Sunday, May 02, 2010

Bookbinding = Joy

A couple of weeks ago I attended a 2-hour bookbinding class. It was rushed, slightly stressful, and showed a very quick-n-dirty approach. No written instructions, no precise cutting or time to take care, just 18 people frantically trying to keep up with a harried instructor who had a plane to catch. At the end of it, though, I had an intriguing little book, and had learnt (more or less) how to do a multiple-needle coptic bookbinding stitch.

I went home with another bookbinding kit in my bag, and googled around for some instructions I could work along to (the multiple-needle coptic / chain stitch *is* complicated at first). This time I carefully cut everything with unerring accuracy, worked at my own pace, and found the whole process throughly enjoyable.

I made some mistakes, and will be re-stitching the book with different thread, but for my second attempt at making a book from scratch, I was very pleased. I had decided to make a fabric-covered book, as I have some taupe suede which makes very pretty fountain pen cases, so I figured a matching book would be nice. I also stitched on some little floral motifs using contrasting thread for some added interest.

The cover:


The back:

The spine:

Detail of the spine, showing the braid formed by the coptic stitch:

In the class, we used a heavy black 5-ply Barbour waxed thread and darning needles. It is incredibly strong thread, but very thick and a bit unwieldy. I won't be using it again for any projects, as I have found nicer 3-ply and 4-ply threads in a bigger colour range that are better suited to the finer finish I like for my books. I have also invested in proper bookbinding needles.

Some other books I have recently made appear below.

My first book made in the class. The coptic stitch allows books to lie open flat:

Trying different thread and cover designs:

A book for my plein air pen and ink work:




A new book with A/S Colourfix coloured pastel paper sheets separated by glassine paper for plein air pastel sketches:

Some helpful links:
Instructions vary, but I prefer to start with the front cover first. This way, your final tie-off knots end up inside the back folio or section, rather than in the front.

8 comments:

  1. Yet another hobby! Your books are lovely. Thanks for explaining how you put them together. :)

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  2. This is very beautiful- and practical, I would guess. Congratulations! Looking forward to more!

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  3. These are so great to make. The method the teacher showed us demonstrated how to get two books from one store bought A4 12-sheet watercolour sketch pad: slice the back cardboard up into four pieces to form the covers, and then fold 6 sheets of paper in half for each book. In the case of my landscape pen and ink book, I sliced the back cover into two long pieces.
    I have added different papers to some books, e.g. some have several folded pages of 220gsm drawing cartridge, followed by nice 300gsm watercolour paper.
    Good, clean fun!

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  4. Pardon my ignorance, but where do you find the bookbinding supplies (the thread and needles).
    I have had a hardcover from a book, sitting on my shelf for months waiting to be remade into a
    notebook. Very nice work too.

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  5. Hi f3lix - in regard to supplies, that will depend greatly upon your location! Here in Australia, I can only access a fraction of the great supplies available in the US and UK.

    I use straight bookbinding needles, not the curved ones, because I do the multiple needle stitch. I much prefer waxed threads over unwaxed threads like Klippans linen thread. Also, don't use anything less than 3-4ply for coptic stitch, as fine thread just doesn't show the braid well enough - and the braid is the prettiest part. :)

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  6. I cant believe I totally missed that link, sorry

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  7. Good luck - I'd love to see what you make. Bookbinding really brings out one's creative side, and it's so interesting to see what other folk get up to! :)

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