Saturday, 29 November 2014

Hand Made Book Tutorial

I love books.  All sorts of books, but especially hand made books.  I've been making my own journals for a little while now and have been asked by a couple of people if I would be able to put together a tutorial.    

So here goes....

You've heard of the Slow Fashion and the Slow Food movements?  Welcome to slow book making.
Be warned.  This post is  l o n g  and image heavy.  Swap channels now if you're not a bookaholic. 

I'm certainly no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy the process of bookmaking.  I love that I can make my own sketchbooks with any type of paper that I have access to at the time, and in a size that suits my purpose.

For this tutorial I'll be making a sketch journal from recycled materials and a 'Draw & Wash' pad.

Ok, lets start.

Collect together the papers you would like to use for your pages.  I particularly like used envelopes.  Can't figure that one out.  I think it's the handwriting on them, especially the envelopes my friends and family send me, and I love the stamps and postage marks.


You'll also need some cardboard for the covers.  Sturdy cardboard.  Some of the supermarket boxes are a bit too weak and squashy (give them a squeeze and see).  I usually purchase 'strawboard' from our local Jackson's art supply store because my books do take a bit of a beating, but the cardboard box in the above photo seems strong enough so I'll give it a whirl.  

For your pages, you can use plain photo copy or printer paper, as it's economical and easily obtainable.  Or if you're like me and like to mix it up, use whatever is on hand...sketch paper, envelopes, kids old school papers, wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper if you're a scrapper.  Consider the size also, and have most of the pages a uniform size eg printer paper for the majority of the pages, other papers that have been cut to that same size, then just a few novelty or odd size pages for interest.


Think about what you would like to include within the pages of your book.  At the risk of sounding repetitive....envelopes are fun!  Great for collecting things like business cards when you're out and about, or if someone gives you a recipe or news cutting that's too big to paste in, it can be folded and popped into an envelope. Look at that Typo envelope, how cute.

You'll also need to choose something that you would like to use for end papers.  End papers are the decorative or coloured pages immediately inside the front and back covers of a book.  They need to be a bit sturdy, not thin gift wrapping paper or copy paper, more like really good quality wrapping paper, manilla envelope paper or scrap booking paper.   End papers need to be cut to exactly the same size as your main book pages.  Sometimes I buy two matching sheets of scrapbooking paper but for this book I'll be using the A4 size envelope seen above in the top left hand corner.  The stamps are great and the writing is really large and scrawly.  No chance of my book getting lost with that inside the front page!


I like to use envelopes for some of my inside pages as well.  It gives me a place to write notes without wasting 'good' sketching paper, plus I just love the recycled and vintage feel of used stamps and crinkled paper.  Call me weird.


Prepare all the pages.  Here I've doctored up a torn envelope with a bit of washi tape.  Ordinary masking tape is also good.  I discovered several different colours of masking tape at Bunnings a little while ago which was the highlight of my day.  Of course if you intend giving your book as a gift, repaired pages might not be your choice, but I love them.

Fold pages in half using a bone folder or back of a teaspoon to make a sharp neat crease and nestle pages together to create signatures.  I've used four pieces of watercolour paper and one novelty (envelope) insert for each, giving me ten pages or 'flaps' per signature.




This envelope needed to be folded just in from the bottom, giving a 'flap' on one side and a functional envelope on the other.


The flap can be used to adhere a photo, brochure, fold-out map, restaurant menu etc.



Pink polka dots.....wheeeee!


These are the signatures stacked together in the order I want them for my book.

Time to stitch the signatures together into a book block.

Make a template for the holes exactly the same height as the pages, fold in half lengthwise and mark the holes, spaced evenly along the fold.  Mark also the 'top' and 'bottom' so if there is a slight discrepancy in your measurements, at least it will be consistent across all signatures and you won't end up with a wonky book block with some signatures sitting higher or lower than others.


Use a phone book to nestle the signature into while you poke holes.  It's best to start with signature 1, and poke holes in only one signature at a time stitching each signature onto the book block as you go.  It's easier to keep a track of what you're doing and your hands don't get quite as sore from poking too many holes at once.  Use an awl (this one is a Clover brand from Spotlight) or you can use a sharp darning needle with a cork pushed onto the 'eye' end of the needle to protect your hand.

It's up to you how far apart the holes are, depending on how big your book is and how many signatures you would like.  Usually a couple of inches (or 5 cm) is adequate for most book blocks.  It doesn't matter whether you have an even or uneven amount of holes.  The stitching will still work the same.


Number the signatures and mark the top edge.  It probably doesn't matter so much with just plain paper, but if you're using any novelty papers you don't want the images or text upside down when you open the book.


Traditionally waxed linen is used to stitch the signatures together, but it's pretty hard to find here in Australia so I use whatever I can find.  This is DMC crochet thread No 10.  I was waxing my own thread for a while, but one evening I knocked a glass of wine across my laptop with one enthusiastic wax filled sweep of the thread.  I had to replace my laptop at great expense....so that was the end of that little experiment.  All the wax's fault of course.

Start stitching the first signature by inserting the needle from outside the signature to inside at the bottom hole. Stitch back through hole number 2 to the outside, through hole 3 to inside and carry on till you get to the top, then continue back to the bottom hole again tying off into a knot on the outside (spine edge) of the signature. 

The reason I like this method above all others is that once I have a couple of signatures sewn together, I can start using my book and carry on adding other signatures when I find lovely papers or as the mood takes me.  This is also a great way to just take a couple of signatures away on a trip for sketching/journaling and then you can add the rest of the pages after you get home if you want to incorporate maps/brochures etc into the binding.


To add the next signature, stitch into the first hole of signature number 2 from the outside as before, and back out through the next hole.  Then hook the needle under the thread of the corresponding hole on signature 1 on the right side of the hole, and then under the thread on the left side of the hole, re-entering the same hole on signature 2 that you just came out of.  Gee this sounds like double dutch! Once you actually do it, it's easy and you will see how signature 1 and two become joined.  Continue to the end, tying a knot when you finish the last hole on signature number 2.  The rest of the stitching is easy after that! 

I realise now that I should have used a coloured thread so that the stitching would be clearer in the shots.  I use this thread a lot and I'm obviously a creature of habit....surprising because I don't even like beige.


Add the third signature and all following signatures the same way, by just slipping the needle under the thread between signatures before re-entering the same hole.  This creates a really lovely chain stitch effect.  Not that you can see it when the book is bound.....only you will know how pretty and secure it is under the covers!  




This is how the finished book block should look, give or take a bit of wonkiness.  Don't stress too much, it's supposed to be handmade!


To support the spine and adhere the book block to the covers, cut a piece of gauze bandage, or if you don't have any like me just use muslin or very lightweight open weave cotton.  It needs to be cut the same length as the height of the book and be as wide as the spine with about an inch and a half (4cm) extra on either side.

I get my book block balanced nicely upright on the table with the help of bulldog clips ready for the glueing and drying


Brush some pva glue along the spine, adhere the gauze and brush some more glue over the top, working the glue into the gauze and making sure that it is well adhered to the book block, but be careful not to let glue run down between the signatures.  Keep the side pieces free of glue.  It's these side flaps of gauze that adhere the book block to the covers, and give support to the book.  


Leave your book block to dry.  It's really important to have the book block in an area that won't be disturbed so that it doesn't get knocked over and end up drying crookedly.  Make sure it's well lined up and looks nice and square. You'll also need to leave it in an area where you can keep going back and looking at it....marvelling at your absolute brilliance.


Glue a book mark on at this point if you'd like to.  Please check the right way up for the book.  I've glued bookmarks on so that they come out the bottom of a book instead of the top....more than once too.  Then I have to just cut it off because it looks so stupid.


Time to make the cover.

Cut the front and back covers a little bit bigger 1/8" to 1/4" on three sides - top, right and bottom.  The covers sit flush with the book block on the left hand side.


Place the book block in between the covers ready to measure the width of the cardboard needed for the spine.


Cut the cardboard for the spine exactly the same width as the assembled covers and book block.


You can purchase book cloth for covering books, or you can make your own.  Soooo..... guess what we're going to do?  

You'll need a piece of fabric.  Try to stick with cotton if you're a 'first-timer' as it's much easier than mucking around with stretch or upholstery fabrics etc.  Try also to choose a patterned fabric to hide any little glitches or glue spats. Once you've made one book....go for it with anything you like.  The possibilities are endless.  For my book I'm using a piece of Liberty print that I've had for years.  It was so expensive I only bought a tiny piece.  You'll also need tissue paper.  You can purchase a sheet of plain white or just use a piece of recycled pattern tissue.  It needs to be one complete sheet though, not bits and pieces.  You will also need a piece of Vliesofix or Heat'n'Bond to adhere the tissue to the fabric.  
This is an important part of the process because if  the fabric is just glued on it's own to the cardboard, it can can warp and stretch, the cardboard can warp and glue can seep through the fabric to ruin the look of the finished book. Sometimes the cardboard will still warp a bit using the tissue book cloth, but it seems to warp itself back again once the book block is glued to the covers.


Before beginning iron the fabric really well, and the tissue.  Now is not the time to be slap dash with your ironing because any crinkles will show up on the cover of the book.  I've ended up with a small ridge across my book because the fabric had been stored folded for so long and my iron is absolutely hopeless.  The steam doesn't work any more. 


Trim the fabric allowing plenty of room to manoeuvre. 

To adhere the tissue to the fabric, place the fabric right side down on the ironing board.  It's a good idea to protect your ironing board with some brown paper or baking paper if you're anything like me and your Vliesofix seems to develop it's own quirky personality.  Cut the Vliesofix marginally smaller than the fabric and adhere glue side down with the iron.  Peel off the backing paper.  Cut the tissue slightly larger than the Vliesofix and adhere using the iron.  
There you go - book cloth!  This stuff costs a fortune online.

Place the covers ready to be glued.  Everything should be lined up nicely with the top and bottom straight. 


The space between the covers and the spine should be at least as much as the thickness of the cardboard plus a smidgeon, to allow the book to open flat.  See the following image.  The best way to measure the thickness is to place an offcut of the same cardboard between the spine and covers (cut edge down) to check and then allow a little extra.


Use pva to glue the covers down on to the book cloth.  Cover the whole surface of the cardboard with glue as any gaps could cause a bit of a bubble over time.  Check alignment with the straight edge of a ruler while the glue is still wet.  Let dry and trim neatly to about 1 1/2" (4cm).  Cut across the corners diagonally leaving the thickness of the cardboard plus a bit.  This will allow a neat fold and the corners to be covered with fabric.


Brush the glue along the edge of the cardboard and then along the fabric, ensuring there is glue in each corner. Fold the fabric over snugly.


Use a bone folder or the edge of a spoon to snugly tuck the corner piece of the fabric against the edge of the cardboard while the glue is wet.  Spend a couple of minutes ensuring all four corners stay tucked and snug against the side of the cardboard.  This might seem a bit 'over the top' but it's really annoying when you have a beautifuly hand crafted book.....with fluffy sticky-outy corners.


Once you're happy that the corners are going to 'stay put', glue the other two sides down.


While the glue is still wet, spend some time with the bone folder or handle of a teaspoon forming dips in the fabric either side of the spine.  Fold and manoeuvre the cover until you are happy about it's 'book like' appearance and feel. 


Align nicely and leave to dry.


Whaaah....getting exciting.  We nearly have a real book.


Prepare the end papers by cutting to exactly the same size as the main book pages.  Fold each in half and make a crisp fold.  


Place the folded end paper into the front of the book under the gauze to check alignment and size.  When you are happy, adhere the folded end paper to the front of the book block using only a thin line of glue (maybe about 1/4" wide) along the spine edge of the front page.  Don't glue the whole page down as sometimes the two different papers (book pages and end papers) can react differently to wet glue and one might bubble or warp more than the other.  It's best to have them adhered together just at the spine edge.


Place a piece of baking paper in between the folded end paper to stop glue getting on to the book block.

Adhere the gauze to the front of the folded end paper by brushing the paper with the glue, folding the gauze over and smoothing down neatly.  If you try to put the glue on the gauze, it can sometimes warp, crinkle or fold and you get glue all over the place.


Brush glue over the whole front side of the end paper.  Glue must cover the whole surface otherwise you can end up with a bubble or two on the inside cover of your book.  You can see here that the manilla envelope I have chosen to work with is already starting to stretch and warp with the wet glue.  Thin paper is far worse to work with. Good quality scrapbooking paper tends not to do this because it's been 'sized' to take mixed media, inks etc.  You might like to try scrapbooking paper first to make it easier on yourself before experimenting with other papers.


Gently fold the front cover of the book over onto the glued surface of the end paper.  Lift up quickly and check that it's in position nicely.  Turn the book over so that the front cover is on the table and brayer or smooth the end paper snugly onto the front cover.


Place a piece of baking paper in between the end paper to prevent the pages sticking together.......


.............and repeat the whole process on the back cover.


Place under a flat weight overnight.


There you go.  One finished, custom designed, hand bound, sweatshop free, crafted with love, artisan book.  
Lucky you.


I'm not sure yet if I'll embellish the front of my book with something.  Now that this post is up I'll take my time to think about what I would like to do.  Maybe a book plate, maybe a fabric label with some lovely stitching?  Slow stitching....yes there's even a Slow Stitch movement!

PS  I don't know if the following image will be of use to you.  It's a shot of one of the pages in another of my journals with notes on the stitching method.  You can make it larger and print it out by hovering over the image, right click and save to your computer.


You're welcome!



















2 comments :

Phil Pogson said...

Thank you so much! I used to work in a printing press years ago and I had forgotten how possible all this was. I will be definitely revisiting my old unused skills now. This post has been the catalyst to wake up some old skills again :-)

Fran Ponta said...

You're very welcome Phil. I'm glad it's been inspiring for you. Everything seems so automated now, it's lovely to return to a gentler time - even if it's only temporary!