Growlygracepress's Blog

working with tools
July 29, 2016, 9:13 am
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It feels that all done for the past month is talk and think about bookbinding because I have done a workshop and had some teaching sessions. For me it has allowed me to think about my ideas and develop my understanding about the use of tools and the making of a book.

For what it’s worth I think my ‘thinking’ about books and tools is absolutely on the money. If I am saying ‘it’ I whole heartily believe it. The problem in teaching particular techniques is how I ‘do’ a method has evolved from how my teacher taught me, how I have researched it, what materials I am using and what ‘effect’ I want it to have.

I am probably the very worst person to teach bookbinding technique because I am so very far from home.

What I am liking about my current thoughts is that for me making a book is about creating a series of mechanisms that allow the book to function and maintains the security of the block. I use the appropriate materials and I am effective in using my tools to fashion a book.

When I have a book in my hand I am 100% in judgement and if it’s failing I will either fix it or bin it.


On becoming effective and working with purpose.


So since the start of February I have been working on my new allotment and it’s an enormous challenge. The bookbinding has been on hold and it’s my intention to clear the deck and make a new beginning. My work area has become so overgrown with unfinished work, finished work, experiments and new materials that in order to save the village I am going to have to destroy it. I am going to have to move every item out of the room and assess it and put it in either the correct storage or put it in the bin.

Every piece of paper, board, tool, leather, pens, writings, books, furniture, and bound book are going to have to make it case for living.

Then I am going to implement all that I have learnt in the past couple of months in creating the allotment. Primarily it’s in the area of being effective when doing a task and using the the correct tool appropriately. There is also some stuff about how I experience ‘time’ when I am being effective.

Another thing I want to implement when I begin binding again is accessing an experts opinion about how to accomplish a task. Yesterday I was planting leeks when an old man said ‘Deirdre what are you planting? and when I said leeks he said ‘do you have a dibbler?’ and I waved it in the air and he said ‘No you need a  great big one and go down six inches and then place the leek in to the hole and the planting distance is 12 inches apart” So I found the great big dibbler pulled out all the leeks and replanted them the way he suggested.

The books that I am going to make in the future : Small batches of small, colourful books, random coloured end papers, Geordie terms of endearment (just discovered the husband absolutely hates the the term hinny on a book but he’s wrong) and books that nest in the hand. These little books don’t cost a lot to make but I need to be able to pare the leather right down to allow it just to ‘float’ on the board. Which means no need to ‘back pare’ the cover to receive the ‘on lay’. So I have bought new tool which is essentially a reversed engineered sharfix tool  I just need to put the time in to learn to use it.

I may need to access a teacher who can help me get better at pareing leather and I am cool about that.

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.



the craft shop is not the enemy
November 12, 2015, 1:51 pm
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This is the work so far on the brighter, better, eye catching and hopefully successful books for the craft shop. I had decided to take stop even attempting to do a little bit of retail stuff and I was going to go and bring the books back home. When I went to see them I thought that they looked a bit gloomy in the corner but my heart soared when I was told that the books make people giggle. I made the little ‘beuk’ very quickly as a proof on concept and yes the lettering is off but I like it enough to make a big pile of them.
People need to buy stuff and I should give them reason to buy a little book.

The biggest problem I face is the cutting out of the letters. Each book needs four sets of letters normally when I am doing this it’s for the one book. This time I was making five. Its seriously time consuming and really boring and I have to listen intently to the radio. I totally forgot that normally when faced with this amount of tedium I watch rubbish on the television and drink gin and tonic.


The other thing I forgot is that cut out letters can be unforgiving and I need to find a kinder font. Speaking of which does the actual customer need it to be Clarendon do they actually care?

The other thing about this kind of work is the mess. It’s horrible.


standing at the bench and cutting out letters
November 10, 2015, 3:02 pm
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I am cutting out book titles for my Geordie books and every title is cut out about four times, dies are made for the correct spacing, letters are pasted to leather so the leather can be pared and the coloured leather can be dropped in and pressed. I have started to paste the letters on to a Tyvek backing paper as this means I can use them again.


This is the growing pile of covers that have be pared cling film has a million uses in bookbinding.


This is titles that needs cutting. My hope is that I’ll paste out the letters, put them on the boards and after a pressing and some water spraying the paper / tyvek will slide off. It’s a theory.


The great thing about all that work I did about making a gazillion books at once is that I can just reach to a shelf and pull down a pile of them ready to go to work.

the crossover between allotments and bookbinding bench
September 1, 2015, 11:03 am
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I am refining and refining my model of being successful with the allotment. My measure for judging it is going to be to produce enough vegetables for a salad for lunch and for our evening dinner. This to be throughout the year. Don’t really know how possible this is going to be.
The one thing we got absolutely right was that we cleared the whole plot and then created long narrow beds of one point two meters width separated by paths. I see lots of plots where the holders just become over whelmed by the tasks and their garden ‘goes over’ and it becomes overgrown with weeds and they won’t get it back. You have to clear the plot and keep the soil clean. I weed the beds and the paths several times a week. I pull off all the yellowing leaves. I feed the plants with different feeds. I’ll evict whole rows of beans if they are tough and horrid. I won’t bother to grow radichio because even though the packet said that it’s bitter I somehow thought it would be a nice tasting bitter. I was wrong.
My latest thinking is to continue to plant single rows of vegetables all over the place Like I have a row of chard then a row of beetroot then a row peas because it’s gives different levels and it’s pleasing on the eye.Some one just commented that it looks like Mr McGregor’s garden which pleased me greatly.
I am going to make a point of eating cauliflower and broccoli the size of my fist because I lost a lot of them because they went to seed and if I sticking rows in I could get enough through summer and autumn.
I am growing what I want to cook.

My allotment is successful fundamentally because of the insights I developed while making books at my bench and I need to reinvent and invigorate that process. Maybe I’ll make books with vegetables on them.