Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter

This has nothing to do with bookbinding, and I don't usually post about things that are so totally unrelated, but I'm making an egg-ception today. We dyed our Easter eggs using all-natural homemade dyes this year, and I wanted to document the process so that I can refer to it, and approve upon it, again next year.

Step One
Prepare the eggs. Either hard-boil the eggs, or blow them out. I did some of each. In the end, I like the blown out hollow eggs best. Although with a toddler here who is very interested in playing with the pretty eggs, the hard-boiled eggs are more durable, of course. After the eggs were boiled/blown, I also washed them with a little soapy water. I had read that eggs have some natural oils that might alter the effectiveness of the dyes, so washing with a little soapy water would remove it.

Step Two
Make the natural dyes.
1. Purple Cabbage: I put about a cup of chopped cabbage into two cups of boiling water and then simmered it for a half hour. When it was cooled, I put it though a strainer to remove the cabbage and was left with just the liquid. (It was very purple. I was expecting purple eggs, so I also used the purple cabbage dye, slightly altered, to make a blue dye. See "Blue Plan B" below.)
2. Onion Skins: I put about a cup of yellow onion skins into two cups of boiling water and let it simmer for a half hour. When it was cool, I put it through the strainer to remove the onion skins.
3. Turmeric: I put two tablespoons of turmeric powder into two cups of boiling water and let it simmer for a half hour. When it was cool, I put it through a mesh bag to strain it, and was able to remove most of the sediment to get a pretty clear yellow liquid.
4. Beet juice from a can of beets: I had saved some of the liquid from a can of beets for this, so I used it, just as it was. I didn't boil it. But I probably should have. (I got a couple very pretty pink eggs from using this beet juice but within 24 hours, they started to turn brown and looked terrible. So I don't recommend this for dying your eggs. Boiling chopped beets to make a pink dye might be a better approach since I read about other people using beets with no complaints).
5. Spinach Juice: I had some spinach juice so I thought I'd try it to make some green eggs. I boiled it, and noticed that the water turned brown. I discarded this brown water since I didn't want to make brown eggs - I can get pretty brown eggs at the store! So, I tried using some of the raw spinach juice, but it didn't work. See "Green Plan B" note below.

Step Three
After the dyes are cool, put them into containers, such as a glass measuring cup or a jar, and add about two tablespoons of white vinegar to each container.

Step Four
Submerge the eggs in the dyes. I kept the containers in the refrigerator although I don't know if that really matters. I checked on them periodically, and found that most of the colours started to work after about a half hour. The photo just above, shows how they looked after about an hour. Look at that pretty pink! The longer they were submerged, the darker the colours became. I took out some eggs after just a couple hours and I left some for about six hours so I got different shades of each colour.

Step Five
When you are happy with the colour of the eggs, remove them from the dyes and let them dry. That's it. All done!

And go ahead, pour your leftover dyes down the drain. All natural. No harm.

A very pretty batch of Easter eggs, don't you think? In this next picture you can see what is happening to the pink egg. It started to get blotchy, then turned brown, and I threw it out yesterday when I saw that it had turned grey. I had made two pink eggs, and the same thing happened to both. Next year, I will perfect the pink egg.

Blue Plan B
I wanted to have some blue eggs. So, something from somewhere in the back of my mind, was telling me that if I added baking soda and vinegar to the purple cabbage dye, that it would turn blue. And it did! So in the photo above, the "Blue Plan B" is actually purple cabbage dye with vinegar and baking soda. If you try this, make sure you have lots of room in the container because it really fizzes up when you add the baking soda! In the end, the original purple cabbage dye (without the baking soda) also resulted in blue eggs. I thought they would be purple, but they are the darkest blues shown in the pictures here. The teal blues are the ones made with the altered purple cabbage dye.

Green Plan B
The raw spinach juice didn't work at all. After a couple hours, the eggs were still white, so I discarded the spinach juice and put "Green Plan B" into action. I had blue dye. I had yellow dye. Shouldn't I be able to combine them and get green dye? So, I made some more purple cabbage dye, added the baking soda and vinegar and got a new little batch of blue dye. I also boiled some more turmeric and got a new little batch of yellow dye. Then I mixed them together and got green! I didn't cook them as long because I was rushing a bit, so the dye was pale and consequently the eggs were also pale. But I think if I had made a more concentrated dye, I could have got brighter or darker green eggs. I will try again next year.

Perhaps someday I can connect this with a bookbinding project. I'd just have to make natural dyes for book cloth... I think the process would be very similar. Happy Easter, anyway!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Making Journals with repurposed materials

A while ago, I conducted a workshop at Inkwell, where we made journals entirely from recycled materials. Let me introduce, the Secret Scottish Rubbish Binding. I learned this book structure from Emma Fraser, a conservator and bookbinder, in Scotland. She invented this neat little book structure and always made it with box board for the covers, discarded papers and envelopes for the pages, and it is actually bound together with a plastic bag, all rubbish, hence its name.

Here's an example of a Secret Scottish Rubbish Binding, that I had brought to show the participants before we started.

Participants were asked to bring their own box board to the class, so there was a good variety of cover materials: cereal boxes, tissue boxes, shipping boxes, etc. We used a variety of discarded papers for the pages, and colourful plastic bags for sewing. Here I am, demonstrating the "sewing" process using a plastic bag.

Here is some of the work in progress. There does seem to be a lot of rubbish scattered around on the tables!

Finished books, and a shot of some spines so you can see how the plastic bag looks.

I also took this little sample with me. This is the same book structure, but it's made from new materials, no rubbish included. I wanted to show the workshop participants that they could use the technique this way as well and it looks pretty, but I honestly like the rubbish books better.

EDIT: June 12, 2022
When I originally posted this, I included a link to some instructions but that link stopped working years ago. Finally, I have a new link for you. Emma has posted a video of herself making a book using this technique, and you can watch her do it here:

Have fun with it!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Barn Owl Notebooks

I like carving linoleum and rubber stamps even though I don't seem to have much time for it. Last week, though, I found time to make this Barn Owl stamp to use on notebook covers.

I also did some Snowy Owl sketches and may try him next. But for now, if you're in the Halifax area, these small Barn Owl notebooks are now available at Inkwell Boutique.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Congratulations to the Weekly Planner winners!

Today I randomly selected the winners for the two weekly planners that I am giving away (see pictures here). There were a total of 67 entries, combined from here on my blog and from my Facebook page. I numbered all the entries, starting with the blog comments (1 to 53) and then the Facebook comments (54 to 67). Then I used the random number generator at to pick a number from 1 to 67.

The first number it selected was 62. That means, commenter #62, Dar Miller, wins the brown leather weekly planner!

The second number it selected was 11. So commenter #11, Katy The Country Blossom, wins the purple weekly planner!

Congratulations Dar and Katy! I hope the rest of 2013 is wonderfully organized as a result.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St Patty's Day

Since it's Saint Patrick's Day, I did a little nostalgic browsing through my photos for green things! Here are a few that popped out:
In fact, I seem to have lots of green things. If you want to see more, visit my flickr pool, using the label "green" at and have a fun day today doing Irish things (or not)!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

2013 Weekly Planner Giveaway

I have two 2013 Weekly Planners to giveaway! All you have to do is leave a comment here and tell me how much you want it. Or tell me how it will help you get organized for the rest of the year. Just tell me whatever you want to tell me, really. If you want to get extra entries, you can tweet (include @myhandboundbook) or share on your own blog (and leave a link)! Comment here to tell me you've done those things. Be sure that your comments include an email address or something that will allow me to contact you if you win.

So, as I said, I have two planners to giveaway.

First one. This planner is my standard leather weekly planner, with a camel-brown wrap-around cover and a strap. In addition to the standard 2013 calendar pages, there are lots of extra blank pages, a pocket page, and there is a ribbon bookmark too. Value $30.

Second one. This is a simple, slim, purple planner with a cover made from gorgeous St Armand handmade paper. It's a sturdy cover and it has a little pocket built into the back cover where you can store a pen or some business cards or whatever fits in there. The front cover is stamped with my original 2013 rubber stamp. Value $10.

I will accept entries here on my blog, and on my Facebook page, until the end of the day on March 20th. Then I'll number all the entries according to the order they are received, and use a random number generator to pick two winners. The first number drawn will win the brown leather planner. The second number drawn will win the purple planner. I will ship them anywhere in the world. So leave a comment and cross your fingers!