Matt Marshall

2 Posts with Tag diy (All tags)

Journalling 009 -- Project Outline

I'm being naughty again today, and picking up a journal prompt that I've really fancied for a while, instead of moving forward linearly. The prompt is to identify a project that I want to complete with my hands, and detail the steps / resources / help I will need. I recently got into crafting things with my hands, in various shapes and forms. Nothing of particularly good quality, but being able to express my creativity with manual skills is nice.

I've had my eye on a project for a while, which I'd like to try and create a first iteration of for one of my closest friends, K. She shares a lot of the same aesthetics that I do around physical artefacts (ie a medieval fetish), and appreciates a good custom gift. What I'd like to do, is to make her a custom notebook and leather notebook cover, which she can swap out for notebook 'refills' at her leisure. Ideally, integrated into the cover, would be a small piece of carved bone that acts as a holder or clasp to close the notebook.

There are several reasons that this appeals to me. Primarily, it's that I've always fancied working with leather and enjoy making things for K because she gets embarrassed that she's "not as crafty as [I am]". For transparency's sake, I don't count myself as crafty at all; just willing to get mucked in. I have close to zero technical skill in the materials department. The next reason, is that it's a good opportunity to try out a project as there's a deadline. If I don't have a deadline, I won't do it. I also like the idea of this being a mixed materials project, and if it goes right then I can also implement some stuff with bone and the laser cutter Finally, I love notebooks so this will let me play around with making custom stuff for them.


As with any project, the main steps involved will be Research, Design, Implement in an iterative cycle that will teach me what goes wrong. The lower level steps that I can foresee at the moment are:

  1. Research basic leather sewing skills, and notebook cover designs
  2. Research basic book-binding skills (already done kinda)
  3. Design the interior of the custom notebook
  4. Design the exterior of the custom notebook
  5. Fabricate the custom notebook
  6. Acquire leather for the exterior, and leather sewing kit
  7. Measure and cut leather based on dimensions of the custom notebook
  8. Sew leather in accordance to the pattern derived from the Research
  9. Attach leather cord so that the cover can close and cover the notebook
  10. Carve a basic bone "thingy" that is attached the chord and allows it to knot over itself
  11. Test some leather cutoff on the laser cutter
  12. Option 1 If laser cutter on leather works nicely, derive a small pattern from somewhere and implement on notebook cover
  13. Option 2 If laser cutter on leather is nasty, leave plain

I'm sure I will learn of more steps, and can break them down further, but that's good for now.


Most of my resources will be raw materials and some tools I haven't acquired.

For the notebook itself I will need

  • Paper of some sort, a high gsm will be nice, yet it remains to be seen whether K prefers lines/squared/plain/etc or a mixture.
  • Covering, likely a high gsm coloured paper or a cardboard sheet.
  • Staples, for binding. The notebook won't be particularly dense. Considering that each sheet of A4/A5 paper gives 4 pages when folded (presuming both sides are used) then 25 pages gives a 100 notebook.
  • Printer, in case I decide to make a version of the notebook with prompts / reflections. And to print a custom cover design.
  • Design software, in case I decide to make the version with prompts etc. Likely Scribus and Inkscape.

For the leather cover I will need

  • Leather Sewing equipment. An awl and leather sewing needle, and sinew or fake sinew.
  • Scrap leather, to practice on (acquired)
  • Leather, for the final piece
  • Bone, for carving (acquired)
  • Bone carving equipment (acquired)
  • Leather cord, to wrap around the cover (acquired)
  • The lab's laser cutter, to test with.


Most of my help will come from the internet, as I don't particularly know anyone who's quite into the same crafts that I am. I've already been reading about designs that I like. I think I have a design in my head that shouldn't be overly complicated, and my inexperience can be passed off as giving the piece a "rugged" look.

That said, I will be asking around some of the makers and craftsy folk I know; mainly at work. Even if they've never done a similar project there might be a "Oh well leather has this weird characteristic that…" or equivical tidbit that I don't want to miss out on.

Suppose I'll try to update folk on my progress at some point. I really should start this.

journalling project crafts presents diy

The Simple Peace of Mending Socks

This piece was originally going to be about bone carving and my love/hate relationship with the material. When I wrote it out, it seemed forced. I waxed poetical about the porous nature of bone allowing it to keep a smooth finish and be perfect for needles, etc whilst absorbing oils from skin and getting a natural patina over time. I whined about how it's an awkward sod since it can be quite hard (hard in material terms), and how my lack of experience and proper tools (mainly experience) is resulting in difficulty forming even basic shapes for stuff like naalbinding needles.

It seemed forced, and I think it was just on my mind at the time due to frustrations. What I really want to do with this piece, is write about socks. Specifically, socks with holes in them. Throughout my upbringing, I absorbed through cultural osmosis the trope that 'men' often wore socks with holes in them, and that their partners (in my preteen head this was usually equated to ciswomen) often berated them for it. I never really thought about it. When I moved out of home to go to Uni, I had acquired an abundance of socks and I threw many away for being threadbare or basically tubes. Many remained, or were replaced over the next few years. Often, they would develop holes.

It wasn't until a serious relationship in 2013 that this came up as an issue. My partner at the time (let's call her V) found it absolutely deplorable that I had holes in my socks, and I remember walking into the bedroom one day to find her sorting through my socks and discarding the ones that she found particularly offensive. I seem to remember being shocked, but fairly amused and I trivialised the matter; laughing it off, letting her get on, and moving on.

Skip forward a few years, and I'm in another serious relationship where my current partner (B) has taken issue with socks that have developed holes. I've laughed it off and wiggled toes at her. And generally after a stare or glare we move onto finishing getting dressed and getting on with our day. This Christmas, I was sitting in a café in Madrid with V and the issue of the socks came up. This time, she framed it as an issue of male privilege. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't quite get it at first. I quickly and recursively ran through my head why I didn't feel the need to dispose of the socks, and justified it to myself that I hated waste, and that purchasing new socks when some only had small holes in them was wasteful and offensive to the labourers who made them as well as environmental concerns for the planet and the water involved in producing cotton socks.

All of this, on the surface, is true. I do hate waste, and I would find it grating in my red-blooded veins if I saw people trivialising sweatshop labour by essentially viewing clothing as disposable. However, that wasn't my way of thinking at the time. In fact I simply hadn't thought at all about the socks. When I realised that the privilege alarm bells started ringing. In my current framework, not having to worry about something is tantamount to privilege. After that, all it took was a quick two or three minute explanation by V to see the "socks with holes" trope as a product of patriarchy. Women, in general, are held to a ridiculous standard of personal hygiene and appearance under patriarchy; and in addition to this they're expected to worry about not only their own appearance, but that of others as well. I think we can all agree on that. I'd never before realised that this extended to socks, but it totally makes sense. In a perfect world, all people across the world could enjoy their holey socks. In this world, I'd have to up my game to be subject to the same pressures as my women comrades and try to lessen the places where they may feel stress due to my actions or inactions regarding these issues.

Next problem. If I hate waste, and can't have holes in my socks, what the hell do I do? Obvious answer: fix my gorram socks.

I'm lucky in that my parents were each brought up in proper working class families during the 60s and 70s. Whilst they climbed a rung on the class ladder and afforded me some economic privilege growing up that they'd not enjoyed; our money situation was such that they didn't just replace things willy nilly when it could be fixed. To that end, I have strong memories of my mother busting out the sewing kit once or twice a year for my school trousers when they'd get holes in the crotch. And every few weeks for loose shirt buttons etc. My point is, I'm lucky to have parents who managed to impart to me that attitude of "If it is broke, try to fix it first" when it came to bits and pieces. Eventually, around the age of 14, I managed to pick up some rudimentary sewing skills from my mother and the bits of the Web. Enough to sew my own gorram trouser crotch closed! This is a practice I've kept up to this day. Whenever my work trousers get a hole, I sew it shut. My skills are not perfect, but it beats dropping £20 on new trousers when 98% of the fabric on a current pair is intact.

Why I've never thought about fixing socks before now, I'll never know. Anyway, starting after my return from Madrid I began to sew the holes in my socks shut whenever I saw them. I did throw out a whole bunch of socks that were beyond saving. What has this got to do with an inner peace, albeit a simple one? I could wax poetical again about carrying on a tradition in my family of fixing stuff rather than buying new ones. I could probably talk about the rhythmic motion of sewing thread, and how I can sit outside and listen to the sounds of the suburbs as I fix my socks. All of this is true. What I think about when I'm fixing my socks, however, is trying to do my small bit to lessen waste, and fight against my own privilege. I feel that every stitch is a small step towards an apology to those whose socks I've never given a second thought to even though they're under pressure to be perfect, and who've wrongly felt responsible for the holes in my own socks.

Mostly, I like mending things. I like mending things about the same as I like trying to create new things. When I'm carving, I look at everyone else's projects and compare my efforts to theirs (I don't come out looking too good). When I'm mending socks, there's no real pressure to make it look a particular way. I'm pretty much just restoring its function. I can happily work with my hands, and make a hole disappear, and it's not designed to be a beautiful piece of work. The pressure is off, even though others will be able to fix socks faster/better than I can; they're not going to have access to my socks. I invert the sock, I sew the hole, I invert it again, and find a slight scar from where the material is bound but that's it.

I like that a lot.

capitalism feminism privilege diy socks mending