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Over the past three weeks, each Thursday night, I’ve been attending a bookbinding class taught by local artist Heidi Steadman. Making a book was one of my creative goals for the year and when I saw the class offering, particularly because it was taught by Heidi, who is wonderfully exuberant, I knew I had to sign up.

Heidi had us make one book each night, starting us out with a small book with accordion-fold pages. For the other two nights, she had us make books using the Coptic stitch for binding.

Here are the books I made:

Hand-made books by Mary Warner, April-May 2011.

Hand-made books by Mary Warner, April-May 2011.

I had no idea what paper to use for the covers the first night, but Heidi had plenty to choose from. I picked the tan, pink, and green paisley for the front of the small book. The back does not match. It shows a series of pink concentric circles that look hand-drawn.

Once I had a sense of the types of paper I could use to cover the book boards (Heidi said that scrapbooking paper was great for this), I spent a couple of hours in the scrapbook paper aisle of Crafts Direct selecting paper. One thing I realized as I was involved in the process, other than it took me an astonishing amount of time to select eight paper designs, was that I wanted to pick interior papers that would surprise people when they opened the books. I was looking for the unexpected.

For the poppy-covered book above, I went with a plain dark brown paper. I wanted something almost black to go with the poppies. Not terribly exciting, but it works. The green book with the eggs has interior paper that looks like old newsprint, but the newsprint features word definitions rather than news stories. I purchased other papers for two books I plan to make later. With these papers, it was easy to pick an exterior paper, but darned hard to find something suitable and unexpected for the interiors.

After putting so much time into picking such beautiful papers, you can bet that I wanted to be extra careful in constructing my books, particularly in gluing these papers to the book boards. Let me tell you right now … I HATE GLUING! No matter how careful I was, I still ended up with glue in places it shouldn’t have been. Further, my extra care made me the slowest gluer in the class. Not that it was a race, mind you, but jeez, I was still gluing while my classmates had washed out their glue brushes and were ready for the next step.

On the other hand, sewing the Coptic stitch was a breeze for me once I got the waxed linen under control. All of my fiber experience paid off with that and I didn’t end up with a mess. (Grr, you glue! I will figure out how to get you under control!)

Here’s a view of the Coptic stitch on my green book. I used a double thread for this book. Heidi had us use a single thread for the first book and double for the second. Doubling the thread makes the stitch pattern more obvious.

Coptic stitch bookbinding by Mary Warner, May 2011.

Coptic stitch bookbinding by Mary Warner, May 2011.

The pages of the Coptic stitch books are plain copy paper (in the poppy book) and resume paper in the green book, with four pages folded in half and nested within each other to form one signature. There are five signatures within each book. They can contain more signatures, but five made completing the books in a two-hour session manageable.

The pages of the accordion-fold book were formed using two long strips of artist’s paper. Heidi showed us how to do a proper accordion fold and how to attach one accordion to another. (Yes, it involves glue.) The folds of the accordion “float” inside the binding, thusly:

Accordion fold book by Mary Warner, April 2011.

Accordion fold book by Mary Warner, April 2011.

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but the two ends of the accordion pages are glued directly to the insides of the covers, serving as the interior papers of the covers.

Thus begins my adventures in bookbinding. If only I could get over my glue neurosis.

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