Little Black Book

May 17, 2015

Bookmaking in the Afternoon

Bookmaking in the Afternoon

Sometimes I make a book for no other reason than it’s something I like to do. I like folding papers and sewing them together. I like working out the details: the  color and weight thread to use, which folds to make, what papers to use, what sewing pattern to follow.

3 signature book in progriss

Papers folded, sewing stations pierced

I have quite a number of heavy weight black paper strips  left over from last week’s school residency. This paper has a linen-like finish, it feels good in my hand, and it is rich and beautiful. I wondered what kind of small book I could make. The strips are 4 inches tall and 26 inches wide (about 11 cm x 68 cm). I folded a number of accordion pleats from the center out,  left enough unfolded to so I could fold in a cover.

I have stacks of interesting papers which I like to mix up when I’m making a book. I used white, beige flecked, gray, graphing, and soft white papers, cut to 4″ x 6″.

3 signature book before sewing

Getting ready to sew

At each stage of construction this book looked good to me. This is a reliable sign that the finished product will have some charm.

3 signature book shwoing thread insideAfter this book was sewn together it wanted to pop open all the time. Here’s something I’ve never seen anyone write about: often books don’t seem to want to stay shut when they’ve first been made. A book like this should be placed on bookshelf, fully closed and between other books, and a week later that same book that was popping open now remains shut. It’s like the papers have to get used to the idea of having been transformed into a book.

3 signature book pocketThe cover of this book is two thickness of paper, created by folding over the ends. I wanted the fold to stay shut, but didn’t feel like gluing it down, so I sewed it down, and the folded over paper became a pocket. .

3 signature book other pocketThere’s a pocket on the other end of book, too. I sewed one of the accordion flaps on to the cover to make a narrowe pocket.

4  3 signature books

Over the last few days I’ve made 5 or 6 of these books, trying to work out what looks best to me. The book on the left is where I started. First thing to change was the sewing. It just didn’t look good to me. I had seen as description of this linked binding and wanted to try it out, so that’s what I did. I like this change in sewing (though it used far more thread: 45″ of 4 ply waxed linen) , but it seemed to me that the signatures were too thick, so the next book the signatures were made from 5 papers rather than eight (5 papers = 10 leaves = 20 pages, and since there are three signatures, that makes this book 60 pages long). All good. But then I wanted to see if liked a more colorful spine, so I tried out purple. I’m not sure whether I like the black or the purple better, so now I’m stuck, and will stop here for now. Which is good thing because I need to get ready for teaching tomorrow.

I like coming up with ways of using beads in bookmaking, As a teaching tool, it’s one of those carrots that I can offer students when they are faced with the drudgery of folding many pages perfectly: when the folding is done, their reward is to come pick out their beads. Even if they get to choose, say, only three beads each, it’s still enough to motivate the students to stay on task.

(By the way, there are much simpler ways than I am showing here of using beads on books, Some  less ambitious beading could be done using yarn with pony beads with a modified pamphlet stitch or on the string part of a necklace book, but that’s not what I want to write about tonight.)

These five books are bound with a simple pamphlet stitch. The sewing is done with three holes (stations) going through the spine, one near the top (head), one in the middle and the last one near the bottom (tail). The sewing begins inside the book at the middle station. When the needle emerges from the middle it’s time to add the right amount of beads to fill up the length of thread that takes to get to the top hole. Go through the top hole with the needle and thread then, now on the inside of the book, bring the needle and thread down to the bottom station, go through to the outside of the book, add more beads, go back into the middle of the book, and tie off.

This one is made with heavy paper covers. When working with paper covers, I like to double the paper so that the covers feel twice as substantial.

Here’s the inside of the same book, with the covers doubled up. There are eight folded pieces of paper in this book.

To created the double line of beads I did the pamphlet stitch twice. The first time I reemerge into the middle station I made sure to pass the needle and thread over the long middle stitch before starting the second pamphlet stitch.

A book showing Rowan Rainwalker's beading using a Chain Stitch on the book spine

Now this is the stitch that is bit trickier. It’s an interesting beading pattern done on the chain stitch that Keith Smith describes in his book 1,2,&3 Section Sewings, on page 220. Keith Smith describes the sewing without using beads. It’s done by first making two sewing stations about 1/8″ apart near the head of the spine, then making sewing stations about a half-inch apart the rest of the way down the spine. The sewing begins on the inside of the book, going out the first station, then into the second station, then making a knot with the end of the thread . Next, bring the needle and thread out through the third station, bring the needle and thread up to the first stitch  on the spine, pass the needle and thread under the this first stitch (on the outside of the book) so that the thread is caught by the stitch, then push the needle and thread back into the third station. The spine now has its first chain. Continue in this matter until there are chains all the way down the spine, then tie off at the last station.

The first five spines here are all chain stitches (the second five are all pamphlet stitches). The third, fourth and fifth books from the left are done by adding putting the needle and thread through a bead both when it first comes out of a sewing station, and then again just before it goes back into the same sewing station.

The sewing pattern on the first two books in the photo above are still exactly the chain stitch. The difference, the reason that there is that alternating look to the beads is that one bead goes on when the thread emerges from the sewing station, and then a second bead going on just before the needle and thread re-enter the same sewing station. My young friend Rowan figured out this pattern one day when I gave him a book to sew. He wanted to use a bead that was too small to be entered through twice, so, rather than using a different bead, he worked out that he could just use two beads per chain, one in the coming and one in the going. I am wild about this variation!

The beads that I use on these books all come from the Dollar Store.  The colorful beads are wooden, and the white ones are plastic. I like using these inexpensive beads because they feel whimsical, and also because I feel reasonably sure that no one will be tempted to take apart the book just to scavenge the beads. For thread, I generally use a two- or four-ply waxed linen thread, but any strong thread or string will work as long as it fits through your needle and your beads.

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