Growlygracepress's Blog

actually it is enough to slap Celtic illuminated letters on the cover of a book.
May 12, 2020, 9:57 am
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I am still drowning in tools, materials, equipment and half thought out projects but that’s just my regular bookbinding life my allotment life is a lot better. I have had a massive refurbishment of the plot I have instigated a new series of beds, I have a wildly exciting salad bed, a massive brassica bed, a new amazing polytunnel, a new method of growing seeds and it’s going to look amazing.

Bookbinding is actually very exciting because my husband is going to be working from home he needs the study all to himself and I have booted myself out and into the living room! I am in love with my bench and my tool boxes and I have installed them in the living room they look so handsome and I swoon like a teenager when I gaze on their beauty.

I own too much equipment and I am going to have to sell it, I need to decide what to do about my guillotine it needs a new blade or the old blade extended I need someone to tell me what to do.

I am sorting out books, drawings, papers and photocopies and I had my hands on a copy of a script and it was a book experiment I always liked and I placed it on a book and I realised that I wanted to remake the book. So I am massively enjoying the process. The work area is really, really dark and I need a plug board to get some work lights on the bench but I am making progress.


I still have the die I made to place the letters on the leather. I can make the book again.

DSCF6500 Right off to the allotment to have a dig.

allotments, bookbinding and who your friends are.
March 25, 2020, 10:26 am
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When this shit is over there is going to one all mighty reckoning.

I am fine by the way, it’s been an intense month and I am happy enough. I decided what my priorities were and worked around trying to be effective at fulfilling them.

The book I was / am currently working is in great shape and I have made a decent break through in a construction technique, I identified a great calligraphy teacher and press ‘pay’ and I am going to create a work space specifically to do lettering.

I am going to make a ‘baby book’ for a baby who is about to be born it’s going to be all about green and trees and I have a new easel so I going to paint the endpapers on the allotment where green is bursting through.

The many fruit bushes I bought last winter and parked now in my massive refurbished fruit cage.

I decided the best thing I could do for the allotment people was to grow a serious amount of vegetables.

I am learning to use the phone but I would prefer a camera.

I am going to post in my phoney baloney blog a lot more. You lucky people!

I am still here.
March 2, 2020, 10:26 am
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Not going anywhere, still binding books, still messing around on a massive allotment, still playing with paints, trying to come to grips with my phone, still bemoaning the lack of a camera and totally not getting the phone camera might be the greatest camera in the world but I like a camera with a view finder and I like to insert a wire in to the phone in to the computer to get the pictures across.

Look at the state of this bench it’s an outrage and the picture is soft just to rub salt in to the wounds. What you can see is a mess and there is a book in the process of being made. The other thing is broken tools. In the making of this book tools fell apart in my hand. A hammer and two glue brushes trashed themselves in the service of book making. A glue brush managed to pull it’s self together and made a brave stand only to fail again. Poor thing.

This morning I was making boards for the beauty book and I am being really serious about making the boards I lined the boards with paper last week and kept them in a press today I was in the process sticking them together and I am struck with the overwhelming desire to make a totally new book. I could ‘see’ the type on the boards, I could see the painted endpapers I could feel the weight on the book in my hands.

So I did the right thing I put my boards in the press to dry. I removed myself from the bench, I wrote up this nonsense and I am going to finish the book I am suppose to be making and when I get the type on the boards and the leather on the book. I am going to make the book that I was thinking about.

How do you buy paper for bookbinding?
January 4, 2020, 12:22 pm
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I am going to start this post with a few assumptions 1. You read this blog regularly. 2. You are doing a bit of bookbinding. 3. You are making journals, albums and other bits of stationary.

I buy paper, store it, fold it, sew it and wrap a cover around it. Basic bookbinding stuff. But a key part of studying bookbinding at technical college was about dealing with paper merchants. Forever I have bought paper from a paper merchant. I was using a paper that I identified would meet my needs. It was a white 180gms SRA2 paper sold for offset printing. It came packed in 250 sheets. I also bought it at 300gms and used that for albums. I think the last time a bought it I bought 1000 sheets. I have used SRA1 paper but decided that the sheet size was too big for me to comfortably work with. The thing about SRA 2 is I can store it underneath my bench.

A couple of years ago I decided that I might have to change my paper for something a bit more up market. My skills and ideas were improving and I was making an object that could be considered more art object. So I started to look at other papers.

I think the papers I would be using a lot more are going to be paper sold for print making. I especially love Fabriano 5 which is a smooth white paper and it 50% cotton I have used it 300 gms and I have decided that it’s just a little bit too heavy because I am making smaller books and it’s not that happy and I would have to use a thicker thread to sew with. So I would be buying the next weight down and I think it’s 210 gms.

The other papers I love are Zerkall smooth paper for print making and an incredible Zerkall paper with a wavy laid lines it’s crazy.

My only problem I have with using these papers is that unless I have some one to buy the book I can’t justify just playing with it. It stops me binding as the paper is going to cost more than the goat skin. I am working on two books at the moment that have a good block made of a paper sold for botanic illustrations it’s really nice I actually bought it as a pad. I got two good size books and I had some waste left over and got 8 tiny little books I made because I could and I was putting off putting the leather covers on the two lovely books.

So think about buying paper sold for watercolour / print making. Buy online some of the art materials on line shops have some great deals. Consider buying pads of paper. You can buy a straight forward cartridge paper and that will serve you well.



I love ploughs and I can’t deny it.
October 16, 2019, 7:45 am
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Some random shots of ploughs.


The plough is hiding behind the kitchen roll.


The plough is on the floor leaning against the bench.


Cute tool resting on a plough.


Plough, bike, Leatherman, Book with Jane Jeffery’s funny animals on it and some broad beans.


little books and plough


A tub with the ‘old’ plough in the back ground.


Just a plough looking handsome.


That’s a bit proper.


‘But I want a lot of things baby…..’
October 11, 2019, 7:37 am
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When it comes down to it at this moment right now. I want paper to make book blocks from, I want paper to paint on to make endpapers, I want paste to paste on leather on lays, to paste out cloth joints and to make a paste wash to clean the leather covers.

I have bought goat skins and calf skins.

I am working with my vertical plough and it’s fine. I do not have a lying press attached to my bench and that is making me irritable. When I stand at my bench behind me is a pile of wooden equipment which needs either attention, to be sold on eBay or put in to ‘play’  which in my world means drill holes in to that and screw it on to the bench.


Not having a press on the end of the bench makes me jittery. Look at this bad boy not only can I plough but I can saw cut for sewing and I can colour the edges of books.


I know that I am putting off buying paper because I have to decide on what paper to buy and that means deciding on how to treat the edges. Do I plough them or do I cut them by hand to get a ‘deckle edge type thing’ but it I use a plough I can hand colour and wax the edges and make the book handsome.

I’ll order in some paste.

I have to collect some shoes from the cobblers and I’ll take my cobblers knife and my leather paring knifes and get them reground.

It’s relatively to make decisions about what to buy in the course of writing this I refined what I am going to buy.

I fail at getting technicians to carry out a repair to my specifications. ‘Fix this tool / equipment so that it works the way it is suppose to’ and I find that ‘they’ will walk away from it. One of the reasons why bookbinding equipment is / was expensive is that it was designed for ‘trade’ that’s why it’s big and heavy and strong it was expected to last years and years.  This is not like a £250 dish washer form John Lewis. It’s my plough and press and we are in a relationship and it’s complicated.

I am going to buy some sandpaper and some wax and apply some first aid.



The most important thing I have learnt this or any other week.
October 9, 2019, 7:58 am
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At this time of the year on the allotment I am planting stuff for February and March and I am clearing out the green houses and polytunnels putting stuff on the compost heap and bagging up weeds and plants that have blight or club root and I am taking them to the council tip to be incinerated. So I have big bags of this stuff on every corner of the allotment and being a good girl I close the bags off with a cable tie except for the couple of bags where I left them open all the better to cram more blighted tomatoes in to and yesterday….. I picked up a bag to move it off the garden when a rat jumped out and touched my hand as it made it’s escape and it happened in my heart beat as my brain processed what my eyes seen and my hand felt and swear really loudly and then I realise I am totally safe and it’s only one rat and it’s gone.

I will never ever leave an unclosed bag of rat bead and breakfast ever again.

I am the captain of my bench.
October 9, 2019, 7:33 am
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I have established my bookbinding practice and I am at my bench making books and progress. I have identified the areas of concern and it’s principally around technique and poor execution and that’s about ‘good enough’ and I don’t want to be ‘good enough’ I want to make first rate work. I want to make books that are fully leather bound and are decorated with leather onlays and the onlay has to be so fine on the cover that if you run your fingers over them you cant feel them.

To get this right it means several techniques need to be perfect.

The leather has to be pared very, very thin. It needs to be so thin that if you hold it up to the light it’s nearly transparent. So thin that the onlay appears like it has been painted on.

Another way is to back pare the leather on the flesh side so that the onlay is ‘received’ and fits snugly in it’s place. Thing about this is I need to make a ‘die’ where I want the onlay elements to go, then I need to place a paper onlay glued on to the flesh side wher indicated by the die ( the die is made with thin board, leather is dampened, a layer of cling film is used to protect every thing, the die placed on the leather it’s given a quick nip in the press, the positions of the onlays are revealed, paper onlays are pasted on, the leather is pressed again, allowed to dry and then you can pare the leather down. Cover the book and place the colour leather onlays on the boards and if the bookbinding Gods are smiling on you and the pasted papers have not fallen off you lift them and put down the leather onlay. Stick it in the press and nip.

This is all well and good for one book but I like to make a series of ten and because I am binding in account book style it means that I am essentially going to fight on the leather to the book and I am going to use a hammer to cap the head and tail and I am going to mould the leather and create a really tight grove. And I have a spring on the spine.

So does the client need ‘account book’ style or can I ‘get away’ with a flat back and just case the book?

Flat backs, case edition meh!

the handsome book.
September 26, 2019, 9:23 am
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I think that in making a book my responsibility is to use my skills to make the book as handsome as I possibly can. The cover is one thing but the endpapers are a gift. I used to always have black laid paper and I would also have a book cloth strip for strength. I have placed the cloth strip behind the coloured sheet. I also like the endpapers to be different at each end. I paint with intense inks on to a good 50% paper and it’s 300 gms which is a bit to heavy as I am going to paste it to the first and last leaf of the block and it’s 220gms.

Things I am looking to change in bookbinding is a new source of paper to bind. At one time paper was the easiest thing in the world to buy. Pick up the phone and talk to the paper merchant and paper would arrive. In fact the paper merchants would phone you regularly just to update you with new papers. But now paper firms are online and the companies have closed down or joined up with others and have new names and worse of all they don’t want to sell small amounts of paper. My local company was happy to sell me 5 reams of Sra 2 and a sales rep would drop it off.

After I tackle of horror of the paper merchants I need to have the guillotine repaired. Again it was easy I would go to the ‘saw doctors’ at the top of Westgate Hill Road beside the Big Lamp and it used to be a bank and I would watch them sharpen the blade with incredible machinery they charged me a few quid and I was good to go. They closed down ages ago.

Now the blade needs to have a new section welded to lengthen it. It actually needs a new blade but it’s very old possibly Victorian and I cant buy one of the shelf nor can I find a company that will make me one for sensible money.

These are not massive problems and if you throw enough money at a thing it will get solved. I am just dragging my feet.



what if I make a book every day?
September 13, 2019, 11:06 am
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I had this sudden idea the other day and it’s this one of my better ones ‘what if I made a book every day’ if you stick to smallish books and have a stash of goatskin and had tons of ideas then would it not be worth the time and effort just to bash them out.

I’ve been doing this three days running and working with a book that has got boards and springs and I have prepared all the cut outs and prepared the leather I can get the cover and designs on in just over two hours.

Part of this new thinking was when I was on my allotment a couple of weeks ago I was struck by the thought that I could easily turn my back and walk away and not come back.

There is nothing to fear about a ‘new thought’ from ‘apparently nowhere’ sometimes allotments are unhappy places people get ill and die, plants don’t perform the way you want them, sometimes it’s hard bloody work staying on top of things and the summer can be ‘short’ and don’t get me started on the politics.

I am going to be more effective on the use of my time on the garden and the bookmaking is coming first. I can be at my bench at 7.30 bind up a storm go off do a bit at the garden and in the afternoon do a bit of preparing book materials, sewing blocks, cutting up stuff.

The other thing I am going today is review all my thoughts and ideas about the teaching of bookbinding, the materials, the tools, the actual practice and how to get better.

You might not need a sewing frame….