing what will be the front. Next, begin gluing cones around the ring, using the glue gun. I used about 23 cones for this first ring, but later realized I should have squished my cones together a bit more and used a few more cones.

Gluing cones to back; should have fitted a few more.

Once the back is covered in cones, flip the wreath and glue more cones to the cardboard, spacing them in between the cones on the back.

Gluing cones to front of cardboard base.

Completed ring of cones on front.
Finally, add the topmost layer of cones - at this point you are gluing them to other cones, not the base. Let about 2" of the first layer of cones project behind this top layer. The ends of the cones will protrude into the hole space; don't worry about this yet.

Glue top layer of cones to first layer.

Once the top layer of cones is secured, the back will look like the image below. Wait until the glue is completely set, then fold and glue all the ends of the cones to the back of the cardboard base.
Back side of wreath - fold ends of cones and glue.

Could cover the messiness with decorative paper.

My end result was acceptable, for a first try. I used about sixty cones, but may add a few more in the future. I may also glue the top layer of cones a bit more securely to the layer beneath it. Janelle also suggested dip-dyeing the page edges, or adding glitter, which could give a fun, festive look.

I may add a few more cones to that top layer at some point.

30 October 2020

Maine Mineral and Gem Museum

DH holds a piece of moon rock.


We recently took our first long-distance field trip in months. Two lures - Maine rescinded travel restriction on visitors from our state, and we read about the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum.  After visiting friends in Portland, on their outdoor terrace, we continued on to Bethel, Maine. 

The museum is right on the main street, and has a rock garden - emphasis on rocks - skirting the building.  This the 200th anniversary of Maine's statehood and  Maine's state gem is the tourmaline. Sadly, the planned celebrations of both Maine and the tourmaline had to be post-poned.  At the time of this writing, the museum has had to shutter its doors again due to a water leak.

Banners give a hint of the goodies inside.


One thing we like very much is that this isn't just a display of interesting objects - the museum makes a real effort to tell the stories of the people behind the work of prospecting for minerals such as feldspar, used in the production of porcelain, and for gemstones.  One long-time "rock whisperer" is Frank Perham, a senior statesman among Maine geologists and miners.  The museum founders, Mary McFadden and Lawrence Stifler, acquired much of the core collection from Mr. Perham, whose father Stanley and mother Hazel managed a mineral and gem retail store for many years.  Many of the historic finds in Maine have been acquired by Harvard and the American Natural History Museum, so it is particularly pleasing that many items will remain in the state in which they were  discovered.

Monocline feldspar and paver dedicated to Frank and Mary Perham.

Large samples of Maine's minerals and ores in the rock garden.

Note the crystal motifs of the window grilles.


We had the museum pretty much to ourselves when we visited; the masked volunteers were helpful and enthusiastic, but not intrusive.  One highlight is the opportunity to hold a piece of the moon (see first image above). Not a lunar rock retrieved by astronauts, but a chunk ejected from the moon which fell to earth as a meteorite. Very cool. We'll be returning.

29 October 2020

Farewell, Lord & Taylor

Iconic script logo.


After almost two centuries in the retail firmament, Lord & Taylor filed for bankruptcy late this summer.  Although insignificant compared to the loss of human life this year, the demise of this store is a passing of a kind, and I am in mourning.

I especially will miss Lord & Taylor's own brand and the petite range.  Petite sizing was championed by Dorothy Shaver, who became the first woman to head a major retail corporation when elected president of Lord & Taylor in 1945, a position she held until her death in 1959. According to her obituary in the New York Times (29 June 1959):

In 1932 she [Ms. Shaver] challenged Parisian domination of fashion by encouraging and developing native American designing talent. During the next eight years she promoted and publicized the clothes and names of sixty young American designers who had previously worked anonymously.
Ms. Shaver also helped establish the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among many other accomplishments.

Going out of business sale.

Noted for dresses.

Store fixtures.

Red and black banners signal the end.

The jewelry counter, deserted.


I visited the Lord & Taylor store at the Natick Mall, to say goodbye, and perhaps make one last purchase. I ended up ordering something from the Lord & Taylor website. Ironic, as a company called the Saadia Group just purchased Lord & Taylor for online business only.  It won't be the same.

30 September 2020

Boo! - Little Ghosts by Yarn Birdy

Three ghosts, and a pumpkin, ready for Halloween.

Went prowling recently for Halloween-themed knitting projects. Found this too cute pattern on Alexis Hamann-Nazaroff's Ravelry page: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/yarn-birdy/patterns
Ms. Hamman-Nazaroff offers lots of sweet small knitted toys and decorative items.
Little Ghosts
The little ghost is knit in the round, in one piece, from bottom to top.
Worsted weight yarn in white, scrap lengths
    I used Plymouth "Galway", color #8
Four US size 3 double-pointed needles (3.25 mm)
Embroidery thread, black
    I used DMC floss, color #310
Tapestry needle
CO =  cast on
    I found the long-tail cast-on gave a slightly nicer edge for this project.
DPN = double-pointed needles
k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 stitches together into 1 stitch
ssk = slip, slip, knit: slip the next 2 stitches onto the right-hand needle knitwise, stick the tip of your left-hand needle into them from above, and knit them together into 1 stitch.
    I found this tutorial very helpful: https://newstitchaday.com/ssk-slip-slip-knit-decrease-knitting/
yo = yarn over. Wrap the yarn around the needle to create an extra stitch. 
Cast on 33 stitches and divide evenly over 3 DPNs (11 stitches per needle)
Round 1 (and all odd rounds through round 9): k
Round 2: [k2tog, k3, yo, k4, ssk] 3 times (30 stitches)
Round 4: [k2tog, k3, yo, k3, ssk] 3 times (27 stitches)
Round 6: [k2tog, k2, yo, k3, ssk] 3 times (24 stitches)
Round 8: [k2tog, k2, yo, k2, ssk] 3 times (21 stitches)
Round 10: [k2tog, k1, yo, k2, ssk] 3 times  (18 stitches) 

Round 11 - 18: k

Round 19: [k2tog, k1] 6 times (12 stitches)
Round 20: [k2tog] 6 times (6 stitches)
Round 21: Cut the yarn, leaving a tail about 8 inches long, and thread this through the remaining stitches. Tie a knot and pull the thread inside the ghost out of sight.
    I tied a knot and also wove the end in a bit before cutting the yarn. 
Add the eyes by threading all six strands of black embroidery floss onto a tapestry needle and wrapping around a knit stitch 3 or 4 times; carry floss inside to other eye and repeat. I knotted the floss and also used a bit of fabric glue on the knot for extra security, but this is probably optional.

All ready for ghostly fun.
Note about gauge:
Gauge really doesn't matter for this project, so you can use any needles and scrap yarn you might have. Just make sure the yarn knits up into a tight, firm fabric so that the final toy holds its shape.
So, this probably means you should select needles one or two sizes smaller than the recommended size for your yarn.

Not too scary, but fun.