simple book binding

Off to South Africa

    This past Christmas I received a card from my pal Nancy, celebrating that, in lieu of a gift, she had donated a bicycle, in my name, to a charity which refurbishes and distributes bikes to people whose lives will be enhanced by the acquisition of two-wheeled transportation.

v-pocket book
Handmade books bound for Pretoria
    One good turn deserves another: now that Nancy’s birthday is coming up, it has occurred to me to donate some handmade books to students in South Africa whose learning may be enhanced having some new notebooks. Given in Nancy’s name, of course.
Wall Paper Sample Book for Bookmaking
A Wallpaper Sample Book: these pages are good to use as book covers because they are durable and vinyl-like
    These books will be sent to a young man who, as a fourth grader, used to come the book arts classes that I taught at our local library. Back then, this little boy made a real connection to the mechanics and magic of paper-folding Now a college graduate, he is spending two years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Africa.

Back Page Of V-pocket book
These books cover are made from 11" x 17" , folded in such a way that a both the front and back covers have a V-shaped inside pocket.
This young man, James Higby, is a lone American teaching in a rural South African school, having committed to teaching for two years. Honestly, I can’t  relate to what it would be like to be so far from home, for so long,  to have to learn a new language and to make all new social connections. Each one of these challenges in isolation seems managable and exciting, but, all together all at once is something I can not image.  Since I have often seen how little blank books encourage children to write (much like water encourages fish to swim) the books I am sending are my modest way of supporting the work that James is doing.
V-pocket book cover, without pages
V-pocket book cover, without pages
From what I understand, James gets his mail only on the rare occasion that he visits his mailbox in Pretoria. It takes him a full day of travel to get to his mailbox.
The book block is a combination of blank pages, and pages I "harvested" from a thrift store book, which I disassembled
From what I’ve been told,  James visits his mailbox just about once a month.  This leave me feeling nervous about both the time and distance that separates my gift from its destination.  To allay my own discomfort, I am going to affix post-it notes to the books:  my plan is to write quadratic equations and area formulas on to these post-its,  as I imagine, donned with math facts,  my books will be cloaked with a protective aura.
I slid cover weight papers into the pockets, to give the book a more substantial feel
I haven’t yet told Nancy that I am sending these books in lieu of her birthday present.  However, since James is her son, I am confident that she will approve.

27 thoughts on “Off to South Africa

  1. these are great designs. I have a question. I am making journals and diaries with blank paper and was wondering where I could find lined paper. Any tips for first time book binders like me. I love using bakers twine and need to get some pvc glue. Have you made wedding albums?


    1. I haven’t found a satisfactory source of lined paper, so, often, when I want to use lined papers in books I create page of lines on my computer, then I print copies of this page on my copy machine. To save on ink, I generally tell the printer to print lighter than normal. Also, I have begun to look at blank lined journals in dollar stores and thrift shops, with an eye to taking the these books apart and reusing the pages in my own projects.

      My main tip for a first time book binders is keep it simple, have fun, and use anything and everything that appeals to you to make your books.

      and, yes, I’ve made wedding albums, but don’t tell anybody….


  2. Hi Paula
    I’m keen to know how to fold those V-pocket book covers, and have been playing round with paper and your photo, but can’t figure it out!! Do you have a set of instructions somewhere please?
    many thanks
    (from New Zealand)


    1. HI Bronwyn!!
      I think that it’s pretty much impossible to figure out how to fold this structure from looking at the pictures. I am sketching out something right now, and will email it to you ASAP, and you can tell me if it works for you. Here’s the catch: I start with paper is that is double the size of our standard copy paper, which is 11 inches by 17 inches. I don’t know how it will work out with double A4. After I send you my sketches I will try to turn my attention to double A4.



      1. Hi Paula
        Thanks so much for your prompt reply! I see it’s early evening yesterday there – we’re 2pm Wednesday 🙂 Don’t worry about the “double A4″ (it’s called A3), as your 11″ x 17” is smaller than that, so I can always cut down to size. I do so love receiving your posts and seeing the great work you’re doing.
        Looking forward to getting your sketch and trying it out


      2. Check your email…I’ve sent you a link (which I think will work) of directions. It’s still in rough form, so I am open for suggestions if any of the steps are confusing. Let me know how it goes. Good luck!


      3. I’d sure like to see the instructions for folding that cover as well. It’s similar to a structure I’ve used from an old Bound and Lettered issue with a rubber band to hold the text block, but I like the pockets better in this version. I’m looking for some structures that are quick to make with reasonably priced materials to use as gifts and possibly to teach to 10-year-olds in a classroom setting for use as nature journals. Your blog is amazing. I found it because I couldn’t quite figure out how to make your Jelly Bean Books from the instructions and photos in the book and the ones you posted here made all the difference. Thanks!


  3. Good morning from Sunny South Africa!

    I’ve been subscribed to your blog for a while now, and was thrilled when I noticed ‘South Africa’ in the title of this post! I think it is lovely that you are blessing your friend’s son with something he can use in his teaching here – I am sure he will put the books to good use.

    I just want to say that it is NOT standard practice for postal packages to be ‘opened and rifled through’ by either our customs or our postal workers. I have never in my life had a package even slightly damaged, and that is true for parcels sent and received locally and from abroad. I spent two years in the US myself and sent numerous packages home during that time – no damage then either.

    I mailed off a parcel to a friend in Iowa last week, and she received it safely within a week.

    South Africa is a beautiful country and I hope your friend’s son will also tell you of our modern cities and towns, our friendliness and hospitality, and our love for each other. For the most part, you’d REALLY have to go out of your way to find a remote rural villiage that’s a day’s travel from modern amenities! Hope that James has a great and rewarding time while he’s here. Thanks for the link to his blog – we will connect with him and see if we can be of any assistance while he’s here!

    Kind regards,

    Grietjie Thorne
    Cape Town, South Africa


    1. Good morning Joyful Mama Grietjie Thorne and greetings from upstate New York! It is mild, damp and overcast here this morning, though the air feels unseasonably fresh and gentle so far.

      Your generous words are just what I needed to hear. After reading your comments, I not only feel better about sending off my package, I am now planning on adding more to it. Also, you may notice I made some changes to my post, as your words made me reflective in a way that compelled me to look again at what I had written.

      As far as I know, James does not receive mail in the village that he is living in, but this may be a choice he has made. I know that he receives email, so I will write to him and find out if I can send these books to him more directly. I would love to think of his getting them in a week!

      Thank you for writing about the friendliness and hospitality that exists in South Africa, and of your love for each other. A piece of our hearts is there with James, and it is comforting to think of him surrounded by the warmth you describe. I hope you do make contact with James. What a gift that would be!


      1. Hi Paula!

        I’ve already been in touch with James (sounds like he’s making some amazing memories!) and we’ve invited him to let us know if he ever makes it down to Cape Town so we can meet him in person.

        I spent two years in Michigan about ten years ago and it still warms my heart when I remember the incredible hospitality of everyone I met there. As soon as someone heard how far from home I was, there were almost without exception an invitation for a meal or a visit. Now we like to do the same for people visiting our beautiful shores!!

        Please also pass on my regards to James’ mother and may your package arrive safely and bring much, much joy!


      2. Yes, James wrote and and said that ‘your friend Grietjie Thorne from Cape Town’ got in touch with him, and he sounded absolutely delighted with the prospect of meeting you. Thank you, again, for your generousity. I will certainly pass on your regards to James’ mother.


      3. Good morning Joyful Mama Grietjie Thorne and Beautiful Paula Kreig. My heart is overflowing with joy as I (James’s mom) see these books, think about James’s commitment, and read your descriptive and supportive posts. Thank you. All this good work with such good intentions is surely what makes a difference.

        best wishes
        Nancy Hand Higby
        Salem NY USA


  4. Greetings Paula,

    I am once again inspired by your post and your generosity of spirit and sharing in the world of book arts 🙂

    The books are beautiful and the gift will undoubtedly have positive repercussions way beyond the original recipient…..

    Thank you for continuing to share your knowledge, tales of teaching and book arts thoughts.

    Best wishes from across the Pond,



    1. Hi Mary,
      I love hearing from you from across the Pond. One reason I started on this project is that I was feeling kind of blue and unconnected….so it pleases me all the more that the books and the gesture resonates with you, and with others as well. so much for feeling unconnected….
      Thanks for writing.


  5. These are treasures! What a fantastic idea – you’ve inspired me to consider that as a local project. I read an article recently that women in prison like to journal but have no “cool books” so perhaps I shall look into that further. Thank you for your inspiring post and sharing with the world. I too would love to know how to maky envy’s and pockets in my books. Is their an origami site or other you’d recommend? Many thanks again.


    1. Hi Hollis
      If you pursue a local project like this send me photos and I will post them! I looked over your website and it’s clear that you could work out the materials and methods to do this. I liked the v-pocket structure that I came up with, as it is mostly a folding project, with one simple pamphlet stitch to hold it together. They took a bit of time to make, but not so much that it became overwhelming. Bronwyn from Australia “test drove” a draft of a set of directions that I created for the V-pocket cover, and she gave me a thumbs up. Sometime soon I will have the finished version ready to publish…if you want it sooner, give me a holler and I will send you a link to my hand-out-in-progress…
      BTW I notice that you are from Ashville. NC, Right? I’ve spent some time in your neck of the woods, and know a talented bookbinder near to you: Phyllis Jarvinen She has a lovely website, and does interesting work? Perhaps you know her already?


  6. Oh, how wonderful, I just dug out that old Bound and Lettered issue I referred to in my previous post and the Rubber Band Bound Book was one of your creations also! I have enjoyed working with that little book structure but your new V-pocket cover looks even better. If you don’t mind sending it, I’d be happy to work from your work-in-progress instructions. Or, I can just be patient and wait for you to post the finished instructions. Either way I can’t wait to try this clever structure.


    1. Hi Kelly,
      as I read your other post, I wondered if the article that you refered to in Bound and Lettered was the one that I wrote. I just loved that you were able to dig up that issue and found out that it was in fact my article that you were thinking of. I love the pocketed covers structure that you referred to, and I made a lovely instruction sheet for it Pocketed Book Cover Handout, but this V-pocket book cover, though not as easy to do, has really captivated me. I aim to publish the directions for it in the next day or two. It’s nearly done. If I just can’t get to it I will send you my “in progress” link by Sunday. In the meantime, get some 11″ x 17″ papers together so that you’ll be ready to go.
      Thanks so much for your notes.


      1. Thanks so much Paula, I think I actually have the structure figured out! It was that “almost impossible” gauntlet that you threw down that kept my brain occupied until the lightbulb went on and I was finally able to approximate your structure. I am interested to see how close I came to your instructions. I can wait until you post. It’s going to take some time for me to track down that paper. I’m thinking of using old wallpaper sample books if I can lay my hands on some. Otherwise, 11×17 decorated paper might be hard to come by in my neck of the woods.


      2. The Directions are now posted! Take a look…don’t worry about using wallpaper sample paper…just use any paper that is not real heavy, and cut it so that the side proportions are 1 to 1.5, (or, if it’s easier to think about it in this way, 2 to 3) so, say you are using regular 8 1/2 x 11 paper, cut it down to 7″ x 11″ and fold away! Good luck and let me know how it goes.


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