a Modest Spine

August 25, 2014

here it is w

Searching for that little White Spine

I had been searching, unsuccessfully, for a recently acquired purchase, a zine about making soup. As I did not have the help of the big black arrow in the photo, that little slip of a white spine eluded me for days. Not a good thing. I like being able to find my books. If a book is going to show up in my bookshelf it needs something of a spine. I’m not inclined to making elaborate casings for pamphlets, but there is a way to create a lovely little spine, so I made one. I love this little detail of paper work.


4 Steps w

I started with a piece of paper that was the same height as the book and about 3 inches (8 cm) wide.

  • Fold the paper lengthwise, but not in half! Instead, make the fold so the edges are away from each other about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm).
  • open
  • Fold the paper lengthwise again, to the other side, again so the edges are about 1/4 away from each other
  • There, you have a spine, about 1/4 inch wide.

It didn’t make sense to me at first that if I made left 1/4 inch overlap on each side that the spine would end up to be 1/4 inch wide. It seemed to me that two 1/4 inch offsets would create a 1/2 inch spine. But, no, it creates a 1/4 spine.

I could actually stop writing this post right here, as it’s this bit about folding the spine piece that is at the heart of what I want to show. This folding method could be used on a much longer piece, large enough to be the cover for the whole book. The way that I am going to continue here is to  extend  my narrow strip by adding to. You’ll see what I’ve done next.  but, really, the steps illustrated above are the details that I am mostly focused on offering here. 

sewing  w

Create a second spine piece and sew it on to the pamphlet

I didn’t take photo of attaching the cover of my folder to the spine piece that I just made….there is no real protocol for this. I just cut my cover to what will fit for my project and glue them to the blue paper. This is something I just figure out as I go along, and my hope is that anyone else who tries this will do the same.  I used a piece of plastic acetate that I had around, because I wanted to see the book design through this semi- transparent  material, but medium weight paper, or cover stock works just fine. Next step is to create a second spine the same way as the first then sew this to the pamphlet, which is eight pieces of folded paper stapled together. I didn’t remove the staples, as that’s what the book came with, and there was no compelling reason to take them out. 

stock tips w

Before going any further I added the title to the spine. Always a good idea if the book within has a title. The pamphlet, with the second spine piece now attached is laid into the my open cover. I glued the edge of the inner spine, closed the cover, flipped it to the back…

back w..repeated the gluing process on the back, then closed the cover and pressed. Done. this took minutes to do, so I decided to do another one.

scrap papers w

I’ve been cleaning out my workspace, and rather than throw away every odd piece of paper I have been putting them together and making these offbeat little books.  This here one is about to get a spine, but I am going to proceed a bit differently with this book.

green wI made the spine piece in the same way, but glued an extra piece of regular weight copy paper on the inside, to give the spine just a bit more substance. Next, I glued the front and the back of this spine piece right on to the first and last pages of the book. Note that there is no glue on the spine itself. 

back green w

I took two pieces of decorative paper that were cut  the same height of my book and a bit wider. I glued them directly on to the first and last pages, just overlapping the edge of the first  piece I glued down, and folded then glued the overhanging part on the inside of the first and last pages. I used UHU glue sticks for this project. 

done w And that’s it! This is not a technique for fine books, but I love having non-precious books around to toss into my bag and use whenever I want to write something down. This is book making at its most casual. Spines are a way of making these humble gathering of pages stand tall.



grocery bag book covers

Grocery Bag Book Covers

Do kids still cover their textbooks? When I was in grade school I took pride in making a good cover out of the bags from the grocery story.  This post will cover the steps of making this cover, but the added bonus will be showing how to use these folds for  handmade books.  But, I want to begin with the textbook.

Cut off the bottom of the bag

Cut off the bottom of the bag

The first step is to prepare the bag my cutting off the bottom. In my day the bags came from the local Acme. Full disclosure: even though the bag pictured here is obviously from Trader Joe’s, I am going to tell you that the closest Trader Joe’s is too far away for me ever to shop in, so this bag came to me from a friend. The designs printed on the bag make a great cover. I figure out ways to hide the major advertisement.

Cut the bag and open up

Cut the bag and open up

Cut the bag being mindful of the how the design printed on the bag will show when the cover is done. Lay it out with the printed side down. The next will making a long fold across the bottom.  If you need help with this beyond what I show below, take a look at my post on Synchronizing the Folded Line for a detailed explanation of how to do this successfully.

Fold up the bottom edge

Fold up the bottom edge

Fold up a few inches from the bottom edge: use your judgement to approximate the right amount, keeping in mind that you will also be folding this paper down from the top to match the height of your book. When you make your fold, be sure that the vertical folded lines of the grocery bag line up with each other.

Line the head of the book up with the folded up edge

Line up the tail (bottom) of the book with the folded up edge

You will be using the book to measure the placement of the top fold. Just lay the book somewhere along the  folded edge that you just created…

Make a mark

Make a mark

…mark where the top of the book lays on the paper, then fold down the top edge of the paper so you end up with folded flaps top and bottom and your bag looks like this:

Top and Bottom Edges folded to match the size of the book

Top and Bottom Edges folded to match the size of the book

These folded flaps should make the height of this paper just a tad larger than the book that is to be covered. A little bit of wiggle room is need  so that the cover of the book can slide into the folds.

Fold edge

Fold edge

Fold in the side edge. Just how much will depend on the width of the book. Here, I folded over 6 inches for my eight inch book. This fold creates a pocket.

Slide the book into the pocket

Slide the book into the pocket

Slide the book all the way into the pocket.

Close the book

Close the book

Close the book, which is now covered by the paper bag! You may notice the part that’s left looks way too long. We’ll need some of that length to create a back pocket-flap, but what’s left here is way too long. No problem…

Cut off the excess

Cut off the excess

….just cut off the excess, making sure that you leave enough to create the back pocket-flap. This looks like I still have too much excess. It’s better to err on the too much side than to the little side. You can go back later and trim more as needed. When this is done fold up the back cover to fit the book.

The Back of the Book

The Back of the Book

It’s really crucial to make the back flap a generously large pocket: as the book opens and closes it needs quite a bit of room to move around inside of this pocket. If the flap is too shallow the book will not stay in the cover.book Covered


And here it is, covered!

But what if you don’t have a textbook to cover? This is the bonus part.


I have discovered that there’s nothing like a plain grocery bag to break down barriers of inhibition. Get out a black marker and just start making marks. Fill that paper. I do recommend using a thick black marker. I tried crayons and other markers, but nothing showed up as well as black marker. This was fun to do .

little book

 I sewed a bunch of papers together (exactly 17) and then made a cover just like for the textbook. The only important additional  step was to add  a piece of cardboard into the front and back cover of the book (as shown above) so as to add weight and stiffness. The board I used was from the back of a pad of paper. Cereal boxes work well, though sometimes it’s good to use a double thickness. I cut the boards (with scissors) the size of the folded paper.

grocery bag book covers By Paula Beardell Krieg

What’s great about these little books is that they don’t seem precious. I will be meeting up with some friends this week, and plan to gift these to the adults. The thing is, I don’t want the books to feel too precious to use, but I do want them to do be special. Making the book covers out of bags seems to fit all of my criteria.

black and red Pockets Folder by Paula Beardell Krieg

Perfectly Folded Pockets

This is a reference, nuts-and-bolts kind of post about how to create an even fold across the length of a piece of paper. This is a detail of paper-folding and bookmaking that is so valuable that it deserves to be looked at all by itself. I’m not going to explain how to make the accordion folds for the book above, but between this post and my accordion book tutorial page, you can put the info together and make something like what I’ve pictured. Now, on to folding up edges!

Pockets Folder in progress w

This is the look that I’m going after: the bottom edge of the paper has been evenly folded up to create a Pocketed Book

The paper in the above photo is 24 inches (61 cm) long and it was 10 inches (26 cm) high before I folded up a 3 inches (8 cm) flap to create a pocketed book. There is a specific, absolutely-essential-to-know, bordering-on-magic, completely-impressive, impossible-for-bookmakers-and-paperfolders-to-live-without-knowing technique that makes this seemingly impossible fold possible and easy to accomplish.

pockets folder first fold w


Here’s what to do to make sure that you fold the paper evenly across the length of the page.

  • Start in the middle of the paper
  • Focus on the folded line
  • Curl the paper up making sure the folded lines are lined up with each other exactly
  • Make sure that the folded lines are lined up with each other exactly (yes, I know I just said that, but it’s worth saying again)
  • Holding the paper so that the folded lines exactly line up, slowly slide your fingers across the curl of the paper to create a crease

pockets folder sliding down

  • As you approach the next set of folded lines, make sure that these lines are lined up with each other exactly.
  • Holding the paper so that the folded lines are lined up exactly, slide your fingers across the curl of the paper to create a crease.

pockets folderfinal slide w



  • As you approach the next set of folded lines (which, in the case of the photo above, is the last set of folded lines) make sure that these lines are lined up with each other exactly.
  • Finish off the fold, then return to the center of the paper and repeat going in the opposite direction.

Pockets Folder in progress w


And there you have it, again, a perfectly even fold across the length of the paper!



crayon puppet in progress

Puppet in Progress

I recently taught a workshop in which I was given a good bit of latitude in what I presented. I decided that I would bring a selection of my some of my personal favorite structures, and give people choices of what to make. It was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve had.  This sweet little puppet is another one of those structures that I have forever been wanting to write about, and it was one of the hits of the workshop. It truly takes about one minute to construct. Here’s the tutorial page for it:

Silly Easy Fast Puppet tutorial by Paula Beardell Krieg

Silly Easy Fast Puppet tutorial by Paula Beardell Krieg

The beauty of this structure is that it can be made out of just about any size and proportion of paper. I generally use regular size copy paper, but anything works. It might be hard to tell from these photos, but the mouth of the puppet articulates, and opens in a wide and humorous. way. The workshop participants decorated their creations with all sorts of bits of this and that .

Two Silly Puppets

The next photo is a of a puppet that looks it might have much to say. I find myself wishing that there were words on the paper that is cascading out of the mouth.

too much to say


And here are a couple more of my own puppets. I will be teaching  this again at a workshop in the fall, in Waverly, Pennsylvania, so I am going to try to put together a little tribe of these funny faces.

crayon and cut paper decorations on the puppets

crayon and cut paper decorations on the puppets

Again, the magic of these is the when the mouth open and closes. It’s such a surprise to be able to put together such a whimsical creature so quickly.  If you try this out, please email me a photo!