Leather Binding Fundamentals with Karen Hanmer – Day 1
I just finished my first of five days at the Wells College Book Arts Summer Institute. Coming here is on my Book Arts Bucket List and I’m psyched to be able to cross it off. I’m taking Leather Binding Fundamentals, which is pretty much what it sounds like – we’re going to complete a full leather binding and experiment with different decorative techniques.
I’ve taken a handful of workshops on how to work with leather, but for whatever reason, I don’t feel like it’s sticking. My brain gets it, but I’m just not feeling it in my hands. I know it takes lots of practice, so I need to be patient. I’m not very good at that.
Thankfully, I’ve got an awesome instructor – Karen Hanmer. That’s right, folks – the location may be different, but the instructor is the same (this is my 4th workshop with Karen). She may very well be tired of looking at my face. It’s her own fault though – she’s got skills and she’s a fun teacher.
Here’s where I’ll be spending most of my time this week:
When you go in the front door of the building, you’re greeted by this friendly sign:
Our classroom is up on the third floor. I’m getting quite a workout with all of the up and down I’ve done today.
Ah, how I love to sit down to a neat work space and the possibilities of fresh supplies. And a scary to-do list. But good scary.
Most of the day was spent working on our text blocks. We started by tipping in cloth hinges on our end pages, which were made from Bugra paper. This was followed by the punching of the holes.
We got to watch Karen do a demonstration of the sewing on a really huge sewing frame. She’s back there – trust me.
Since I had previous experience using a sewing frame, I got to use a special one that had been MacGyvered from two ratcheting bar clamps and a dowel. If you give this setup a try, leave additional room on the sides of your text block – I had a hell of a time completing my kettle stitches.
Karen advised us to not look inside the signatures while we were sewing – we should be able to feel where the holes are from the inside by using the tip of our needle. She stressed that there was nothing to see in there, so just.don’t.do.it.
I humbly admit that I peeked (I tried to be cool about it). I mostly did so because I repeatedly stabbed myself with the needle and I was convinced that I was bleeding all over the pages. And then I think I did it a few times just because she told us not to.
14 signatures (and a couple of hours) later, I was done. And on top of that, I wasn’t the last one finished. Yay! In case you’re wondering, we only linked stitches on the first 2 and last 2 signatures due to time constraints. If we had more time, we would have linked all of the stitches.
We glued up our spines and entered rounding and backing territory. This is one of those not-in-my-hands things I was talking about earlier. I hold on to the hammer too tightly because I get tense. Then I’m too tender with the text block – I’m a tentative whacker.
This text block came out better than ones I’ve done previously, so I guess that’s progress.
Next came the spine linings. I got to use a very, very long finishing press.
Once I got my text block in the press, I noticed that my rounded spine got a bit wacky – it was like the middle of it sank down. Boo. It’s still roundish, so I’ll count that as a victory.
We used Cambric (a.k.a. Jaconet) for our spine linings. It was added to the areas between our stitches and at the head and tail of the text block. We used PVA to adhere each lining, then brushed paste on top of them to help with adhesion. It worked like a charm.
That was the last thing we did today. I know it doesn’t look like much in this post, but by the end of the day I was exhausted. I’m glad that we didn’t have any homework for tomorrow.
By the way, I forgot to mention that when you take a workshop at Wells, you get swag – behold, the apron!
I close this workshop post in my usual fashion of let’s document what the instructor says that is useful and/or embarrassing – as long as I’m amused, that’s all that matters.
Here we go:
I’m going to show you what I would do if you weren’t here.
She sucks. This is perfect.
I kinda like being able to make people do stuff.