Sunday bookbinding

Text block in lying press

My friend Elizabeth is super-awesome nice.

She came over this past Sunday and offered to share some of her North Bennet Street School (NBSS) awesomeness.

I told her that I wanted instruction in case binding. Everything I know, which isn’t much, has been self-taught through book instruction. I haven’t felt confident in my abilities in this area and I usually learn things better when taught by a person.

Since Elizabeth is a person, I figured that it would work. ๐Ÿ™‚

As you can see at right, I got to use a lying press for the first time. Now I want one. Specifically, I want this one, made by Keith B. Uram. Coincidentally, he also graduated from NBSS. Clearly, I’m meant to have the press.


[Just nod your head yes]

Not only did I get to use the lying press, but I also got to play with some of Elizabeth’s other tools – a Starrett Pin Vise and an OLFA Silver knife:

Awl & X-Acto knife

Pointy. Shiny. Want.

She explained that everyone in her class at NBSS has the same tools. I guess they’re like the bookbinding program’s mascots?

Threaded needle

I learned how to make headbands, which wasn’t on the agenda. This made my day. Even though I have two books on the topic, I’ve never given them a try. Luckily, I had some silk thread that I bought from Colophon Book Arts at a conference (I’m a stash girl).

I learned a really great tip – glue the tail end of your thread to the main thread so you don’t have to knot it. Brilliant! Why didn’t I ever think of that one myself?

I think that it will take me a while to get the hang of the sewing technique, especially where to put my fingers – hold this down, pull taut, wind this around here – they just didn’t want to listen to me.

Sewing a book headband


Finished book headband

…after! I so did that.

Sadly, we ran out of time and couldn’t get to the actual casing in part of the process. I was told that everything we had done that day was called “forwarding”.

I’m looking forward to finishing the book!


9 Responses to “Sunday bookbinding”

By Ellen - 22 December 2010 Reply

Oh yes, that lying press is an essential piece of work equipment, I concur. (I fantasize for myself too…) I loved this post–it’s reassuring when others are willing to talk about their binding insecurities. It sounds like you had one wonderful afternoon! And headbands too!

I have a pin vise that is not as fancy as the one from Talas, but works beautifully for holding a needle for punching nice small holes. I rarely use an awl anymore. I got mine for about $10 at a hardware store.

By Elissa - 22 December 2010 Reply

Ellen –

I have a motto that, for me, has grown in truth over the years – The more I know, the less I know. The more I learn about bookbinding, the more I realize there is still to learn. It’s both exciting and heartbreaking.

I’m happy to admit that like everyone else, I benefit from education. And as much as I’d like to say differently, the fact is that I infrequently get things right the first time.


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By Kath - 22 December 2010 Reply

The other way to keep your needle threaded is to thread it and then run the needle through the thread on the short side and pull that section down to the eye of the needle, works every time and no glue needed and doesn’t add bulk to the thread so your holes in the paper don’t get too big. Works both for sewing signatures and headbands, especially helpful when using multiple needles for either.

By Elissa - 22 December 2010 Reply

Kath –

Thanks! It helps to have these different tips drilled into my head.

Sadly, I have to admit that I’m one to needlessly (or needle-lessly?) suffer through lost needles by not securing them to my thread. I hate hearing that needle hit the studio floor.


By velma - 22 December 2010 Reply

i love headbands and have only made them once. sewing them was divine! so, are you buying that wonderful lying press?!!

By Elissa - 22 December 2010 Reply

Velma –

The truth is that I’m afraid to ask how much it costs. I’ve often heard that if you have to ask how much something is, then you can’t afford it. I’d rather keep the press as a happy dream rather than an expensive reality.

One day [sigh].


By mark - 15 January 2011 Reply

You’re fortunate to have someone like Elizabeth to come by and show you what she knows, which is a lot! That fact that she’s nice is all the more!

By Elissa - 17 January 2011 Reply

Mark –

I am really lucky. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hopefully we’ll be finishing up my book this week.


So what do you think? I'd love to know!

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