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Easy Starburst Ornament

I was inspired to make this starburst having seen this Prairie Point Star from Supermom No Cape and even tried making a 3D paper version of it, which I still think is possible, but would need more headspace than my toddler and baby give me during our crafting sessions!

Even though it’s not quite what I was planning to make, I’m happy enough with it and think that a few in various sizes would look quite nice stuck to the wall en masse as a Christmas decoration. I might even try layering the starbursts to make a wreath of sorts when I have a bit more time.

To make a paper starburst decoration you need:

  • Two different coloured cards, one plain one patterned works well
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • An embellishment to hide the central join

How to make a paper starburst decoration:

  1. Measure out five squares from each card and then cut these in half on the diagonal to create twenty right angled triangles. My squares were 5cmx5cm

2. Measure out another square and draw out lines marking each of the quarters.

3. Begin placing your triangles on this guide square, deciding what level of spacing you prefer. If you like a more spread out starburst use four triangles per quarter, if you like a more compressed look use five per quarter. DO NOT glue the first triangle to the paper, glue the second to the first and then each triangle after that to the triangle before it while building up the pattern in a circle. You will need to be able to lift the first triangle to slot the final joining triangle beneath it to create a unified look.

4. When all the pieces are in position, you can securely stick the first piece and the final piece together. Add a splodge of PVA glue in the middle and glue an embellishment in the central spot to hide the join and hold the whole ornament firmly together.

Depending on the size of your final ornament you could hang this on a string to use as a tree decoration, or blue tack to the wall in a starburst scene.

Snowflake Paper Pinwheel Decoration

I’m half way into my Twelve Days of Bookish Crafts Blogmas and I have to say I’m really enjoying it. The crafts that I’ve been making are really simple, but as I put them around the house they instantly make the place feel a little more festive and it’s quite calming sitting and making some little decorations, either by myself or even better with Phoebe as we chat about our projects and life.

Today’s craft couldn’t be much simpler, a book page pinwheel with a snowflake button sewn into the centre. But it looks really good, or I think it does, and you can imagine how it will look when it’s hung on a tree with fairy lights shining off the snowflake button.

To make the pin wheel you will need:

  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread
  • Decorative button (I bought my snowflakes from ebay)
  • Glue
  • String for hanging

How to make a snowflake pinwheel decoration:

  1. Cut your book page in half so you have a long, thin strip of paper. A maths whizz could probably tell you the minimum width to length ratio needed to get the pinwheel to fold into a circle. I’m reasonable at maths but my head isn’t in that place right now, but if your paper strip is too wide then your pin wheel won’t fold.
  2. Fold your paper into a concertina, then fold this in half to find the middle point.
  3. If you’re only planning to make a pin wheel you can staple the mid point or wrap string tightly around it to secure it. To sew the snowflake button in place, I’d recommend sewing thread through the centre point of the concertina and then sewing through this on both sides and through the button to secure this to the exterior of your concertina.
  4. When the button is in place, glue the edges of your paper together on one side to form an arc.
  5. Then repeat this on the other side.
  6. Carefully make a hole in the paper and thread through to hang.

The collage below has come out quite low res, but it gives you the basic idea for making the pinwheel.

 

How to Make a Paper House Lantern

It’s day three of my blogmas and I’m really excited to share today’s bookish craft with you – an easy DIY tiny paper house. I’m going to show you how to make a tiny paper house step by step so you can have your own (free!) lantern.

This was great fun to make and it’s made my mantlepiece look really Christmassy. I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be making a lot more of these before December is out, so my currently minimalist Christmas display will turn into a bustling paper village.

An important point to make, but one that bears saying, is if you do make a paper lantern, don’t put a real tealight in it as a candle is obviously a massive fire hazard. I’ve used an LED tealight in mine and these are widely available to buy. They are pretty much all I use with small children in the house. Speaking of small children, an adult will need to help them with this because the detail work requires a sharp craft knife.

To make a paper house lantern you will need:

  • Cardboard (I used watercolour paper for the main building for the texture and gold cardboard for the roof)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Right angle
  • Scissors
  • Sharp craft knife and a protective mat
  • Glue
  • Paper clips
  • Any embellishhments that you’d like to add- I used a strip of printed paper on the eaves of the roof to give the appearance of bookish snow

How to make a paper house lantern

    1. Draw out your paper house template carefully on a piece of card making sure that all of the supporting walls have right angle corners (unless you’re making a model of The Burrow for a family of tiny Weasleys to live in). Each of my walls is 6cm wide and 8cm tall, so the base of my house is 6cm square with space left for gluing flaps. The apex (if that’s the word?) of the roof is 3cm up from the central point of each wall, as you can see in the picture of my template, so it was just a matter of joining the corners of the walls to this upper point on the reverse of my building while sketching out the design. As long as you know how to make a cube, this is pretty easy.

      Step one, plan your build- my template for my tiny paper house lantern

2. When you’re happy with the shape of your template, add in the features that you will cut out for the light to shine through. As you can see in my template above, I’ve roughly sketched out windows and a door at the front, and two large windows on either side. I left the rear wall solid since this side won’t display to the room and it makes the paper house a little more robust. It doesn’t matter if the pencil sketching is a little messy as this will be the inside of your paper house so isn’t visible when you’ve folded the cardboard template together.

3. Cut out your house template, scoring the lines between walls gently with a craft knife so that they fold together smoothly but you don’t cut all the way through the card. Check that you’re happy with how your building folds together.

Check that your happy that your paper house folds together well

4. Using a very sharp craft knife cut out the detail on a protective mat. I used our plastic chopping board because I have no idea where my cutting board with measurements has gone during our house move. If your glue tab is going to obstruct a feature when your building folds together (as mine does above) trim this out of the way now.

This is the slow part

5. Use your glue stick to apply glue to your tabs and then stick your paper house together! Use the paper clips to secure the building in place while it dries.

Paper clip holding the paper house together, I also used them either side of the doorway to hold the small tabs in place while the glue dried.

6. Measure and cut your roof to have a little overlap. I made mine 7 x 11cm long and scored a line at the centre so it would fold smoothly. It holds itself very well but if you want a tight join you could probably weight it or use some washi tape inside.

7. Add any embellishments that you like, pop an LED tea light inside and put the lid back on. Voila, a wintry house in paper lantern miniature.

I’m looking forward to making some more of these. I’m even tempted to go wild and make some houses and buildings from literature. Hogwarts sprang to mind but that would be a lot of tiny windows and doors!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

iconiconI wouldn’t normally buy a book about tidying up, but everywhere I’ve turned recently people seem to be gushing about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying or the KonMarie Method, so I thought that with a baby arriving this month it might be worth a read.

It’s a very short read but as for being a “simple, effective way to banishing clutter forever”? I’m not convinced. And that’s before you get to her claims that it helps her clients lose weight, improve their skin and transform their careers…

Firstly, I found her constant repetition of the phrase “putting your house in order” really disconcerting. I’m not sure whether that’s been translated literally from the original Japanese or poorly translated by someone who isn’t familiar with every day English, but whenever someone talks about putting their house in order in my experience, they are usually referring to putting their affairs in order before they die. So far, so bleak.

I disliked the fact that the KonMarie method focuses on throwing out anything that doesn’t “spark joy”. The author writes with pride about the hundreds of 45 litre rubbish bags her clients have thrown out, the never worn clothes that have gone to the bin and how her clients have learned to eagerly await the arrival of the bin men… it all sounded incredibly wasteful. While I appreciate the need for a good declutter now and again (we’ve taken a lot to the charity shop and put it on ebay while getting the house baby ready), nothing in the book seems to get recycled, just binned. And she has a real fixation with binning. It’s like a one woman crusade to promote landfill.

As a book lover, I think her attitude towards books was the worst for me. Not only does she encourage her clients to throw out any books they don’t truly or deeply love but she counsels people that they are burdening and oppressing their families by passing on the items that they no longer want to them. I can’t speak for all readers, but I love it when a friend or family member passes on a bag of books that I haven’t read to me. And she advises people to keep their bookshelves out of sight in wardrobes, where you should also store such items as wedding albums, souvenirs and mementoes… if you insist upon keeping these, she’d really rather you didn’t.

I admit, I’m probably not Kondo’s target reader, but I have to say, I struggled to understand the deep admiration that fills most of the writing you will read about her. Instead, I was left with a deep concern for her wellbeing. Kondo seems to eagerly reminisce about how she started reading her mother’s lifestyle magazines at the age of five, before taking up compulsively cleaning the family home every evening after school. Throwing away her parents’ and siblings’ possessions if she felt they weren’t in frequent enough use. She recounts one occasion on which she had a kind of breakdown on the bedroom floor at not being able to get her room clean enough for her liking and heard a disembodied voice talking to her… throughout the whole book it seems as though she uses a need to tidy as a way of avoiding living life in the outside world speaking very critically of her family (she admits towards the end of the book that her issues with tidying may relate to her relationship with her mother). And really, what kind of family sees the older brother allowing his little sister to declutter his bedroom? Just weird.

I got the impression that Kondo’s insistence upon treating objects as people, thanking them for their day’s service, unpacking your handbag to allow it to relax after a hard day, holding them to feel whether there is a “spark” between you suggests she’s more comfortable with things than real life. While Kondo’s ritual cleaning of her handbag into specially constructed drawer compartments every evening might be viewed as eccentric, her storage of dishes on the veranda throughout the day sounds unhygienic to me (pollution? wildlife?) and as for her suggestion that shampoo bottles need to be towel dried after each use to prevent them becoming slimy… I can’t imagine wanting to live with someone who allows their surrounding to exert such control over their everyday life and happiness. Life is too short.

So while lots of people have fallen under the spell of the KonMarie method, I politely decline to jump on the bandwagon, preferring to sit in one of my reading nooks with a good view of my heaving bookshelf, mantelpiece and walls which are covered in family photos because that sparks joy in me.

For images of a client’s room before and after the KonMarie method see this Guardian article. Personally I think the before image looks more interesting… the after is like a room in a nursing home…

Getting on trend with a #shelfie

Good morning all, it’s currently ten minutes to six in the morning and I have been awake since 3:30 am thanks to some idiot screaming, “Ian!!!” outside my bedroom window for far too long. To distract myself from the dark thoughts that I have been having about whoever Ian and his would-be hailer were, I’ve decided to get in on the Shelfie act that my friends keep telling me about and share with you a shelfie of my living room bookcase the dining room and landing you don’t get to see because we’re decorating so they are piled with all kinds of non-book nonsense.

Shelfie

My all time favourite personal shelfie (yes, I may have taken more than one) is this one I took in 2008 when my boyfriend and I had just moved in together and my very literary guinea pig decided that he had a new favourite hangout.

Guinea pig shelfie

Save Money on Books – Tips for Cheaper Reads

Untitled design
Let’s face it, books aren’t cheap and they can really hit your pocket if you buy a lot of them. A few years ago I posted some eco-cheap tips about how you could read more, spend less and save the world but given the current financial climate and some extra tips I’ve learned in the three years I’ve been blogging since I decided this didn’t go far enough. So if you consider books to be luxuries rather than essentials, here are my top money-saving tips for you.

 Borrow and Swap

1. Libraries

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- making use of your public, school or university library is probably the easiest way to get hold of the books you want for free. Sign up for a library card and you can rent a selection of books (and DVDs, and CDs) for weeks at a time, just make sure that you renew or return by the due date to avoid fines. My local library has a great community of readers around it and hosts storytelling, author talks and reading groups so it can work wonders for your social life as well. Bonus point of libraries- authors receive a royalty for books loaned through libraries, so even if you aren’t able to support your favourite author by buying their books, you are still supporting them by reading them.

 

2. Set Up a Swap Table

At work we have a swap table where you can leave your books when you’ve finished reading them and pick up a new book in exchange. This doesn’t even need to be limited to books. Our table is fairly book dominated because of the nature of the publishing industry, but I’ve also seen CDs, DVDs, cake and in the summer a glut of allotment fruit and vegetables. It has all the benefits of swapping with a friend of family member but with much greater variety, and you can spring clean your bookshelves and know that your unloved paperbacks are going to a good home.

 

3. Ask a friend for their book

If you see a friend reading an interesting looking book, don’t be afraid to ask to borrow it. It’s always nice to see what you’re friends think of a book that you’ve loved (or hated) and it will help you bond over a shared interest. I love lending my friends my books as I know they always pass on something exciting in return.

 

4. Book Mooch

If you aren’t able to set up a swap table in work and your friends aren’t big readers, then there are great websites like BookMooch that allow you to swap with readers all over the world for the cost of postage. Though you do have to be patient while you wait for the book you want to appear, there is an immense sense of satisfaction in hunting down that little gem. It is especially good for classics such as The Great Gatsby or set study texts and you can decide where you’re willing to send the books, though you do get more points if you’re willing to agree to international swaps.

 

Beg

5. Make the most of wishlists for Christmas and Birthdays

If you’re a reader on a budget and you aren’t making use of some kind of wishlist for birthdays and Christmas then you need to start, pronto. My boyfriend always asks for a wishlist for my birthday and Christmas (they’re exactly a fortnight apart and he panics) so I always stick a few books on my list and he’ll pick a selection of them. You still get a surprise because you don’t know what you’re getting, and they have reduced pressure. There are tools for this on Amazon, Play etc. but I find it just as easy to send a polite email or text when someone asks what I would like to receive.

6. Ask for national book tokens or gift vouchers for your favourite bookshops

If you’re not sure what books you want when a big occasion is coming up, you could also ask very nicely for book tokens. I often give these to readers (my father especially) for Christmas with a stocking filler because I know he’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of a book, but I’m never sure that he hasn’t already read the book I’m picking out for him.

Buy or Acquire (for a fraction of list price)

7. Charity Shops

As well as clothes that don’t suit or fit me, I take books that I’ve read to my local charity shop to make room for replacements on my shelves. I have pretty regular clear outs (because my boyfriend complains that the house is overrun with books) and not only do I get the exercise benefits of lugging along some pretty weighty tomes on the way there, but I invariably end up finding something I haven’t read but want to. My local charity shops sell paperbacks for about 30p and hardbacks for 50p-£1 so I sometimes end up coming away with more than I’ve left.

8. Second Hand Bookshops

As with Charity Shops, second hand bookshops are a great place to search for hidden gems surrounded by likeminded people, but be warned, this can become addictive, especially if you start scouring places like Hay-on-Wye for beautiful antique books. This happened to me when I started collecting Wuthering Heights books. It may end up costing you more than you save!

9. Green Metropolis

If you are searching for a particular book but want to avoid Amazon (for whatever reason, now’s not the time for a soapbox) then Green Metropolis is a great site which allows people to sell their old books for a flat fee of £3.75 and at least 5p from each sale goes to The Woodland Trust so it boosts your eco-credentials at the same time. Green Metropolis also lets you list your old books for sale, and while you’re not going to make a huge profit when the cost of postage is deducted, you can earn a few pennies towards a new book or to cash in for real world money.

 

10. Sign up for the Newsletter

If you sign up for newsletters from your favourite publishers, they will not only send you information about new releases, but very often special offers and whopping discounts. One of my favourites is the Penguin newsletter which pretty much offers a 25% off discount code every month which I can use to treat myself or buy something nice for other readers in my life.

 

11. Make friends with your local bookshop

My local bookshop runs a loyalty scheme where I get my card stamped for every ten pounds I spend. Once I fill up my card, I get to pick a new book for free. It is addictive and I do have dreams of one day owning a gold loyalty card. It’s not just indie bookshops who do this (though obviously, it’s good to support them if you can) high street chains like Waterstones have a points based reward system which lets you spend points instead of pennies.

 

12. Electronic versions

If a book is out of copyright (usually 70 years after the death of the author, but it varies depending on international law and publishing history) then you can often find it LEGALLY free through websites like Bibliomania or Google Books. If you want to buy an eBook version of an out of copyright book, then these can often be found for nothing or next to nothing through major online bookshops, though please remember you should only do this with books that are out of copyright.

 

13. Special Occasions

Keep an eye out for special events in the reading character, like world book day or world book night. School children will be given tokens for a free book on world book day, and publishers give away millions of adult’s books for free as part of World Book Night. You can even sign up to spread the joy and hand out copies of your favourite books.

Win

14. National Book Token Competitions

Remember the National Book Tokens I was talking about earlier? Well they often run competitions in which you can win tokens to buy whatever book you fancy. Sign up to their newsletter and details will be emailed to you whenever they run a competition.

 

15. Blog Giveaways

If you follow book blogs, you’ll see that many reviewers will offer giveaways of books they’ve reviewed if they have been given an extra copy by the publisher. I sometimes run such giveaways myself and I occasionally buy books to giveaway for the occasional competition. You’ve got a better chance of winning if you know about the competitions, so keep reading those blogs!

 

16. Publisher Giveaways

As with the discounts, if you follow publishers on twitter or subscribe to their newsletter, you’ll get to hear about the competitions they are running to promote their new releases and will be in with a better chance of winning.

 

17. Foyle’s Book Game

If you’re really clever, you might be able to win the Foyle’s book game run by the London bookshop from their Twitter account each Friday, but competition is fierce and the real reward is a well-crafted book  pun.

 

Is there anything I’ve missed? What are your tips for saving money on books?

 

 

Image adapted from original by @Doug88888 under the terms of the Creative Commons License

Bookish Plants

As much as I am looking forward to Christmas, once it’s over I miss the sunlight and the spring. I’m preparing for those dark winter months between Christmas and my garden sprouting for another year by preparing some book themed flowers in my house. I know that sounds a little crackers, but it’s all in the name. My flowers will have names which associate them with paper, books, stories… etc.

So far we have (sprouting) Amaryllis Novella and Narcissi Paperwhite… ta da!

Amaryllis and Narcissi growth

Amaryllis and Narcissi growth

Amaryllis Novella

Amaryllis Novella

Narcissi Paperwhite

Narcissi Paperwhite

 

Do you know of any plants with similarly bookish names? I am planning on making my garden a nature reserve but can see potential for extending a similar theme to my borders. William Shakespeare roses for example. I’d be really grateful for any suggestions and am willing to include fruit and veg.

Feeling Christmassy at The Book and Biscuit

Yesterday we decorated the Christmas tree.

Book and Biscuit Christmas Tree

Book and Biscuit Christmas Tree

Before heading to Mostly Books, Abingdon, for some late night Christmas shopping and a spot of ginger cake.

Mostly Books Abingdon Late Night Opening

Mostly Books Abingdon Late Night Opening

Then we headed home and had a cup of tea and some Christmas biscuits before wrapping some presents with my little friends.

 

Guinea pigs are better at unwrapping than wrapping.

Guinea pigs are better at unwrapping than wrapping.

100 Artists for Literacy

 

100 Artists for Literacy

100 Artists for Literacy.

I loved the above post on Anni Cardi’s blog, which links you to a charity Doedemee selling posters of redesigned book covers to help raise money to fight illiteracy.

Guess where I’m shopping this month! I think I’ll probably get the Wuthering Heights design for myself,  because it’s completely gorgeous AND one of my favourite books.

The posters for Alice’ Adventures in Wonderland, Anna Karenina, Wind in the Willows, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atonement and Northern Lights are also amazing. I might ask for some for my birthday/Christmas.

Crochet Rainbow Reading Blanket

Sitting and reading for long periods can leave you a bit chilly in the winter, so since my last operation I’ve been making myself a crochet blanket using a pattern from a blog I found via craftgawker. It’s the first big crochet project I’ve made and, though it’s not perfect, it is cheerful and snuggly warm and perfect for cosying down in an arm-chair with a good book when it gets cold.

Winter is coming, as the Stark family are fond of saying, but I am prepared.