Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I have been relatively quiet about the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan. It is just difficult to watch such devastation and feeling so helpless, unable to do something to help them, aside from donating money.

Yet in the face of such adversity, the Japanese have my total admiration, and I am sure - the rest of the world's at how they handled the aftermath. Stories are pouring in through twitter about how people are calm and orderly. Shoes are removed at doorways before entering homes. Cars are not beeping at each other at 10 hour traffic jams. People are gracious and giving way, donating food, young teenagers are running around to help those in need. No looting or mayhem. This is a people of true grit, true civilization. You can read more stories that encourage here.

Japan, we are all praying for you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My First Hardcover Book!

I met this lady last year and she is from my care group. Beth is one of the sweetest, most thoughtful people I know. She has reached out to me in so many ways to get to know me better and I appreciate her friendship very much. Last year, we had a ladies' meeting and we were all talking about journals, where we wrote about our quiet times or private musings with the Lord. It was clear to me that Beth liked hand bound journals and I thought that I would make her one this year for her birthday.

I went to Youtube, such a great resource, to get some lessons on how to bind books. I found one by this Italian man. Even though he spoke no English, it was easy to understand what he did but he only explained how to sew the signatures together.

However, once the book was bound, then what? I had no idea how to put the cover together. So I looked at a few other videos, like this one from a Kiwi lady. Sorry for all the links, I tried to link the videos up here but for some reason, they appear as a blank screen.

There is also a very good tutorial here on Instructables.

My book is a mixture of all the three tutorials shown above. I started with some drawing paper, which is a little bit thicker than ordinary paper.

As there were 40 pieces, I separated them into 8 pieces, making it 16 pages when I folded them in half.
Each of these "booklets" is called a signature.  After they were folded, I made a frame out of the scrap MDF I had lying around. I noticed in the Italian language video, the man had a type of tool that held the thread together.
Yeah, this is my dining room. It is also the place where the boys do their homework, I sew, paint (hence the big canvas in the background) Back to the frame, I brad nailed it together.

Then I placed a piece of paper the same length as the signature and poked holes in them. This would form the template of where I would poke the holes through the pages.

I placed a magazine under my signatures so that it would be easier for me to poke the holes through.

Watch the first video to get an idea of how to make this. Then after the pages are put together like below, (My hands look so arthritic!)

I tied them off.

The signatures were clamped together and I put a cheesecloth and glue on the spine. This will help to adhere the signatures to the cover later on. Even my dining chair is the makeshift workspace!

For the cover, I planned to embroider a picture of a bird as Beth loves bird watching. I follow an Australian artist's blog called Chantal Vincent Art and she is so talented. She had a picture of a cardinal on her blog and I wrote to her asking if I could use her image as an embroidery piece. She kindly agreed to do so! Go check out her website and her etsy store. She carves her own stamps and her designs are very adorable!

Getting onto fabric was tough though. I traced it on but could not see the pencil marks so in the end, I decided to use freezer paper to print the image on to fabric.

I liked the image as it was and wished I did not have to embroider but I was worried that the ink would fade. Even after some handling, I could see that the ink was started to smear. I did not have time to look into chemicals that would make the ink permanent as this project was one big learning experience already and that would be too much of an overload.

I started on a satin stitch for the branch and then changed my mind because I did not like the way it looked. In the end, I went for a hybrid stem stitch. (I don't know what I was doing, I was just making it up as I went along!)

I cut the covers using stiff cardboard. I glued the fabric on to the board.

I had to do this step twice because I did not measure the spine correctly and it was way off.  I threw away about 2 pieces of fabric before I got this right. 

I did not take photos of the next steps because I needed to use both hands! I had to glue the book bundle to the cover! I am not too pleased with how the outline of the cover and cheesecloth is showing here. Maybe the paper I used was too thin. I plan on placing a Bible verse there anyway. See Cameron's little puffle toys?

Close up of the embroidery. 

This is the finished book. It was a good project, not too difficult to do. I hope Beth likes it!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Won!

My sister Jo-Ann always seems to be winning a lot of contests. I shall name some of them - those I can remember anyway.

She won an Air Asia trip - the first prize - to a U2 concert to London from Malaysia. Free hotel, free flights everything! It was an amazing trip for her as she is such a huge fan of U2.

Then last year in Dec, she flew to Perth, Australia for another U2 concert (told ya she was a crazy fan) and her sister in law submitted a photo of them doing some jumping shots by the beach. They won AUD$300 of free flights with Jetstar.

She has won a digital recorder, and once, she was the first caller to identify a song playing on a radio station and won RM$2000 which went towards fixing her car. She also won a Nokia state of the art cell phone.

I asked her how she got so lucky and she said that she entered everything. I guess it's simple, the odds increase as you enter more competitions. So I heeded her advice and started entering blog giveaways.

I took part in this giveaway with Three Men and a Lady, a blog I love because the lady, Michelle has such an amazing DIY spirt and so talented in designing her own space. She has really inspired me to do a lot more DIY at home. It was a Novica gift card for US$50 and all we had to do was leave my comment. I did so, not expecting much. Yesterday morning, I opened up my Google Reader, coffee in hand and saw she had announced a winner.

"...and the winner is, No 5, "Life On Planet Mum." I jerked, spilling the coffee over my tracksuit pants (fortunately not the keyboard!) and I had to check it twice in case my eyes were deceiving me.

I am elated. It has inspired me to join more giveaways and contests. Thank you Michelle for the giveaway, I cannot wait to spend it and Jo-Ann for your bit of good advice!


Howdy! Sorry for not posting for a few weeks. I have been busy with the children and the cold weather makes me sluggish and unmotivated to do anything. Fortunately, I did have enough motivation to build a bookcase from scratch from Ana White's website. She's incredible!  Someone saw my bookcase that I posted on my Facebook and commented over the phone to me that why didn't I just go to Ikea to buy one? Well, Ikea is far away from where we live, and whenever we go to Ikea, it ends up being a huge time and money waster. That place is dangerous. It has a layout that forces the shopper to go through the whole store before coming to the checkout area. You see so many cute things and boom! Your cart is filled to the brim when you only came for one thing.

Anyway back to the Bookcase. We have so many books but no where to store them! I went down to Home Depot one weekday and got the guy to cut sooo many wood cuts for me. I ended staying there for 1.5 hours! I was feeling a bit uncomfortable by the end of it because I knew it was a lot of wood to cut and the man said to me the next time I go back to the store, I must buy him a coffee.

I primed the MDF with 2 coats of primer and let it dry. Then I painted it white, another 2 coats of paint.

I then used my new Kreg Jig tool, we invested in it because Matt was going to build a closet space in the boys rooms'. The last time, we went the Elfa route, it cost us US$500 for a small space, and that was with a discount. This will cost us less than $100, as the bookcase did, it was $70 all up. I had the primer and paint and the tools on hand.

Here is a picture of the Kreg Jig, it helps you with wood joinery.

The wood below has been pocket screwed by me, and was moved to the basement from the garage because I knew it would be extremely heavy to carry down the stairs once it was built together.

 Here it is, completed. It is very strong and very heavy. I learnt that you have to be very accurate with the cuts because, like quilting, every other part is dependent on how accurate you are with its measurements or the next piece will go all wonky. My dividers were cut by the Home Depot man as I said before, and they were over by 1/8th of an inch. I thought, "Who cares? It is only 1/8th" WRONG! After I had nailed the bottom dividers on, I noticed that the bottom shelves were bowed. I realised it was due to the measurements not being accurate enough. It was a lot of work for me to try to pull out the whole shelf and start again so I left it but fixed up the dividers for the other two remaining shelves.

Now that it is complete, I have been unpacking the children's books. Yay! They have been sitting in boxes for 18 months since we moved to the USA and it is nice to be able to re-introduce them to the boys again! I am going to build another one - for my books this time! :)