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

Vampire’s Garden: Dock

yellow dock

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is fifth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Rumex crispus

Common Names: Yellow Dock, Curly Dock, Curled Dock, Narrow Dock, Rumex

History: Native to Europe and western Asia, dock gets the common name “yellow dock” from its large root, which is bright yellow when cut, and the name “curly dock” from its slightly ruffled leaves. Traditionally the leaves and seeds were eaten, while the leaves and roots were used medicinally as a general health tonic and to improve digestion, as well as to treat jaundice, skin diseases, and scurvy. Although naturalized in temperate areas, it’s considered an invasive species in the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand, and an “injurious weed” in the UK.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Patience

Cultivation: Perennial in zones 4 to 7. Plants can grow to 1.5 m (about 5 ft) tall. Because it can be easily found growing wild (including in waste areas, roadsides, fields, and along shorelines) and is invasive in many areas, consider foraging for dock rather than cultivating it. If you’d still like to grow it (after checking to make sure it isn’t invasive where you live), scatter seed over prepared soil in spring, summer, or fall. Dock prefers full sun to part shade and moist soil (but will tolerate most conditions). Dock will self-seed and can also re-grow from a piece of root left behind. Harvest leaves before the plant flowers, roots in autumn, and seeds after they turn brown.

Uses:

Medicinal: The root is high in iron and is used to treat anemia, often in combination with stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). The root is also mildly laxative, although it isn’t always effective. Taken internally or applied externally, the leaves may be helpful for skin conditions such as itching, rashes (including the stings from nettles), and sores. It’s also used to ease pain and inflammation in nasal passages and the respiratory tract. It can be applied to the skin to stop bleeding.

Culinary: Leaves are high in vitamins C and A, iron, and potassium, but are also high in oxalic acid, which can cause kidney stones and blood mineral imbalances. Young leaves should be boiled in several changes of water to reduce the oxalic acid (although that will also reduce nutrients). Serve leaves like spinach (after boiling, drain, and heat with olive oil or butter and garlic, or add to any dish you would use spinach in). They can also be eaten raw in small amounts. Older leaves are too bitter to be palatable. Once seeds have turned brown they can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds can also be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Host Plant: Dock is an ideal host plant for some species of moth, which lay their eggs on the curled leaves.

Caution: Leaves are high in oxalic acid, which can irritate the urinary tract and cause kidney stones. Dock should not be used by people taking anti-coagulants or drugs that decrease blood calcium, like diuretics. Avoid if you have bladder, liver, or kidney problems, or ulcers; otherwise, consume in moderation. Limit or avoid using while pregnant and breastfeeding, as dock can have a laxative effect (which gets passed through breast milk). Those allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to dock.

Caution 2: The oxalic acid in dock makes it toxic to dogs (I’m assuming to cats too). Do not let your pets eat or chew on dock.

Possible Side Effects: The leaves and root may cause intestinal discomfort and skin irritation. Taking too much can result in low blood levels of calcium and potassium–a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Mara’s Uses: Mara uses dock in tinctures and capsules (along with other herbs) as an iron-rich tonic for bloodletters (human blood donors used by vampires). Dock is among the herbs she experiments with for her blood substitute.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia

Language of Flowers

The Health Benefits of Yellow Dock

WebMD

Identify That Plant

Edible Wild Food

Herb Lore: Yellow Dock Root

Tips on Growing

The Spruce: Nettle Rash Treatment

Yellow Dock: An Iron Rich Tea

 

-Aspasía 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
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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 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

 

 

 

 

The Writer’s Tag

person having tea while working
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Another tag snagged from the lovely blog A.M. Molvik’s Ramblings 🙂 If you’ve ever wondered about what it’s like to be a writer (or what I do), this post is for you.

1. What type of writing do you do?

Over the years I’ve written pretty much everything, from magazine articles to poetry to blog posts to novels. If I had to choose only one type, though, it would be novels. I have a lot of stories inside me, waiting to come to life.

abandoned ancient antique arch
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2. What genres/topics do you write about?

My writing is a mix of literary fiction, gothic fiction, and fantasy, with hints of horror and magical realism. My clouds tend to have dark linings.

3. How long have you been writing?

I started when I was about six and never really stopped (although there were a few long breaks).

Love Lies Bleeding by Aspasia S. Bissas

4. Are you published?

Yes! I went the independent route with my novel Love Lies Bleeding and short story Blood Magic, but I would consider traditional publishing if the right publisher came along.

beautiful bloom blooming blossom
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5. What was the first story you ever wrote?

The first story I wrote (when I was around six) was a tale of woe about a flower that doomed anyone (in this case, Mary, Queen of Scots, although I have no idea how I knew about her) who picked it. Clearly, my literary influences started early in my career. I also drew said flower with a pen and coloured it with a pink highlighter. Side note: I still have a particular fascination with Tudor history, although I haven’t written about it since.

6. Why do you write?

I don’t feel I have much of a choice. That’s what I love, it’s what I’m good at, and it’s what I feel I was meant to do. As already mentioned, I have stories that need to get out.

kafka

7. How do you find time to write?

You find time for the things that are important to you. If someone “can’t find the time” to write (or to do anything else), it really doesn’t matter that much to them.

8. When and where is the best time/place to write?

For me, the best times are in the morning and late at night. Where doesn’t really matter as much, as long as there isn’t too much noise.

coffee computer cream cup
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9. Favorite foods/drinks while writing?

It used to be iced coffee; unfortunately I’ve had to cut it out. Between the sugar and the caffeine, it wasn’t doing me any favours (alas). If I do drink anything now, it’s tea, but mostly I don’t eat or drink while I work (I have no idea how those crumbs got all over my keyboard).

10. Your writing playlist?

Silence. I’ve tried to listen to music while I work, but I can’t. Music interferes with rhythm and the lyrics get into your head, unconsciously influencing how and what you write. I don’t know how anyone can concentrate with music (or the TV) on–it’s some kind of super power.

11. What do friends/family think of you writing?

I think it ranges from “that’s cool” to “whatever” to “but what does she do all day?” My partner is completely supportive, though, which is what really matters.

close up of hand over white background
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12. What parts of writing do you enjoy the most?

I love it when the words come together and flow out of you. Best feeling in the world. (It’s also pretty satisfying when you’re stuck and finally figure out the perfect solution). That’s why first drafts are fun and after that, it’s work .

13. Parts of writing you find challenging?

I wish I could be one of those writers who can get a book out every year (speaking of super powers). I’ve got a limit on how much I can write or edit in a day before my brain turns to mush. Hopefully the results are worth the wait.

14. What do you write with/on?

First drafts are usually by hand. The editing starts as I transfer the manuscript to my laptop, where I use MS Word.

silver macbook pro
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15. How do you overcome writer’s block?

I’ll think/meditate about it. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I love anything that keeps my hands busy while freeing my mind; that’s how I do a lot of my writing, including overcoming writer’s block. Sometimes I’ll also talk about it with my partner–he’s pretty great at helping me figure things out.

16. How do you motivate yourself to write?

Deadlines are motivating. My anxiety is highly motivating (it gets worse if I don’t write for a couple of days). Mostly having a story I need to get out motivates me 🙂

woman reading a book
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

17. Author(s) who inspired you to become a writer?

I think the existence of books inspired me to become a writer more than any specific author. My love of stories started early, so maybe I should give the credit for my current vocation to Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm.

19. Writing goals this year?

Aiming to finish my next novel and get it ready for publication (follow me to make sure you don’t miss any news or updates).

20. Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?

Never to give up (I’ve heard that from a few people). Stephen King’s advice to “kill your darlings” isn’t bad either.

 

What do you think? Do you have any questions or comments? What are some of your thoughts on the writing process? Share in the comments…