Friday, 26 June 2009

Taking inspiration from found and second-hand materials

I am a great scavenger and often pick up things without having a specific purpose for them. Sometimes they linger for years before I either find a use for them or get rid of them, but the particular item that inspired my newest book was put to use within a couple of days of discovery.

I often visit a charity shop that sells all sorts of second hand stuff – just about everything save clothing and shoes. They have a give-away table where items they know or think they can‘t sell end up, and I have often picked up interesting old books there. On this occasion, however, there was this blue strap thing with eyelets. I think it was probably a belt or it might possibly have been part of a guitar strap:

It was about 70 cm long and made of lined faux leather. Having recently finished a book that was sewn straight into its spine, I though I might do something similar with this, so I took it home with me. On second thought I decided that it was probably not strong enough to take stitching without tearing, but maybe I could attach it to a book as decoration.

A couple of days later the idea was fully formed and I started looking about for other materials for the book. I had decided that it would be coordinated in tones of blue, and chose pastel blue paper for the pages. My stash of decorative paper did not include any blue paper that was a good match for the faux leather, so finally I settled on using pink paper on the boards, and found a suitable paper sample I‘d got with a scrapbook magazine. It was printed to look worn, which suited the faux leather piece, which doesn't exactly look brand new. I chose pink thread to sew the book with, and found some left-over mill-board in just about the right size. Finally I went out and bought some brads in the same chromium finishing as the eyelets.

And here is the finished product:

The details count – I didn't set out to do it, but as it happens, all the lines of stitching were visible through the eyelets.

I still have about 60 cm left and am considering what to do with it. Maybe I‘ll go out and look for perfect blue paper for the cover and make that all-blue book.

On my way back from buying the eyelets, I visited the charity shop, and bought a cheap piece of art glass which I am planning to set into the front cover of another book. I‘ll feature it here once it‘s ready.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Here is my latest creation – a riveted book:

The book is two thick signatures sewn into the tail end of a spotted wolf-fish skin. I have allowed the sides of the leather patch to retain their natural contours:

The method for this sewing pattern is shown here:
Leather journal photo tutorial
The directions are a bit confusing because there are so many photos, but persevere and you'll soon figure it out. I found it helped to print out the whole thing and cross out the photos that weren't helpful.

Here is a close-up of the stitch:
Ignore the knot - it appeared as I was making the last stitch and I was unable to unfasten it so I left it where it was so that I wouldn't have to unravel the stitching and start over. Look at the beautiful texture of the leather!

Here you can see better how the book is constructed:
Before glueing on the boards, I punched the holes for the rivets where I wanted them in the leather and aligned the boards on the book, marking with a pencil where the rivet-holes were to go. Then I punched the rivet-holes in the boards, applied glue to the underside of the leather (wiping away the glue that welled up through the rivet-holes before it dried), re-aligned the holes in the leather and boards and pressed gently to attach the two, repeating on the other side. Then I put the book in the press for about 10 minutes to allow the glue to dry a bit and finally I applied the rivets. The rivets strengthen the adherence of the boards to the leather, and are also decorative. The paper covering the boards is handmade (and not at all easy to work with).

Here‘s how the spine looks on the finished book: