Friday, April 20, 2012

Support your local bookie....

...Er, not that kind of bookie. I'm talking about book binding! (Feel free to scroll down for pictures or read below for the background story.)

I'm a sucker for drawing accessories. I can spend all afternoon in an office supply center, all day in a stationary shop, and don't come looking for me for at least a week in a boutique art store. I have quite a collection - calligraphy ink, watercolor samples, loose paper, card stock scraps, handmade notebooks, letterpress cards, fountain pens.... I horde it all. I also have a ton of really expensive sketchbooks that are so gorgeous I'm terrified to use them. As if I'll mar their beauty with less than perfect art. So they sit there, in the closet, collecting dust. Its the cheap, I mean frugally purchased, notebooks that get used. I toss 'em in my bag, spill stuff on them, jot down quotes, do quick sketches, note song lyrics I like; anything and everything goes in them. I almost always have one on me and I use them daily.

The only down side of the cheapies is the paper isn't great quality. Not a big deal when you are writing down your grocery list, but they often can't handle color washes without major warping, pilling, or even tearing sometimes. No beuno. Several watercolorists I know make their own sketchbooks. They buy watercolor paper in bulk, then customize a field journal. Well, I decided I wanted to try it out. If a success, it would be a great way to incorporate (use up) all the loose paper I've collected over the years, while still being able to have thicker paper for painting.

I heard Coptic bookbinding was the easiest method for beginners, as well as the resulting book opens perfectly flat. I watched some YouTube videos to see how, but they were not helping me much. Finally I found a really great pdf at Brooklyn Arts Alliance. They had instructions for several other binding methods too, so check out their site. Super simple instructions with pictures to boot. I gather my supplies and was ready to dig in. You can buy some really elaborate supplies (waxed linen thread, curved needles, thick chip board, bone folder), but I did not want to commit until I knew if this would work, and I also was afraid of making another notebook I was scared to use.

I went pretty basic, trying to use stuff that was laying around:
14 sheets of 8.5"x11" ultra white recycled laser printer paper
 dental floss (what, its close to waxed linen!)
 a normal sewing needle
a thumbtack
 a recycled (cereal, I think) box
some scrapbook paper
craft glue

I cut the paper in half, giving me twenty eight 8.5"x5.5" pieces of paper. I then divided them into seven signatures, with 4 sheets each. Next began the sewing. You need your thread to be the length of your book spine times the number of signatures plus one spine length. I added two spine lengths so I would have plenty to work with. I'm not even going to try to verbally explain the threading, but following the rest of the tutorial's instructions, the whole project was done in under an hours and a half, spread out over three days. The most time consuming part was cutting the paper, folding it and then punching the holes for the needle with the thumbtack. The next day I assembled the book, which went really fast. I did it laying in bed in my comfy PJs. Then over lunch the next day I slapped the scrapbook paper on for a cover and interior liner.

The end result: a fun, 5.5"x4", super thin note book that lies perfectly flat!

As I mentioned above, I used super cheap laser paper since this was an experiment, so its not good for much beyond pencil and light ink drawings. A little technique refining (can you see the lime green edge of the cereal box poking out in the picture above?), and I think these will make cute gifts . Next time I'll add in some different types of paper to the signatures - I can't wait to make more.

two side notes - 1. I didn't mean to do this, but once you exclude four pages for the front cover, title page, dedication, and end page, there are 52 sheets - so enough paper for a doodle a week! I'm well ahead of that rate, but I thought it was a cute coincidence when I noticed it. 2. I just noticed the book cover matches my blog. Another cute coincidence.

Have you tried anything new recently? Were you happy with the end result?

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