Jan 18

My Love Affair . . . .

DSC01284My love affair with books began when I was just a little girl. In our home, we didn’t have books. I don’t remember if that just wasn’t something that was important to my family, or if we couldn’t afford to buy books, but we didn’t have books. But I loved books and I could get them at school! Our little country school had a library, which was truly a treasure trove for me. The library in our school was upstairs in the “old” building (that originally housed grades K – 12) and I remember the high ceilings with the really tall windows, the black and white tile floor and the huge dark wooden book cases.

I would go in there on library day and sit on the floor where they kept all the books for kids my age. I would always take as many books home with me as was allowed, but we were never allowed to take out the encyclopedias. I loved the encyclopedias! There were so many pictures of things I had never seen or heard of before, and I was just fascinated by all that information.

DSC01267When I got home with my load of library books, I would take a blanket and pillow and make a little “tent” behind the space heater in our living room (it was the best place ever, no matter whether it was summer or winter). That way, if it was cold outside, there was a cozy, warm reading corner where no one could see me.

Or, if it was a warm spring day, the windows would be open and the fire turned off, and there was a gentle breeze that would blow softly into that little secret corner of mine.

I never actually owned a book until I was 17. That was the year that I first received a letter from my biological father who lived in Houston, Texas. We lived in Michigan and I had never met him, at least in my memory, as we moved away from Texas when I was just a baby. Never one time in all those years did I ever hear from him, but I remember seeing one picture of him. Just one.

DSC01268He was very tall and thin with light brown hair that tumbled down over his eyes (the way the guys did back in that day), and a mischievous grin on his face. He was wearing a white button up shirt, and light colored slacks with pleats at the waist  (I’m guessing they were khaki but the picture was in black and white so I can’t be sure), and dark tie shoes that were popular in the 50s.

So of course it was quite a surprise when suddenly, out of the blue, I received a letter from him. I don’t remember anything at all about the letter except that he invited me to visit him in Houston after I graduated from high school, and there was money. $100 to be exact. Which was a LOT of money back then, especially for a teen age girl living in the Middle of Nowhere, Michigan. Those were the days when I could earn $1.50 babysitting for an evening, then go to the Dime Store on Main Street and buy enough fabric and a pattern to make myself a new dress. Which was the only way I was going to get a “new” dress!

What was I going to do with $100??? Buy books, of course! That was the first thing I wanted to do with that money, and I spent almost all of it buying several hard cover books of my very own. And that was the beginning of my journey to becoming a book collector. Or hoarder. Or just an eccentric girl who owns several hundred books, mostly about history, philosophy, and theology, but a few fun fiction books in the mix.

DSC01271I actually sold a BUNCH of my theology books several years ago when we were raising money to return to China for the second time to bring Annie home. But other than that, there isn’t much that will get me to part with any of my books. We have book shelves in our dining room and our living room and in our bedroom. There are book shelves in my workshop / studio where I keep all of my books about sewing, quilting, vintage clothing, refashioning, scrapbooking, art and journaling.

I have cook books in the kitchen for the unusual occasion when I decide to cook – I got out the trusty old Betty Crocker cook book this morning and thought about making banana bread, but that was as far as I got with that project. So far. Maybe tomorrow.  I did actually make spaghetti for supper, but I didn’t need a cook book to do that. We have cook books for Chinese food, Ten Million Ways to Make Chicken (or something like that), Sweet and Sugarless, Make it In Minutes, and The Healthy Kitchen. I even have several church cook books that were given to me by various relatives over the years. I like to look at cook books, but I don’t like to read them. Or use them.

Over the years I’ve written in journals, covered journals with crazy patch quilt designs, created art journals, and of course, filled many (many!) scrapbooks with pictures of kids growing up, complete with my running commentary on who was doing what, when. So it just seemed like a good time to learn how to make my own books. The first ones I discovered that I fell in love with were made completely from fabric.

As a fiber artist, of course that would capture my imagination! So I looked at a bunch of different ones that other people had created for inspiration, and decided that I wanted to try to make a book that was kind of a combination of a fabric “lace book” for the front and back covers, with paper pages inside so that I could either stitch stuff inside or use glue and paint, glitter, or any other kind of embellishment that would I might not be able to apply to fabric.

DSC01266After contemplating just how all of that might work, I finally decided to jump in and try something. I made the covers from ivory linen that I had left over from another project I started last summer, and then stitched on lots of leftover ribbons, lace, and buttons. I had some vintage lace that came off of something that I bought the last time I was at the Amish auction in Shipshewana, and I had some leftover hand-dyed pleated ribbon that I made another day for a refashioned, embellished vintage slip.

I decided to experiment with printing on fabric, so I used a thin layer of spray adhesive on a piece of card stock and then placed a piece of the ivory linen on top. I found a few vintage images online of pretty Victorian ladies, made a document with the images, put my fabric covered card stock in my printer and voila! Those pictures printed right onto my fabric so I could cut them out and stitch them on the book cover. With a couple of vintage buttons, a fabric flower, and an inexpensive vintage rhinestone brooch I picked up at the thrift store, and I have this lovely book cover.

On the back I made a pocket from more ivory linen, and I used a strip of lace that I repurposed from a summer top (from the thrift store), and now all I have to do is finish the lace around the outside edges and add some sheer ivory fabric ties and the cover will be finished. Tomorrow I will work on creating the signatures that will go inside, complete with pocket pages, which I am planning to punch with holes for ribbons to go through to bind it all together.

DSC01285Apparently I really am having a love affair with books . . . why would I invest so much time making such a lovely little treasure if not? I hope this is just the first in my collection of handcrafted books. And then I’ll fill them up with even more tiny treasures and give them away as gifts. Or keep them. Hmmmmm . . . . . I might even put a few in my Etsy shop. We’ll see!

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  1. Kathryn Ross

    Well, except for the part about your dad, and not owning a book til you were 17, I could have written this post about myself!

    Our homes might be carbon copies of each other–or at least our bookshelves in every possible room. I don’t hoard. I rescue vintage volumes and steward them properly. Not all books are full of words that have worth–but I seek out the ones that do and make place for them. Yes–hundreds and hundreds of them, were I to count them.

    Altered art books? Love them! Currently, I’m also redeeming some sad hardcovers I find and giving them new life as works of mixed media art. You’ve inspired me, Nina–I’ll have to plan a post with a book tour at my place, soon.


  2. Ros Crawford

    Your work is exquisite! This is beautiful … thanks for sharing!

  3. Cecilia Marie Pulliam

    My love affair with books began early too. My sister and I would check out a grocery sack following of books from the library every week. Now, my husband and I own enough books to start our own library. Always a pleasure to know another book lover. And, your crafts are beautiful.

  1. My Story in Stitches | Vintage Mama's Cottage

    […] (Part 2 of “My Love Affair . . . . ) […]

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