Archive for the ‘Books’ category

I Buy a Kindle Paperwhite

February 17, 2017

I was never that fussed about eReaders and eBooks, but I tried the FBReader app on a tablet and found I enjoyed reading the odd public domain book. My reading chair is right by a window and the tablet screen has a lot of glare and I was constantly turning the screen sideways to avoid glare, so I bought a Kindle Paperwhite and cover during a recent sale.


I also downloaded and installed the free Calibre open source software for managing eBooks and sideloading books from my laptop to the Kindle. The programmer Kovid Goyal had a great idea in this program, the only fault I find with it is that to add a website to the drop-down list of archives to search in the Get Books function, someone has to write a script. You can write and ask someone to do it, but I don’t want the fuss.

I tend to like thumbnails of book covers on the Kindle and if Calibre can’t find a cover when it downloads metadata, it’s easy enough to browse online manually for one or to make my own up in Photoshop. Here are a few covers I made, Number 17 is a rather lame ghost story and didn’t really need a cover as I deleted it after reading, but I needed a bit of fun on a slow day.


Skookum Chuck is a classic featuring the coast and sea of British Columbia, and is from Project Gutenberg Canada. I have really enjoyed reading it. The author, Stewart Edward White, is known for novels that feature landscape and nature and the outdoors. Strangely, this book is not mentioned on the list of his works on Wikipedia. Of course, it’s set in Canada, why would anyone mention it?

As well, I’ve got about 15 classic mysteries all downloaded and ready to read on the Kindle. I love that I can use Calibre to add metadata to downloaded books, and I particularly like to get a cover and cover blurb for each book. The ePub and mobi formats for eBooks are based on HTML, and I can convert all formats in Calibre to the native mobi format for the Kindle very easily and then add or edit fields and tags as I wish. It’s also very easy to plug the Kindle into my laptop and open Calibre to transfer files and I can remove the device from within Calibre.

The files on Project Gutenberg Canada are in HTML or text-only, so converting them is necessary and I have found a few gems on there that aren’t available anywhere else. I discovered that it’s often because of our copyright length regulations. With some exceptions Canadian copyright is Life +50 and in some other countries, including the United States, it is Life +70, so 50 years after the death of an author the copyright reverts to public domain in Canada. Generally, but copyright is always a bit tricky, so you have to check.

Some browbeating fink on a forum started badgering me about why I was using Calibre and why I needed metadata and how I “should” do what she wanted etc. There’s one jerk like this on every list or forum. I enjoy the program and find it useful. I put the fink on Ignore and have been blessedly peaceful ever since, puttering away downloading free eBooks and metadata, converting books, sideloading books, making covers, all the top experiences of metajoy.

As yet, I haven’t actually bought a book from Amazon for the Kindle although I’ve downloaded two reading samples of biographies. I’m still a bit iffy on purchasing eBooks from Amazon as I like to have non-fiction/reference books in hand and I usually refer to them frequently or reread them. I don’t find fiction books to be a good price on Amazon and prefer to buy them on the secondary market or order them from the public library.

I was very surprised at how easy it is to read on the Kindle. I have it set to Landscape mode for reading as I find that emulates a page in a real paperback best and is easiest on my eyes; my brain tends to flow better through the words. The little cover I bought is the Midnight Fish design by Fintie and apart from a slight plastic smell it’s very good and works well for protection and automatically puts the Kindle to sleep when I close the cover.


A good experience all around.



Books on Owls and Colour Mixing Recipes

January 23, 2017

I placed an order at an art supply shop to beef up my collection of Faber-Castell Polychromos coloured pencils. Although I have 60 colours, I was short on the warm and cool grey selections which are good for animal fur and feathers. I ended up getting 18 colours, so I’ll be up to 78 colours in total with this set. I initially bought a set of 24 pencils and then this will be my third order over several years to get the particular colours I find useful.

I was going to try the Caran d’Ache Luminance or Pablo coloured pencils but the cost is way too much. Besides, I like the oil-based Polychromos and want to stick with them. Then I was looking at the Caran d’Ache Neocolor II water-soluble pastel crayons and I realized I was just looking for the sake of looking. Back to reality.

I thought I’d also order a drafting template for small lettering. I got the Alvin Standard Lettering Guide TD112 that uses size: 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, which is pretty small, but makes neat and tidy text.


I threw in a couple of Faber-Castell PITT pens because no one here sells them. I bought a back-up Sepia Superfine pen and a new-to-me Sanguine colour in the Fine size. I love their sepia colour and I think Sanguine might look good for buildings and lettering.

I occasionally buy photographic books for drawing references. I have used my reptiles book so much I thought I’d get one on owls, and I liked the photos in this and the huge amount of information on global species of owls.

Owls of the World: A Photographic Guide by Heimo Mikeola looks terrific and it gets great reviews. He is originally from Finland and has spent 40 years researching and photographing owls; a noted expert who obviously knows his stuff judging by the sample pages I saw of this book.


I dithered over this book because it’s better that people learn to mix their own colours when painting. I’m not too bad when mixing watercolour but in planning a large acrylic piece I wanted a reference for mixing particular colours, so I ordered the book 1500 Color Mixing Recipes by William F. Powell. This is one of those handy Walter Foster publications that have such good information.


I saw an excellent tutorial on YouTube for drawing rabbit fur with Polychromos coloured pencils so it got me all fired up. I still have a shoulder injury and tendinitis bothering me but I’m going to try doing small pictures at least. I’m sure a suitable owl with appear in the new book.

I also want to draw a sandpiper because of a story about a sandpiper from my Dad’s childhood, and due to his recent death I’ve been thinking about that. It’s a bit harder to find a large photo of a suitable bird but I’ll keep watch for one. I have some scraps of grey or cream Stonehenge paper that would do well for this.



Biographies and Art Technique Books

January 17, 2017

I bought 4 new books and 2 used books that looked interesting for biography art techniques.

1) How to Draw & Paint Animals: Learn to Draw with Colored Pencil Step by Step by Debra Kauffman Yaun – another excellent Walter Foster publication, and a large format with few pages like their older publications. Many good steps and tips in this without the usual interminable pages of supplies that many publishers use to pad out their books.


2) No Excuses Watercolor Animals: A Field Guide to Painting by Gina Rossi Armfield – I rather like Gina’s exuberant, loose style which is accurate but so different from the precious approach to painting tedious art that looks like a photograph. Again, no 21 pages of supply discussion padding out the substance of the book.


3) Colored Pencil Cats & Dogs: Art & Instruction from 80 Colored Pencil Artists by Ann Kullberg – Each artist has a picture and a page of remarks and tips. I love this kind of book where you can get inspiration without copying a tutorial.


4) John James Audubon: The Making of an American by Richard Rhodes – A recent biography recommended by several newspapers. The print is a bit small but I’m enjoying it as I knew nothing of his life.


These two I bought used on ABE so it will take a while to get them. I have read two other biographies by Mary S. Lovell, so was interested in the one that she did on the Churchill family. She doesn’t include everyone but some of the well-known Churchills and family history.

5) The Churchills by Mary S. Lovell – I bought an older edition paperback and it’s not as fancy as the newer and larger books with photos of the family on the cover. Winston Churchill wrote his own biography of his famous ancestor, the first Duke of Marlborough, but I wanted something lighter.


6) Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds by Lyndall Gordon – I wanted to re-read the biography of Dickinson My Wars Are Laid Away in Books by Alfred Habegger, but it was tedious to read I thought I’d try another approach and bought this for $1.


I joined a new book group for this year where you keep track of what you read each month (something I always forget to do), and they also read a book together each month. I recently got an app for our tablet for reading eBooks, and it wasn’t as hard on the eyes as I expected so I am enjoying reading the first two classic books.

Years ago I used to be on several book groups on Yahoo Groups, but they changed the format on Yahoo which made it more difficult to read and reply to messages, so I gave up and left them all. I miss talking to people about books though, and part of the fun is checking other people’s lists of books and finding new authors of fiction and new non-fiction reads on fascinating subjects.









Fashion History Books

December 26, 2016

I got a notice of a price drop on a book on my wish list. While there another interesting book appeared on a similar subject so I bought these two books:

Art Nouveau Fashion by Clare Rose

Glasgow Museums Seventeenth Century Costume by Rebecca Quinton


Apparently Glasgow Museums are publishing a series of books on their various collections, much like the Victoria & Albert Museum did a range of books on their collections. This one also discusses embellishment and accessories as well as the main costume, which are two of my favourite topics regarding fashion.

I have a number of books on historical collections of fashion or textile design which I enjoy. Here is a list of titles from my collection:

Purse Masterpieces by Lynnell Schwartz

Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450 (Museum of London; Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4)

Costume and Fashion: A Concise History by James Laver; 4th ed., (Thames & Hudson World of Art series)

Medieval Dress and Fashion by Margaret Scott

Textile Designs: Two-Hundred Years Of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout and Period by Susan Meller and Joost Elffers

Textiles of the Arts and Crafts Movement by Linda Parry

Embroidered Textiles: A World Guide to Traditional Patterns by Sheila Paine

Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century (V & A Museum); Claire Browne, ed.

Toile de Jouy: Printed Textiles in the Classic French Style by Melanie Riffel et al.

The Book of Silk by Philippa Scott

Dress in Detail from Around the World (V & A Museum)

A Separate Sphere: Dressmaker’s in Cincinnati’s Golden Age by Cynthia Amneus

Style and Splendor: The Wardrobe of Queen Maud of Norway 1896-1938 by Anne Kjellberg

Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style, DK/Smithsonian

100 Dresses, The Costume Institute/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century, The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute

Many of these are large books; the Kyoto Costume Institute books are huge and slipcased in a double set. They were on sale so I was lucky to find them. The Victoria & Albert Museum have many books on specific centuries and fashion that I missed out on before they went out of print.

Still, I am rather pleased that over the years I’ve gathered some really wonderful books on the subject, with two more coming to read and browse through and learn.




Weaving and Appliqué Books and DVD

October 17, 2016

One of the things about moving across the country is that when you reorganize and pare down the stuff, it clarifies what is really important to you.

I have missed using my rigid heddle weaving loom, and I never got the time to try to weave purse straps using tablet weaving, so I’d like to get back to that when my shoulder injury repairs itself.

I have Deborah Kemball’s previous book Beautiful Botanicals, and I liked this Euphoria Tapestry Quilts for some of the smaller projects she includes. I was thinking of maybe using some of these designs in a mixed embroidery/appliqué accent on the shawl collar of a dressing gown I am making myself.


There are scant books on using a rigid heddle loom, but now and then a good one comes along. Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom by Syne Mitchell I liked because she discusses using two heddles for doubling the sett of your woven piece which is something I have planned to do for a couple of years for some new tea towels. I have the kit and extra heddles from Ashford, but never got them attached to the loom, it too was deferred for home renovations and selling and moving house.


I thought I might find some classes in my new area on tablet or card weaving, but there don’t seem to be any. I had woven two nice pieces of cloth to make purses some years ago, one in a lovely houndstooth pattern, and I wanted to weave my own bands to use as purse straps. I have the crochet cotton and the cards and shuttle/beater, and the spouse made me a surfboard style loom, but I couldn’t figure the process out from the book I bought.

This video is supposed to be very helpful for the confused and although he uses an Inkle loom for demonstrations, they can be adapted for my handmade loom.


Tablet Weaving Made Easy by John Mullarkey is a 2-disc video class lasting 120 minutes that gets good reviews, particularly from people like me who find the whole process confusing when using the weaving cards.

Boy, these are quite inspiring!


Books, Bugs, Birds, Textiles, and Pre-Raphaelite Muses and Music

October 4, 2016

Assorted reflections from the past few months…

I read Shoe Dog, Phil Knight’s memoir of Nike and shoes and life which I found to be a page turner. It’s always interesting to hear the inside story of business.


Generally I’ve been reading mysteries, but throughout the summer I have been rereading The Hare with Amber Eyes in an illustrated edition I purchased, and it was even better the second time. A family history as interesting and poignant as this will be something I revisit along the years.


A.S. Byatt has a new book called Peacock & Vine: On William Morris and Mariano Fortuny which is a small but delightful read. She often cites Fiona MacCarthy’s excellent biography of Morris which I read from the library in early 2015, but I wanted to get my own used copy so I could read it again.


I also thought I needed to read a proper biography of John Ruskin. He often crops up in art history but he was rather strange in his personal life which I always found off-putting, so I’m giving him a chance. I ordered them both from used bookstores and will forward to reading them.


My library system had a book called Wives and Stunners:The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses by Henrietta Garnett, so I’ll try that for her information on Ruskin and the Brotherhood as well. One thing about these fellows, they often made fun of William Morris and drew caricatures of him, which has always disappointed me, since he had such a enormous work ethic. Rossetti of course had a long-term affair with Morris’s wife Jane which makes me think little of her, but perhaps this book will improve my opinion of her. I doubt it, but I’ll give her a chance.


I had a milestone birthday this summer, so bought myself used copies of two books I’ve had on my wish list for years. I love books on textiles, needlework, and quilting history, so it’s important to me to buy them when I find them as they are scarce.

I bought Toile De Jouy: Printed Textiles in the Classic French Style by Melanie Riffel and Sophie Rouard which is another gorgeous Thames & Hudson publication and contains huge amounts of fascinating information. I’ve only begun it but I am struck by the complicated process of making and printing cloth in pre-industrial times.

I became interested in the tools of needlework because of Gail Marsh’s excellent books on needlework history. I wanted more photographs and explanations of them so I bought a used copy of Antique Needlework Tools and Embroideries by Nerylla Taunton.


You could spend years studying the history of such things and still not know everything. I find it all inspiring and exciting.

I finally decided after listening to a much-loved recording of an Etude by Chopin with bird sounds, that I had to track down which etude it is. After 21 years it’s starting to bother me every time I hear this exquisite piece, and there is no information in the notes on the recording. Naturally, there are several recordings of the complete etudes, 24 etudes all told, and the recordings get various reviews. I settled on a good, solid one from RCA by John Browning.


In Canada, has raised their free shipping price to $35 CAD again after dropping it to $25 CAD when our dollar was stronger. So as well as Chopin, I got a good photographic reference on bugs from National Geographic and a book on drawing animals, birds, and insects. These books are: Ultimate Bugopedia: The Most Complete Bug Reference Ever by Darlyne Murawski and Nancy Honovich and Drawing And Painting Birds, Marine Creatures and Insects by Jonathan Truss.


I haven’t been able to draw for about six weeks due to a very painful shoulder impingement and tendinitis, but I have plans, and drawing projects to get to, and I hope my hand comes around soon so I can hold a pencil and paint again.

There is something about Fall and Winter that seems perfect for Art Nouveau and pre-World War I biographies. A fire in the grate, a book in the hand and mind, hot cups of jasmine tea, and warm blankets on my lap. Perfect!

Oh, and maybe some etudes by Chopin burbling in the background? Yes, I think that works.



Postage Stamp History and Books

June 22, 2016

I never made it as a postage stamp collector when I was a child, I had no patience with the gummy hinges and trying to fill a book pre-printed with particular stamps that you were supposed to find. I do however love the art on postage stamps. People say mail is dying out and in many ways it has, but post offices keep designing and releasing wonderful stamps with wonderful art. I’ve recently been using these lovely hydrangea stamps from Canada Post on letters to people.

Mmmm, yummy super delish!


I bought a book years ago that is still in print is called Stamping Through Mathematics by Robin J. Wilson. It’s a history of mathematics, countries, and people through various postage stamps from around the world. It has beautiful large clear pictures of stamps and the text is more of an overview, just enough for those of us who aren’t stamp collectors, but full of meaty examples for people who do collect.


Yesterday I decided to look up and see if there were any similar publications to this and found two books by Chris West. One was called A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps, and the second was called A History of America in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps. Very expensive to buy, but my local library has the one on British stamps so I’m going to hurtle in and borrow it.

I find the older monochromatic or duotone stamps kind of boring visually but a book like this will have the history and stories behind them so you can’t beat that. Expand my awareness why don’t you Chris.


Up the library. Everybody sing.

I always like to mention a book about one of my heroes, science or otherwise, physicist Richard Feynman. He was a stamp collector when young and back in the 1930s desperately wanted some postage stamps from Tannu Tuva which is a country in Siberia just outside Mongolia. This ties in nicely to exploring stamps and being passionate about learning. One of my favourite quotes is this:

“The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery…” [Richard Feynman]

It’s rare to find people who feel that way. I’m like that, Richard Feynman was like that, there are others of us in the world, beavering away finding out about stamps and art, armillary spheres, the origins of words, what plastic is made of, insects, reptiles, poets and writers, and a tiny country named Tuva which has throat singers who sound eerily like the Inuit throat singers of Canada, leading one to speculate about ancient land bridges to North America from Siberia.


Tuva Or Bust: Richard Feynman’s Last Journey by Ralph Leighton is a sad book in many ways because Feynman’s life was winding down, but it pinpoints this thirst to know and explore that is the best part of being human.

Plus it has postage stamps, you can’t go wrong.