Every few weeks or so I get an itch to make a handmade book, and this time my efforts are being fueled by something really special: our new Bookbinding Collection that you can’t get anywhere else. Book lovers, take note: This exclusive set includes videos, a Lineco Bookbinding Tool Kit, and a downloadable eBook, Making Books Cover to Cover, featuring our favorite projects from Cloth Paper Scissors and Pages magazines. The eBook also includes a brand new project and a new bookbinding technique primer. If this doesn’t scratch that itch, I don’t know what will.
The new project in the eBook, “Garden Book: A celebration of English gardens,” is from Ali Manning, who wrote the article “Rust-Printed Long-Stitch Nature Journal” in the May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. When I visited Ali’s studio and saw her incredible work, this garden book was one of my favorites. I asked if she could do it as a project, and lucky for us, she said yes.
Since the garden book is part of this incredible collection, it gave me the perfect excuse to make one of my own. This is a jewel of a handmade book, with collaged pages and a wonderful exposed spine binding, and it’s a perfect project for all levels. The article includes a ton of photos, and Ali expertly explains every step.
I chose a travel theme for my book, and gathered some maps and other related ephemera. One material Ali uses for collage is decorative paper napkins; the thin top layer is a fantastic element. Since it’s so sheer, it allows layers underneath to show through.
A large piece of mixed-media paper was used for a substrate. I began to create the collage, gluing map pieces, some printed tissue, the napkins, and pages from a vintage postage stamp book. Since you’ll cut the pages from this large sheet there’s no way to plan what will be on the pages. Leaving this to chance was so fun and freeing, and I couldn’t wait to see what the pages would look like. The bone folder (part of the tool kit in the Bookbinding Collection) came in handy to adhere the collage papers to the substrate. Here’s a quick tip: If the napkins you’re using don’t have a one-way design, glue the reverse side of the napkin for a more muted look.
After both sides of the paper were covered, I noticed some blank spots. Instead of covering them up with more collage, I stenciled a pattern over the white, which helped unify the piece.
Another serendipitous discovery was that I wound up with palette of yellow and French blue—so pretty. I found a shade of acrylic paint that harmonized with the blues in the collage and used that with the stencil. Love the effect.
After cutting the pages to size, I used the bone folder again to fold the pages in half and crease them. If you’ve never used a bone folder, you’ll be amazed at what a great job it does at smoothing papers and making nice, neat creases. It’s an indispensible bookbinding tool.
Ali has another fabulous tip: use beeswax on the folded edge of the pages if the papers crack or tear a little while being folded. Did I mention that a nice block of beeswax comes in the bookbinding tool kit? And it smells so good.
Time to embellish the pages. Ali recommends doing this before binding the book, which is smart. She includes great ideas for adding pockets and other unique touches to the pages, which really make the book come alive. I machine stitched a variety of elements to the pages, including fabric and paper. When I travel, I love collecting packaging; I sewed a cookie label to the edge of one page.
I also wanted to include an envelope to stash bits and pieces like tickets and business cards, which I always collect when I travel. To do this, I opened one page to the middle and set it in my punching cradle, then opened the envelope and centered it on the page. In the article “A Bookbinding Primer” that’s included in the eBook Making Books Cover to Cover, you’ll learn three easy ways to punch signatures.
Using a template I punched the holes for sewing, using the thinner awl that’s in the bookbinding tool kit. When sewing this page into the book, I just had to lift the envelope flap and sew it as usual. The article includes all the details for creating the punching template and sewing the book.
The binding Ali uses is called sewing over tapes; in this case, the tapes are ribbons. I decided to fashion my own from fabric, starting with a 1 ½”-wide piece, folding it in thirds and ironing it, then sewing it down the middle with a zigzag stitch.
I had a total of 10 signatures and made one variation on Ali’s binding: Four signatures were sewn exactly the way she instructs. On the fifth signature, when I reached the first hole before one of the ribbons, instead of sewing straight up like the others I slipped the needle under the previous four stitches. I was careful not to catch the needle in the waxed linen thread or in the fabric.
I brought the thread around until a loop formed, then took the needle through the loop and pulled until the stitches were gathered.
I then looped the thread around the gathered threads two more times, entered the next hole as I’d been doing, and continued this pattern at every ribbon station. Here’s the finished binding:
For my covers, I covered book board with map paper, then rubbed on a little Prima Art Alchemy Metallique Wax in Aged Brass over the edges. This gave the covers a beautiful patina and finish.
Instead of gluing my ribbons inside the book I trimmed them and brought them to the outside, securing them with a bit of glue and some brads. The middle ribbons were left long to create a closure. The larger awl that’s in the tool kit came in handy for punching holes in the cover for the brads.
All that was left to do was fill the book with lots of fun travel ephemera and quotes.
Make sure you see how Ali finished hers, because her touches are amazing.
I’m thrilled with this petite treasure, and I know you’ll feel the same way about your book. What’s wonderful about this Bookbinding Collection is that the tool kit allows you to get started right away—no searching multiple stores and online resources for a glue brush, awl, bone folder, etc. The kit even comes with needles and thread, so you really are good to go.
What theme will you choose for your book? Whatever you decide, I hope you have as much fun making yours as I did mine! Happy bookbinding!