Closures · exposed sewing

Soft Coptic with Closure

When my children were little, sewing exposed link stitch books, which some people call Coptic binding and some people call exposed link stitch. was one of my go-tos to keep my hands in the creating mode: I made them for my children’s drawing books and scrapbooks; my friends and sisters’ children received them as presents; they were made for pressing flowers, to keep next to the phone for writing notes, and for small photo albums. I made big ones, tiny ones, used bookbinder’s thread, shoelaces, cord. Right here where I sit, I could easily grap about a dozen of books stitched this way. What made this sort of bookmaking so attractive to me during that time was that, being able to work only in random moments, it was something I could pick up and put down easily.

So why did I sign up for a class, taught by Ali Manning, who runs the facebook group called Crafting Handmade Books with Vintage Page Designs to make a journal bound with a “Coptic stitch”? Well, not only did it appeal to me to make a journal along with hundreds of Ali’s followers, but I was curious about how she would teach this form.

I was delighted to follow along.

Ali showed the multiple needle version of this sewing pattern, which happens to be the version I like. I chose to go with 8 needles, because it’s the sewing of this book that I enjoy the most: the more sewing stations I have, the more I get to sew.

I was especially delighted by two things: one which was a variation in Ali’s instruction, the other was what this variation suggested to me.

First, Ali’s variation.

I have always made my books from bookboard, or a stiff paper., both of which I would attach by stabbing through a hole about 3/8″ away from the edge of the board. For each cover, Ali had us cover a thick piece of paper -the size of the signature papers -with decorative paper, fold it in half, then sew through the fold just like it was a signature. I enjoyed this method.

I poked around a bit, wondering if this way of attaching covers has been around. Artist Susan Joy Share provided me with this stunning article, noting that “this form has a history – over 1000 years old and was adapted and made popular by Gary Frost.” Sometimes I feel like I have lived under a rock for so many years….at least 1000, I guess.

I sewed my book, but there was more.

Ali suggested a closure, and showed some fine examples. I generally haven’t put closures on my book, but since the foredge of my book was flush with the edge of the cover, seemed like a closure would be a good idea. Besides, I wanted to follow through on staying within the steps of the book hive. Ali made a few suggestions, but it took me awhile to image what I would like best.

The solution I came up with for the closure is the real reason I am writing this post. To further stiffen the cover, Ali recommended gluing in a piece of paper that is sandwiched between the folded sides of each cover. What I did was to extend this piece beyond the foredge, long enough so that it would extend beyond the width of the book block, and what’s more,….

….would extend further still so that it could slip into a pocket that I could create between the folds of the front cover pieces.

I glued down paper to fill in around the area that I left for the pocket.

When I glued the folded sides of the front cover together, I left a space for the enveloping closure to slide into. When the closure was activated, my book felt like a complete little package

I felt quite clever, but not for long.

What happened next is that I lost the book.

Can you guess why my book seemed to disappear?

My lovely black closure made my book turn into a black hole. Back to the drawing board.

Hilke Kurzke to the rescue. I had bought her book, Six Ways to Make Coptic Headbands, which she now has available as a digital download quite a few years ago. I looked through this book and decided to give my closure a simple coptic headband. First I practiced quite a bit, then punched some holes on the “spine” of my black closure flap, and did some sewing.

Not only did I like the look of the sewing, but I like how it created a relationship between the spine and the foredge of the book.

Here it is, up close.

Am feeling quite sure it will not be lost again.

All in all, quite a satisfying book making adventure.

exposed sewing · Sewn books

Buttonhole Stitch Book


Buttonhole Stitch for bookbinding
Buttonhole Stitch for bookbinding

It takes me too long to write posts. I am going to try to write lots of short posts this month, not just as an exercise, but also as an excuse to photograph and write about all these books I’ve made but have never shown. The thing is, every book I’ve made has it’s own story, sometimes several stories, and I have this idea that I will pull out these books and tell a little about them.

Buttonhole Stitch Book
Buttonhole Stitch Book  directions on page 136

I made this colorful little book years years years ago….saw directions for it in Keith’s Smith’s first book: It was the only one of his that I had at the time. I decorated the paper using a technique that an artistic high school girl had showed me after she learned it in school. It’s done with crinkled paper, crayons and acrylic paint.  I really worked at figuring out the best papers, colors, and paints to use for the decoration. The next time this young lady came over (she babysat my little boy) she was irritated that I had made papers which she thought were more beautiful than hers, and said that she was sorry she had showed me the technique. I tried to let her know that she could take from me the way that I had developed what I learned from her, and that way we both benefit. I don’t know if I got through.

Wrapped Boards
Wrapped Boards

When I had studied with Hedi Kyle at The Center for Book Arts, when it was still at its Bowery address, I had been thrilled with the way that Hedi demonstrated of wrapping, rather than gluing boards. I worked out a way of using just one piece of paper for the whole book, folding and wrapping from end to end.

a letter from Paulus Berensohn
a letter from Paulus Berensohn

I sent one of the buttonhole books I made to Paulus Berensohn. A friend of mine had recently taken a his coptic binding class. This was over twenty years ago. I had Berensohn’s clay book, and loved the way he expressed himself in his book. I also really liked the binding that he showed my friend, so I made him a book, my way of saying thank you for his inspiring work, and he sent me a lovely letter back. I stored this letter in his Finding One’s Way with Clay book, then lent this book to a friend. Just about two weeks ago, twenty-some years later, my friend Gina returned the book to me. I was happy to get it back.

exposed sewing

Mystery Book

Mystery Book 1

A friend of mine happened upon this little book some time ago. It’s about four inches high and just over an inch thick. It seems like it might be old, but maybe just a bit old. I don’t know. It’s housed in this sweet leather envelope. At least I think it’s leather. This is outside of my expertise. The sewing has the feeling of being old-fashioned gut thread, but, again, this is not something that I generally work with.

Mystery Book 2

The sewing on the cover piece has great personality. See the tiny little stitches on the bottom. I would say that the pages were sewn again the grain, as they are quite wavy, but they are stiff, so I am thinking that they are parchment or vellum?


I don’t recognize this writing at all. Seems like there’s some Greek letters here?


Some pages have a bit of red writing. There are some badly water damaged pages, too, where the writing has bled and smeared.

Mystery Book 5

The sewing is a link stitch. That much I know.


The covers are attached with a stitch through the wooden covers. I don’t know what kind of wood this is, but I suspect that a person who knows their woods would be able to identify this.  So, how about it? Anyone out there have any ideas on what to make of this little gem? I would be very interested in comments or musings, and I would be especially interested in knowing if the writing is just whimsical shapes, or if they are a recognizable language.

In snow again

In the meantime, my sun chair remains buried, nestled into yesterday’s fresh snow. It was 14 degrees Farenheit when I looked at the temp this morning. My daughter had the day off from school again, and I knocked myself out liberating my car from the icy mound that hid it. Before long we’ll all be up to our knees in mud, then it will be too warm. Oh well….hard to believe that just two days ago it was 60 degrees and absolutely glorious, one of the perfect days of the year.  I suppose they are all perfect days…after all, the snow storms keep my little family close to home.

Artful Recycling · exposed sewing · simple book binding

Milk Cap Cover Book

I recently had a hankering to locally source (scavenge) some materials to use to make a book.

I have a bit of a collection of materials from a couple of fine local businesses. One is Blind Buck Interiors, a drapery and upholstery business, which has provided me with a many wallpaper and fabric sample books. Another is the Battenkill Creamery, a dairy which has a dedicated herd from which they process their own milk right on the farm. The milk can be bought in returnable glass bottles topped with a substantial plastic cap, which is not returnable. I have lots of caps.

I took some milk caps and sewed them on to some upholstery samples.

I started this project mostly because I had been admiring some circles that my daughter had been coloring in. She had made a graphically lovely pages of colored in circles, and I wanted to do some colorful circles too. I had some leftover scraps of watercolor washes lying around, so I punched out some circles and glued them to the caps.

I sewed in just a few signatures, using a simple butterfly stitch that I picked up from one of Keith Smith’s books. I used round shoe laces instead of thread, as the proportions seemed right and they were handy. One thing I like about making books is being able to use anything I feel like using to assemble a book.

This little book stands alone in how it stands alone. It already has a new home, but while it was still here every time I saw it I felt happy. It just looks so silly and lovely.