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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Projects in progress…

Firstly, I’ve had quite a few updates on the Friends & Faux project over the last week or so, which I have thus far failed to update here on the blog.  Bear with me, I will be caught up soon! In the meantime, I just wanted to share a couple of projects I’ve recently been playing with…

A couple of weeks ago, I helped out a new friend (illustrator & comic artist Sally Jane Thompson) with a comic & bookmaking event.  The event was held as part of a local ‘celebration of drawing’ called the Big Draw, which sees events held across the city, with the aim to get as many people drawing as possible.
(If you have access to A4 paper, there’s a short booklet you can print to celebrate the celebration!)

Now, I am really not much of an artist, but in the spirit of the day, I decided to doodle some doodles, while I was helping out the kids – just to show that you really don’t need to be able to draw to actually draw something.  If you see what I mean!  I had pre-printed some mini-zine templates (which I have just added to the mini-zine freebie page – enjoy!) because I thought some people may find a completely blank page slightly daunting.  I personally definitely found it easier to start drawing when I had a manageable-sized space before me!  This is what I doodled on the day:

I started with the ‘flowers’ in the lower left corner, then worked my way around anti-clockwise.  I stumbled upon zentangling about a year ago, but despite being quite enthused about it at the time, I never really got into it.  I really enjoyed my afternoon of doodling, though, and am definitely going to finish off what I began.  This morning, I discovered a nice blog, the Open Seed, which has inspired me to try my hand at a couple of new patterns, and reminded me that I really need to get going with completing the above!

The other current work in progress I wanted to mention began in a supermarket.  No, really, it did!  I fell in love with a multipack of Dorset Cereals muesli boxes, and had to have them, despite not having a clue what to use them for, at the time.  I banned Corey from opening them, so that he didn’t ruin the boxes in the meantime, of course  (I’ve since emptied the mini packets out into a single ‘lucky dip’ muesli mix).  It was soon quite self-evident that what these boxes really wanted to be was notebooks, so after a quick glance through my craft library for ideas, I was ready to play:


I chose Japanese stab stitch for the binding, then proceeded to execute a very non-thorough job of researching!  As a result of my lack of planning: you can see that the stitching is very unevenly spaced, because I didn’t stop to think about measuring etc; I couldn’t have as many pages inside as I wanted, because I only had a pushpin to hand rather than a bookbinder’s awl; and I also didn’t leave a wide enough margin on the lined pages I printed off for the inside.  But overall, I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I definitely plan to make some more – after a little spot of fine-tuning!  Lucky I like learning by trial and error (and lucky I like alliteration). 😉

Other things I like about this project: I like the ‘hemp leaf’ stitch pattern, which I thought complemented the leaf design of the cereal packet nicely; and I like the little pocket that I made on the inside front cover, by folding in some of the box flaps (I cut most of the flaps off).  I also love that there is a recipe for making lemonade on the back cover, although I can’t take any credit for that! 😉  Once I’ve played around with the idea a little more, I’ll probably write a tutorial; but if you want to experiment in the meantime, this is a good place to get started.

Dog Eared

I’ll tell you, back in January when I stumbled across Dog Eared Town on Etsy, it made me very very happy (even amidst all the upside-down-ness of an iminent & unwanted or anticipated house-move).  You see, I actually stumbled across Dog Eared magazine (a journal of the book arts) maybe a year or more ago, when I was going through a phase of investigating pretty much anything/everything related to bookbinding and artist’s books.  Problem was, the website I found told me about the magazines, but there was no way to actually buy them… 😦  They seemed to be exactly what I wanted – but I couldn’t have them!

So happily, now that has all changed 🙂 (see, smiley face, now).  I have already bought 4 back issues – although really 7, as one of them is a bumper compilation of the first 4 issues, and who knows how many more will lure me in the coming months…  Each issue covers a different area of the book arts, from journals to zines (as illustrated!) to collage to marketing, to the tools you use, so whatever your own specialism, you’ll more than likely find something of interest.

Without wishing to be rude, they are really just overgrown zines; but they are absolutely brim-packed to the gills with good quality journalism (so I guess that is where the ‘journal’ qualification comes in), lots of well-written and entertaining feature articles, how-tos, and well, just lots of ideas.  And I love ideas.  Not that I don’t already have enough of my own…  Anyway, don’t take my word for it, check out the Dog Eared Etsy Store for yourself.  It’s cool.  And will hopefully make you as happy as it made me :-D.

Back online! (& Corey’s bookbinding project!)

Such a relief to have home internet back, finally!  I can’t believe it took 2 weeks to fix, but I’m not going to complain too loudly, in case they snatch it back again…!  It’s going  to take me a few days to catch up on all the stuff I just wasn’t able to do whilst borrowing free wi-fi in cafes etc, but then hopefully, everything will be back to relatively normal…

In the meantime, here’s a post I wanted to share with you last week, but couldn’t upload the info.

Corey is not generally the crafty type, but living with me he can’t help but hear about at least some of the ideas I come up with, and clearly I have managed to firmly plant the goodness-of-re-purposing concept in his head, with or without him realising it…!

corey bookHe was producing a booklet/promo pack, to send out to promoters with regard to a trio he has put together. He wrote it, printed it all out, then came to the problem of binding it. We don’t actually own a long-arm stapler, because although I seem to spend most of my life producing booklets of one type or another, I hand-stitch the bindings. However, Corey is not one to be deterred by such minor inconveniences. He thought to himself, “I need a stapler. I know: a paperclip is like a giant staple.” Really? Well, yes – if you make it so.

cover complete 1I’ve just written a zine called ‘Cover-button Moon’ (full details to follow shortly), which is – perhaps unsurprisingly – all about cover-buttons – how to make them, & things to do with them. I wanted to include some buttons with the zine, so I extended the zine covers, and pressed 3 buttons down the right hand side. I then threaded a piece of string through the button loops on the reverse, to seal the zine closed.   Then I thought, actually, if I space the buttons closer together, instead of securing the buttons with string, I could use – you guessed it! – a large paperclip. (I hadn’t mentioned this to Corey, by the way.)  Great minds, and all that…

I’ll post a tutorial for the above button closure once I’ve made up a sample with photos, but in the meantime, here is the ridiculously simple paperclip binding a la Corey:

Corey bookbinding
This tutorial will be added as a PDF to the Freebies section.