katharine likes to make things: pouches

Oh, technology. It gives us such wonderful shiny devices. Wonderful, shiny, breakable, easily misplaced, dirty, smudgy, germ-laden, ghastly devices of unnecessary burden. I love them so!

The trouble with these devices is they need protection from various elements. Which means shopping for cases, covers, pouches, and bags. Manufacturers rarely ever have colours and patterns to my liking. Often I wind up compromising my own taste for whatever’s available in my price bracket that doesn’t actively offend me. Or I make my own.

I’ve never had cases for my cell phones or cameras. They usually rattle around loosely in my purse du jour or get shoved into the built-in pockets of said purse. My ancient laptops have nondescript neoprene cases from which they rarely emerge. My iPod Touch has gone through several manufactured cases and one Kat-factured pouch.

For a couple of years, Dudley traveled around with me in this envelope pouch inspired by VintageCoquette. Using felt I had on hand, I stitched this together and added a back pocket to hold my ear buds. I really like the pouch but this eco-felt pills up in a hurry. And the snap eventually busted (shoddy American craftsmanship, pfui). So for a while, Dudley’s been riding around in a teal Umbra bungee case that does nothing to protect the screen and gives me no place to store ear buds.

Along came the iPad II. We fashioned Peter (Yes. I’ve named my devices Pete & Dud.) with the fancy magical magnetic folding cover. But that does nothing to protect that lovely little camera lens on the back of the device (not to mention that the foldy parts leaves smudgy streaks on the screen). I needed a house for Pete that would give a little barrier between him and the scratchy and/or liquid-y things that also go along on my travels. I turned to my stash for the right materials.

What I came up with was a fabric case with felt lining, forgoing the nifty neoprene. The outer fabric used to be a tea towel (from part of a set I picked up for less than $3 at a home decor store in Stratford, ON). From one tea towel I made three pouches with some material to spare. So now my iPad II (Pete), my iPod Touch (Dud), and my camera (Clicky McSnapshot) have new homes.

The lining is light blue felt that I’ve had on hand forever. I left the tops of the felt lining unattached so I could have some pockets inside the pouches for cord storage. There’s enough wiggle room in Pete’s pouch to add some padding if the need arises.

The buttons closures are new additions. Again, the stash serves its purpose. The black elastics are hair elastics that I found ineffective for use with my own hair. I’ve been looking for a way to reuse them.

Whether these turn out to be impractical or dysfunctional remains to be seen. For now, it’s nice to have a matching set of cases for my most frequently used devices. (My cell phone is widely-traveled but rarely used and five years old. He’s held up pretty well and seems content to ride around in the pockets built into my bags and purses. No, I didn’t name the cell phone.)

Bonus craft/upcycle project: Perhaps you noticed my ear buds’ snuggly little home. You’ll never guess the materials. Give up? The tops cut off a rarely worn pair of argyle flip flops and two uncovered 1″ buttons. The argyle fabric bit is from one shoe, snipped in half and stitched up the sides. The cord gets threaded through the centre and wound around the outside. Tangle-free and attractive!

Boggled – exercise #4

She was known as the Tease of the Seabreeze. The million-dollar mermaid of the community pool—elusive, graceful, alluring and bashful. Hers was an underwater ballet while others danced the aquatic watusi. Tens of teens gathered by the edge to glimpse the enchantress. Her presence made men tense and women ill at ease. From morning ’til dusk the bathing beauty remained immersed in the communal waters of questionable content. Loungers jokes about the ratio of water to chlorine to piss. Still, our miss could not be dissuaded. As tots waded and boys splashed, she glided through the liquid glass, oblivious.

On rare occasions, she emerged for oxygen and sustenance. Hypnotized boys hounded her, hoping to net her, hoping her mermaid moves translated to dry land. She resisted. One fellow took a risk to steal a kiss and she knocked him flat on his ass. In water, she floated like a butterfly. On land, she stung like a bee.

She was eventually seen as an asset to the captivated community. As news spread of her backstroke and synchronized motions in this imitation ocean, visitors arrived from far and wide to see the lady of the not-quite-a-lake.

Summer was over only when the water got too cold for her. Summer was over for good the day she left town. No one knew her name. No one knew her origins. Spectators speculated that she might turn pro. Whisper-prone rumor-mongers suggested the breaststroke Betty finally succumbed to princely pursuits and moved east. Summer months slipped away. Disappointed observers drifted to other destinations. Pool attendance nose dived with the main attraction’s disappearance. No more splashes, no more kick boards, no more inner tubes.

The pool became a pit. A haven for families became a hangout for skaters and stoners. The Tease of the Seabreeze became simply a memory.

The word list:
rot                 trip                rip
pit                 tip                  rites
tees               sees               sea
ease               kites             risk
pro                east               nets
tens               tense            tease
ass                 kiss               piss
ties                teens            seen
nest               asset

katharine likes to make things: embroidered jacket

Two years ago, my khaki blazer suffered a mishap in the laundry. Instead of chucking it or trying to dye it a new colour, I tried my hand at embroidering over the dark spots.

I skimmed through Google images and Etsy to look for embroidery inspiration. I’m not one for floral or paisley patterns, so I didn’t want to stitch on a bunch of flowers. I considered some more organic flourishes, argyle, and more specific images relevant to my interests. Eventually I landed on an Etsy listing for this bolero embroidered with gears.

Of course! Gears are graphically interesting, not “girly” and relevant to my robot drawing habits. And, most importantly, I could make them neutral enough so that I could still wear the jacket with everything.

This embroidery project was the most advanced embroidering I’d tackled. Mostly my embroidering consists of simple outlines. I’m in the dark ages when it comes to the textile arts. The names of the different kinds of stitches and styles all sound like figure skating terms to me. My embroidery lacks the sheen and professional crispness of the bolero but it serves my needs.

After adding the embroidery, the whole thing felt flat. So I went through my craft stash and found some gear-like washers. Using industrial-strength glue, I added a bit of sparkle to the gear centres and the buttons.

Now I can throw on this coat in the late spring and early fall. And now you can spot me in the late spring and early fall.

(P.S. I’m bringing back flash photography to the internet. Yes, all of those natural light photos are lovely and make your handmade goods look all the more impressive. What about the mole people who are also crafters and would like to share their projects on the internet but feel intimidated by all of the natural light photography? We must do what we can to encourage true underground creativity.)

Boggled – exercise #3

to the word lord

some work with wood, others with wool. his tools are adverbs, adjectives and nouns. his stories told to tots in their beds. his wit is a hit with twits young and old. his quotables quoted, his notables noted. the word lord spins yarns of metaphors and the metaphysical.
tongues twist tales of two-toed toads tied to tooting tit-willows. tow-headed tots tooted their loot—a rod, a kite, and a flute. who can forget when the bee lost a bet with a beet? critics don’t miss a beat. scholars try to make sense of his nonsense, dig deep for depth, searching for soul in the soulless.
the word lord advises the inadvisable. woes will wane with the rain. don’t hide from the tide, take root in the sand and let life wash over you, calmly.

some words will erode, fade from collective consciousness. new wordsmiths will trot out their modern wit. the word lord’s reign is short-lived but long recalled.

The word list:
rode               rod               two
tow                tool               wool
wood             told               old
bed                bet                 bee
beet               tie                  kite
drool             woe               toed
tit                   wit                twit
hit                  with              tee
lode                loot              toot
door               lord              word
trot                 tide               tied
ode                 hide              tot
rot                  tooted          rooted

Boggled – exercise #2

SLUT. All caps on the stall wall in the third floor ladies’ washroom. The sound of the word roared in her head like military jets. It wasn’t her fault. Teen lust and jealousy always leads to slinging slurs. Joe was nuts for his doe-eyed doll and wanted to spread the word of his life-changing love. He couldn’t have imagined the damage it would do to Sue’s reputation. Tales of his prior romantic dalliances feed the teen gossip machine. They couldn’t know that this was different. This was a love song with a new tune.

Sue stared at her feet when Joe approached her. Joe grabbed her hands, told her to ignore the inane blather of the ignorant. She met his eye line, shook her head, and walked away. Sue’s number one fan spent weeks trying to woo her back but his efforts were for nil. To live down the slur, Sue spent the rest of her high school career in a nun-like existence.

Two weeks after graduation, Joe makes one final attempt to reconnect with his true love. With one stunning demonstration of ardor, Sue drops her armor. Joe’s doe-eyed girl and Sue’s number one fan kiss as the music swells.

The word list:
slut               jets               just
lust               inane           line
joe                doe               feed
feet               fan               sue
juts               tune             stun
nuts              fault            teen

katharine has some thoughts about the internet

Warning: Nostalgia ahead. Let’s all get teary-eyed for the Internet we used to know.

I have been using the internet for a long time. We’ve called it the Internet, the Web, the Information Superhighway, teh interwebz, Hoochie Coochie Girl Charo, CyberSpace and the ‘Net. When the Sandra Bullock film came out, it was amazing that one could order a pizza through the computer. The future was close! And yet so far as we waited an infinity of minutes for our 24 baud modems to noisily connect to AOL.

For all of the awful things about AOL (and there are so many), it’s never quite been matched in community and information. I joined the Amazing Instant Novelist community (AOL keyword: novel … remember keywords? Good times.) and wasted countless hours on the writing message boards. I cyber-met lots of nice people and read a mixed bag of poetry and short stories. It was hard to connect with real people because we all hid behind our avatars and screen names. Tracking down high school friends proved difficult because we were going through our young adult exploration, trying on new personalities and new interests.

Eventually I moved onto a new dial-up service and branched out to the Rest of the Internet (anything that wasn’t accessible by a keyword). New screen names, new avatars. Start a Blogger weblog? Okay. Join some Yahoo groups? Yes. Buy a bunch of crap off eBay? Yes, please. And some newer stuff from Amazon? And how!

For a while I operated under the Blissfully Bitter identity. The site I cobbled together with remedial HTML served as my online store for crafts and WHiRR art, my online portfolio, and my rant repository. I went through the blog cycle of 1) Get really excited about writing up some opinions and observations, 2) Check stats obsessively to find nobody magically found my website through random keywords (wait…this isn’t AOL), 3) Post obligatory pouty “I’m tired of blogging and I’m giving up” entry, 4) Post completely random entry 20 minutes later. Rinse, repeat, actually give up blog and move to LiveJournal.

I gave up Blissfully Bitter a few years ago because it just didn’t fit anymore. Growing up on the Internet is tough, you guys! Choosing screennames/handles is tough when you’ve got a common name. If your name doppelganger reaches a service before you and you try to use your real name, some generator tacks on some random numbers. I gave up on so many services in early days because I couldn’t come up with a handle I could live with. It’s an ongoing battle between being clever, being cutesy and being boring. Prospective employers probably think less of me when my query letters come from katharsisjones but I’d rather not be katharinemiller875z29.

In recent years, I’ve gotten swept up in joining the social networking ranks. At one point I was on LiveJournal, MySpace, Flickr, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Friendster, and probably a few others that faded in the shadow of Facebook. I wasn’t going to join Facebook because it felt like it was for young people. And then it was a way to stay connected with friends I’d lose touch with otherwise. Then it became a way to see what became of grade school bullies and ex-boyfriends (Classmates being unreliable and ridiculously expensive for what it is.). I use it for whining and self-promotion to hand-picked “friends” who can choose to de-friend me at whim.

Some days I feel too old for the Internet. I can’t keep up with the popular viral videos. I don’t care about 99.7% of memes. I’m tired of social media and buzzwords and SEO and cutesy portmanteaus and the continued bastardization of the English language because people can’t be bothered to use spell check or read over their hot-headed response to some troll’s hot-headed comment about some lady celebrity who decided to wear a baggy shirt one day (because ladies need to wear baggy shirts sometimes, people.). I’m tired of rushing over to sign up for the next big web trend so that I can get my name before someone else does. As the kids say: I can’t even.

On the other hand, the Internet is full of kitty cats. I do love me some kitty cats.

katharine loses track of internet trends

Are we still blogging these days?

I have acquaintances who use Tumblr, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, plus a blog. The blog is linked to all the other social networking profiles. And now, with Google+ on the social media scene, it all seems a bit excessive, especially when I can barely muster up enough to say in a tweet.

The trouble is that it’s so easy to sign up for these things. But like gym memberships and new toys, we’re gung ho about them until we become bored, frustrated or seduced by something else. My personal frustration comes from a lack of audience. often do I go down the road of “Why am I writing this if no one is reading it?” and abandon whatever it is I was working on. Since my introduction to web publishing in 2000, I’ve started and abandoned five blogs, three LiveJournals, one MySpace account, and one LinkedIn account. Now I’m active on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+.

And then there’s this blog. Sure, I could try to get motivated by way of convincing myself that I’m blogging for me. But if you’re writing just  for the exercise of it, there are plenty of journal applications to use without a Publish to Web button.

How much personal information do I need to reveal to the internet? And does the internet (or its inhabitants) really care whether I add photos from my upcoming trip to PEI to my dormant Flickr account or fill out another 25 things about me questionnaire? Are any of my friends, acquaintances or stalkers so desperate for constant updates from me that they’ll take it in 140-character bites? I suspect that I could delete everything no one would notice.

Since completing my 30 Failures project, I’ve been using most of my social media outlets to promote various books and projects. My tweets are either blatant self-promotion or observations on random pop culture items. My Tumblr is full of reblogs of bowler hats, cats, and 1960s British comedians. Facebook gets all my whining about sinus woes, links to YouTube videos of 1960s British comedians, and blurry snapshots of my cats.

What will become of the blogs in the tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) era? Where posts gets skipped if not accompanied by twee photos or viral videos? How many times do we have to start over and reconsider how we use the internet and connect with other people?

Boggled – exercise #1

(My very first stream of consciousness writing exercise using found words in Boggle, the three-minute word find game. It could be awful. It could have potential. It could be so embarrassing I remove it from the blog immediately. After the first sentence, I realized it would be impossible to use found words only.)

Two tots plot to stop a heist at the pier. The first tot spots the men planning to shift tin. Tot two spies the men’s hens, shapely ladies man the getaway van, waiting for the heist to begin. One hen opts for zen while her friend opts to pine for her man.

As the men hit their mark, the ships dock. Man one and man two spin their plan into action. Manuel and Manfred take post behind the main ship. Faceless drones unload the hot lot of pots. The lovely ladies hop from the van to distract the drones. With a wiggle of their hips and jiggle of their tops, the ladies entrance the drones with their womanly wiles. Our men swiftly snatch up the lot and scurry to the getaway van. As the drones begin to get fresh with the flesh the men employed for distraction, the tots emerge from their pits and land a few hits on the spit.

The cop with the tip from the tots of the heist of hot pots arrives on the scene just in time. With a deft swing of his fist, he takes out the faceless fondlers. The hens run to the men and the cop follows the flesh-baring fiends. As the men start to give the slip to the hens and the close behind cop, the tots set a trap for a trip. They tie a rope ‘tween two posts and pin the men to the ground. The hens quickly confess to their role in the mess and the cop handles the rest. After foiling the heist at the pier, the two tots have a fest with soda and pie. The end.

The word list:
(Crossed out words were not used in the exercise)

tots               stops               post
pots              tops                 spots
spits             hips                 ships
her                rest                  fest
his                pin                   pine
men              pies                 ties
tier               pier                 opts
sops              sin                  tin
zen               hen                 heist
tips               pits                 spin
fresh            sips                 hits
sits               posh

katharine likes to make things: tea towel sketchbook

I like to make things. I’ve built up a considerable stash of craft supplies and odds ‘n’ ends to upcycle at some point. Sometimes I make things and they turn out pretty decent. These cases are rare as I lack the patience to sit down and measure things and take my time to make my projects camera-friendly.

This is a sketchbook I created using tea towels and a chopped up pad of layout bond paper. The pads are far too cumbersome to wrangle and draw on and I’ve got several left over from my stint as a design student.

I can’t provide a tutorial for this project because I slapped it together on a rainy afternoon a couple of years ago and took no notes on the process. I can share the materials list and provide some of my intentions with the project.


Two tea towels

Sturdy cardboard or illustration board


14 x 17 layout bond paper pad

Velcro with adhesive backing


Most of my projects start with scraps and leftover boards. In this case, I lucked out that my chopped up paper fit the height of a piece of cardboard I had in my cardboard stash (you don’t have a stash of old cereal boxes and Amazon packaging? Tsk, tsk.). Because I knew I wanted a perfect bound sketchbook, I cut the cardboard into three pieces—front, back and spine.

The inner binding is quite ugly. I devised a thinner strip of cardboard covered with fabric as a way to mask the Velcro binding. I used Velcro to hold the paper to the cover so the cover could be reused once the original pages were filled. (It’s been two years and I haven’t used the book yet because I have that affliction of collecting pretty journals and refusing to write in them because they are pretty. All my drawing is done in cheap sketchbooks I pick up at Michael’s on sale because Moleskine is too fancy.)

Signatures of the pages are bound with glue on the tippy edges of the sheets. The whole thing is held together with E600 glue and faith.

The original 14 x 17 pad was cut down roughly into quarters. The finished book is probably about 7 x 9.

It’s a handsome book if one doesn’t look too closely at it. Or use it. I’m going to use it soon.

I unearthed a couple of extra layout pads a few weeks ago. Maybe I’ll make a tutorial of the next book I make.

The Boggle writing exercise experiment

Writer’s block—the bane of any scribe’s existence. At some point, the story well dries or the right words just won’t appear magically on the page. We stare at blank screens and paper, waiting for the muse to strike. And then it’s four years later and you find that your writing portfolio is woefully outdated and the most you’ve written is a witty tweet three months ago.


I have devised a way to get myself back into the habit of regular writing. Merely setting up a blog wasn’t enough (as is evidenced through four years of sporadic entries). I’m developing a writing exercise based on my love of word games. It’s no secret that I am Boggle-minded. Other people may go for the more strategic and studious Scrabble but I thrive on the adrenaline that comes from liberating as many words as I can from an unforgiving cube in three minutes. I’ve mastered the art of anagrams. The triangular placement of E, T, and A offer several opportunities for points on their own. Combine them with a couple of other consonants and an S and I’m halfway to the winner’s circle.

My strategy of any word search is in detecting relationships between letters. For the purposes of my writing exercise, I’m expanding my strategy to include relationships between words. If you’ve ever looked at your list of words before reading them off to your opponents, you might’ve noticed some connections between words. Maybe your cube included words like “kiss,” “slut,” “tease,” and “kill.” Just reading words like that, you’re halfway to a story already.

The rules of my Boggle exercise are still in development. Obviously, I get the fun of three minutes of word searching. After I have my list, I write stream of consciousness to use the words on the list. It would be limiting to write using only the found words, so I incorporate the found words into the prose.

No poetry or lyrics. Rhyming words can be plentiful with the right shake of the cube and it would be easy to dash off a little poem or two with sing-songy rhymes. But I’m no poet. I’m not well-versed in reading or writing poetry. (My personal opinion that poetry can be pretentious colours any attempt I might make.)

The goal is to use all the words. So far, I haven’t succeeded. Sometimes there are words that don’t comfortably fit into the stream of conscious narrative. Or words that are too common. Or words that came up in the last exercise that I choose not to reuse. The goal is not to tie these exercises together but to let the brain go off into new directions.

To keep myself honest and committed to the project, I will post the exercises here along with the list of found words. I can’t guarantee these writings to make sense or have any sort of story or sound structure. I can promise cheesy alliteration (I do loves me some alliteration) and the messy process of writing. Stay tuned.