Growlygracepress's Blog

Making “bookbinding” a better experience for students.
January 25, 2012, 12:26 pm
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At some point I am going to run another bookbinding course and when I do I am going to implement changes based on the insights form that last course.

The first thing I am going to do is provide a handout so that the students know the names of tools and how they are used. Simple A4 print out which will avoid any misunderstanding over what is called what. Why do we assume that every one knows what a bone folder is? Although I was surprised that sewing needles were described and “knitting” needles other tools were described by there function “holey pricky thing” is an awl gauge, “foldy thing” is a bone folder.

The hand out will have an accurate description of how to join threads, how a kettle stitch works, how to achieve good sewing it should include a listing of the stages of bookbinding with the reason why the book is constructed in a particular way. Stressing that students gain an understanding of the fundamentals before they go and do exposed spine coptic stitching (ugh!) they need to “get” grain direction in paper and board.

Working with scrap materials allows experimentation and that is great. Next time I run a course I want a budget for materials. I would buy 500 sheets of SRA 2, meter of scrim, 25 sheets of kraft paper, a hank of  linen thread, bees wax, 20 sheets of gray board and a meter of book cloth. I would get a simple press as well.

The crucial thing I would do again and do it better is this : at the end of the course I gave away the materials that were left, cloth, threads and papers and most importantly needles and the little simple clamps that I made. I want bookbinding as a skill to thrive and the best thing I can do to support this is to put tools and materials in to hands. The next time I’ll buy enough bone folders for every one to keep them.

I want the students to be so confident in what they have learnt that they are capable and encouraged to go of and teach the “basics” to their friends.

Now I realise I got spectacularly lucky with this group of students but I was massively impressed that one of them actually managed to sell one of the books she had made to a fellow student. You don’t get much more successful than that.



More tools the students liked….
January 24, 2012, 2:54 pm
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It has been said this this group of students were remarkably fond of books with ties, although I was wanting to push “Yeah look I’ve made a Moleskine!” agenda. When asked to bring in books which they owned and admired, some one came in with an “over the counter” journal which was  limp bound in dark brown leather with wrap around an a tie. So we went charging down that route.  By experimenting with the tools and materials the class were getting and sharing remarkable results. Although it was a bit “Oh thats so cute……” and a rush to “out cute” it would commence.

I am a fully paid up member of the “make the book handsome” school of bookbinding I see it as the provisional wing and I don’t do cute.

This tool is a very useful when it comes to cutting out leather thongs.

Make the endpapers bold!
January 23, 2012, 12:54 pm
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I am now singing form a new song sheet when it comes to the end papers, previously I had black Farbraino and very happy with it as well! Then I misunderstood a conversation with an artist about the endpapers and I got my inks out have been happily making my own decorated endpapers with paste and ink. I am also experimenting with asymmetric endpapers can’t see why they have to match!

When I was working with the students one of them created this and whats exciting about is that she went on to include paintings with in the book it’s self and that was very satisfying.

Engineer’s dividers
January 23, 2012, 12:40 pm
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When I started to study bookbinding at technical college it seems a lifetime ago I realised that the best way forward would be to purchase the same tools that the college provided. Each week I would go to a second hand tool shop in Pink Lane and buy for a few pounds a vital tool. I remember that it took three weeks to buy thread then needles then wax.

When I teach students I make a point when discussing what the tools is I say how much it cost.

Name, function and cost.


Threads that bind.
January 19, 2012, 10:28 am
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I assumed that the students would like to work in my favourite thread : wrong !

The fact is that it took years of work and experimenting to find “my” thread for me, I seen the students were having problems with their sewing on the first day.

They did like the beeswax but they always do, pulling linen thread through a block of organic beeswax fills the air with honey, anything that engages the senses is good.

I brought in the heavier weight coloured linen thread and it sewing improved.

Corner cutting
January 19, 2012, 10:20 am
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My chief objective in this course was to get the students to play with tools and maybe as a side benefit make a few books. I  believe that the lack of familiarity with using tools is a set back for wannabe artists. So I gather up my tools and go and have a free for all and it’s the variety of tools that makes for a good learning experience.

This is a tools that cuts corners if we are going to create a “moleskine”  we need lovely rounded corners.

Tools bookbinding students love 2
January 18, 2012, 5:55 pm
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This is a Japanese crew punch the students had a lot of fun with it, they quickly worked out ways to get great results.

The best tool for student bookbinders ever….
January 18, 2012, 3:30 pm
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The most useful tool you can use with newcomers to bookbinding is this.

An awl gauge.

Buy one here

This simple tool marks out the sewing stations accurately. I repeatedly showed students how to establish a flow and rhythm when picking up the paper, making the holes, placing them down and creating the pile of signatures for sewing.

January 18, 2012, 2:52 pm
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I took all the bone folders I could find, the one I prefer is the teflon one. The students were taught  hoe to mark, fold, score and when they ripped paper how to use the bone folder to erase the fold marks and to smooth the torn paper fibers.

Sew far sew good….
January 15, 2012, 1:17 pm
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I found it useful when doing the course to give updates at regular intervals, like restating the purpose of the end papers or the difference between pva and paste.

I am going to do is here as well.

Collect up scrap materials for the students to use.

Make small books.

I made sure that the sewing was good.

Realise the limitations that you have with lack of equipment and be upfront to the students about it. On this course we had no nipping press and no weights to press books with and because the books were small and I repeatedly banged on about using as little glue as possible we got away with it.

We could not trim the books but the sewing was accurate and the deckled edge caused by ripping paper was very effective.

The students took to bookbinding like a duck to the proverbial and stayed late in the class leaving at 6.00 going home and doing more work and bring in the next morning.

When the scrap materials ran out they went and bought paper or cut up sketch books.

Have a back up plan for students that don’t want to work in leather in this case I had canvas and linen.

Sit every one around a big table as they made more and more discoveries they showed each other and shared techniques.

Have really cool tools and don’t freak out when they misuse them.