Wednesday, 17 October 2007

I'm back

After I finished two of the books I discussed in my previous post, I decided to take a break from bookbinding (and blogging about it) over the summer. I have started a second bookbinding course, and when I finish the books I had left unfinished from last winter's course, I plan to start learning to make leather bindings. This will call for learning a new method of making covers for books (one that allows raised patterns on the spines and covers), which I am excited about. My grandmother gave me three bags full of bookbinding, craft and clothing leather, so to begin with I will not have to worry about having to buy expensive leather to work with. I did have to order a paring knife, which is on its way in the mail.

I am now in the process of taking apart some books that I will make traditional bindings for, and I plan to make a photo essay about the steps involved. It will not be a detailed tutorial, but will be a way for beginners to become familiar with the process and learn some vocabulary.

Marzanna, if you read this, I'm sorry I never replied to your comment. I didn't want to publish it since your e-mail address was in it. The tutorial you asked about is almost finished and I plan to publish it as soon as it is done.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Books I’m working on

I have been taking a break from bookbinding while I put in new flooring and reorganised my reading/work room, but I found I couldn’t keep away from it for long. Last night I set to work on covers for two blank books I had already cut and folded and made a third bookblock and a cover for it. The covers will be dry and ready for binding when I get home tonight.

The first is made from acid-free textured drawing paper for which I simply covered the boards in white drawing paper to be decorated at will. I will add “dustcovers” from clear vinyl over the white covers to protect them from dirt. I still haven’t decided whether to bind these onto the book or to make a cover that can be slipped off, or perhaps just make a wrap cover.

The next is 8 signatures of different coloured paper in pastel colours. The covers are made from woven coloured paper. I may add some stamping or drawing before I varnish it. I also made a woven piece from some pages of the same book as the “Victoria” cover and plan to use it as a cover for a notebook.

The third is a CD book. I cut a CD in half with a utility knife, used it as a cutting guide for the paper and cut out signatures the exact size of the half CD. I will drill sewing holes in the halves and coptic bind the book. The question is: do I use the shiny side or the other side for the outside? Both are quite decorative.

I also prepared blank covers and made up signatures from high-quality drawing paper for a fourth book. I will probably cover those boards with brown paper and leave them blank for the prospective owner (myself or someone else) to decorate.

A project I have on the backburner involves a stack of A5 sheets I printed frames on in Word, using all the different choices possible and shuffling them around. I will probably cover the boards on this one with brown paper which can be decorated at will. I then intend to have it spiral-bound and will keep it with me for those occasions when the small notebook/sketchbook I always carry with me is not big enough.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

A book gets made


If you are interested in a full text tutorial, please let me know.


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Voila!
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Monday, 14 May 2007

"Victoria" - torn paper cover notebook

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This is my third coptic book. I made the cover by tearing up pages from an old paperback that had yellowed nicely. I pasted the pieces onto the boards and covered it with Mod Podge. This was a bit tacky when dry, so I gave it a final layer of matte acrylic sealer. By changing the way I held the book and using a slightly different method than before when I was attaching the second cover and last signature, I was able to get a tighter binding while still getting a nice chain-stitch pattern on the spine. Since coptic bindings are generally on the loose side I don’t think I am going to get them any tighter, but next time I am going to try using a curved needle and see if it makes a difference. By using a curved needle I will not have to keep the book open in two places while I sew, but only in one.
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If you're wondering how a booklover like myself can possibly tear up a book - well, it had several pages missing when I got it in a box of books from somewhere and so had ceased to be readable.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Second coptic book: "Lemons"

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This is my second coptic book. I’m not quite happy with how the stencilling turned out and am thinking about how to improve it. Perhaps I will make a leather cover for this one.


As in the first book, the stitching is not as tight as I would have liked, but the shaded thread I used lined up beautifully and made a nice pattern on the spine:
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I think I should be able to get an even more interesting pattern by using two needles and two contrasting colours of thread. I could probably work it out myself how to make two-needle coptic stitching, but I would prefer to find some instructions :-)


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The stitches are not quite as well defined as I would have liked, but I suppose that will come with practice and perhaps stiffer thread.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

First coptic-stitch notebook: "The Alphabet"

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I finished my first coptic (chain) stitch notebook. The boards are sewn on together with the pages in this kind of binding, instead of being pasted down onto endpapers that are bound in with the pages like in the previous books I made. This makes for faster assembly. Endpapers are optional, but of course a pastedown endpaper is necessary to cover the inside of the boards. The pastedown can either be the first page of the book, which will strengthen the construction of the book, or a separate piece of paper cut to the right dimensions. I am relatively pleased with the result, except that the gaps between the signatures are rather large, but I expect that with practice I will be able to make tighter bindings.

When opened and laid flat, the edges of the boards touch and protect the spine. However, it is usual to put books like this into a loose protective cover, traditionally made of leather, which I plan to try soon.

The cover is coloured heavy paper and I used an alphabet stencil and acrylic paint on it. My mother remarked that is doesn’t look like a book, but rather like a piece of painted wood, which I think is right.

On the spine you can see where I drew the thread a little tight and cut through the spine of one of the signatures. This is always a possibility when sewing books. In this case I will probably cover the spine with ribbon to hide the mistake.


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Sunday, 29 April 2007

Polka-dot notebook

I have finished another notebook:

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Back

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Front


I covered the boards with an advert from a magazine. If the cover looks familiar, you obviously live in a country that has Target stores.

Since I am not selling this book but will be using it for myself, I don't think Target is going to go after me for violating their copyright, but if you are going to make books like these and sell them or even give them away, you had better make sure that the stuff you use on the cover is
a) in the public domain (i.e. copyright free),
b) under a creative commons licence that allows this kind of commercial use,
c) you can obtain a licence from the copyright holder, or
d) you hold the copyright.

I am working on using my own photographs to cover books to be sold, but using photographs or photos printed at home on photopaper is not easy, as PVA glue doesn't hold them. Using regular photocopy paper is a problem too, as laser printed photos on regular paper are rather delicate (I use this for origami and the paper shows through in every fold) and the photos I have printed with my inkjet printer tend to smear. I will probably have to invest in some special paper and ink if I want to do this, or find a suitable glue that will bond photographs to bookboard.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

2 more notebooks and a couple of ideas for future books

I have finished two more exposed-spine notebooks using the same method as in the previous books, except I did not glue the ribbons down onto the covers but tied the short ones into bows instead and left the long ones loose to be used for tying the books closed or to be used as bookmarks. I put glue on the ribbons on the spine to make sure they couldn’t accidentally be pulled out.
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The notebook on the right is covered with a traditional snakeskin-patterned book paper and has black ribbons and the one on the right is covered with gift paper with drawings of old books (making it a bibliobook) and has shiny beige ribbons.

The snakeskin book has brownish-gray endpapers with flecks of darker fibres and the bibliobook has marbled endpapers in shades of red:
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I was preoccupied with something else when I assembled the bibliobook so I accidentally put one cover on upside down and didn’t discover it until the glue was dry:
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Instead of trying to fix it, I decided to use it for myself and write only on the right hand pages until I reach the end, when I will turn it around and again write only on the right hand pages, so the text on opposite pages will be topsy turvy. That way, when full, the book will look like the covers were attached like that on purpose...

I am currently working on a photo-tutorial on how I make these books, which I will publish once the sample book is ready.


I am also working on an A5 notebook that will have blank pages and a decorated cover and will be spiral-bound.

The next thing I think I will try is using coloured thread to sew the books and make a decorative pattern on top of the ribbons. The next book I have lined up will have red ribbons and a predominantly red cover with some white, so I think white thread will be ideal.

I think it's time I learned to use coptic (chain) stitching to sew books, as it is a very decorative stitch, especially when using coloured thread. You can even use two or more colours, depending on the number of needles you use. It will take a while until I am ready to exhibit any such books here, since there are no courses available here and I will have to learn it from books, and as everyone knows (except my friend whose first crochet project was a Christmas dress for her daughter - beautifully done and finished in record time) practice makes perfect.


I am also thinking about using the covers from old paperback books as covers for notebooks. I buy a lot of second hand books and every now and then I come across one that either has some pages missing or falls apart in my hands and is not worth repairing. I already use the pages from such books for origami experiments, and I think using the covers would be a neat recycling idea - certainly better than having them pulped and made into toilet paper (if you didn’t know what happens to books when the paper gets recycled... well now you do).

Monday, 9 April 2007

Exposed spine diary

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My mother asked me to make her a one-of-a-kind diary in A5 format, but with lined paper. This meant I could not use the blank paper I have been using for my small notebooks. I solved this by buying a cheap diary and stripping off the covers. Then I picked the signatures apart, with the inevitable loss of one sheet of paper from each signature due to the outermost sheets of each signature being glued to the next signature. The paper in those books is very thin, so I added an extra sheet of heavier paper to each signature to protect the spines (in the future I may just guard the spines of the signatures with strips of paper instead of adding whole sheets to them). Then I sewed the block up on ribbons and added colourful endpapers:


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I reused the old boards to make the new cover, stripping off the black paper and the red bookcloth nearest to the spine and covering the boards with scrapbook paper. I left the red corners, which harmonised nicely with the warm browns and oranges of the paper, to show the book's origins. I then glued the boards down onto the endpaper and glued the two shorter lengths of ribbon onto the boards for extra strength. I also added some glue to the spine to hold the ribbons in place and fill in the sewing holes for extra strength. The longest ribbon can be used to tie the book closed.


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I am still perfecting the technique. Because I have no book-cutter (guillotine) to use at home the edges of the pages are inevitably uneven, and because I have to cover the boards before gluing them to the textblock, I have to be very precise both when I cut them and also when I place them so that they are not uneven and the textblock doesn't stick out from the covers. But on the whole I am rather pleased with the result.

The next step will be to try ornamental stitching on the spine.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

The travel journal

I am not a hard-core diarist, but every time I do some serious travelling I keep a journal. I started out using notebooks and have tried several varieties: hard-bound, softcover, spiral bound, ruled, unruled, square ruled, etc. After years of this I went on to use a book that really spoiled me: a hand-bound hardcover book that had originally been made as a gift guestbook but the maker had not wanted to give it as such because he was not quite happy with it (the Rexine covering had a couple of bulges in it), so he gave it to me instead to use as a journal. That book was such a luxury to write in and unlike the notebooks there was nothing flimsy about it. After being lugged around for four months of rough travelling, the only thing that distinguishes it, seen from the outside, from a new book is the dirty edges of the pages and the slight bulge in the cover due to all the stuff I have glued into it.

Which brings me to a slight dilemma: I glue stuff into my journals all the time. Boarding passes, bus and train ticket stubs, postcards, clippings from tourist brochures and newspapers, postcards, photographs, flowers, stickers, stamps, etc., etc. This is fine when using a spiral-bound notebook, as they can usually take the swell or be made to by removing some pages, but I hate using spiral-bound notebooks for journalling. Don’t get me wrong, they are fine for some other purposes, like taking notes in class or keeping a diary at home, but when travelling, especially on a road trip, the spirals inevitably get squashed, making the book hard to open flat without much swearing and a pair of pliers, the ends of the spirals unbend and get hooked on stuff – usually favourite pieces of clothing – and the boards, which are usually just thick cardboard, quickly start to look scuffed and ugly.

For my upcoming holidy in the USA I want another hard-bound book with nice, thick paper to write, draw and paint on. As I have been learning bookbinding I can easily make myself a journal, but what kind? I want one that will give me the following:

a) it can take the swell of all the extra things I will stuff into it without it showing on the outside,

b) I will not be left with many empty pages at the back – my journals are always a few pages short of being enough for my next round of journalling but I still feel guilty for not using all those blank pages – and

c) it looks good, preferably unique or at least appears to be one-of-a-kind. That is the problem with the ex-guestbook: it isn’t ugly, but it is covered completely in brown Rexine (fake leather to the uninitiated) with “Guestbook” gilded on the front.

I have solved problems a) and b) in one stroke: I will make up a number of signatures (the little booklets that are sewn together to make a book) before I set off. I will get a small two-ring binder and keep each signature in a plastic pocket, ready to be written in and decorated. Fastening the pages together with one staple in the middle may help to prevent loose pages getting mixed up. I will make many enough signatures that there will be no danger of running out (and even if I did, paper in standard sizes is widely available). When I get home I will bind the signatures into a book and the thickness problem will thus take care of itself because all the additions will already be in place. Those signatures left over I will bind into a new blank book, ready to be used as a journal or notebook, or perhaps I will store them to use on my next journey. The problem I foresee here is mostly to do with remembering to have big enough margins in the book so it can be trimmed after sewing to make the pages more even before I put the covers on. Of course, there is something to be said for making sure a book looks hand-made, but I’m afraid that the insertions will make the edges look not just interestingly uneven but downright tatty, so some trimming will be necessary.

As to c), the only ‘problem’ is that I have too many ideas. I am currently vacciliating between these:

1) half-bind the book (i.e. cover the spine and corners) in some interesting Rexine (I have just enough of some rather nice cloudy blue stuff, the colour of the ocean on maps), and then use a map to cover the rest of it. Just to make sure it’s made from good, strong paper I would sacrifice one of my National Geographic maps (might as well use them for something). Seal the paper, then get the title and year professionally gilded on the spine, and voilà!: I’ll have a memento of my journey to be proud of.

2) half-bind the book as described in 1) and make a collage cover from travel brochure photos and stamps.

c) Cover the book completely in one colour of Rexine and start a series that can be referred to by colour.

Of the three, I like 1) and 2) best, as they will give me some outlet for my artistic proclivity, but 3) would be very hard-wearing and classic-looking. The hardwearingness hardly matters as it will mostly just sit on the shelf to be taken out now and again to help me remember some point of the journey it describes, but the classic look is, well, classic, and at some point in the future I may grow tired of the artistic version – but of course the artistic version will also show what kind of person I was when I made it...

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Notebook experiment

I have just finished making a small exposed-binding notebook that I plan to use to test the durability of scrapbooking paper as a covering for books. I have been warned that it is quick to show signs of wear, but I want to know whether it is nice, well-loved kind of wear or just ugly wear. The idea for the book came when I saw that I had some leftover pieces of binder’s board that were not in any standard book size. If this book goes well, I plan on making more.

I am also testing the relative durability of different kinds of paper and sealers. I glued strips of the different papers onto two pieces of binder's board, used three different sealers (acrylic matte medium, acrylic gloss medium and Mod Podge) and left one side untreated. I tossed them into my purse, there to rattle around with the rest of the contents for a while.

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My bookbinding instructor is a traditionalist. I showed her the notebook and she was horrified, especially at the semi-exposed spine and the ribbons. Judge for yourself.:

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A bit clumsy, to be sure, but hardly enough for her to be rude about ;-)

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Technical note: The book is bound on the three ribbons which are then glued down onto the cover to give extra strength to the book. On the inside, triple endpapers and strips of mull have been bound in with the first and last signatures and the boards glued to the outermost endpaper page. The ribbon covering the spine was added because I didn't space the sewing holes quite right and one of the ribbons was a bit wriggly.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

A good start and a problem with Rexine

One of the reasons I always wanted to learn bookbinding was that my grandmother had learned it and I always admired the look of her hand-bound books (the other reason is my love of books). When I told her that I was going to enrol in a bookbinding course, she said she would give me all her equipment and materials, which she had not used for more than 15 years. When I told her I had enrolled in the course she went and unearthed several bags of stuff from where she had stored it, deep in my uncle's basement, and brought me everything. This included tools like saws, scissors, files, several bone folders, a cobbler's knife, a sewing frame, two portable book presses and a gilding press, two rounding hammers, and materials like mull, thread, binding cords and tapes, headbands, binder's board, carton paper for making hollow back bindings, heavy endpaper paper, marbled paper for covering books, several meters of Rexine and three bags full of leather and fish skin leather. Not all the leather is bookbinding quality, but some of it is (including two whole skins) and the rest I can use to make bags and other stuff out of. This generous gift has saved me tens of thousands of krónur in buying materials.

All I needed to buy to begin with was bookbinder's glue, waxed sewing thread (the thread granny gave me had turned yellow), needles, and white paper to use in endpapers. The books I already had, and some of my sewing/quilting equipment turned out to be useful for bookbinding purposes, such as the cutting mat, circular cutter and heavy quilter's rulers.

I still need or want some more stuff, but I will wait a bit to buy it as I am going to the USA in the summer and can probably get some of what I need there at lower prices than here. I also want to learn to make marbled paper and paste paper for covering books with, as the only supplier for such paper in the whole country is not exactly cheap. Their supply of paper is limited and so is their colour choice for Rexine and their selection of bookcloth is very limited, which is not surprising as they primarily sell leather for crafters and artists. Book glue, brown paper and bookboard I can get at reasonable prices from art supply stores, but I can see that if I am going to be able to have my books looking like I want them to look I am going to have to find a reliable online supplier of bookbinding materials. I am sure Rexine is made in other colours than the conservative burgundy, dark green, dark brown, navy blue, bright red and black currently available here.

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I mentioned in my previous post that I'd had problems smoothing down the Rexine on the spine of some of the books I was binding, but it seems it may not have been my inexpert handling of them that caused the problem, but something else, namely the age of the Rexine. I forgot my Rexine at home yesterday when I went to class and so I bought some from the teacher and it was so much easier to handle than the old stuff I had been using. It was much more supple than the old stuff and instead of a couple of minutes working on one corner of a book with it, it took barely 20 seconds to get the corners done like I wanted them, and the spine coverings were so much more easy to do and the adherence to the boards was very good. As a matter of fact I even covered a whole book in one piece of Rexine and it went splendidly. However, I think I will not throw out the old Rexine, but will try to find some other uses for it, for example as a covering for a paper folder I have made to keep my scrapbooking paper in. Since that is for my personal use I will not really mind if the covering isn't perfect.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Welcome to my bookbinding journal

I should really have started this journal several weeks ago when I first began learning to bind books, but I have been too busy putting together books to give much thought to blogging, as may be seen by the scracity of new entries in my book blog.

I have been interested in learning this art/craft for ages, but never had the time to do anything about it until now, and I’m loving every minute. Not only am I learning to make new books and rebind old ones, I have also landed in the midst of a happy and friendly group of people, some of whom have been attending these courses for 20+ years, by now more for the company and access to professional equipment than any need to learn more.

After 10 classes I have finished 5 books and have eight more that only need to have their covers lined. Four of the finished books are rebinds and one is an e-book that I downloaded from Project Gutenberg. All are traditional hard-cover bindings, sewn on cords and half-bound with Rexine (a type of fake leather) and paper.


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The binding of the books went well for the most part, except I obviously was not quite quick enough to smooth down the Rexine on the spines of four of the books, as it has come unglued here and there and makes unsightly small bulges on the spine, but my consolation is that they are not valuable books and I can always redo them once I have more experience.


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The e-book was the most time-consuming of all of the books. I laid it out in Word and did various things to make it as readable and professional-looking as possible (e.g. changed the font and the font size), then printed it out with a laser printer (it took a bit of experimenting before I figured out how to collate the pages for printing, two on each side of an A4 sheet of paper) and assembled it. I now have to decide what colours I want on the covers of the other 8 books. I have Rexine in blue, red, two shades of green and two shades of brown, leather in black and various shades of brown, and fish skin in dark green and black, plus a variety of marbled paper, elephant-skin paper and scrapbook paper.
Choices, choices, choices.


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