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Book-Binding 101

19 Sep

Well, it’s that time of year, and I’m back on the proverbial horse. I had myself a gosh-darn wonderful summer, but now school’s back in session and my summer ideas are finally starting to take physical form.

Which brings me to my first serious, down-and-dirty foray into bookbinding, trad.-style. 

It all started with my boyfriend’s birthday. I wanted to give him (along with a homemade dreamcatcher, stay tuned for that tutorial) a book of love poems. It seemed like a no-brainer, to buy “The Book of Love” from my all-time favorite poet, Rumi. But when I got home with it and started flipping through, I was thoroughly disappointed with the selection, and even some of the translations. So I pulled out my handy-dandy laptop and started compiling my own collection. 

I used Pages, Apple’s word processing program, which worked like a dream. To make your own book, be sure to start with a blank canvas, as opposed to a blank word processing document. It makes moving things around and changing page order super easy. 

But remember! Pages should be not be printed in standard numerical order, because of the way the book is bound!

The text block of a traditional hardcover book is made up of multiple “signatures”. A signature is a small grouping of pages that are folded together:


Signatures


I used signatures of 3 full sheets of paper, when folded this translates to 12 pages (front and back). If you are making a book (as opposed to a blank notebook), each page of your document (don’t forget, we’re in landscape, not portrait!) should translate to two pages in your book. For three sheet signatures and double-sided pages, follow the guide below for each signature. Also be aware that in binding the first and last pages of the text block will be glued to the inside cover, so at the least, your very first 2 and very last 2 pages must be left blank.





What You’ll Need

Paper 
(1 sheet = 4 book pages. Your paper must be slightly smaller than your covers when folded in half)

Sturdy thread and needle
(waxed linen is best, but button, craft and upholstery threads are also suitable)

Scissors

2 tabs
(strips of scrap card stock or heavy paper)

Awl

White glue
(I like Sobo, but other brands like Elmer’s work, too)

A stack of books
(or the like, to apply pressure while glue is drying)


Covers
(I use covers from old books, which can be found for $1 or less a piece at most secondhand shops, though you could also make your own.)

X-acto Knife

Metal Ruler or Straight Edge

Bookbinding spine tape
(This can be purchased at a specialty store, but I have opted to make my own using scrap fabric or leather and glue)




First, we must assemble our signatures. For accuracy, fold each sheet of paper individually, then fit three folded sheets inside each other to form each signature.


Folding

Assembling

Assembled signatures


The next step is to prepare your tabs. These are strips of paper that will be sewn into your binding and glued to the inside inside cover to stabilize the connection between text block and cover. It is best to use a heavy paper or light card stock. They should look something like this:

Tabs lying on top of one signature


Next, using your tabs as a guide, you are going to measure and mark the holes you will use to sew your signatures together. There will be six holes in each signature, one on either side of each tab makes four, plus two more near the outer edges.

Poke through them with an awl, and they will look something like this:


Text block ready for binding


I like to use one of the sheets from my first signature as a guide to punching the holes in the rest of the signatures. This way, you don’t have to measure every time and you still get holes that line up.


Next, thread your needle and knot one end of the thread. Taking up one signature, push the needle through from the outside to the inside of the right-most hole…




… and come out the next hole. With your tabs in place, go back in through the third hole.




Continue sewing in and out of your holes until you get to the sixth and last hole. It should look like this:



Now, pick up your second signature and sew into the left-most hole and back down the spine, just like the first signature. 



Before we can move onto the third signature, we must connect the first two at this, right-most edge. You can do this by pulling the knot out a little bit, looping around it and through the loop, do this twice to create a knot.

Knotting the first two signatures together

Now you can sew into the first hole of the third signature and continue as with the last two. When you reach the other end, instead of knotting the signatures together as you did to connect the first two, you can simply loop your thread around the top stitch that connects the first and second signature to connect the third.




Continue like this until all your signatures have been sewn together, knot the very last ends together and cut the thread.





 Now you smear a liberal, but not excessive, amount of while glue along the spine, over the thread and tabs. Squeeze your text block together nice and tight, smooth out any globs of glue, and put it under a stack of books until it dries. Be sure everything is aligned before you leave it to dry, because it will stick that way!





While your text block dries, you can put together your cover. 

Note that I will show you how to make a cover from an existing book cover. However, if you would like to make your own cover, it is certainly possible and I would recommend consulting another source for advice on that process.

Remove the covers from the original book using a metal straight edge, such as a ruler, and an X-acto knife. 

My sweet book

Cutting the covers off



Now, put the book’s old innards aside. Especially if it has interesting pages inside, I like to choose two to glue to the inside covers, or save them for other art projects. (** See below for a side note about other recycled book projects.)

For the spine, if you’re a lucky duck like me, perhaps you happen to have some scrap leather or suede lying around. If not, you could also use fabric, but it should be a nice tight weave, cut on the bias to prevent fraying. If you can find it, you could also purchase some bookbinding spine tape.

Measuring your spine is very important. You need to leave just the right amount of space, and no more for a good-looking book. Measure the thickness of your text block and your covers:

For example, my text block was 3/8″ thick, and my covers were 1/8″ thick a piece. Multiply the thickness of one cover by 3, to account for both covers, and some ease. For me, this equals 3/8″. Added to my 3/8″ text block, I have 3/4″. This is the size of the gap you will leave between the two covers. Add however much overlap you want on the front cover to your figure (I stuck with 3/8″ on either side, so I added 3/4″ to the width of my leather strip, 1 1/2″ final width).

text block W + 3(cover W) + 2(desired overlap) = cutting W

3/8″ + 3(1/8″) + 2(3/8″) = 1 1/2″



Because accuracy here is rather important, mark the inside of your spine so you know exactly where to place your covers when you glue.





Give your spine covering a nice even coat of glue and place the covers along the marked lines. Give them a good press, and make sure they’re relatively steady before continuing. 



Now for the big glue! Coat this entire surface with a thin, even coating of white glue. The entire inside front and back covers, and the inside of the spine.

Carefully place your text block evenly down the center of the spine. Press your tabs down onto the glue, and add a touch more glue on the clean surface of the tabs. Now press the first and last pages of your text block onto the inside covers, doing your best to squeeze out air bubbles. Be sure to clean up any glue that squeezes out before returning your book the bottom of that pile of heavy books to dry under pressure. 





Finally, if you want decorative inside covers, you can do that now (or for that matter, any time in the future). I glued in some great illustrations I snatched from the old book’s contents. 


Left: “The Boys Gave Three Cheers for the Flag.”
Right: “The Lad Hurled the Mountain Boy Over His Head.”



And once everything’s good and dry, you’ve got yourself a beautiful new hand-bound book!


My finished book







** The Repurposed Library is a beautiful book and excellent resource to inspire projects to use up all those naked pages your book left behind. I am currently teaching an eco-art class for kids, to which I brought the beautiful innards of one of my books to use as canvases for our watercolor paintings:


Watercolor and pencil on top of a poem entitled “April”


This week I plan to bring in the colorful photos from a book about indoor plants for our collages.







Happy Autumn and all the best!


Melody
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Poetry is for Lovers

4 Jul

Things to know about me: 
I’m a Cancer.
I’m not that into poetry.


Things to know about Cancers:
We’re super emotional.




Some years ago I found myself in the lobby of a yoga studio flipping through a book of writings by 13th century Sufi poet Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi and thought, “hey… this is pretty good…”


Rumi’s poems, even translated from their original Persian texts, nearly 800 years ago, are so mind-blowingly relatable. They are simple, they are short. The imagery is beautiful, but immediately understandable. They speak to the emotional experience, they speak to being human by expressing something so seemingly personal you’d think he could see into your soul.


Now, I’ve had a particularly emotional few months, and in trying to make sense of my emotions I turned to Rumi. I acquired a book of quatrains (four-liners) (through a noteworthy book-swap server, Paperback Swap that I would highly recommend to anyone who has books you’d be into getting rid of in exchange for new-to-you books that you want.)


Here are a few of my favorite poems… obviously these are all love poems because they spoke to my present experience. That is why I’ve clung to them over others. But there seem to be Rumi poems out there for just about every emotional experience you might be going through.





Burning with longing-fire,
wanting to sleep with my head on your doorsill,
my living is composed only of this trying
to be in your presence.



Love comes sailing through and I scream.
Love sits beside me like a private supply of itself.
Love puts away the instruments and takes off the silk robes.
Our nakedness together changes me completely.



I thought of you and threw
my glass of wine against the wall.
Now I’m neither drunk nor sober,
jumping up and down, completely mad.



I came and sat in front of you
as I would at an altar.
Every promise I made before
I broke when I saw you.




And a couple longer poems:




Mad with You

O incomparable Giver of life, cut reason loose at last!
Let it wander grey-eyed from vanity to vanity.
Shatter open my skull, pour in it the wine of madness!
Let me be mad, as You; mad with You, with us.
Beyond the sanity of fools is a burning desert
Where Your sun is whirling in every atom:
Beloved, drag me there, let me roast in Perfection!



The Arc of Your Mallet

Don’t go anywhere without me.
Let nothing happen in the sky apart from me,
or on the ground, in this world or that world,
without my being in its happening.
Vision, see nothing I don’t see.
Language, say nothing.
The way the night knows itself with the moon,
be that with me. Be the rose
nearest to the thorn that I am.
I want to feel myself in you when you taste food,
in the arc of your mallet when you work,
when you visit friends, when you go
up on the roof by yourself at night.
There’s nothing worse than to walk out along the street
without you. I don’t know where I’m going.
You’re the road and the knower of roads,
more than maps, more than love.



And a few non-love poems that struck a chord from my past:



You are cold, but you expect kindness.
What you do comes back in the same form.
God is compassionate, but if you plant barley,
don’t expect to harvest wheat.



Every day, this pain. Either you’re numb
or you don’t understand love.
I write out my love story.
You see the writing, but you don’t read it.



Courage: A gazelle turns
to face a pack of lions.
A building that stands on bedrock, stands.
Do you think my love will slump to the ground when you leave?



Then, a beautiful notebook full of blank pages and an intensely emotional week later, and I was writing my own Rumi-inspired poetry on the subway:



I am a compass,
Comprised of polarities.
Life is my melodrama,
and you are the Second Act.



They always say I feel too much.
Have they thought, perhaps, it is they who feel too little?
I overwhelm, I know.
But how can I see your lips without kissing them?



I am the most thoughtful lover you will ever know.
It is what my Maker meant for me,
when my soul was hewn
from the primordial stone.



Desperation:

Try as I might to maintain my stature,
when I spy the glistening of love
from the vestiges of my quarantine,
You will find me prostrate.

It makes a fool of me every time.



A self portrait contour drawing from ages ago that I’ve always rather liked…





May you all find the words that speak to you as profoundly and directly.





Best,


Melody