At Home With Handmade Books

If you are anything at all like me, you will find that a very comforting title!  I have just treated myself to this lovely book by Erin Zamrzla, even though it is quite expensive over here (£18.99 for a softcover!) and even though I have many many other bookbinding titles on my shelves (if creative bookbinding is something you’re interested in but you don’t know where to begin, allow me to highly recommend anything by Alisa Golden!).  So what makes this one different?

Well, a lot of it is in the presentation, which is very simple and unfussy, but in a considered way that is intrinsically interesting.  The first third of the book presents the photo gallery of projects and the latter portion the instructions.  This is a formula that I have disliked in other books, but here works well, due to good quality instructions and repeated (smaller) photos.  But I guess the real reason I don’t mind is mostly because the projects themselves are so appealing.  There is nothing extravagant about this book or its contents and the projects, too, have an air of calm simplicity.  There is a wide variety of techniques, different stab stitch bindings, different ways of presenting similar ideas, and showing how easy it is (/can be/seem) to create something original and interesting from a very standard starting point.  Yes, I think that is what I like about it.  It is not (only) a book of projects but a book of adaptable ideas and inspiration.

You will find all the usual suspects within the pages of this book: accordion folds, envelope pocket books, various stitch bindings, but it’s the ideas for use, and the (often re-purposed) materials used in their construction that makes them interesting:  a menu/place card, read & write bookmark, return to sender mail book (above right)  – actually, maybe those appeal to me just because they tie into my own preference for dual-function…  But I also am itching to try the very simple bead binding  (right) and ‘ledger stitched’ seed packet book (lower right), too.  This project is of course far more effective if you have such prettily illustrated seed packets to hand as shown in the pic; but I think the standard flower packet photos would have a (slightly different) charm of their own…

I used to be far more experimental in terms of my zine bindings/construction, and have  definitely got into a saddle-stitch and ‘standard’ mini-zine rut of late.   That’s mostly due to practicality of multiple reproduction & the simplifying factor of re-using my existing templates, but this book has inspired me to start thinking a little more creatively again, even if only for some one-offs or limited runs.  I can see that some of the ideas in this book would not really be much more labour intensive than the basic 3-hole saddle stitch, so it’s time to shake off the dust and try something if not new exactly, then at least different than my usual. 🙂

Okay, I have a question for you!  I’m not a tea drinker so the Tea Bag Tracing Book project shown left intrigues me.  The pages are made from actual tea bags, and the accompanying text says, “If you are an avid tea drinker, you will collect the pages in no time.”  But surely if they had been first used for tea then the pages would be stained in tea colours (and also crumpled)?  Would it be practical to wash & iron a tea bag after use to re-use as a book page?  Or are empty tea bags available that could be opened out and used as pages without first having been used for tea (which would surely defeat the object of re-purposing…)?  I’m genuinely slightly puzzled by this, so am looking forward to enlightenment from one of you clever people ‘in the know’ on the subject! 😉

ETA see comments below for, amongst other things, why I was stupid to ask the above questions! 😉

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5 thoughts on “At Home With Handmade Books

  1. Well, I don’t know about UNused Tea bags, but I’ve made a small book, and created several artworks using the used variety…I love the random tea stains and crinkliness!

  2. I do believe that tea bags are often made from abaca. If you want the look of a tea bag without the actual tea stains, you can fake it with a Japanese paper with a similar texture (which is pretty much what the tea bag is made out of). However, if you like the reuse idea and like the smell of tea, I doubt you’d have a problem ironing them out. I know someone who even made a quilt out of used tea bags. The paper is surprisingly strong. That said, I’m as puzzled as you are if the idea is to make the book the way they have it pictured with used bags. I’m thinking they expect you to empty them and use them unused?

    • Thanks, both! Perhaps you’re right Ellen, and the idea is to empty out and use them in the book unused (perhaps use a strainer/infuser for the extracted tea?) but even so, I would have expected them not to look quite so…clean. Nice to know it’s not obvious to tea drinkers either, though!

  3. Okay, now I’m feeling ever so slightly stupid! The book does actually explain quite clearly in the first step of the instructions to use the tea bag, cool it, remove staples/string, discard tea leaves, rinse bag & lay flat to dry. I somehow completely missed this yesterday! Corey suggests that the reason the bags are not stained is because they are from a herbal tea. So there you have it – ‘mystery’ solved! Thanks hubby… 😉

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