Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bliss in the studio

make a book, book binding how to, sketchbook, recycled

Last weekend, for the first time in ages, I was able to play in my studio. Not only that, I made something -- something I like. It was NOT an easy project, and I'm happy I stuck with it. I made a longstitch book with a leather cover cut from a pair of old motorcycle pants from the 1930s. It is the second book I've made from these pants. You might remember the first one, here.

text block 
For this book, I decided to use paper from an old, turn-of-the-century ledger book for the inside pages. Seemed like a cool idea. All of that incredible pen-and-ink handwriting from a century ago, to become overlaid with sketches and writings from the here and now. Layers of meaning and marks and generations.

I designed my own stitch for the spine. Here is the template lying on the leather, waiting to be punched:punching template
punched spine

Then I punched the signatures (for those of you who are not bookbinders, a signature is a single group of folded sheets):punching detail
In this photo you can begin to see a hint of the problem I encounter later.

handmade leather book
It's starting to look like a book! Time to start sewing!

OK, this is when the trouble started. Because the paper is over 100 years old, I was halfway through sewing the second signature and the paper started breaking between the holes. Another problem causing strain on the holes was that my thread was too thick.
waxed thread

So I switched to a thinner thread and decided to reinforce the signatures. I wanted to be rather ad hoc and not over-think it -- the way you see old books or old sheet music repaired with no thought for aesthetics, only function. So I reinforced the inside and outside of each signature with drafting tape, which you can see in the fourth photo from the top. I was happy with it and liked the way it looked. But when I went to punch through the drafting tape, it also ripped. Arrggh. At this point, I was thinking I might have to abandon my ledger paper idea. I thought to myself, 'What do I have floating around the studio that is strong enough to reinforce these signatures without ripping?' And I found a roll of espresso brown bookcloth. So I cut it into strips and reinforced the outside of each signature with it:
book clothOK, now we're cooking with gas!

On just one of the signatures, though, the holes were still ripping on the inside of the fold. So I decided to further reinforce them with some vintage postage stamps:
postage stamp reinforcements
It still ripped through one of the stamps when I sewed, but no matter -- it's a strong enough binding, which was the goal.

I finished sewing, tied it off with a couple of tiny, square shell buttons, and finally, the result!handbound leather book
page number detail
spine stitch detail
front page
inside spread
postage stamp detail
I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I've listed it for sale in my Etsy shop.  It would be such a wonderful journal or sketchbook for someone who does altered books or journaling.