Elissa R. Campbell | Blue Roof Designs

Leather journals with the Book Arts Guild of Vermont

In the past week, I talked about my preparations for my teaching gig at this month’s Book Arts Guild of Vermont meeting. Well, the meeting finally happened and it was lots of fun.


There were 20ish people in attendance, which is a bit of a teaching challenge. I totally admire teachers who handle this size crowd on a daily basis – I don’t know how they do it. It takes a lot of energy!


I taught Keith Smith‘s Diamond X binding, which can be found on pages 246 – 247 of his book 1- 2- & 3-Section Sewings: Non-Adhesive Binding Volume II. I highly recommend that you get the book if you don’t already have it – it has instructions for lots of fantastic bindings.


I was thrilled when everyone at the workshop completed their books. My heartfelt thanks go to B.A.G. for giving me the opportunity to teach to such a wonderful crowd!

Worktable Wednesday

Next week I’m doing a hands-on presentation at the monthly Book Arts Guild of Vermont meeting. I’ll be teaching Keith Smith‘s Diamond X binding using a soft leather cover.

I spent today prepping the kits that I’ll be handing out to participants. First came this awesome leather:

Pile of green leather squares

Green leather

Leather close-up

Then came the anxiety that accompanies such lovely leather – I was really afraid of messing up the measurements. I somehow overcame my fear and just dove into the cutting. This binding has a strap closure that will attach to the back of the journal.


After the leather was cut, I had to measure out pieces of thread. I chose the green leather to coordinate with some flax thread I won in an auction at PBI. Measuring seems like it should be an easy task…apparently this is not the case for me. The thread went from being in a tidy skein…


…to a most massive knotted nightmare. I think I spent more than an hour untangling it.


Then came my handouts. Even though the B.A.G. meeting isn’t one of my longer classes, I decided that I wanted to make cool handouts anyway. These are four pages long and include leather-related resources and references.


I’m really looking forward to teaching at the B.A.G. meeting. Come on by if you’re in the area – the meeting is on July 9th, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Society Church located at 152 Pearl Street in Burlington, VT. Click here for more information on directions/parking.

Book Arts Guild of VT Spring Exhibit

I recently visited the Book Arts Guild of Vermont‘s spring exhibit, Nature: Beasts and Botanicals, at the Rae Harrell Gallery in Hinesburg, VT. I’m always amazed by the wonderful variety of work created by B.A.G. members and I’m proud to have my work exhibited alongside them.

I have two pieces in the show – A Dog’s Diary


…and Rabbit Glue.


One piece in the show that I enjoyed was Bestiary, uncommon creatures A-I, by Marcia Vogler. It contained nine fabulous, imagined creatures that I wish really existed. Marcia has a great sense of humor, which shines through in this piece.

Artists' book by Marcia Vogler

I also liked Maryann Riker’s A Pop-Up Field Guide to Flowers of North America. She’s got some mad pop-up skills. Seriously.

Pop-up book by Maryann Riker

The show is open now through June 16, 2014. If you can’t make it, you can check out images of the featured pieces on the B.A.G. website.

Three Case Styles for Three Book­bind­ings with Priscilla Spitler – Day 4

Today, our last day, began with some hot stamping by Priscilla. I’m really glad that we didn’t do this ourselves – that stamp thingie is scary!


As I mentioned earlier, our quarter case binding includes a printed text block – the stamping on the spine was the title of the book.


After the spine was stamped, it was time to case in the half cloth binding. I was still scared of this part of the process, but thankfully, it went off without a hitch.


Into the press.


Next, it was time to finish up the quarter flatback binding. This was tricky – you had to make sure that everything was oriented correctly (it’s a printed text).


We started with the infill…


…followed by the gluing of the cover paper using a jig (once again, making sure the pattern was aligned). This was another paste paper created by Priscilla.


Then came the counterfill on the inside of the cover and finally, casing in. I was more comfortable casing in at this point, although I was concerned about positioning my text block upside down. Thankfully, no errors were made during casing in – woohoo!

Here it is – my completed book:


I’m thrilled that I was able to successfully execute three case bindings with no major mishaps! This was definitely a class worth taking.

Three Case Styles for Three Book­bind­ings with Priscilla Spitler – Day 3

Today’s class with Priscilla started with rounding and backing the text block for our half cloth case binding. This part of the process was a bit of a blur and happened too fast for me to really get a handle on it.

You glue up the spine of the text block and while it’s still tacky, you start rounding. The text should be flat on a table with the spine facing away from you. Lightly hammer with a repeating motion from the middle of the spine, outward. Work your way from one end of the spine to the other, then flip the text block over and repeat the process. You’re trying to give a slight round to the spine.

Next, you want to create a shoulder, which should be no bigger than the thickness of your boards. Priscilla advised that, “The book will dictate to you what kind of board it wants.” Put the text block in a backing press with the spine edge raised out a bit. Roll over the signatures with your thumb and fan them out, creating the shoulder. Roll over the spine with a bone folder from the center of the spine to each side. Lastly, lightly tap on the spine with a backing hammer.


The spine of the text block was then lined with Cambric, which was worked into the shoulder. We measured the width of our text blocks and cut headbands, which were rounded slightly using a bone folder. These were then glued to the spine.

Next, we cut two spine liners – one which would be used as infill in between the headbands and the other cut slightly shorter than the text block. The infill was glued down first, followed by the longer spine liner.

We glued out a piece of bookcloth and attached our spine and cover boards. Then we did something I’d never seen before – we rolled the spine over a dowel to curve it.



We glued bookcloth on to the corners of our covers using corner jigs to help us place them. If it isn’t clear by now, we used a lot of pre-made jigs in class. They really moved things along and you could see how they’d be helpful in speeding up edition work. Priscilla gave us an awesome handout detailing the different jigs – I definitely have to make me some.


We infilled the front covers…


…then glued on the cover paper using another jig for placement.


The paper overlaps the bookcloth by 1/16″. If you use a patterned paper, make sure that the pattern lines up when you glue the paper to each side of the case. This would be an unfortunate (and easy) place to mess up. The paste papers we used in the class were made by Priscilla. Is there anything she can’t do?


I haven’t yet mentioned that all of the gluing wasn’t done with fancy glue brushes. We used plastic/foam roller thingies instead. They were useful in gluing things out quickly. Another great efficiency tip from Priscilla.


Another useful tip – when gluing things down, mark the ends of your paper and your board with an X and O so they match up – that way you won’t mix up which end goes where. This is especially important when doing infills.


The last thing we did today was counterfill the inside of our covers.


Tomorrow I’ll case in the book!

Three Case Styles for Three Book­bind­ings with Priscilla Spitler – Day 2

Today we started off by creating headbands for our flatback books. A 7/8″ piece of bookcloth was folded off-center and a piece of 12/3 cord was used for the core. Make sure that the bookcloth is grain long so that the headband curves around the spine more easily.

Use a piece of paper to measure the width of the spine and transfer this measurement to a divider. Use the divider to mark off pieces of headband for cutting. Apply glue to the end of the spine, then add the piece of headband.


Next, you apply a paper lining to the spine to add stability. It should be slightly shorter than the text block and the same width as the spine. When attaching the liner, apply glue to the spine lining, not the spine.


We started on the cases for our flatback bindings. We only got as far as applying the bookcloth on the quarter binding. Using a joint jig of a 7 mm thickness, we glued cover boards (59 pt Eskaboard) and spine pieces (20 pt Bristol board) to the bookcloth. The cloth was 5/8″ wider on all sides for the turn-ins.


The full cloth flatback case was finished to completion. Just as we did with the quarter binding, we glued out the bookcloth, then placed the spine board first. This was followed by placement of the two cover boards using the joint jig. We then glued our turn-ins, starting with the head and tail flaps.


The next step was counter-filling the inside covers – this evens out the pull and helps to keep the boards flat. The fill sits between the turn-ins and shouldn’t creep up the cloth. Priscilla said, “Don’t microfit your infill.” A little bit of board showing was just fine.


The last step to complete the full cloth book was to case in the text block. This freaked me out because at this point, you can easily screw up everything you’ve done up until then. You put waste paper underneath the front paper and glue it out. Remove the waste paper quickly.


Pick up the text block and flip it so that the glued endpaper is face down towards the cover, keeping your squares even. The spine of the book should be a hair’s width away from the edge of the spine board. Place the text block on the inside of the case, but don’t push down.

Open up the book slightly to check on the placement. You should have the ability to make small adjustments, if necessary. Rub down on the endpaper with your thumb – don’t use a bone folder or you risk tearing the paper.

Glue out the other endpaper, then pull up the case board and drop it over the endpaper. Try to line up the corners of both covers, but don’t push down on the cover. As was done with the first cover, check on the position of the endpaper and make any needed adjustments. Rub down the endpaper with your thumb.

Use the rounded back end of your bone folder in the spine grooves to set the joints. We put our books into the press using press boards with metal edges.


Priscilla had special press boards made for her that said, “With Love – Thanks Priscilla”.


Priscilla has a lot of experience in creating editions of work and she’s all about speed and efficiency. Here’s one of her great quotes:

The more time you take, the more time you have to make mistakes.

Three Case Styles for Three Book­bind­ings with Priscilla Spitler – Day 1

My first session at PBI was marked by not one, but two classes. The other class I took during this time was Priscilla Spitler‘s Three Case Styles for Three Book­bind­ing. The three bindings we worked included quar­ter cloth flatback, half cloth rounded, and full cloth flatback bindings.

I have to admit that the reason I chose this class is because I suffer from F.O.C.I. – Fear of Casing In.

Priscilla Spitler doing a bookbinding demonstration

Priscilla during a sewing demo

We started off by sewing our three text blocks using #25/3 unwaxed linen thread. Priscilla said that she prefers English #18 sewing needles. The blank text blocks were made of 80 lb. Cougar text weight paper, natural smooth finish. One text block was the printed text of the 20th anniversary edition of Gary Frost’s Three Bookbindings.

You knock up the signatures to the head. Mark the signatures on the spine with three diagonal lines so you can keep track of the head. Our text blocks were sewn with an unsupported (no cords or tapes) link stitch. Keep the signatures flat on the table while sewing – Priscilla remarked that there should be no “air sewing”.


Be sure to pull your thread in the direction of your sewing – you don’t want to tear through your signatures by pulling in the wrong direction. Rub your bone folder along each signature after sewing. If you run out of thread, keep your weaver’s knot on the outside of the signatures so it doesn’t show on the inside of the book.

Endpapers were created with paper that was the same height as the text block and twice the width – we folded these in half. We tipped in our endpapers with a 3/32″ line of PVA along the folded edge. Priscilla uses cold flex glue #22 from Ernest Schaeffer. She added that she prefers Hahnemuhle Bugra paper for casing in.


After our text blocks were sewn, we glued up our flatbacks with PVA – this is known as consolidation. You work the PVA into the spine so it fills all of the open spaces. Once the PVA was dry, we added a layer of cambric cloth to the spine with an overlap of 5/8″ over the edges. Rub on the cambric with a bone folder to help with adhesion.

Although it may not sound like much (trust me, it was), that was it for today!

Worktable Wednesday

Today was a bittersweet day for me – I used up the last of one of my favorite materials. I’ve had this black and red, dragon brocade bookcloth for many years.

I used it on photo albums and without fail, it was a draw for men. Whenever I was at a craft show, men would make a beeline for this photo album – it was magical. I think it’s because the combination of colors and the dragon symbol were very masculine.

I affectionately refer to this photo album as The Hottie. There’s not much of a story behind that – when I made my first one, I took a look at it and thought, “Wow, you’re a hottie!” And a name was born.

DSCF9359 (2)

I’m working on a custom order for someone and the last of my bookcloth was used for her photo album today. Sadness.

DSCF9360 (2)

While I’m sold out of large photo albums with these materials, I do have a few small photo albums left. If you like them, head on over to Etsy and place an order soon – when they’re gone, they’re gone!

Open Studio Weekend wrap-up

I had a wonderful time visiting with folks during this past weekend’s Open Studio Weekend. Many thanks to those who came by!

OSW is always a great excuse to get my studio in shape (and it needed it). Here are some pictures of the studio (so shiny!):

Bookbinding studio of Blue Roof Designs

Handmade books by Blue Roof Designs

Handmade books by Blue Roof Designs

It seems no one noticed (or at least mentioned) the inflatable Jerry French that watches over the studio. It’s kinda my version of “Where’s Waldo?”

One of the highlights of the weekend was a visit from Linda, a former student of mine who brings me goodies on occasion. I was happy to be able to give her one of the journals I made with the leather she gave me recently.

This time, Linda brought me a batch of travel ephemera from a recent trip to England.

Travel ephemera

Included in the fabulous stash were maps, travel tickets, and French cigarette wrappers. I’m looking forward to playing with my new treasures!


An Artist’s Approach to Emboss­ing Leather for Books with Bon­nie Stahlecker – Day 4

Today was the last day of my class with Bonnie. Sad. The first thing I did was put a layer of varnish on my modeling paste plate, then I waited 1/2 hour for it to dry (longest 1/2 hour ever). Once the varnish was dry, I ran my plate through the press with a piece of leather.

Here’s how it came out:


I love the texture – it wasn’t at all what I had expected to happen. I tried several colors of shoe polish on a test piece of leather that was the color as my embossed piece – hated all of them. I decided to go with a clear-ish polish named Delicate Cream. It darkened the color just a smidge.

Next, I worked on my headband for the book. I have affectionately been referring to it as a shredband, based on how it came out. Obviously, I’m still not getting the hang of the Scharf-Fix.


Luckily, I had enough of a headband to use for my book. I also glued this thing wrong – it’s supposed to be doubled up only partway so that there’s a more gradual transition between the leather and the spine of the text block.

I glued on the headband to each end of the book…


…and completed the oversewing with waxed linen thread.


I dyed a piece of Tyvek with acrylic paint in yellow ochre – this would be used for my stays.


I glued down the map boards, trimmed the turn-ins to 3/4″ wide, and cut the corners. We used a different technique for the corners this time – we pared the edges of the leather so that they were beveled at a 45 degree angle. The turn-ins were then sanded down to reduce the overall thickness of the leather.


After sanding down the edges of a strip of Cave Paper, I applied it to the inside of the spine as a liner. We made two release cuts in the leather at the top and bottom of the spine. After massaging the turn-ins a bit, a glued them down using two applications of PVA. We lightly rounded the corners of the covers with a bone folder. The wrapper was then dried under weight for 15-20 minutes.

We infilled the covers with railroad board, which I had never heard of before – it has the feel of heavyweight poster board. We sanded the edge of the board that would be closest to the spine and glued it with the sanded side facing up. The edge of the infill was placed 1/16″ away from the edge of the railroad board.


Cave Paper was used for the paste downs – the edges of the paper were sanded. The paper was glued with the sanded side down and on the spine side of the wrapper. The edge of the paste down was placed at the edge of the map board.


The wrapper was dried under weights for 40-60 minutes. You can speed up the drying process by putting blotter paper up against the inside of the wrapper.


This book had only two Tyvek stays, one for the inside of each end paper. After tying the secondary tackets on the outside of the cover, my book was done! Here’s a picture of my finished book:

Handmade leather embossed journal

Front cover

Handmade embossed leather journal

Back cover

Handmade embossed leather journal


We met as a class for one last time. Bonnie told us that when you emboss leather, you need to use skins that are vegetable-tanned, not chrome-tanned. Apparently, chrome-tanned skins will not take embossing well.

She also told us that you can use polymer plates for embossing leather. The thing to know is that the plate will curl up after time – the moisture affects it. Bonnie recommended Photopolymer Plates as a good company from which to purchase plates.

She added that you can print on leather using oil-based inks. You can also sand the surface of leather as a decorative technique.

That’s the end of this class – I’m so glad I chose this one!

I'm social – Pin, Like, & Follow me!

Link to my Pinterest Page
Link to my Facebook Page
Link to my Twitter Page
Link to my Rss Page

Get blog updates

Enter your Email address to have blog updates delivered right to your inbox*:

*I respect your privacy

Get on my Email list

Sign up to receive news and special offers from Blue Roof Designs*:

*I respect your privacy

Tweet tweet


Recent Comments

Book Arts Rock Stars