Saturday, September 10, 2016

Feeling Bullish About Bookbinding

Why not make bookcloth on Saturday?

Why not make my own bookcloth? I asked myself this last weekend and realized there was no good reason not to. A pinch of Googling told me the basics- you get some tissue paper, you use some normal fabric, and you have a piece of glass to glue onto to provide a flat/smooth surface. Boom. That's it. Why had I not thought to try sooner?

Backing up a bit, let me just say I've been on a book arts kick. There was a series of books I bound a while ago, and then a couple classes I took at the San Francisco Center for the Book. And then I did a collaborative project with local Kelly and Sarah on the East Coast. We took Suko transcripts from yet another game and turn them into a book for her (vaguely coinciding with her birthday). Alas, my photos of the amazing leatherwork provided by Sarah were so horrible I can't bring myself to post them. Will get better shots from Suko and post them later. Extremely beautiful final product, primarily due to Sarah's elaborate leather cover.

That weekend I decided I'd get around to binding my copy of the book. I'm quite fond of the quote from Contact: "Why build one when you can have two at twice the price?" I'd sent Sarah two copies of the book and she returned the unused one when she shipped back the final product. For this binding I opted for a safe, normal binding. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy. Just a solid case for my copy of the book.

A modest binding

Adding to my library

It turned out reasonably well, given that the spine was quite poorly done. I'm definitely learning. Still learning. Much learning to do. Which means much more binding required. Practice makes perfect. So in addition to binding the Academie book I bound a basic blank notebook. I used exceptionally thick card stock in order to get a reasonable spine width without too many pages. The actual book contents were bound a couple weeks ago. A couple weeks ago I also went to the Center for the Book and cleaned up the Academie book, trimmed the blank pages, and cut the covers.

It was only this last weekend that I decided to tie everything together. Since my blank pages were shiny, I decided I needed some shiny cover to go with it. I found this random piece of shiny/magical looking paper at the bottom of a drawer (from my letter writing itch) and realized neither the grey nor the red book cloth I had on hand would compliment it. Rather than give up or settle, I realized my fantastic collection of fabrics (from my quilting itch) could save me. And they did. I whipped up just the right amount of perfect book cloth and bound the book.

Mermaid book

Of course I had just the perfect blue ribbon laying around (from my now constant visits to the local candy store). My hoarding habit pays off! Anyway, it came together nicely. I've had more than one person remark that it's like a mermaid book. My only sadness is that the spine/book cloth got a smudge on it the day I brought it into work to show folks. It lacks that pristine new look now and so I sadly don't think I can sell it on Etsy... not sure what to do with it... but am happy I made it!

Everything shines Odd highlights

Funny how if the light hits it right it looks quite green.... other times it looks a lovely blue.

Spent this Saturday binding yet another book. Will post photos of it later. So happy with this latest bout of crafting. Off to go try and write more prose now for yet another mini book idea... Am definitely looking for more things and reasons to bind something. So if you've got any material you'd like turned into a book, let me know!


  1. I'm soooo jelly! I've taken two bookbinding classes, but I still don't know how to do a solid spine like this (although I think I do have bookcloth lying around somewhere, speaking of hoarding) - just Coptic and a few more basic stitched bindings. The shiny one is such a delightful little chameleon.

  2. Also, props on maximizing your DIY here. I love how infinitely recursive crafting can get. (I've had to stop myself from buying a spinning wheel before.) What did you end up using as the glass surface?

    1. I know what you mean about the spinning wheel! I've done the CD/dowel/hook thing before but it's not the same... my mental logic to prevent me from getting one is to tie it into my need to learn the lathe. I've convinced myself that at some point I'll cycle back to woodworking and will make myself a wheel... at some point.

      I've got a pile of glass shelves from Ikea originally purchased to be shelves (to better show off tightly packed books). I've pruned down my Billy Bookcases over the years but have kept the shelves both wood and glass. They make for excellent impromptu craft or gaming surfaces.

      I'll figure out how to get you a copy of my Flat Back binding handout. It's easy and with my discovery this weekend of using sandpaper to even out the book pages (as opposed to a formal guillotine) mostly doable at home. I did cut some chipboard with a boxcutter but a good shear makes that so much easier...

      I still don't know how to do the sewing on cords style or a formal rounded back case... but I will this winter!

    2. OH MY GOD my brain cannot even conceive of the glory that would be a handmade spinning wheel. At that point I hope you would also be living in a cabin in the woods with hand-planed planks. <3

      Oh gosh, I love the idea of having glass sheets around for crafting surfaces. I'm currently "dealing" with having the nicest desk I've ever had, which means I finally have to be paranoid about scarring/staining it when crafting.

    3. Blogspot keeps impeding my commenting. The rest of the comment was:

      Thank you, sharing the handout would be so much appreciated! I bet I could find something useful Googling too, now that I know the proper name to call that binding style.

      Wish we could sit around and teach share bookbinding know-how in person.