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.


Using dies to cut out leather.
May 27, 2016, 7:30 am
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This is a very interesting photo. It’s the original ‘hinny’ book and beside it is ‘proof of concept’ and a die I have made that allows me to place the onlay leather on the cover.

The black letters on the grey leather have been cut out with a commercial die from a enormous, gigantic mind boggling amount of stuff aimed at women who make greeting cards and scrap books. Gazillion Dollar industry. I have been poking around the craft mines for years looking for tools and I have to say that die cutting is my prize plum.

The dies will cut out parred leather.

I should be in line for a Nobel prize in bookbinding for that little statement. Clearly it’s not proof of Hawking radiation but seriously if you are turned on by putting leather on a book cover (and who isn’t?) you might want to check it out.

While we are on the subject of Stephen Hawking I realised that I have been engaging in ‘thought experiment’ and have been quite addicted to thinking things through and I now understand that the thinking must be backed up with actual experiments and that the results have been fully reported and understood in terms of success and failure.

I’ve been thinking way to much and at times I have been such a long way from home. The only thing that counts is practical and repeatable work at my bench.


working with tools
March 7, 2016, 9:22 am
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Sometimes it takes effort to practice with a new tool. I have a tendency to treat a new tool like a toy and have a quick play with it and put it aside and I rediscover it and wonder why I haven’t done any thing with it. Sometime I know the tool with expose some ropey technique and I have not put in nearly enough practice and I am exposed as a rubbish bookbinder! All I have to do is love the task a bit more.

Towards the end of last year after thinking really hard, reading a great deal and then spending some money I invested in a new piece of equipment and I considered myself well and truly sorted. I was elated I was going around actually telling people that I had made a massive breakthrough in an approach to bookbinding and I was really excited by the results.  As I was working through a series of experiments and exercises other problems would present and a solution found by buying another piece of equipment and that requires more time to get it’s use integrated in to my practice.

This means that I have equipment, tools, a new model of working and I am trying to generate ideas and models at the same time I need to actually finish a sequence of books and plan the next one.

Around all this bookbinding excitement I got a new allotment.

On one hand I have an emerging new bookbinding paradigm on the other hand I have been given the best allotment in the world. I am obviously exaggerating and ‘paradigm’ is way to fancy a word to use when all I have done if found a way to cut out leather with a die and have bought a new paring machine.

I would post photographs of the allotment but they will not do it justice. Allotments are sad things at this time of the year, they are still asleep and are just a whole big heap of maintenance tasks. I can see about 500 little tasks that won’t make any difference at all.

I just look in a direction and see the next task and I go to Wilkinson’s and buy part of the solution. I made it more simpler by asking how they solved a problem and I just go and buy that.

Rusty dexion strips in the greenhouse staging that’s easy go buy a can of Hammerite and paint it. You need to grow hundreds and hundreds of plants that’s easy go and buy packs of plastic cups 100 for £1. Yes that is capillary matting being used as insulation behind the bubble wrap on a greenhouse wall.

An allotment is a great big area of demonstrating techniques and ability and practice.

The garden has to be fully planted and the beds have to be clean and free of weeds.

The paths must be free of clutter. The buildings must be fully maintained.

One of the things I inherited is a collection of old gardening tools and when I go down to the allotment the first thing I do is I take a tool, sand down the wooden handle and treat it with linseed oil. They tools have been selected by someone who had a keen eye for unusual tools that do a specific task. I win. The tools live to fight another day.

I have three wheel barrows. One is fine, one needs it’s tyre inflating the other needs a replacement tyre. I know where the pump is and I have been given the tyre replacement.

So far I have counted ten watering cans but that could change.

Before I go down for a session of metal painting I think I am going to make a book with skeletons on the cover.

I smell of Jayes Fluid and paraffin.


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.


controlling the impulse to get stuck in.
January 13, 2015, 10:59 am
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I have to lay some paving and then build a brick structure and then place some how and then the green house base goes on the wood and is secured with screws. But I have no experience of brick laying and I have even at the best of times a hazy relationship with ‘straight’ and ‘true’ so I have to be really careful and use the spirit level and have bits of string stretched out to keep me right.

Now I could wait until the week end and get some help from my husband but that will mean that I will have to do as I am told because he has done this before and he is massively competent and methodical to boot or I could have a bash and maybe what happens is I learn some new ways on how not to lay paving.

I don’t like not being able to make progress on a project that is stuck. It like a black cloud that threatens to rain.

The best use of my time would be to finish the roof on the mighty shed and do the preliminary work on the greenhouse site and then watch a great big pile of instructional videos about brick laying!

But first I will have a bacon and fried potato sandwich to build up my strength.

bookbinding workshops by the pound
October 9, 2014, 8:16 am
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If you wish to see me do my bookbinding workshops then you have a choice of two the first one is at Newcastle Arts Centre on the 8th of November which is all day the next one is just a short one at the Baltic on the 5th of December.

These workshops will be centred around traditional craft bookbinding techniques and materials. That means it’s linen thread, bees wax, kraft paper and scrim as usual the mantra is ‘say no to exposed spines’ In the full day we will start with making pamphlet stitched books in three and five hole stitch, then we put a cover on, we strengthen the spine and we make belly bands, stick on labels and make covers. We are warming up and playing with tools.

Then we make case editions, that means sewing on to tapes. The only difficulty people have here is sewing the second signature, the kettle stitch and adding a new length of thread. I think it’s important that people establish a good understanding of sewing so I take time and with each person and sometimes they can’t get it at all so for them we go back to pamphlet sewing.

We are playing with tools and materials and we are making books handsome.

The second workshop at the Baltic will just be pamphlet sewing as it’s just a couple of hours long.

For years and years I have been threatening to do a handout and I have never got round to it but this time it’s getting closer to reality. One thing I have discovered is the absolute joy of writing while travelling on a train. I was in Durham the other day and the train on the opposite platform was going the Penzance! I was besides myself at the idea obviously I would only do it in a first class compartment but I could write the arse off any project.

So the chances of getting a handout will depend on me scoring to York or Edinburgh train tickets in the next week.
Might try for York.

How I put a title on a book spine.
September 17, 2014, 10:49 am
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I like great big books, the bigger the better, weapon sized, books of fear and doom, big fuck off books.
I’ve been working on tiny things for far too long.


I mean it’s nice enough and all that but when it comes down to it nothing makes a statement like a big book.


This book was so big that I had to stand on my toes just to sew it up. I want to make books so big that an entire cow is needed to wrap it in leather.


The ruler shows the scale of the size of the book.


It’s thick and has a coloured edge. Always a win.


This is some of the cut outs that I’ve done for the title.

I am going to cut out the title in a thinly pared leather.
I have made a die where I have cut out the letters and placed them on a strip of board. I have reversed the letters.


Then I am going to dampen covering leather, place the die and some cling film on the leather and give it a quick nip in the press.
So I will have a guide as to where I am going to place the set of letters that I have cut out and will stick on to the leather.
I know it sounds so confusing. I cut out two sets of letters of glued down card and one set of letters on pared down leather.


I will explain it all over again when I do some more work on it.