Growlygracepress's Blog

the practice of practice.


At the heart of the bookbinding is my continuing attempt to make books to the best of my abilities, using a method of construction that is joyous, using the best materials in the world and having a unique take on the design of the cover.

Fundamentally it’s about going to my bench and making progress. I achieve ‘progress’ by identifying and tailoring a solution to the perceived ‘problem’

Problems can be solved by throwing money at them and trashing materials until it gets ‘fixed’ Another way is to become totally submerged in the process of making that the ‘work flow’ will not allow for sloppy work, that being neat, clean, precise, smooth and elegant becomes second nature in the process. It helps that your making a series of them.

Make ten books, evaluate them, identify what works and what failed then make another ten books.

Make them better.




the hive of hinny
January 25, 2016, 2:30 pm
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This is the continuing saga of my trying to remake a book titled ‘hinny’ which for people who do not live in the North East of England ‘hinny’ is a Geordie term of endearment and it’s origins come from a regional dialect of ‘honey’.

You don’t hear it much these days. There is an old song called “Keep your feet still Geordie hinny” which makes me grin like the proverbial Alsatian.

A couple of points about the books.

The cut out letters are outstanding because I used a die and punched them out on a cylinder press.

I have got to solve the problem of getting the title in the correct position on every book. Some of the titles are wandering all over the shop.

I need to pare the leather thinner. I realised after the first two that the ‘back paring’ could have been a little bit better but I decided to continue with the the remaining eight because for leather could have only be used for these books alone. So the process then became a learning opportunity.

These books were made under what I call ‘quick and dirty’ this means that the books are created quickly with no agonising over colours matching in the covers, titles and end papers. I like the endpapers not to match. So there is an element of randomness that I like.

So I am going to make ten more little books and will make the necessary corrections as I go.

The brown with yellow is really great. Think the client is going to be happy.

the ten little hinny books
January 15, 2016, 9:38 am
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I have to confront on of my biggest flaws on a regular basis and it is quite simple I engage in cluttered thinking, I don’t make clear plans, I fail to set out clean and clear objectives.

The little hinny book is a case in point. I was messing around and having fun when I accidentally made this book.


This is not the result of planning or any thing considered it just happened. When I made a copy of it I got it really wrong, the colour choice was poor and inconsiderate and I couldn’t give it to the client so I had another attempt and got it wrong again. It was a different size, bigger letters and although I got the colours right the charm had been drained out of it.

So I got out the rulers and really stuck to the brief.


This is the ten little ‘hinny’ books they are clones of the first one. The biggest improvement is a new range of leather and the letters are die stamped.


so I have this


I made a paper die for the exact placing of the letters by printing the word ‘hinny’ on to tracing paper,  I pasted on letters cut in 300gms on the reverse side of the tracing paper, covered it in cling film and I use this die on dampen leather and give it a nip in the press.

The white letters are cut from tyvek. They are glued on to the leather and given a quick nip and left to dry.


This means that after I have back pared the leather, pasted the leather out and put on the book, give it another nip in the press then the tyvek letters will cleanly peel of the leather.

I am going to come back to the process I have created to put letters on books again and again mainly because there is not enough information out there about how bookbinders have created their own techniques.




Yet again on being judged by my appearance.
January 10, 2016, 3:08 pm
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I was in shop last Saturday morning being very dull buying batteries and I spotted the guy right away and I thought stoned or drunk possibly both. It being 10.30 in the morning I thought fair play to you. So I wondering around and got to the check out and there he has in full ‘compliments of the season to you’ complete with little bows and he looked at me and said ‘A happy new year to you sir’ and I smiled and said thanks but actually I am a woman and he looked a bit embarrassed and I did the reassurance dance and said it’s fine and helpfully gave him the get out clause I said it’s understandable as I am wearing a lot of men’s clothing and he looked at me and said ‘No it’s because you are butch’ and I laughed and he said in his best naughty boy voice ‘your not going to hit me’ and I realised at once that it was exactly what he wanted.  Being slapped around the chops by a big butch woman would be a dream come true.

He left the check out and the girl was so embarrassed and was telling me ‘You don’t look like a man!’ and I saying yeah I do. I obviously do.

What I should have done was whipped the hat off when he said ‘butch’ and confront him with my poor baldly head because if you are going to offer up a judgement on my appearance get it right.

Butch and bald.


what I did with the money
January 7, 2016, 10:25 am
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I get money from commissions, teaching workshops and the little books in the craft shop and I spend it on tools and materials and make more little books. I refine my ideas and my techniques get better.

At one point last year I made a little book and I was stuck by it’s own awesomeness and went about showing it to people and a couple of them said ‘yes! make me that book’. So I went back to my bench and failed to make it which has led to the current state of affairs where I am practically cloning the book ten times.

Last year I seriously thought about how best to achieve for want of a better word ‘success’ and I am currently making progress. In fact I was telling every one I met in December that I had concluded a really exciting time in bookbinding and I had great expectations.

Obviously I sounded absolutely bat shit crazy.

For what it is worth it’s this : Back in the Autumn  I was leaving a cafe / gallery and I turned around and looked at the people sitting at tables and what I seen was grandmothers, daughters and grandchildren. I realised that the grandmother needs and wants to buy presents and that all I need to do is make it.

So I went back to our old favourite Geordie terms of endearment.


I think that the black leather is to gloomy and decided to try again with some brighter colours.


So the first one was the eponymous ‘hinny’


It’s a goldielock book. It’s just the right size, it’s perfect and most of all it’s sticky. If I put it in your hand you will want it. As I was working through the books I came across a massive problem when I discovered that my lettering cutting ability is not what it should be. To put a pared leather title on a book means that the letters have to be cut out multiple times, I would cut them out of pared leather, I cut them out to make a die so I can get the position of the title on the book and I cut them so I can back pare the leather to except the dropped in letter.

I am not doing myself any favours in using my favourite font Clarendon as it was unforgiving straight edges. So I screwed up the books with sloppy work.


Poor beuk!


And then it hit me “that grandmother does not need to know it’s Clarendon’ she just needs to buy a gift” So I thought is their anyway I can get the letters punched out in any material I choose with out losing my mind. I am eluding to the horror that is using a computer driven vinyl cutter which did spit out letters it is to say the least a very harsh mistress.

So I thought what did the women who make cards and scrap books use before they moved on to vinyl cutters and I realised that they used die cutters on essentially a cylinder press. The card and scrapbook making business absolutely massive and I mean enormous. At least three channels of television selling tools and materials every night and on the news racks there must be at least twenty magazines about making cards.

So I spent the money on dies and leathers and I am going to die cut birds and stick them on books. It does not make the books any less hand made. They are just as much a tool as a hammer or a saw. Some books I cut with a guillotine and some I cut with a plough.

So we are going to find out this week what happens when you die stamp letters out of leather and stick them on a book.


the beautiful tools


At the minute I am making ten books. I am making ten of them because when I made one of them I got it wrong and when I tried again to make it I got it wrong again. This is because my thinking was flawed and unclear. By making ten of them I am seriously underlining the mission. It’s not enough to make one. Make ten and be better and as the books come together you see ways they can be improved, how materials can be replaced with lighter weighted materials that will function better.

If you are making ten little books you can take short cuts, the first one is I use a saw to make the cut for the sewing stations, to save time I saw cut the block complete with endpapers.
This is my new saw.


Along with the saw I bought this stunner.


This is a brush for cleaning a file. Utter genius. I am bevelling the edges of my boards. I make up my boards with layers of grey board,  handmade paper and finish with a top layer of mill board I then bevel the edges, round the corners and sand them down.

To keep my strength up I had some chicken soup.



when in doubt stick a bird on it
January 3, 2016, 11:36 am
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When the person who commissioned this book stated that it had to have an owl on it I had to say that previously I was diametrically opposed to sticking birds on anything and had massive problems with owls.

But I got myself some new principles and I am fully embracing the suck which is stick a bird on it.


It’s simple : people need to buy stuff and I need to make books at my bench so I can buy cool tools and materials.