Category : Bookbinding

Jason Bug Book – done deal

Today I was able to finish what I now refer to as the “Jason Bug Book” (I’ve never been great with titles). The sewing took a little over three hours to complete. I used burgundy and black linen thread to do the coptic binding – at the two ends and in the middle you can see how the coptic stitch creates a two-tone braid across the spine.

Coptic stitch binding

I love using waxed linen thread. It leaves a pleasant residue on my hands and it reminds me of having a paraffin wax treatment.

After stabilizing the structure with the coptic stitch, I was then able to get to the fun part – the caterpillar stitch. I learned the caterpillar binding from Keith Smith’s book Non-Adhesive Binding Volume III: Exposed Spine Sewings. Keith Smith has a series of amazing books about bookbinding that are somewhat like scientific manuals. At first, the directions can seem intimidating.

I had his book on my coffee table for weeks before I tried the caterpillar. I would look at the pictures in his book every day until I worked up the nerve to try it. I’ve done three books with this binding, but all had just one caterpillar crawling across the covers.

Caterpillar binding in progress

Jason’s book has two caterpillars on it, one in black and one in burgundy. The binding is done with a long piece of linen thread with one needle on each end. I like to use curved needles. You alternate between the two needles as you make your way across the cover.

The stitches go through holes drilled into the cover. You can see straight stitches on the inside of the cover. They’re neat – they remind me of a zipper.

I started with the burgundy caterpillar, which had its head on the front and its tail on the back of the book.

Caterpillar binding

After that was done, I stitched the black caterpillar, directed the opposite way. I decided that the two caterpillars were passing each other in the night. They weren’t friends, but just said “hi” and went along their way.

Double caterpillar binding

In addition to this being my first caterpillar duet, it’s also the largest journal I’ve ever done. I really like the weight and feel of it. Jason wanted a book he could carry in his laptop bag, so I chose the measurements based on his bag size.

I think I might try to make more journals in this larger size in the future.

Back to the studio

After having sufficiently recovered from my Paris paper trauma, I am now back to work on the journal that my friend Jason is oh-so-patiently waiting for.

He chose a medium-toned gray bookcloth for the cover. It’s a good choice for this journal because he plans to carry it in his laptop bag and the bookcloth will be much more durable.

I was concerned about how the gray would look with the paper he had chosen for the inside of the covers, but I really like the combination. I love when people make choices that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. I tend to stick with what suits me and I make what I like. It’s nice to have someone rock your design world once in a while.

Buddha Japanese paper

So I glued the bookcloth and the paper on to the covers today. If you look closely at the paper in the photo you’ll see images of Buddhas on flying carpets. Some are right-side-up and some are upside-down. I find it really funny.

The paper used for the pages is called Frostone, a paper made by French Paper. Frostone paper has inclusions of freeze-dried paper that have been broken up and embedded in the sheet. It has a nice subtle sparkle to it.

Just as I was getting the link to French Paper, I read that the Frostone line is being discontinued. Meh. Looks like Jason’s book is guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind.

When the covers have dried and pressed, I will begin the binding process. I’ll be using a combination of the double-needle coptic and the caterpillar bindings.

RIP: Pretty wood paper from Paris

My husband and I went to Paris in the summer of 2001. It was during this trip that I started the tradition of buying paper whenever possible on our vacations.

I can’t help myself.

When went to Washington D.C. in 2005, I made a stop at the Paper Source in Georgetown. In 2006, when we went to New Mexico, it was Papers! and Papergami in Albuquerque. Last year it was an amazing overnight stay and studio tour with Peggy Skycraft in Oregon (I have idolized her for years and her paper does not disappoint).

So back to Paris. It was our last day and we spent some time shopping in a department store. I turned a corner and saw a rack of wrapping papers. There I spotted the most lovely wood veneer paper – very subtle and light-grained.

I had to have it.

I picked out two sheets and had them wrapped up. I immediately realized how stupid this was, because now I had to get it home safely without a protective tube to carry it in.

I have never walked so defensively in my life – I held the paper close to my body with my elbows pointed out in case anyone bumped into me. I was really a freak. I did, however, manage to get it home without any damage.

I put it in storage for the day when I would use it for a journal or photo album – who cared? It was just so fabulous. So it sat in storage…for 6 1/2 years. I was afraid to use it. I would open my paper files and look at it lovingly, then close the drawer and work with something else. I could not bring myself to use this precious find.

Until recently.

A friend commissioned me to make him a sketch book and chose the wood veneer paper for the cover. I actually felt okay about it. So I cut up the paper and started to glue it to a piece of bookboard.

Let me tell you – this paper does not like glue.

It bubbled up like a bad sunburn. I swore a lot. A lot.

I waited 6 1/2 years for this?

Grrrrrrr….so I peeled the paper off and sanded down my bookboard, ready to give up. Then I waited a couple of weeks and decided to try Yes! Stikflat glue. I hate this stuff. It’s like working with a blend of Vaseline and snot. Somehow it always makes me dizzy when I use it. It claims to not wrinkle papers, so I figured why not?

So I gave it a shot.

Needless to say, I’m here on the computer and not in my studio.

The glue sorta worked, but the paper doesn’t like to be bent either. It cracked and peeled.

Grrrrrrr….fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice….whatever, I give up. I’ll use it to make some collaged cards.

Boxed In

Sea Green Floral Bridal Suite by Blue Roof DesignsToday I spent some time in the studio working on a hinged lid box.

To show you an example, the Bridal Suite at right includes a large hinged lid box that fits all of the contents shown.

The one that I was working on tonight is much smaller – just the right size for papers that you have hanging around, but don’t know what to do with.

The hardest part about making a box cutting out the pieces. It is really difficult to get the pieces square. I do all of my cutting by hand, so there’s always a chance for a small error. Usually these can be corrected with some sandpaper after gluing the pieces together.

Lucky for me, the box I was working on was from a kit so the pieces were already cut.

What a joy!

Today I glued the sides to the base of the box. I’m letting this dry overnight before I proceed to the next step.

Handmade box construction

You can catch a glimpse of my very green cutting mat that I have on my work table. I love the color, but it quickly gets grungy. I hope to kill this one off soon so I can replace it with a darker version.

My customer, who is my web designer Heather Boissoneau, picked out a lovely blue patterned Japanese paper from Paper Source.

Handmade paper and bookcloth

I worked at the Paper Source in Cambridge, MA while I was in graduate school. Back then, they only had 2 stores – they have over 20 now.

Paper Source is the reason for both my paper addiction and my love of bookbinding. They have so many drool-worthy papers…in case you can’t tell, I’m desperately in need of a paper fix.


Orange Oak Leaf jumbo photo album

So I’ve never been good at starting things…whenever I have a new project in mind, it takes me forever to get started. I get obsessed over doing it the right way and then I just never do it.

The same is true of this blog.

For the longest time, I have wanted to start a blog about my bookbinding adventures. I worried endlessly about what I’d say in my first post…how to introduce myself, what tone to use, etc.

So I decided that I’m not going to start at the beginning. I’m going to just jump into the middle and add the intro stuff as I go along. I always used to do my school papers this way. It’s easier for me to look back at what’s been than to look forward to an ambiguous future.

As of now, this blog has no geeked-out graphics, layout, or functionality.

Welcome to my middle.

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