Handmade books

I  made this sketch book and did a terrible job of the binding. For those that  want to use Coptic binding and  300gsm watercolour paper, don’t do what I attempted…

Tip one:   Thick watercolour paper and thin waxed thread coupled with me pulling it out instead of along doesn’t work. It cuts into the paper and makes everything uneven. The thin thread doesn’t match the size or thickness of the book.

Tip two: When you are tired  but excited at the prospect of finishing what will be fantastic book… Stop! That combination doesn’t work, mistakes will be made!

Tip three: If you recycle as I do and find some beautiful strong curtain material with the sun block backing and want to use it for covering your book test the glue first, it is very difficult to get the right glue to adhere to that type of backing.

Tip Four: If you want to do a paper backing on the sunblock material so it will adhere better,  test first. I used rice paper, didn’t work, I had a mess (still a glue problem).

Tip Five: Don’t ever half read directions and think you know it all – especially when you are tired or rushing –  doesn’t work.

Tip Six: If the material is very thick it is difficult to mitre the corners neatly.

Tip Seven: Even if you do all the above, hang in there because you will still have a cherished handmade book to play in as I have.

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As you can see pulling the thread toward you tears the watercolour paper as it is soft which gives a messy uneven result. Not reading the instructions properly and thinking I knew everything I only did two leather tapes. For this size book there should have been more…obviously…doh! Had to go back and make do with more secure sewing…mish mash…mish mash….ho hum…

IMG_6034_edited-1 (Medium)Still I like the different textures and papers I chose to put in this book. For a sketch book it gives an opportunity to use different mediums and it is now a secure binding.

IMG_6035_edited-1 (Large)It  lies nice and flat at every page

IMG_6041_edited-1 (Medium)I like the end covers.  A beautiful natural fibre paper. It is lovely to tear as the fibres grab and gives that beautiful rustic uneven look.

IMG_6031_edited-1 (Small)Apart from the material giving me a nervous breakdown trying to glue it. It is very serviceable for a sketch book as it will be used for en Plein Air sketching. This sunblock curtain material was on a ‘sample’ book that you get shown when choosing curtains. If you are a textile artist visit your local curtain shop, they usually throw the older ones out. They are a good size. They are not all sunblock of course.

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Because these pieces were samples, there was not two the same but that adds to the style of the book. Pages are varied and so are the covers. The above is the back . My prayer flags were old and tatty but instead of throwing them away I kept them, I am glad I did as I have used them to decorate the covers along with a nice piece of recycled cotton with writing on it. The pieces of leather were recycled from old leather couches etc. I asked at a furniture restorer and he were happy to give me the most  d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s pieces of soft, aged leather.

The corners were a real problem, doesn’t matter what I did they were a mess, The material was just too thick with the backing to be neat, but as they say Necessity is the Mother of invention. I cut prayer flags and sewed ‘photo corners’ and glued them on, work perfectly and gives a nice look.

I want to tell all those out there that  won’t attempt things with the fear of failure or discard things that are not up to the standard you put on yourself. The ‘not perfect’ have character and you can’t help but love them. I love this book, it is mine, I made it. I learnt many lesson from it and it inspires me to fill it up with my creations . There is no such thing as wrong.

I wrote this piece a long time ago. I went with a group of jugglers to the park where they taught us how to juggle. It rained the night before and the ground was quite muddy and they considered postponing it. We all protested and just as well we did, it was a fantastic experience, fun, laughter and a great deal of concentration. It was a beautiful experience to have those balls land back into my hands. After our session and over a warming drink I wrote this. I guess it has something to do with the bookmaking in the sense that trying things always has some magic in it whether it works or not. The thing that stops us often is…will we be accepted either by ourselves or by others.


I juggled .

First one ball

Then a second.

I don’t think they liked each other

They hit in mid-air

They rolled as far as they could

in opposite directions.

I brought them together again

This time there was a bond

Both were muddy.

This time

They passed in the air politely

Landing in my hands.


The big question

The third ball – new


Will it be accepted?

randomrose  ©



10 thoughts on “Handmade books

    • Thank you very much for your lovely comment. She (the book) is loved like one loves a precious rag doll. I wonder if she would be as precious if she was perfect?

  1. what a beautiful little book rose 🙂 and i love your little tips to ! I tried coptic binding my own books when i was in uni though i wasnt quite as good at it haha its still a good fun little project to do 🙂 kate x

    • Thank you Kate, When things go right it is a meditation type thing to sew the binding. I must get back into it again. Having ones very own book is fun.

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