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Introduction to Bookbinding class at The Create Place in Bethnal Green

9:04 am

If you find yourself getting off the tube at Bethnal Green, take a few minutes to wander up the street and take a right at Old Ford Road. Pass the gym and you'll find a wonderful little corner of the universe. St. Margaret's House is a charity that supports unique things going on in Bethnal Green, including wellbeing, crafts classes, vegan eating, and general community spirit. They have cinema showings in their chapel, rent out space to those wishing to run classes, make a good hot drink, and basically provide fun and exciting things for you to do during your week.

Last Sunday I took part in a class at 'The Create Place', which was created to provide low-cost classes to anyone wishing to start their own projects or just meet some new people in a crafty setting. The workshop I took part in was 'Introduction to Bookbinding' from Lina Avramidou of 'We Make Books!'. Five hours of bookmaking, refreshments, and all materials cost £65, which I think is an absolute bargain for the skills you're getting and the creations you come away with. I think all of her classes, which she runs on a monthly basis, come in at the same price and book up very quickly!

During the class we created three kinds of book: accordion/concertina fold (see above with green cover), Japanese four-hole stab binding (see below with yellow cover), and a single-section case binding (see bottom with purple and grey cover). The first two took about 2.5 hours, and after a half hour break the last one took about 2. I knew bookbinding was an art, but this was a lot more complex than I was expecting! I'm incredibly pleased with how my books came out, though, and there are only a few rough edges that I'm unhappy with (but I am not good with a blade).

I think the greatest feeling of accomplishment I get when I see my final books is to do with the covers. Each cover, except for the stab binding, involved covering board with the material of our choice. The green cover of my accordion binding is actually wallpaper and stuck down really well. However the other side, which you cannot see, was covered with a beige linen which I can tell you is pretty damn hard to glue down. I'm so happy with the finished product though; a lot more work goes into such simple-looking books than you'd expect!

The class was a lovely size, with less than 10 of us around a table, with space for our supplies, notebooks, and phones for copious amounts of photo-taking. It was a lovely atmosphere, to be in a room filled with people having just as much fun as yourself. Everyone paid attention to the instructions closely, and weren't shy to ask each other if they needed some help. We got the chance to chat over tea during the break and stretch our legs on the sunny (no lie) streets of Bethnal Green. I didn't get a chance to go in The Gallery Cafe this time, unfortunately, but on a previous visit I did and it was wonderful.

The day was an enormous success overall, and I loved actually heading out and doing something creative with my Sunday. I find myself sometimes getting lost in the weekends, staying home and taking time out to do nothing, but sometimes it's also beneficial to fill that time with something creative and away from home. I now have a new skill that I'd love to practice more (I'll be signing onto more of Lina's workshops in the future for sure), perhaps to make gifts for friends and family.

M x


My Journey to Minimalism: Part #3 ('15 for 30' Minimalist Wardrobe Challenge)

6:00 pm

I've already pared down my wardrobe a significant amount recently, but I was inspired by a series of posts Chyna Benzine (AKA WheezyWaiter's wonderful wife and all-round amazing person) has on her Instagram where she's conducting the '15 for 30' challenge. The basis is that you choose fifteen items of clothing you own and alternate only wearing those for thirty days. This '15' excludes underwear, coats (I only really have two I alternate between: one is navy blue and very warm, and the other a trench coat for when it's cooler), accessories (so for me that's hats and scarves), and pyjamas, but does include shoes. Below you can see a photo of the kinds of things I've chosen, plus I've also included a list if it's not clear what everything is.

(As you can see, I don't wear a lot of colour. And when I do, apparently it's green.)

Black and white H&M speckle jumper
Grey H&M cropped jumper
Blue Topshop Leigh Jeans
White starry Converse trainers
Black and white Hollister striped tee
Black and white H&M long sleeve top
Mustard New Look jumper
Green ASOS check shirt
Grey Primark baggy tee
Grey Topshop long sleeve top
Green Topshop jumper
Black ASOS chelsea boots
Dark green H&M cardigan
Black Topshop Leigh Jeans
White ASOS shift dress

So these are the fifteen items of clothing I'm going to be alternating for the next thirty days. I've kept back several pairs of black leggings in my drawer too as it's still only just spring here and I use them (or tights) on the daily for layering. Topshop skinny jeans are not warming. I'm happy with how versatile I can be with these clothes as they'll be suitable for both work and the weekend, as well as providing a good amount of layering depending on the fickle March weather.

M x

Waterstones £1 Clearance Haul

9:00 am

Who expected a £1 clearance sale to be this good?

Delirium by Lauren Oliver - A young adult dystopian novel, the first in a series, set in a world where love is banned. It causes madness and delirium and must be treated as soon as the symptoms are first spotted. Very good reviews by people I follow on Goodreads, as well as the general Goodreads community. The series finished in 2013 so if I enjoy it I can take my time without worrying about looking release dates.

This Will Be Difficult to Explain by Johanna Skibsrud - I picked this up after only reading the blurb (it's a collection of loosely connected short stories, to summarise quickly), and upon checking Goodreads I can see that it has been very poorly received by reviewers on there. However I'm still curious and will happily give it a go.

An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorján - Somehow in one haul I have picked up two books by people called 'Johanna'. This is a memoir is Johanna's grandparents, very much in love with very happy lives, who one day, together, took their own lives.

M x


Spring 2016 TBR

5:00 pm

* My copy of The Vatican Princess was provided to me via request by Hodder & Stoughton and Bookbridgr *

The Gunslinger by Stephen King - The first volume in King's fantasy series The Dark Tower. This is only a slim book, coming in at under 300 words, with rather large writing. The blurb boasts gripping realism as well as an eerie dream-like state, so I'm bound to whiz through this at some point in the next few months!

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - Considering how much I, as well as everyone else and their mum, loved Gone Girl, I'm surprised it's taken me this long to decide to read Dark Places. From what I can tell this surrounds massacre and, possibly, cults. I'm ready for Flynn to blow me away again.

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer - The sequel to the amazing Annihilation which I read last year and have not since forgotten about. It's been a while since I've delved into my love of science fiction, so now is the time.

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler - Picked up from work as soon as I saw we stocked it. This is one of those books that's been in my consciousness for years but I still have no idea what it's about...other than vaginas.

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín - Film hype! Historical coming-of-age, war, Ireland, New York, romance. Colour me all over this.

The Vatican Princess* by C. W. Gortner - I knew I needed to read this as soon as I saw it available on Bookbridgr. I've been replaying far too much Assassin's Creed lately, so the Borgias are at the front of my mind. I'm not expecting any level of historical accuracy in this, honestly, but I am expecting a damn exciting time.

The Sandman Volumes 8-10 by Neil Gaiman - Finally polishing off this indulgently mad series. I'm going to be so sad to see it go, but the amount of spin-offs for these characters will keep me going for another few years.

M x


Book Review: Liza Dalby's The Tale of Murasaki

10:11 am

Fun fact: Liza Dalby is the only Western woman to ever be trained to become a geisha, but that's another story for another book.

The Tale of Murasaki gives its synopsis in its title. This book is the semi-fictional, semi-true story of the life of Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the classical Japanese work, The Tale of Genji. It begins with her childhood, including the death of her mother and the subsequent remarriage of her father. Her family moves across the country, and we read about her time spent writing, learning Chinese, meeting new people who she begins passionate relationships with, and her eventual introduction into life in the court. We hear these tales in Murasaki's voice, as if it's her writing her memoirs, and scattered throughout are letters she's received from friends in far off places, and short poems (waka, a kind of forerunner to the haiku) she's composed that come from her real published poetry collection.

I immediately fell in love with Liza Dalby's writing as soon as I opened the first page, and her attention to detail is absolutely stunning. I'm by no means a scholar of historic Japanese life and culture, but through her prose you can see distinctly how much research she has done to recreate such a complex world. I was most fascinated in this story by the rituals of beauty and the way one must act in court; they're so far from what I'm used to and it certainly made the book even more eye-opening. One example of this would be the practice for women to blacken their teeth (ohaguro) as it was considered more elegant and attractive than having white teeth. I'd never heard of this before. A few weeks later I was watching the Studio Ghibli film The Tale of The Princess Kaguya and there is a scene where she is blackening her teeth as part of the process of being trained as a noble woman.

I was sad when this story was over. I had been absorbed into it for over a week, in love with Dalby's prose and connected with her characters. So much happens in the duration of this novel; it feels so wrong for it all to be done now.

M x