Elissa R. Campbell | Blue Roof Designs

Wayback Wednesday

I have a backlog of blog posts (backblog?) that have never been completed and it’s bumming me out. I still want to share the content, so I’ll be publishing under the heading of Wayback Wednesday for these posts.

Several years ago, I posted on Twitter that I liked a hand-carved wood bone folder made by Randy Arnold. I received a wonderful response from Todd Sanders who offered to make me one. I was so touched by his generosity that I decided to make him a bone folder book in return.

Handmade book shaped like bone folder

The cover is bookboard covered with several layers of Kinwashi tissue. The pages are made from French Paper Speckletone True White text. It was bound using a double-needle coptic stitch with 4-ply waxed linen thread.

Handmade book shaped like bone folder

This book was a serious undertaking – it had 27 signatures. It was supposed to have 30, but I ran out of thread. To shape the pages, I created a template out of bookboard and traced around it with my knife. I had some major hand pain after all the cutting!

Handmade book shaped like bone folder

After spending hours on the binding, I briefly considered keeping the book for myself. Then I got over my crazy self and remembered the reason why I made the book. I know that Todd is giving my book a good home!

Worktable Wednesday

I have had this stack of leather pieces forever. I don’t even remember when or why I bought them. I think they came from Ebay.

Stack of leather pieces

They’ve been sitting in a box, just waiting to be used. Well, I finally got the motivation to do something with them – I decided to try making a coptic journal with leather covers.

I haven’t seen many journals made with soft leather covers and perhaps there’s a reason for that. This leather is on the thick side, so I thought it might work.

I lined the suede side of the leather with lokta paper. I love lokta because it’s strong and has a fabric-y feel to it.


Next I punched holes in my pages.



I used my Dremel with a small drill bit to create the holes in my cover. I’m not sure why I didn’t just use my Japanese screw punch. The Dremel worked great – it made clean holes.


Then came the sewing – a two-needle coptic stitch. Attaching the cover took a while because it was floppy. I found it easier to sew the book when I had it resting on a piece of bookboard – it helped to keep the cover stable.

Overall, I’m happy with how it turned out. It feels really great in your hands – the covers are nice and soft.



I going to try making another one using vintage atlas pages for the inside of the covers – I’m curious how they’ll hold up as the paper isn’t as soft as lokta.

Teaching bookmaking to children

I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m totally addicted to Pinterest. I have over 200 boards. It’s a problem. Is it really? Yes. And no.

Most of my boards are (surprise!) bookbinding-related. As a teaching artist, I have a strong interest in teaching bookmaking to children. I’ve been collecting my findings on a Pinterest board specific to the topic:

Pinterest screenshot

While searching for online resources about teaching kids, I discovered Clare Seccombe, a teacher from England. She loves to use mini books in the classroom and has many tutorials listed on her website. She has done a great job of adapting the simple mini book form for use with varied subject matter.

Another advocate of teaching bookmaking to kids is Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord. She offers tips for both teachers and families on how to get children involved in the book arts. Her blog is a great inspirational resource and she often talks about her work with children. And if that’s not enough, she also has a number of publications available – they are available for purchase from her Etsy shop. And there’s more…you can download (for free!) a copy of Susan’s Recycled Materials for Making Books on Lulu.

Cathy Miranker and Susie Peyton of the website Bookmaking with Kids have the following to say about making books with kids:

A book made by hand is the perfect meeting place for artistic expression and emerging literacy. Bookmaking unlocks something amazing in kids—creativity, enthusiasm, a zest for learning, concentration, patience, imagination and lots of talent. It lets kids forge a personal connection to reading, to writing, to making art.

Their website is a treasure! They blog about book arts projects that are appropriate for specific age ranges/grade levels. They also post about different book structures that often include tutorials or downloadable instructions. They are very generous with their knowledge!

Paul Johnson has long had the mission of promoting writing and visual communication skills though the book arts and has written a number of books about teaching bookmaking to children, including Get Writing!: Creative Book-Making Projects for Children and Literacy Through the Book Arts. He’s got mad pop-up skills and he often uses them in his work with kids – it’s very engaging.

Lastly, Karen Cox wrote a very helpful blog post about bookbinding with pre-K children on the PreKinders website. It has suggestions for what features to include when making books, along with ideas for basics supplies and construction methods.

If you’ve found anything that’s been useful in teaching bookmaking to kids (books, websites, etc.), please let me know by leaving a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!

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!

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