How to Make a Book: Learn to Play the Accordion

handmade book
Accordion-fold handmade book by
Alice Harrison, in Pages.

cate pratoWhen I was a kid, I often stayed overnight at my grandparents' house on Saturday nights while my parents went out for the evening. My grandmother always made my favorite foods, I played gin rummy with my grandfather, and we all watched "The Lawrence Welk Show" together.

While I loved the pretty Lennon Sisters with their close four-part harmony and their elaborate up-do hairstyles, and I admired the dancing of Bobby and Sissy, I could not see the appeal of Mr. Welk's accordion, which he played with such relish. I am OK with bagpipes and I can handle a jazz harmonica. But I just don't find accordion music attractive.

The accordion fold, however, is another matter. With the aid of a bone folder, this simplest of book-making devices can turn most any piece of paper (or interfacing) into a work of art.

The accordion-fold book can stand on its own (literally) or serve as a backdrop for artwork attached to the pages. It's the perfect vehicle for showing off a series of pages that relate; when folded it can fit in the palm of your hand.

handmade book
Accordion-style book by
Heather Stemas, Pages.

The simplest way to make an accordion-folded book is to paint on watercolor paper, as Alice Harrison demonstrates in Cloth Paper Scissors Pages. You can take an existing watercolor, cut the paper to size, and fold it; cut the paper to size, paint, and fold it; or cut, fold, and paint. Just be sure the paint is completely dry before folding the paper. To make the book longer, just overlap two strips of paper and glue them together.

Pretty much any preschooler can accordion fold a piece of paper, but if you want the pages to be all the same size and the folds to be straight, here's how to do it.

Making the accordion fold

1. Fold the paper strip in half so the ends meet. When folding the crease, hold the ends down with one hand and put your finger down in the middle of the fold (halfway between the top and the bottom of the paper). Then press the fold from the center out to one edge and then out toward the other, using a bone folder. This helps insure that your crease is sharp and perpendicular to the edges of the paper.

2. Fold 1 end of the strip back to the edge of the center fold and score.

handmade book
Fold-out book with pockets, by
Christine Plummer, Pages.

3. Turn the paper over and repeat Step 2 on the other end of the paper strip.

4. Keep folding and scoring the paper to create the pages until the paper is completely folded. When you're finished, you may have to bend some of the folds the opposite way so that the pages are going in the correct zigzag orientation.

That's all there is to it.

In Pages: The Creative Guide for Art Journaling and Book Making, Alice and several other artists make use of the accordion-fold format. There are also articles on book covers, inside pages, binding styles, and art journaling.

I found the variety of books in Pages inspiring. But I still don't like accordion music.


P.S. Do you enjoy making handmade books? What's your favorite style? Leave a comment below.

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Blog, Handmade Books

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