Covers and Content

Bookbinding, writings, general creativity

Archive for the tag “bookbinding”

The first book I’ve made in far too long

…is a cake!

Made for the Thank God It’s Over party that my NaNoWriMo region had. We have this tradition where we each year choose one strange thing that we all try to put in our novels, and this year it was a drunk seagull, hence the title (Adventures of a Drunk Seagull).



Relief work

One of my favourite ways of decorating a cover is with relief patterns. It’s very easy, really. You can either cut out the design in thin cardboard (or heavy paper) and paste it on before covering the boards, or you cut it out in the board itself and peel away as many layers of the cardboard as you want (make sure you don’t go all the way through, though, that would be embarrassing . Or a combination of the two, of course. For letters and suchlike, you can also use thread. I recommend using thinner thread than you think you will need, or it might get too bulky.

Then there’s a secret trick to make it a lot easier and better looking. Because when you’ve put on the cover materials (don’t use too thick book cloth, and remember that if the pasted-on relief design is in another colour then the board itself, it might be visible through light cover materials… my, this was a long parenthesis, I almost lost track of where I… anyway.), the design is of course going to dissappear completely, and you have to track the edges carefully with a bone folder (if the cover material is delicate, put a paper between it and the bone folder to avoid scratches), and trust me, sometimes it’s very hard to find the design. Even though you just made it yourself.

So, after that confusing paragraph… there is a trick to make this easier. Take a piece of sleeping pad, or some other kind of not-to-fluffy foam material. Put it over the covered relief, and put in the press for a short while (about ten seconds will do it). The foam will press down the design, making it much easier for you to just trace the contours. You can also use the foam when you put the finished book in press, to protect the relief.

A box. Or, wait, four boxes.





I was going to make a post about something completely different, but it was harder than I thought to find all the pictures that I wanted. So here is instead a cool box I made. The swirly things are what keeps the lid shut. It’s also posing with three other boxes I made that aren’t nearly as fancy.

Exhibition(ist) books

I just realised that I never showed you the books I made for our college’s exhibition this spring (the one that I made the paper flowers for).

The exhibition was called Nakenchock, one of those made-up-for-headlines words, translating as Naked chock (I don’t know what the headline word would be in English). I made two books for it.

With the first book, I interpreted the title literally. I made a book where the cover could be flipped back to reveal the spine. I stitched it using coptic stitch (I think) and let the chain stitching be like embroidery on the spine. So the picture of the naked woman is made just by placing the holes of the stitching right.

But we also talked about other interpretations of the theme. Nakedness in a more metaphorical sense, showing yourself as you really are. I got the picture in my head of how I tore myself open (just metaphorically, okay) and let all feelings and thoughts show, turning myself inside out. When translated into book form, it became a book where the pages consisted of traditional cover materials – leather and marbled paper – and the boards were covered with printed excerpts from my diary. I printed it in 4 points or something so that it would still look like text, but would be really hard to read. Even so, the secrets were old by then and wouldn’t make sense to anyone that weren’t there at the time, and since none of them lived in Leksand and would see the book, I felt pretty safe about exhibiting it.

Tough Guide to Fantasyland

This is another book by Diana Wynne Jones, my favourite author. It’s a pocket book, rebound into hardcover using a method I hope I’ll never ever have to use again.

I cut off the spine, so that I had just a bunch of loose papers, then I pasted them together with strips of thin paper, two by two in the right order, to make signatures that I could stitch as usual. The original cover is attached to the first and last signature.

Once that boring part was over, I started on the cover. I’m… not good at plain covers. For this one, I decided to go with the fact that there was a map in the beginning of the book. I drew the map on a smaller piece of paper, folded it using the Turkish Map Fold that I’d learned just the week before, and embedded it in the front cover. Just for the fun of it, and because I don’t know how to stop once I’ve started, I embroidered a compass star thingy on the map cover, and the F in the beginning of the title.

Paste marbling

This is the second-best thing in the world. Or part of the best thing in the world, I haven’t decided. Anyways, the handmade papers I’ve shown you so far have all been marbled on a glue base. These are paste marbled, which is another thing entirely. It’s even easier, for one thing.

To start with, I made paste from wheat flour and water, thinner than I normally use. I mixed it with pigment powder, but any kind of paint works to mix in. I should also mention that before starting this, we had covered the whole room in plastic. Paste marbling gets messy.

I sprayed the paper with water and let it swell a while. If you don’t do this, it’s going to swell when you put the paste-paint-mix on, and get all wrinkly. I painted it with the colors I wanted. Then the fun part started.

Using all kind of tools, from a plastic thingy used when tiling walls, to pieces of string, my own nails, tape and a small toy car, I made patterns in the paint. There really are no limits to what you can do with this technique – just remember to spray the paper with water every now and then, or the paste will dry too early.

The smallest book I’ve ever made

If you’ve said A, you have to say B. In Sweden, at least. It’s a saying, I mean… okay, what I really mean is that I cant go talking about the smallest book I’ve ever made without showing a picture of it. As a bonus, you get a picture of Stéphanie, the friend that I mentioned in my last post.

Okay, so that’s actually the biggest book I’ve ever made, or helped to make. It was the guestbook for our exhibition Kometen Kommer, and we wanted it to be impressive. But look closer, down in the left corner of the big book…


There it is! 4mm high (or not-so-high). Stiched with a strand of my own hair, because I didn’t have any thread that was fine enough. This is the only time my fingers have felt too big when bookbinding. I did almost everything with the point of a needle.

The cover paper wraps around the front edges of the cover to become a pasted-in endpaper (there’s a word for that, I know it). I had to thin it out with sand paper to make it flexible enough to use. The bookblock is of very thin japanese paper.

I think I could make something smaller…


Another book

I love books with open backs. Not using them – they’re far to flimsy for me – but making them. There’s just so much you can do with them.

This one has some sort of jewelry theme. A figure with a hanging necklace on the front, a necklace clasp as fastening, and made with oriental stitching with glass beads and velvet ribbon.

Weaving a book

This is a book I made in my first year in Leksand. We had just learned stitching over ribbons stretched across the spine, and I wanted to combine it with the ribbon-weaving I’d learned the previous year at Mora Folkhögskola. All my weaving equipment was packed in boxes somewhere (still a often-encountered problem for me, whatever the subject), so I made my own using cardboard (If anybody knows the English name for this thing, please tell me. I call it bandgrind).

I let three warps run parallel with a few centimeters’ space between them, each one about half a centimeter wide. I punched holes in the paper with the same spaces between them.

After weaving a couple of decimeters of the ribbons, I started stitching the book. When the thread came out on the spine of the signature, I let it run through the warp, becoming part of the weft. When the book was as thick as I wanted it, I weaved the rest of the warp.

The cover is embroidered with one of the threads I used for the ribbon, with holes punched in it that the ribbon passes through, thus securing the cover to the bookblock. The spine is glued and rounded, which was a bit of a mistake. The brownish glue didn’t really look good on the ribbons. Next time I’ll make something even better. I have an idea about learning tablet weaving – then I could weave patterns, and maybe even letters to form the title of the book!

Life likes me

The sad news first (sad to me, that is) – The machine bookbinding company where I worked four years ago went broke and closed. I’m really sorry for that, a little bit because I was thinking of asking for work there again, but mostly because I really liked the place and the people. It was my first real job, and I was good at it and liked there.

The good news, then – They had some six packs of paper (and that’s the big, uncut sheets of paper I’m used to, about 70×90 cm), some books and some other interesting stuff. And a friend of my father who worked there (the one who got me the job in the first place) made sure I got all of them! They’re now crammed into my really full storage room waiting for when I have space enough to make a small workshop. 

And I got a cutting machine from another of my father’s friends, so now I really have all I need to get started. Except space, of course.

I can’t really say how fantastic this is. 

Post Navigation