Growlygracepress's Blog

I can haz pork pie.


This is pork pie number one.

If I had to identify a ‘thing’ I do that is unhelpful it’s my reluctance to follow a recipe I dislike submitting to a list of commands in a precise order. When it comes to cooking I am a busker. However I own a gazillion cookery books and I love reading them I am just not that in to cooking from them.

However I have known for many years now that I wanted to make raised pork pie and the stars became aligned several months ago. I started to buy the ingredients so they were in the kitchen. The first thing I bought was lard. One morning I was making breakfast and I realised I had run out of vegetable oil for frying so I reached out for the lard and it must have been the first time I had fried with lard for thirty years. It was a revelation. So I kept frying with lard and it got better and better. I had to buy more lard and still in the back of my mind was I am going to make pork pie.

So last week I had been reading about mise-en-place as I am going to restructure how I approach bookbinding and I decided to make a pork pie.

This happened. I was trying to be organised and cleaning up all the time, I was weighing out all the ingredients, I was trying to understand the recipe, I was learning new stuff, I was failing to take note of what time it goes in to the oven, when it gets turned down and when it comes out. I was using scales, I had the wrong equipment, I didn’t even know how to use the ‘dolly’  this is the wooden mould that you raise the pastry around before you fill it with meat.

So I had to improvise with a bread tin. The pastry is way too thick but the filling was great, the jelly was great and as proof of concept it is a massive success.


This is pork pie number two

I made this the next day. I went to the shops and bought some measuring spoons which were a revelation, a spring form cake tin and some prunes. This was a handsome pie

The pastry was thinner and the filling was great.

I have learned tons and tons.

I am going to make more stuff out of the books. The next thing is going to be baked cheese cake then scotch eggs, stake and kidney pudding, French onion soup ( I don’t have the patience to caramelised onions ) and cassoulet.

I am doing this to become a better bookbinder and it’s already working.

In every dream home there is a shed ache.
April 7, 2016, 8:28 am
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So I got a new allotment and I have been working at clearing and cleaning and in doing so I have learnt so much. The main thing is about the very real archaeology of objects stored in ‘out buildings’ the ‘stuff’ is on the allotment site for a reason, because he believed it had value or needed saving or could be adapted or because he had an idea. He would refer to the ‘stuff’ as junk. I knew it was treasure and I had to stop him from taking it to the local tip.

‘He’ is the man who created the allotment over a twenty year period and I now have the garden and the stuff he didn’t need or want or stuff he particularly wanted me to have.

He had a collection of old gardening tools that I have been restoring, using a wire brush on the metal, sanding the wooden handle and rubbing it with the linseed oil that he left.

I have three wheel barrows. One needs a new tire which I have. The other needs to have it’s tire re-inflated and I have two tire pumps.

I have twelve watering cans along with a hose pipe watering system which every bed has its own hose. The old gardeners liked to use watering cans directly at the root of the plant. In the summer when it’s hot I will be setting out a lot of filled watering cans with saved rain water adding a liquid feed.

Best off all the stuff was the improvised tools, the mending of existing tools and the honest repair of equipment.

In dealing with the ‘stuff’ I realised that I have the equivalent of a shed in every room of my house. There is an area of space where items have accumulated and have become a mixture of junk and artifices. Clothes I will never wear again, books I will never open, tools that have manifestly failed to do the task, piles and piles of paper, failed knitting and sewing projects, orphaned books, bits of dinner service I will never use.

The important lesson I have learnt on the new allotment is ‘de-sheding’ and I got really good at looking at something and working out it’s intrinsic value in a time period of now and in the future. When faced with a collection of ten old paraffin heaters the answer is stash them away and get the best ones working. I am becoming an expert on the care and rehabilitation of old paraffin heaters.

The other thing I have learnt is finding out a particular solution and acting on it immediately normally by pressing the pay button on ebay and getting the tools or materials delivered. I have become very solution focused like a simple arithmetical equation ‘this plus this’ equals a trip to Wilkinsons buy an item and enact the solution.

De sheding is fundamentally good for the soul.


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 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.




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.



my cunning plan to lure people in the craft shop.


It’s the old geordie terms of endearment titles but this time the leather will be coloured and on layed and big and bright enough to attract people from across the street. It might not sell but it will amuse me for a bit and I think I have developed a new method in preparing the leather to accept the cut out letters.

I’ll promote the little books with a bit of Crawhall nonsense. Honest.


I believe in reassurance.


I’ve been reviewing all the books I have on bookbinding techniques and methods and I have come up with several conclusions.

Lot’s and lots of photographs showing techniques is great.
Celebrate the fact that the reader was made the positive decision to engage with the hand made book for a particular project.
Be explicate that the book models that are displayed are the result of a twenty year career in professional bookbinding.
Be accurate in an assessment as to how long it will take to reach of ability.
Encourage the use of materials that are at hand. Buy the pva from B&Q if it’s convenient.
Everything is permitted. Nothing is out of bounds. Buy leather garments from charity shops and cut them up, glue and paste them down and learn from them.
If you are flogging a particular philosophy about making and doing then shout it loud and proud.
Be accurate about equipment. I can’t imagine engaging in the book making process with out access to a nipping press, a lying press and a plough or guillotine.

I’ll think of some more but that’s enough to be going along with for the moment.