Section Stitched

X's Thesis

This time X's thesis. Again, took me way too long to get around to it.

I usually look for what I learnt doing a particular book. Not hard to find it this time. It may not look more complex than the travel diary, but although I had the idea for the cover in my head early on, it took me nearly a year to work out how to construct it.

The checkerboard, the curve of the graph and the inlaid image of the man all intersect. If I did this the usual way I do bookcloth mosaic, there would have been six layers or more of cloth to cut through in some areas. Two is a struggle sometimes, so that wasn't going to work. I constructed each of the checkerboard pieces first and laminated them onto lens paper. (note to self - use glue that is still quite thick for first pass - cloth to lens paper, after that, consider paste for lens paper to book board? There wasn't full adhesion on first part and some squeeze out between pieces on the cover in second)

I found cutting strips of the right width, making a sheet, then repeating, cutting them again cross wise was the best way to make even squares. Each time I held the pieces together with blue painters tape along the cuts on the right side. I constructed pieces of approximately the right shape to cover the required space.

This removed one level of overlap by having the individual squares already cut together. I then overlaid them, using lots of blue tape and low tack tape, and using a fresh blade, cut through the tracing paper template, curve first.

The edge decoration was acrylic paint (use ink next time) and hand lettering using the escona tool, as per the spine.

Quite proud that the cover came out exactly as I imagined.

The cover is based on the image X used in his thesis, and the thesis was on an algorithm that can be used for, among other things, optimising image enhancement - hence the changing sizes of pixels. The curve is one of his graphs. Inspiration image below left.

Dos rapporte structure with hand drawn lettering on spine and edges. Bookcloth mosaic.

Travel Diary

A new travel diary. It's the pair to the simplified binding notebook below, and also done in onlay book cloth using similar colours. I've decided it is a technique I really like, but there are a few tricks to it. First is, no matter how much you think you can get away with it, that blade, however lightly use, has to be replaced with a new one. Then, it really only works with library buckram (or similar coated cloth - otherwise the threads become uncontrolable). You have to push the cloth together hard or there will be minute gaps. Lastly, you are going to use a lot of sticky tape. Live with it.

Mistakes - covered the wrong face of the boards. Despite going through the whole process thinking 'it's annoying that this face is curved', it didn't occur to me until the minute after finishing the onlay that it shouldn't be.

K's Thesis

It took K eight months to write his honours thesis and it took me two years to bind it. I guess he knew what he was doing.

Another simplified binding. They have the great advantage (as I've said before) that you can mess up the cover and not have damaged the text.

In this case that was important as I only had one sheet of the endpaper. You can just see it poking out. It's an old fashion-style periodic table. Turns out one sheet wasn't enough for both end papers. Which bring me to what I learnt from this book. Endpapers are the same for a reason. The paper I used for the back endpaper shrank differently from the front endpaper, and now the spine has a slight twist.

The cover design is based on a diagram of the interactions of some of the molecules he was studying. It took me a long time to work out a way to do justice to the symmetry and simplicity of chemistry and give it interest. A also thought it was a good way to use up paper scraps that were taking up space. Needless to say, I ended up buying several more sheets to fill out some of the colours.

Simplified Binding Notebook

I've been taking one on one lessons from a bookbinder this year and last week I finally finished my first project.

It's a style of book I hadn't made before called 'simplified binding', in which the covers are created separately. For the cover, I wanted to try a technique which is used on leather and see if I could make it work in bookcloth. I couldn't find anyone online doing it and my teacher hadn't seen it done so we experimented.

The Book of Nom (below) was a kind of naive attempt at a simplified/Bradel hybrid and was a first stab at bookcloth inlay. So this notebook was me learning how to do it right.


I made probably five or so plaquettes, trying out different techniques for gluing and cutting before I settled on the one that worked best. It also gave me a chance to try our different colour combination.

I love the spine cloth. It's this one here. I'm quite tempted to do another using these cloths where the colours stay the same but the texture changes.

I'm more than happy with the end result, the design is inspired by the kind of things my Dad made. Unfortunately the photo has artifacts at the colour changes

The Book of Nom

K turned twenty! Unbelievable. Since I can't help myself but make a book, I made this. It's all the recipes we love. In cookie monster blue.

It was also a good excuse to try out some things I'd been wanting to experiment with.

The green 'nom' is inlaid bookcloth. I saw this done with leather at The Gathering in Canberra, but I like using bookcloth. I used a craft knife to cut through the paper pattern, the green cloth and the blue cloth (which was already glued to the cover) in one operation. It mostly worked, but something even sharper, maybe a scalpel, would help. I forgot to paint the cardboard exposed when the blue cloth was peeled off, before gluing in the green cloth, but you have to look hard to see any gaps.

The construction is a cross between a Bradel binding (from Josep Cambras Complete Book of Bookbinding) and a simplified binding (from Penland Book of Hand Made Books). This means I could do all the experimental work on the cover before it was attached (and throw it away if it failed). I did a flat spine, because the book was thin and I don't really like rounding, I think it looks old fashioned. Note to self, next time turn in the top and bottom of the spine cloth at angles so it disappears when the endpapers are put on top.

Because I was so happy with the gold foil signature on the Hemingway book, I used an ascona tool and silver foil here, tracing words I had printed out using Word. I like the hand made look, but with more practice I could have got them neater.

The endpapers were given to me by C. She had the same design as a wallpaper in orange hues in her flat. One of the many papers I have hard time using for anything that won't stay with me.

I really like the font on the front and title page (Showcard Gothic) and I ended up using it for the recipe titles too.

Exercise in rebinding

The second bookbinding course was rebinding pre 1950s hardbacks. I found two books in a second hand bookstore.

This is part way through rebinding a 1920's novel. The glue on this book was very difficult to get off, and involved covering the spine in paste and leaving it to soften the glue before scraping off. I like the way the stitching looks when it's done, my teacher called it French pickup (which we decided was better than French put down). It's almost a pity to cover it over.

As well as section stitching, backing and rounding the spine, I also spent one session on decorative foil work.

As it was the last session I chose to case in the books beforehand, meaning any slip on the covers would have been permanent. It was a little daunting.

Simplified Binding 'These Old Shades'

Another simplified binding. I used all the techniques I learned from the bookcloth marquetry simplified binding notebook, plus tried to extend a few.

I used handle letters to title the spine after I had made the spine piece but before I wrapped it around dowel to shape it. This meant I had to work fast to avoid the PVA drying before I could shape it. I mixed the PVA with paste to slow the drying time.

The pieces on the front of the book (a paper dolly with a boy's and a girl's 18thC outfit to reflect Leon/Leonie) were at the limits of what I could achieve. The green in the neck of the shirt started to fray because the bookcloth was so narrow. It was hard to get it to sit right. I used double sided tape to hold the pieces in place while I cut through both layers, and a scalpel instead of an exacto knife. I had to be careful not to get the double sided tape on the decorative cloth. Even a slight angle of the knife created a differences in the size of the hole and the size of the piece to be placed in.

The foil attached to some of the decorative cloth better than others. Each piece of the dress/shirt/trousers was cut separately even if they were of the same cloth, to give better structure to the clothing using the grain to distinguish them.

I could have included another waste/fly sheet when I stitched in the endpapers, so that I could fill and sand with an attached piece instead of having to drop one in.

Om Nom Nom Nom

A cook book for X. Simplified binding again. I'm a bit out of practice, so there are some things I'd do differently - the circles on the cover, for instance, I should have use a circle cutter for.

Usually I glue the spine board in and then letter, getting it wrapped around a dowel before it's dry - that way I can be sure I get the lettering central. But I thought the letters would take too long, so I took a chance and lettered first - turned out well. I really like the white foil.

The cover evolved. Originally the yellow dots and PacMan were blank, but it didn't look right. With each dot or line I added, I was sure this was the addition that would ruin the cover. There's no undoing the foiling. The eye of the PacMan was a late addition. At first I freehanded it, but it looked messy. I used the hole in a metal ruler as a guide and coloured in. Still not as even as I'd like but all right.

The lettering was printed out and traced onto tracing paper, which i used as a guide to freehand with the ascona tool. I like the hand drawn computer game vibe it has.

Shakespeare Exercise

This was my project for the Stage 3 course at Amazing Paper. It's an old Complete Shakespeare. Not an heirloom, bought to take apart and put back together. I had the worst cold of my life during this course and it went for the entire six weeks. I had trouble motivating myself to leave home at 6pm for two and a half hours of bookbinding every Thursday.

But to the actual book. I didn't restitch, so the tapes and the endpapers were stitched into the existing book. The endpapers were 'made', two sheets laminated together. The headbands are hand stitched double core using embroidery thread split in half. I must push the stitches tighter together next time. The cores were made using extra long cigarette paper around book thread. The woman at the corner store looks at me differently now.

I mixed the paint on the edge decoration to match the endpapers, and speckled a darker green over the top. Next time, I must unfold all the corners before doing decoration. The colour is darker than I planned as the paper didn't take the colour evenly.

The boards are laced-in, and then laminated with cartridge paper and sanded to remove the unevenness of the tape, as is the spine to hide the thread.

I never used leather before, so this was my biggest learning curve, dying and paring kangaroo leather to complement the other colours. As usual I used recessing under the bookcloth for decoration, and laser printed a label for the front. I would have liked to make a leather/gold foil label for the spine but I ran out of time, even though Rosemarie graciously allowed us an extra week of her time. Oh well, I may add it at some later stage.

Complete Asian Cookbook

This was an exercise in class. I used this cookbook to pieces. The back cover and spine was off, the endpapers had torn out.

It would have been easier to rebind, but I wanted top practice restoration. Although it's a relatively modern book, the spine appeared be be glued with animal glue, which made it easy to get clean. The end papers, however, were bonded to the cover and neither water nor heat could budge them. I ended up almost slicing them off the cover, and making a bit of a mess of them in the process. If I'd been more careful, I would have ended up with a better finish.

Because the book is thick I used both tapes and mull, which I then encased in a paper tongue. I split the original cover boards and slid the tongue in, to give a strong attachment.

I use a piece of bookcloth close to the colour of the cover to make the spine in the usual way, pasting it under the original printed cover cloth. I then glued back the original spine, which I had cleaned, trimmed and laminated to some japanese lens paper.

I rubbed thin paste into the corners of the covers, which were fraying. I pressed them using small pieces of box board and bulldog clips. They came back to firm edges well.

I used acrylic paints to (as best I could) match the colours in the cover and touch up the areas that had been scratched or rubbed, especially the edges. I couldn't match them exactly, I'm no artist, but you can't tell from the photo, and the cover is busy and worn anyway.

I put a piece of book cloth under the cover endpaper, which I'd lifted for about 2 cms from the spine edge. I then pasted that down and onto the first/last page of the text. I then pasted down the cover end papers (as best I could) then trimmed them. I trimmed the text side endpapers and tipped them back on over the cloth.

Zoe in Leather

A full leather binding with a scarf joint and leather onlays. The spine title is a leather label. The lettering was done after the end of the course.

The photo does it more than justice. The circles were cut freehand by drawing around objects. Neither the onlays nor the blind tooling is even. I realised when cutting the label that I get a better result if I use my circle cutter to make a paper circle, sticky tape it to the leather and then cut through the tape and leather together. I'm happy with the scarf joint (other than a slight nick when I couldn't leave well enough alone).

The onlays are almost full thickness. Next time I would pare them halfway down. That way, I would only have to pare half the backing leather to get an even thickness. I think that would give better strength and evenness to both pieces and be easier than trying to pare the back to nothing without cutting through.

I know I'm supposed to pare the onlay ridiculously thin, but I don't have a brockman machine, and I want to do what I can with what I've got.

If I were to blind tool around onlays in future, I would use the tool to create the shape in the first place so they line up - as I saw in the onlay demonstration at the Canberra Gathering. But I probably wouldn't blind tool, I'd rather try to get the shape I want without tooling around it.

I had trouble with the silver foil. The leather I was going to use for the label lost it's surface whenever I tried to remove the excess foil. Luckily I had another leather that looked pretty much the same. It had a noticeable grain, so the lettering is bumpy, but I don't mind that. I pared it extremely thinly by hand (still no brockman machine). I know now that I needed to laminate it to some japanese paper before cutting out the circle. I also think I pressed too hard with the letters which made it hard to get the excess foil off, leaving the lettering a little indistinct.

As the lettering was the very last thing to be done, it took me many weeks to convince myself I just had to do it, and that if I ruined the cover, so be it, it was a learning experience.

I'm very happy with this book so long as you view it from arms length.