11 Craft Projects for Book Lovers

artistic arts and crafts colourful conceptual
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I’m a big fan of crafting. When I’m not reading or writing (and sometimes when I am) I can often be found working on a project, usually needlepoint, but also crocheting/knitting, jewellery making, sewing, or something else along those lines. I get inspiration from all kinds of places: my own tastes, magazines, Pinterest, friends and family–but why not combine forces and get inspired by books? Not craft books, but actual novels?

Well, other crafters thought the same thing and have come up with some great literary-inspired projects. Here are some of my favourites:

Amigurumi Little Prince

amigurumi lttle prince

You can’t go wrong with The Little Prince. This amigurumi version by Eda Gizem K., over on Ravelry is adorable and would be fun to make. Get the free pattern here.

Assymetric Hunger Games Cowl

Hunger Games cowl

Perhaps not the most practical item of clothing for the non-archers among us, but still a pretty cool project. Elderflower on Craftster shares her free downloadable pattern.

Bookmarks

bookmarks

Still using old receipts as bookmarks? Nothing wrong with this practical-but-dull approach. Then again, for a little effort you can mark your place in a more colourful–and personal–way with a DIY bookmark.

Alice in Wonderland Flamingo Croquet Set

flamingo croquetMorena’s Corner provides a tutorial for one of my favourite DIY projects, ever: an Alice in Wonderland-inspired flamingo croquet set. Anyone up for a game?

Hardcover Book Pendant

Great video tutorial by I Love Paper Beads. You can find written instructions for making this cute pendant here. Or, if you prefer a stack of books…

Stack of Books Pendant

book necklace

Love it. Via the Darice blog.

Book Bag

bookbag

I’m normally not a fan of crafts that use (read: destroy) actual books, but some books really have outlived their usefulness and can be ethically sacrificed. And this awesome book bag by Mollie Makes is a worthy cause (but do try to find a book that’s damaged beyond repair, is missing pages, or isn’t valuable). Video tutorial and written instructions here.

Magnets

magnets

There are no instructions with these magnets, but they’re simple enough, and can be customized however you want. Use a clean mint tin or jar lid. Glue pictures, quotes, mini figures, and so on inside to create a scene evoking a favourite book. Then glue magnets on the back and adorn your fridge with your handiwork.

Terrarium

Alice in Wonderland terrarium

This gorgeous terrarium was originally posted on Catch My Party. Although there are no instructions, as with the magnets above it’s a pretty straightforward craft and can be customized for any theme. Keep costs low by looking for the container at secondhand stores or garage sales (you could even use a clean pickle jar, if you want).

 

Cross Stitch Bookmark

what would violet do

For the Lemony Snicket fans out there, here’s a cross stitch Baudelaire bookmark from SealStitchery on Etsy.  They also used to offer a “The World Is Quiet Here” pattern, but alas, no more.

the world is quiet here
Too good not to share.

Japanese Ribbon-Bound Book

how to make a book

Why settle for making book-themed crafts when you can make your own books? Here’s a tutorial from Homemade Gifts Made Easy on how to hand make a hardcover, Japanese-style ribbon-bound book. What’s that, you ask? Why, yes, I do accept gifts…

And just for fun, here’s a cross stitch I made in honour of Love Lies Bleeding. I didn’t use one pattern but put it together from a few patterns I found online.

vampire bat cross stitch needlepoint embroidery hoop by Aspasia S. Bissas
Vampires Suck cross stitch by Aspasía S. Bissas

Do you craft? Have you completed any literary-inspired projects? Do you know of any good patterns online? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading:

10 Lovely Literary Crochet Patterns

14 Book-Themed DIY Projects

15 Bookish Cross Stitch Patterns

15 Free Handmade Book Patterns

World Dracula Day

Happy World Dracula Day! Today we celebrate the anniversary of the first publication of Bram Stoker’s vampire standard Dracula. Many of us in English-speaking countries are familiar with Stoker’s creation, but how do other countries view the Count?

Drácula

dracula in spanish
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8848632
spanish dracula 2
Lobby Card

Drácula, a 1931 Spanish film adaptation of Stoker’s work, was filmed at night using the same sets as the 1931 English version starring Bela Lugosi. Because the Spanish crew got to see the English dailies every night, they had a chance to adjust camera angles and other details to produce what many fans believe is a superior film.

 

Evil of Dracula

evil-of-dracula-1
Evil of Dracula
evil-of-dracula-1974-vampire
Toshio Kurosawa in Evil of Dracula.

Evil of Dracula (original title: Chi o suu bara “Bloodsucking Rose”) is the third part of a Japanese trilogy, known as the Bloodthirsty Trilogy, of Dracula adaptations (some more loosely adapted than others). In this version, the vampire bites his victims on the breast, rather than on the neck (hey, it was the 70s).

 

Dracula, the Musical

dracula musical korea
Dracula, The Musical, poster in Seoul

Musical-Dracula-release-interview-and-posters-of-JYJ-Junsu_33

Dracula, The Musical, debuted in South Korea in 2014, starring Kim Jun-su in the titular role. Although based on a 2004 Broadway musical, the Korean version seems uniquely their own. This post has plenty of photos and info, including lyrics to one of the songs. Anyone else think North America could use a rebooted musical Dracula, including the pink hair?

 

Dracula Adult Panto

dracula adult panto
Dracula Adult Panto in South Africa

Another stage adaptation, Dracula Adult Panto brings the gender-bent Count(ess) to South Africa, along with a dash of humour and an LGBT+ twist. At the end of the show, the venue transforms into a dance floor, and attendees spend the rest of the night partying.

 

Tomb of Dracula aka Κόμης Δράκουλας

tomb of dracula
Tomb of Dracula, Greek version

Tomb of Dracula, Greek version

Not a unique adaptation, but I thought the Greek edition of Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula was worth a share. Interestingly, his title can translate to either Count or Earl (you’ve heard of Earl Grey–now tremble before Earl Dracula!) I wish my parents had thought to pick me up a few copies of these when I was a kid learning Greek; alas, my Greek-language education remained pitifully vampire free.

Which is your favourite non-English version of Dracula? Is there another one you think I should know about? Share in the comments…

Cheers,

Aspasia S. Bissas

How to Get Books Cheap (or Free)

books school stacked closed
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You might remember a few months back when a certain minimalism peddler debuted her show on Netflix and then went ahead and called books clutter, telling people they should get rid of all but a laughably small number in their homes.

Yeah, I wasn’t impressed, either. And neither was writer Anakana Schofield, who tweeted that “every human needs a v extensive library.” You’d think people would rally around that kind of noble sentiment, but before Ms Schofield had finished hitting send on the tweet, people were calling her out as “elitist” for suggesting people needed their own home library.

man in white shirt using macbook pro
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Allow me to gently point out that “needs” an extensive library does not mean “must have” or even “should get.” But whatever your stance on the issue, if you agree that books clutter up your empty space, please feel free to forward them to me (seriously, though, please give them to someone–don’t feed landfills for the sake of a minimalist aesthetic).

For those of us who do know the value of books and a home library, we also know that building a collection can get pricey. But it really doesn’t have to. Here’s how you can get “a v extensive library” for next to nothing.

Before I get to that, though, just a quick note to say that if you can afford to buy books at full price, please do so. Authors (other than a lucky few) make hardly anything from the months and years of hard, gut-wrenching work they put into a book. Authors also make nothing from most of the suggestions I’m about to share. Give the author a reason to keep writing by buying their book(s). If you like an author’s work but really can’t afford it, you can still support them by posting reviews, sharing on social media, and telling your friends about the latest great book you just read. There’s many ways to support authors and we appreciate every bit of it ❤

Now, how can you get books cheap (or free)?

 

yard sale books

Yard/Garage/Rummage Sales

I’ve never stopped by one of these sales and haven’t found books. The selection varies and you won’t always find something good, but if you stop by toward the end of the day, you’ll get great deals (or stop by early for the best selection). You can (usually) haggle too.

Best Bets: Kids books, older bestsellers, books on obscure topics that were clearly unwanted gifts

 

Aspasia S. Bissas website

Estate Sales

These aren’t as common as other sales, but they’re well worth seeking out. Although they sound like something exclusively for the wealthy, that’s not the case, and sales can take place in any neighbourhood with items available at all price points. Not all estate sales will include books, but the ones that do can be like hitting the jackpot. As with yard/garage/rummage sales, go early for selection and late for deals (you can luck into entire boxes full of books for only a few dollars). Tip: Consider moving sales too.

Best Bets: Entire collections, vintage books

 

books file on shelf
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Library Sales

My personal favourite, these happen when libraries need to cull older/less popular books to make room for new additions. My local one also accepts donations from the public and donates the proceeds to an adult literacy program. Tip: bring small bills/change and your own bag(s). Also, look into specialist organizations that have their own libraries. Our local botanical garden has a book sale a couple of times a year featuring gardening books and magazines. If a group specializes in a topic you’re interested in, you can score some fantastic finds, cheap.

Best Bets: Fiction in all genres, large-print books, kids books, a bit of everything the library carries

 

thrift shop books

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores always seem to have more books than they can handle, and prices tend to reflect that. If you’re willing to look through disorganized shelves/piles, you can find some sweet deals.

Best Bets: Obscure older cookbooks, vintage craft books, loads of interesting books donated by people getting rid of “clutter”

 

Munich 24.06.2017 Lisar (reading at Isar) book flea market, just for one summer day in June

Flea Markets/Swap Meets

Flea markets aren’t my favourite places to shop, but you can find some bargains (haggling is also expected). It’s easy to get distracted, so focus on finding books before looking at anything else. Going at the end of the day will also result in the best deals. Swap meets are apparently very similar to flea markets, although some of them actually involve trading items instead of buying and selling–a great idea if you can find one that includes books.

Best Bets: Vintage and collectible books

 

recycling depot

Recycling Depots

I don’t know how other recycling depots work, but there’s one about an hour and a half from where I live that collects not only recyclables like glass and plastic, but also donations of all kinds of items, similar to what you’d find in a thrift store. They’re set up in a warehouse and have an ample collection of really cheap books. I haven’t been in a while but when I lived closer it was a favourite, and I’d almost always find something that was on my wishlist. Tip: bring your own bags or boxes.

Best Bets: Required reading for English classes, general fiction, quality nonfiction, kids books

 

novel books
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Secondhand Bookstores

Although the prices will be higher at a secondhand bookstore than at any of the other places I’ve mentioned, the selection and quality of the books will also be better. Bonus: you’ll be among fellow book lovers who can direct you to awesome books you didn’t even know existed. These stores sometimes have bargain bins (or even free books) to help keep things within budget.

Best Bets: Obscure and quirky books, vintage books, recent bestsellers

 

two people shaking hands
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Trading

At some point you’ll likely end up with books you no longer want. A good way to make room and get new books for nothing is to trade. See if any friends or family members might be interested. Swap meets that still involve swapping are an option. You can even try something like kijiji or craigslist (exercise caution when meeting strangers).

Best Bets: Hit and miss, but anything is possible

 

two man and two woman standing on green grass field
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Just Ask

Sometimes it’s as simple as letting people know you’ll take their unwanted books. Because people know I love books, they’ll often offer me the ones they no longer want. When a history teacher I was friendly with was retiring, he couldn’t take his personal collection home (his wife was decluttering before decluttering was cool). I scored boxes of history, geography and Canadian lit books. If you know someone who’s moving, spring cleaning, or who inherited a collection they don’t want, feel free to speak up. In most cases, the other person will feel like you’re doing them a favour.

Best Bets: Bestsellers, older books

 

pile of books
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Random Sales

You need to keep an eye out for these ones. I know of at least one bank and a hospital that have permanent book sales set up. The money goes to fundraising/charity and the prices are cheap. Other places you visit might have a table or rack of books available too. Tip: have exact change–these sales tend to be based on the honour system and usually don’t have anyone around to make change.

Best Bets: Mostly older fiction, occasional gems

 

reading reader kindle female
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Ebooks

These books won’t look pretty on a shelf, but you can find a lifetime supply of free and cheap ebooks online (and not the illegally downloaded kind, either, which will curse you with terrible karma anyway). I recommend Smashwords, which has an awesome collection of indie books at reasonable prices (or free), and available in all e-reader formats (even pdf and online reader). If you don’t have a Kindle, but want to read Kindle books, Amazon has a free app you can download for any device (they’re not all evil). You can start with my short story Blood Magic (available free everywhere except Amazon–they’re still a little evil) and my novel Love Lies Bleeding (only $2.99).

 

Where do you like to get cheap or free books? And how do you feel about books as “clutter”? Share in the comments…

-Aspasía S. Bissas

5 Awesome Fictional Librarians

row of books in shelf
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Librarians are awesome. They’re not only keepers of the world’s knowledge, but they’re also highly trained information scientists and invaluable resources, both in the library and in the community. They can help you find a rare book, an obscure fact, your distant ancestors, or even a job–and if you’d rather just google it, well, they can help you with that too (find out more about what librarians do). They work hard helping people of all ages and backgrounds, while not-very-bright politicians try to save a few bucks in the budget by claiming libraries are obsolete (hint: no, they’re not). Luckily, there are many people who still appreciate libraries and librarians–some have even immortalized them in books and TV shows. Here’s a sample of some of the characters who pay homage to those most unsung of heroes, librarians…

(Fair warning: spoilers ahead)

 

librarians are heroes every day
Design by Gene Ha for the “Librarians Are Heroes Every Day!” poster to promote literacy.

Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl/Oracle

Among all the related comic books, TV shows, movies, and reboots, one of Batgirl’s incarnations is as head librarian at the Gotham City Public Library. Batman may have a cave, but Batgirl has the whole damn library (bonus: no pesky stalagmites to trip over). After The Killing Joke, where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara (among other things sensitive readers will want to avoid), she goes from librarian-as-secret-identity to full on librarian-as-superhero, adopting a new persona, Oracle, and becoming a crime-fighting information broker. Batgirl might not currently be a librarian (although her past as Oracle is alluded to in the DC Rebirth), but anything can happen, and I hope they’ll bring that part of her story back.

 

rupert
Rupert Giles, Watcher and Sunnydale High librarian

 

Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Destined to watch over a vampire Slayer, and denied his preferred professions of fighter pilot or grocer, Giles follows youthful dabbling in dark magic with a job as a museum curator (as one does) before eventually becoming a high school librarian in anticipation of The Chosen One’s arrival. Multi-talented, Giles can explain (in several languages) why books are better than computers; research (or summon) demons; oversee multiple Slayers, Potentials, and Scoobies; and help students find copies of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. When an ascending demon threatens the entire town, Giles takes time out of preparing for war and possible annihilation to get the books to safety. As one does.

 

mr ambrose
Mr. Ambrose, Bob’s Burgers

Mr. Ambrose, Bob’s Burgers

If you watch Bob’s Burgers, you’ll know Mr. Ambrose as the librarian (and cheerleading coach) at Wagstaff School. Although he doesn’t appear often, when he does it’s usually to start some drama or offer a revelation, like when he announced he’s a witch (supplying us with much-needed representation both for male witches and witch librarians). He’s also an aspiring scriptwriter working on a prequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. With not much screen time, Mr. Ambrose is still one of the more memorable, and interesting, characters on the show.

 

LIBRARIANS, THE
The Librarians

The Librarians

The Librarians TV series is based on The Librarian, another series of TV movies. The original Librarian, Flynn Carson, also makes appearances on The Librarians, which features four new Librarians and is set in the Metropolitan Public Library (or the Library), a library that exists outside of time and space but is also lost. Got it? Well, all you really need to know is that these Librarians kick ass, solving mysteries and fighting supernatural threats with their giant librarian brains. Finally, superheroes we can all aspire to be.

 

dewey denouement
Dewey Denouement, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Dewey Denouement, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket’s works are rife with libraries and librarians, but for now we’re focusing on Dewey Denouement, who made an appearance in The Penultimate Peril (Book 12 of A Series of Unfortunate Events), as well as the TV show A Series of Unfortunate Events. Dewey is technically a “sub- sub-librarian,” who also manages the family business, the Hotel Denouement. His secret library is located under the hotel’s pond and he made it his life’s work to catalogue evidence against every villain. The hotel itself is organized along the Dewey Decimal system, and in the show Mr. Denouement insists the entire building is a library. As with many of the sympathetic characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events, our time getting to know Dewey is cut short, but as with all librarians everywhere, he is a force for good.

Who’s your favourite fictional librarian? Let me know in the comments…

-Aspasía S. Bissas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of

person woman dark girl
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Chances are when you think of vampires you’ll think of Dracula, Blade, Angel, or any of the fanged creatures-of-the-night that populate modern culture, including Mara from Love Lies Bleeding. The vampires we’re familiar with are (generally) human looking, powerful, often charismatic and attractive, with a thirst for blood and a dislike of stakes. But that wasn’t always the case. History and folklore are full of vampires that are nothing like what we’ve come to expect. Here are five examples…

Lamaštu (or Lamashtu)

lamashtu (2)

Depicted as having a lion’s head, donkey’s teeth, bare breasts, a hairy body, bloodstained hands with long fingers and nails, and taloned bird’s feet, Lamaštu was an evil Goddess of ancient Mesopotamia who preyed on newborns and fetuses in order to suck their blood (among other things). Miscarriages and sudden deaths of infants were blamed on her. Pregnant women could ward her off with amulets, an incantation, or offerings of centipedes and brooches. The offerings were meant to distract Lamaštu, which was a common way of thwarting vampires.

Riri Yaka

riri yaka
Via https://www.rrncommunity.org/items/9836

In the Sinhalese culture of Sri Lanka, the Riri Yaka, or “Blood Demon” has an eternal thirst for blood. He’s usually portrayed as being a blood-smeared, ape-faced, four-armed man with a mouthful of decomposing human flesh. He haunts graveyards, crematoriums, and the dying. He can also possess people and cause illness, usually of the blood. People possessed by Riri Yaka are pale, listless, and anemic; a ritual ceremony must be performed to cure them.

Penanggalan

Penanggalan
Illustration by Munshi Abdullah from ‘The Indo-Chinese Gleaner, Volume 2’ (1819)

Seemingly a normal woman during daylight hours, once the sun goes down the Penanggalan detaches her fanged head and organs from her body in order to fly around the Malaysian countryside in search of the blood of newborns and women who have just given birth. Those who survive being fed on inevitably contract a wasting illness, another common theme in vampire myths. Penanggalan will often disguise themselves as midwives, but can be recognized by their characteristic vinegar smell (they keep a vat of vinegar in their home in which to soak their entrails) and odd behaviour. The best way to get rid of a Penanggalan is to surround doors and windows with thorny branches and thistles, so that they will become entangled and trapped. If found, their hollow bodies can also be stuffed with broken glass or destroyed, which will kill off the head.

Lamia

lamia 2

Daughter (or possibly granddaughter) of the Greek God Poseidon, Lamia was Queen of Libya and Zeus’s lover before being transformed by his wife, Hera, into a creature that was part woman, part sea monster, and wholly deadly. Described as either stunningly beautiful or hideously ugly, Lamia generally had a woman’s face and serpent-like features. In retaliation for Hera killing her children, Lamia began murdering other people’s children by sucking their blood. Over time she was also said to seduce and devour men. Lamia had the power of prophecy, as well as shape-shifting abilities and magical powers. Eventually the single woman became pluralized into a race of vampiric monsters, the Lamiae. The origins of Lamia may lie in Mesopotamia’s Lamaštu. A modern Greek folk saying explains the sudden death of infants and young children as “[the child was] strangled by Lamia.”

Peuchen

animal snake reptile closeup
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

The Mapuche and Chilote of southern Chile have a legend of a shapeshifter that petrifies victims (both human and animal) with its stare in order to then drain their blood. The peuchen can take any form, although it prefers that of a giant, bat-winged flying snake. Only a machi (medicine woman) can defeat it. There may be a connection between the myth of the peuchen and that of the chupacabra.

Have you heard of these vampires? Which do you think is scariest? Tell me in the comments.

If you want more vampires right now, download Blood Magic free!

-Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading

Lamaštu

Lamashtu

Seven Mythical Creatures that Supposedly Haunt Sri Lanka

Penanggalan

Penanggalan (Wikipedia)

Lamia

Lamia (Wikipedia)

Peuchen

Encyclopedia of Beasts and Monsters in Myth, Legend and Folklore