Saturday, June 30, 2007

16th Century Ledger Bindings

I decided that I would make some books using historic book structures that I don't use very often. So I started by making three blank journals based on the 16th Century ledger binding that I learned in a bookbinding class with Susan Mills, and as described by Szirmai in his text The Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding.

These ledgers were typically made with limp covers that were attached to the textblock with tackets and/or leather lacing through overbands on the outside of the cover. Hmmm, there are a lot of reasons why my books are nothing like the ledgers from the 16th Century, but I did try to use the same basic techniques for the book construction.

I sewed the signatures onto leather strips. Then I attached the leather covers by weaving the leather strips through a couple slits on either side of the spine. I cut out the overbands and pasted them in place, covering the leather strips that were woven into the cover. The overbands are stitched at each end and there are tackets on the spine for additional reinforcement.

The dark burgundy book has some X and line stitching on the overbands that is kinda like some of the stitching I've seen in photos of these old books. The others have just plain X stitches. The dark burgundy and the brown books both have tackets on the spine which provide additional security to the binding and cover attachment. I cut the grey overbands a little fancy smancy and decided that I wouldn't put tackets on the spine, just because I think it looks better this way.

The grey one is up for auction on Ebay already and the others might just end up in my Etsy shop. So, moving on, I am going to do some other historic structures over the next few days...medieval limp binding and maybe some secret Belgian binding...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blog Roll

Blogs about bookbinding, or blogs by bookbinders, or blogs that feature books, etc...

  • shackled in bookspace
  • Rag & Bone Blog
  • Lasqueti Press
  • Painting Speech
  • TJ Bookarts
  • Riverlark
  • BookGirl
  • Comfortable Shoes Studio
  • Pistoles Press
  • Bookbinding Etsy Street Team
  • Making Books With Children
  • Ekthesis
  • Tulibri: Handgemachte Bucher und mehr
  • Paperiaarre
  • MatchBoxBook
  • Green Chair Press
  • Jeff Peachey's Book Conservation Blog
  • Barnacle Goose Paperworks
  • Sue Bleiweiss
  • Anagram for Ink

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer collection

I do a lot of work in brown. Various shades of brown and tan seem to be the most popular for my leather journals. Followed by black and red. But a lot of brown. I got an order this morning for two big journals, one brown and one black. Nothing new there.

But before I do any more brown books, I had to finish my little "summer collection" to brighten things up a bit. The other day I pulled out all my most colourful leathers and papers to see what I could come up with.

So I ended up with teal suede with blue paper, orange leather with white paper and pink fastener, dark pink leather with light pink paper, light blue leather with grey paper, black with green paper, black with yellow paper, and salmon with cream paper! All are small, 5.5"x4.5" or smaller. I listed the little salmon book on Etsy today.

Now, back to the browns.

Bloggers blogging about my books

One thing that I've noticed about Etsy, is that all the sellers have their own blog! Or it seems that way. And Etsy sellers are super nice and try to promote Etsy and their fellow sellers whenever they can. Three times now, other Etsy sellers have promoted me in their blogs so I wanted to include them here.

Etsy shop, SeeJayneKnitYarns, sells some fabulous dyed yarns on Etsy. When she received the journal that I made, she wrote about it in her blog.

Enthral is another Nova Scotian Etsy seller and she decided to do a series of blog entries about all the Nova Scotian Etsians that she could find. She prepared a little overview of me and my shop on her blog too.

And most recently, Etsy seller Loomingduo prepared a spotlight on my Etsy shop too. Loomingduo is another Canadian shop that sells jewelery and knitted items on Etsy. They have purchased two of my books and asked me if they could do this little spotlight in their blog.

Thank you SeeJayneKnitYarns, Enthral, and Loomingduo!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ten Journals

Well, I did it. In just four days actually, I made ten journals. On Wednesday I got the request from a local college; they want to give the journals to some award winners at their graduation. So the coordinator dropped by and looked at all the books I had and looked at all the leather and picked out what she wanted. And they would need to have them all ready by Monday.

Since they are all the same size and the same style of binding, I was able to save some time by doing several things at once. They are all 8.5x5.5 with 320 pages.

The first day, I folded and ripped enough paper for all the books and then cut all the leather for the covers. So after that, it was really just a matter of assembly. And I did finish one book entirely the first day. This is how things looked that night:

I was expecting it to be a high pressure situation and initially thought I might need to cancel Father's Day! But I was finished all the books on Saturday night. And apparently they aren't going to be picked up until Tuesday (rather than Monday) so I had truckloads of time.

These books have some little features that I haven't done before. All the straps are attached on the back through a loop - I usually just cut slits in the cover. But also, the first page of each book is a sheet of parchment style paper since they will be writing something on it before the books are presented to the award winners. The rest of the pages are plain white paper. Also, I usually attach a tag to my books on a little string, but I don't think they will want little tags flapping around so I printed my name and info on the last page.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More of the same

These books are now listed in the Etsy shop. I was able to make them quite quickly since I didn't have any other custom orders or requests to fill at the time. Things have I got an order for 10 journals and they have to be ready by Monday, I have 4 days left!

And now my 2 year-old is trying to be helpful.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Workshop on 3rd Century codices

I just spent the weekend at a bookbinding workshop with Susan Mills, offered through the continuing education program at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design). This is quite exciting for two reasons: first, because there are very few bookbinding-related activities in this area so any chance to do stuff with other bookbinders is great; and second, because it was about a fabulous historical binding that I'd never seen or heard of before.

So we learned how to make Coptic Single-Quire bindings. There were 13 of these books discovered in 1945, buried in a jar in Egypt, dating back to the 3rd or 4th Century - often referred to as the Nag Hammadi codices. These would have been account books or other stationery books, where the textblock could be easily replaced whenever necessary. They were all papyrus and most were single quires.

That is the best part. These books have just one stack of pages, all folded together, up to 40 sheets. The text block needs to be pressed for a long time to get it to fold happily. The leather covers were lined with papyrus to make them stiffer. And they have ties at the top and bottom and a wrap-around strap or tie on the fore edge. The original books were quite large so they probably needed all these ties to keep the books closed properly.

I was able to finish three of these books, one is leather and the others have paper covers. They are each made a bit differently. The brown paper book was done entirely non-adhesive. The leather book is the only one with papyrus in the covers. I also added the pretty paper flyleaf to these books. And the dark red paper cover is the only one with pasted endpapers, but no flyleaf.

The binding itself consists of tackets through the quire and cover. I have tried to make tackets before and was never successful, but I mastered it today. All of the books have several tiny tackets in the corners for reinforcement so I got lots of practice.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Big Project

It is finished. This is what I've been doing lately.

This project was a special order from one of my customers and it's big. It is 11 inches wide and almost 8 inches high and it has over 500 pages, weighing 1.5 kg (about 3½ lbs).

In fact, the pages for this book were too big for my press.

I finsihed it off with a rather wide strap. Much wider than I usually cut for my books because of the book's size and weight.

All done! Now moving on to a few other special requests...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Packages from Etsy

Today was a good day because I got three packages with items I'd bought on Etsy. Most of the stuff that comes through the mail slot is either a bill or it is spam. So when I get something in the mail that I actually want, then it is a pretty good day.

First of all, I got two ATCs from willowcatstudio. Such unique artwork, and these cityscapes that I got are really quite intriguing - I think I could look at them for a long time and not get bored!

Next package I opened was a shirt from LovePeaceAndDye. This shirt was offered as a PIF and I decided to grab it (PIF means 'pay it forward' and it's basically a feebie on Etsy, the buyer doesn't have to pay, but they should offer another PIF in return or do something nice for someone). I have offered a PIF from my own store before, but this was the first time that I got one for myself. And it is fabulous!

The last package was a book from greenchairpress. A small letterpress, handbound book called 'Winter' to add to my little collection of handmade books and artist's books. And it is a great addition to the collection and the first letterpress item that I've got. Some day maybe I'll even have a good way to display all these books that I've been collecting. Same with the ATCs... I have several now and they are all in a little wooden box, but I'd like to do something better with them.

Oh, and I finished preparing all the paper for the custom journal that I've been working on and started binding it. The resizing of all the pages produced enough strips of paper for me to make 15 of those little pamphlet-stitch notebooks!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bookbinding 101 - Pamphlet Tutorial

The large custom journal that I’m making right now requires that I trim a long strip off the side of every sheet of paper, to make the pages the right size. So that means, I have a whole bunch of strips of paper for making little notebooks. You can watch...

This is the most basic bookbinding technique; it is called a 3-hole pamphlet stitch. If you’ve ever taken any sort of bookbinding class, then you probably started with this. It is a simple sewing pattern that can be done very quickly and it is very effective for binding a small number of pages. Great for handmade greeting cards, invitations, or small collections of poetry! So skipping the elements of proper paper folding, ripping, grain direction, etc....let's start bookbinding!

I have about 8 strips of paper for my notebook. And I have cut a strip of blue card stock for the cover, the same size as these strips of paper.

Click for bigger photos:

So I gather them up in a neat little pile, then fold them in half.

Then I fold the cardstock over the pages and mark 3 spots on the spine for sewing. I’m skipping a standard step here about preparing a sewing jig…for this little notebook I wouldn’t normally measure or plan the holes at all, but I have marked them so they’ll show up in the photo. Anyway, poke 3 holes through the spine; one in the centre and then two others evenly spaced on each side. It is easiest to poke the holes from the inside. I have a thin awl for poking holes, but you can use a needle too.

Now you need a needle with some thread on it. I’m using waxed linen bookbinding thread…but use whatever. Full strands of embroidery floss are about the same thickness and my thread.
Starting on the outside, put the needle through the middle hole. Pull it almost all the way through, just leaving a short tail on the outside (enough to tie a knot when you’re done….don’t make any knots right now!)

Now on the inside, put the needle through one of the other holes (don’t matter which one) and pull it all the way through until it is snug (but make sure you don’t pull the tail through).

Now with the needle back on the outside, put it through the last hole (the only one you haven’t used yet) and pull it all the way through until it is snug.

Now the needle has to go back through the middle hole. Don’t pierce the other thread that is already through this hole (if you pierce the other thread then you won’t ever be able to tighten the sewing, so don’t do it). Pull the needle and thread all the way through until all the sewing is snug.

Before you tie a knot, make sure that the two ends of your thread are on either side of the thread that is along the spine. Make sure the thread is snug on the inside and the outside, then tie a square knot (right over left, left over right).

You can do whatever you want with the ends of the string – cut them short, or make a bow, or attach shells and feathers if you wish! If you don’t like the ends of the string hanging on the outside of your book, just start on the inside of the fold. When you do that, you will also end on the inside so you can trim the ends of the string short and the knot will be hidden inside your book. I just cut them short here.

And that’s it. A notebook! Yay!

Oh, then I dropped a brick on it. I’ll leave it under the brick overnight. That will compress the folded spine so the notebook will lie flat, rather than swollen.

In a few weeks, I'll explain how to make a notebook using a chopstick.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Blank Book Swap

I've been participating in a Blank Book Swap for handmade books and it was a lot of fun. Basically, bookbinders from all over the place would send handbound blank books to the swap hostess and then the hostess mixed them up and sent them back out to the participants so everyone gets a great new book. Sooo much fun.

I got some really awesome books from the swap. If you want to check them out, there are photos from all the swaps on the Volcano Arts website. I was involved for just a short time, but the swap had been ongoing for about five years so there are lots of photos there. Great place to get ideas for bookmaking.

I even have a book ready for next swap:

Some new books

Lately I've been making mostly leather journals and selling them on Etsy (MyHandboundBooks) and Ebay.

Here are a few of my recent projects. I recently purchased a leather beveling tool and used it on this first book to soften the edges of the leather.

Now I'm working on a custom journal. It is going to be quite a large book (11 inches wide with 500 pages!). Today I picked up the paper for it and need to get started with the ripping. I'll post a photo when it's done.

My new blog

I'm Rhonda, and I'm a bookbinder and book artist. I started making books several years ago when I took my first bookbinding course and I haven't been able to stop.Lately, I have been focusing on historic book structures from the Medieval and Renaissance eras and I try to be as accurate as possible with certain elements of the binding process, while still modernizing other elements thus producing a durable, functional, and beautiful book. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions (or suggestions!) about my books and their bindings. I am a member of the Canadian Bookbinders and Books Artists Guild ( and The Guild of Bookworkers (