How to repurpose a pig without eating it

Hi All,

We decided that we were going to get inventive and cover that Earl munched book today. Before we started we assembled our tools…a sharp vegetable peeling knife (couldn’t find my quick unpick), a pair of blunt scissors and a small pot of wood glue (it lists “leather” on the label). We then got the oversized leather jacket, since discovered to be pig leather, out of the blanket box at the end of the spare bed and I spent the better part of the morning separating the leather from its lining and from the pockets to arrive at a large enough segment of leather to cover the book. Interestingly enough, where the jacket separated at the back (to enable the wearer to sit down in it and run…should a size 22 woman ever be inclined to run that is…) and was hemmed was a perfect fit for just slipping over one side of the book cover…that is a REALLY lucky find because neither of us has any idea of what we are doing at this point…we slipped the book cover into the hemmed bit and followed the information (with a lot of liberties taken) in the instructable below (should you feel inclined to spend your weekend making and covering your own book…)

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-bind-your-own-Hardback-Book/

We had a brief moment of panic when we realised that we had pulled the leather a bit tight and that the book was a bit skewed so we left the book standing supported on either side to stretch out the pig skin. A slight aside here…I once (being the font of knowledge that I am…more like the urn that it spills out of actually!) heard that pig skin (and pig flesh if I am being honest here) is very similar to human skin. My grandfather on my mother’s side was in W.W.2. In Papua New Guinea and fought with the locals who were nicknamed “The Fuzzy Wuzzies” because of their enormous manes of frizzy hair. Aside from the fact that my grandfather returned looking as brown as a berry and a whole lot like one of these fuzzy wuzzies but with less curly hair, he often told us about how they had talked about head hunters who not only killed their enemies and collected their heads as trophies, but who actually cannibalised them as well (the ultimate waste not want not with no wastage or evidence!). Humans apparently taste so much like pork that these New Guinean cannibal’s called human meat “Long Pork”. That got me thinking about making books out of human skin…the ultimate tribute for someone’s diary? Steve then said “there are probably all sorts of books made out of human skin out there in weird cults and pagan religion’s…that is about when I stopped thinking about human skin covered books! What we ended up with isn’t perfect…we never professed to be professional book binders but we are quite happy with the results and this pig skin covering should allow me to take this previously precariously spined book out into the garden without all of the pages parting company with the tiny portion of spine that remains and leaving me without the list of edible plants that I was checking out. What I wanted to say here was whether or not you have money, it isn’t as much of an obstacle as you might think to get where you want to be. This coat was purchased by my daughter from a local thrift shop for about $5 one day on her way to work as it had gotten really cold and she had forgotten to bring her own coat. It did the trick and went to the back of her closet and was never worn again. She gave it to me one day as she has a really lovely long leather jacket that Steve gave to her about 5 years ago that she wears when it is cold that gives her the air of being akin to The Ghost Rider…a very cool jacket that will never date, but this one…apart from being enormous came from the 80’s and that is all that I need to say about that! It has yielded enough material to cover the dog chewed book, another book about the same size and several other projects that we may need leather for. I have a suede jacket that someone gave me a long time ago that they were throwing out that is a curious puce colour. I may find a use for that one day as well. That is what I meant when I said that there was a difference between hoarding and living sustainably. Hoarders have no intention of using what they hoard…they collect it because they can and it’s theirs. People living frugally collect things for “a rainy day” but tend to collect things that they know are going to have an intrinsic value someday soon and they are saved to be used. Am I justifying my collections of “stuff”? Most probably…I dare say I haven’t yet arrived at being willing to go to a 12 step meeting about confessing “My name is Fran and I hoard”…one vice at a time people and the alcohol is still leeching out of my fatty deposits so it should be some time yet before I am ready to tackle hoarding.

Here is what we started with…a whole lot of creative desire…an enormous leather jacket…a pair of scissors that couldn’t cut paper…a sharp vegetable peeling knife that I got from the tip shop (sharp optional)…a small pot of wood glue and one slightly sampled harcover copy of an Ex Library book…

You can see the damage to the books spine here and how the book would have most probably disintegrated with any degree of regular use NOT an option as this book is a manual for Serendipity Farm, not a coffee table book and needs to be able to be used…

A few runs through our “Diamond Fingers” knife sharpener and the little tip shop knife was rendered “Sharp” and as you can see…who needs that quick unpick? Note to Quick Unpick…”when I find you…you are taking a journey to the op shop!”…As you can see, I needed to separate the leather panels from each other as well as from the lining material. This is where I discovered that this jacket was made of pig skin. I need to point out here that I failed abysmally at sewing at school. Steve never did sewing at school (the brothers got 1 thing right!) and so we are rank amateurs regarding anything to do with stitches. My daughter Madeline is a natural whiz with a sewing machine and has made some amazing costumes, clothes and “stuff” but all that happens when I get hold of a sewing machine is uneven tensions for both the machine and for me…

This is to prove that it was me doing the work and that I didn’t import Madeline to do all the tricky stuff off camera (note to self…Stop chewing your nails!…)

Steve and I have never let not having a lot of cash stop us when we want to achieve something. If we had waited till we had the cash we would be waiting still and you just have to find your way around that obstacle. Admittedly it is a rather big obstacle, but by no way unsurmountable. You just have to get creative. In having to do so many things ourselves (renovations, building things, making things etc.) we have learned all sorts of interesting and valuable skills along the way. I just wish one of us would take “Mending your car” as one of those school holiday Adult Education classes because our car is one of our Achilles heels. I wouldn’t really care all that much apart from the fact that Serendipity Farm is out in the boondocks and nowhere near public transport. We are some of those rare people that actually need a car. We live 50km away from Launceston and I guess we could walk to Beaconsfield but a 22km walk there and back isn’t my idea of how to spend a day (it would probably take me a week if I am being honest :o) so aside from shopping up the road at the Sidmouth Store (entirely feasible if you are a millionaire but sadly…we are not…) we really don’t have any option but to own a car. I remember living in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, and not having a car at all until I moved down to Albany and even then I didn’t get my manual license until I was 32. I am not a great fan of them to be honest…they might drive us from A to B but they cost a fair bit of money just to keep that momentum going. Back before everyone had cars and when the world was a much smaller and more isolated place, people had a basic idea about how to do a little bit of everything. You had to because most of the time there simply wasn’t anyone else to do it. I have a book of my Grandmother’s that has all sorts of little hints and tips about gardening in it. It was purchased new back in the early 50’s and has plans for past orchards, little sketches of various plants and structures that were built or as prospective projects. It is a little glimpse at a life that I was never part of. This book has new addresses listed as my grandmother and her family moved from place to place. I love being able to feel part of that history and knowing that the very same book that she pored over may well give me the answers to some gardening problem today. My need to collect little unusual bits and pieces obviously comes from a long line of collectors because in the pages of this book are old dried out leaves, flowers, little pictures cut from magazines and newspaper clippings about various subjects. Being able to do things for yourself is no longer a necessity. There is always someone out there with the skills to repair or manufacture whatever you want but being able to do it yourself gives you power. Having both the knowledge and the skill to do things for yourself is a really precious thing and makes you a real asset to yourself, your family and your local community. We try to learn all sorts of things so that we can be more frugal with what we have and to try to tread more lightly on the earth. That’s a hard thing to do when you have enormous heifer feet like I do, but every journey starts somewhere and ours is starting here on Serendipity Farm

This photo shows a panel of leather from the rear of the jacket (the “Big End”) being separated from both the lining and the pocket bit (a tricky bit of vegetable peeling for someone who doesn’t know how to sew or in this case “unsew” anything…)

How lucky was I that the hemmed bit at the bottom of the jacket panel that allows size 22 women to run and sit down also fit on one corner of my book!

Another amazing coincidence, the bit of hemmed jacket that fit the corner directly correlated to this bit being just enough to cover the book on the other end…

Now it was a matter of making sure that everything lined up properly and that we worked out how to account for that little bit of a gap in the middle of the book where the spine sits. Our Instructable for this project was for making your own book entirely and the cover was an easy matter of just sticking the cloth (whatever you were using) down on a bit of cardboard and placing your hand made book on top. This was a different matter as we had a book with a spine that needed to be dealt with in a different way. We decided to figure that bit out when we got to it…

It took a fair bit of lining up and pulling the leather around to get it to do what we wanted it to do. I get the feeling that it keeps wanting to go back to “Pig shape”…anyway, we eventually got it to compromise and sort of do what we wanted it to do

I have started crocheting again. Last year (prior to purchasing…YES WE ACTUALLY PAID MONEY FOR HIM…sigh…) Earl, I got the crochet bug. I am someone who suddenly takes up crafts/skills with a violent interest, everything revolves around this craft/skill for a period of time (not always until the project is finished thus my “failed crafts cupboard” still exists on Serendipity Farm) until my passion is expunged and my crafting mania subsides. When we were in Spotlight buying something last year I noticed them selling balls of wool for 20c a ball. It was that weird furry and frizzy stuff that comes in bright colours and I am a total magpie for a nice bright colour. I ended up buying 20 balls in my first instalment and headed home to try to remember how to crochet a square…I had learned and performed this skill may years ago despite my grandmother despairing of me ever being able to crochet normally. I crochet in an entirely weird way that is apparently “The German Way” and perhaps I am a throwback to my German heritage but whatever the reason is, that’s how I do it and I am not going to stop any day soon.  After several false starts and a good deal of swearing and Bezial cowering under the table (he hates conflict and there is nothing like a good swearing session to make him fear the reaper…you would think that we thrashed him on a regular basis but he has never been hit even once!) I managed to assemble something vaguely resembling a square of treble crochet (treble is the cleverest way to do it as it assembles so much more quickly). The really good thing about that frizzly frimbley wool is that it covers up a lot of inconsistencies but on the flip side you can also miss a slipped stich really easily. I managed to keep going until the square started to get large enough to cover a cushion. I had no desire to stop at that point and so I bought more wool and kept going. I ended up with a square large enough to cover a queen sized bed and bright enough to dazzle the Google earth satellites. I was quite proud of this enormous woolly and very heavy square of crochet. I had achieved something that I set out to do and was quite content to lay down my crochet hook in satisfaction…and then along came Earl…

We applied the wood glue to the cover of the book and the inside of the leather and proceeded to attempt to glue it together…

This is where Steve came into the picture…”Go get something heavy”…not having used wood glue before I didn’t know what sort of a bond or how it was going to be bonded and so Steve told me that the best chance to get the book to glue without reverting to its porcine alter ego (Pig book…) was to find something heavy to place on the glued portions…off in a manic hunt for “heavy things” and I grabbed a few of my heavier cook books from the book shelf. I have to admit here…this is probably the ONLY way that anyone is going to get Jamie Oliver to shut up!

After wrangling Jamie Oliver into place along with Kurma Dasa (a most interesting pairing…) my small mortar and pestle (I have a HUGE one for pastes and pestos etc…) we discovered that we were going to have to balance it out and so the Readers Digest book that I have been taking hints for you out of lately was the natural choice along with my bread bin (one of my more expensive market finds at $5).

Check it out…last nights salt and pepper still in the mortar and pestle!

Earl loved the crocheted square…he loved to roll on it, lay on it, lay under it and eventually ate it. We used it to cover a chair in the kitchen for a while that Earl lay on until he nibbled the stitches so much that it resembled a pile of woollen shards with a very loose (mainly meniscal from the remainders of dog drool past) attachment and I was forced to admit that my enormous square was now an enormous shedding pain in the derrière. I can’t blame Earl folks…if I was a dog I would have rolled, played and ultimately chewed this thing as well because it was so very tactile thanks to the weird and wonderful varieties of wool that I used to make it. I was sitting in the lounge room waiting for one of Steve’s latest Ice Road Trucking or Heavy Haulage or some other form of trucking show on his new happy joy joy Austar channel when I got the sudden urge to crochet again. I am really REALLY hoping that this isn’t some sort of portent about us getting another dog because if it is, I am going to lay down my hook and NEVER crochet again. I think it is the colder evenings and my ancient German need to manhandle (and misuse according to my grandma who spent hours trying to teach me how to do it properly) a crochet hook into making something warm. It’s like nesting behaviour and spring cleaning. Perhaps it is related to the moon and my womanly water content or perhaps it’s just crochet’s turn in my ever flickering wanderlust to create something but I have some boring old white, cream and brown wool that I picked up from a thrift shop (to use as string one day) that is now being crocheted up into another large square. Why am I doing it? You might ask me why I breathe and why I get up in the mornings…I have no idea…All I know is at the first sign of crocheting Bezial got antsy and started to twitch…he KNOWS a swear fest is on its way and Earl lay as close to the ball as he could going cross eyed watching the wool playing out of the ball but has yet to get up the courage to take a little nibble…

After making sure that the cover was glued on we then had to make sure that the book was aligned properly. Because the spine is so mangled the book is less stable (thats what spines are for folks…stability!) and we needed to make sure that the pig skin that wanted to return to porcine form was not able to do so with ease so a night wedged between the spice mortar and pestle and the bread bin did the trick…

It’s starting to look distinctly “book like” in this photo

Yeh…even the side of the book looks “Book like”…we can officially be somewhat proud of ourselves and our attempt at book covering

One fully tamed, Jamie Olivered, Kurma Dasa’d, breaded and salt and peppered pig skin!

I might pop into the Beaconsfield thrift shop this week. It is only open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but it does have a lot of wool that someone apparently spun or bought spun on enormous cones. I might be able to pick it up cheaply as most things are cheap in that op shop and if I am clever (and I would like to think that I can be occasionally…) I will donate some “stuff” before I have a casual look around the shop and gain myself brownie points with the ladies that are running the shop and might get a bit of a discount. I might not, but either way someone wins. I am off to check if the cover has stuck to the book yet and finish off sticking the lower bits of the leather onto the book cover. Hopefully I will have some photos to use in this post (I have taken enough) to show you how we went about doing it. I have been very brave here as no doubt it will look less than perfect but you know what? I don’t really mind. I am starting to mellow out a bit with my need for things to be perfect…that’s not the most important thing. Functional is more important and when I am up to my armpits in clay, rocks, mud and rain and am trying to use that book, it is better to be covered than perfect. See you all tomorrow when we will be studying for our very first time this year. We have to answer “What is Sustainable Landscaping?” to our lecturer’s satisfaction and so we need to really put an effort in. I have visions of flow charts…pictures and lots and lots of information gleaned from my best friend Google all compiled into a single heavily researched report to be delivered on Friday. Wish us luck, we need to remember how to study and how to work together without letting blood…

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kym
    Mar 05, 2012 @ 11:41:02

    Well done with the book! Very clever chooks the two of you. Well I guess one chook and one rooster lol. Your story about the crochet blanket reminded me of a quilt I once made, only mine was the reverse story. We had some wonderful workshops in Dongara I was also blessed to have a most talented bunch of ladies who taught me everything. We had a workshop on how to sew, by machine, a double “wedding ring” square. I decided to make a queen size quilt for our bed. We turned up bright and early for the workshop, I with visions of a beautiful heirloom in mind. Well by morning tea those visions were well and truly shattered! I was thinking it would be a lucky thing if I ended up with a cushion, but in the end I did make four of those most complicated double wedding rings and ended up making a baby quilt out of it for my niece. I still have lots of material left over which will get used, one day… Well good luck with your studies, dust out some cobwebs and blitz that course 🙂

    Reply

    • narf77
      Mar 06, 2012 @ 07:15:09

      Lol just lost my reply to this one and found a spam hiding somewhere! I wonder where I went? That is the problem with typing fast and hitting shortcut keys, you end up in the closet! What I was saying was that our hands are being forced (even though they are firmly over our faces with the occasional peek out between our fingers) regarding roosters as the young fellows are now as big as Yin (and as decorative) and are starting to find their voices and the feral cat population has to be dealt with as well because Felix is pregnant again…sigh…hard to face when it isn’t a problem that we initiated and someone out there dumped her. No idea what to do about that problem but I guess a solution will present itself one day. Love your quilting story and I have no idea how you do that…it’s really hard to use a sewing machine let alone tame it to do what you want and do something as intricate as quilting. I used to go to crafting days in little country towns and usually ended up with a cup of tea and a biscuit and a pat on the head (like the little bald guy in Benny Hill) for sympathy at my pathetic efforts (and a step down in the towns folks eyes :o) You might need that quilting material when you become a grandma and make your first nana quilt for the baby. Best start now…I know what a perfectionist you are and to get all of those squares “perfect” in your eyes you are going to go through a lot of material and poor Bruce is going to have to suffer that temper and bad language on a regular basis (Bruce…soundproof the walls in the craft room…). I hope you enjoyed your day off :o)

      Reply

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