What a bind

Back in January one of my birthday presents from Mr Snail was a course at Make it in Wales – a café and craft space in Cardigan. Naturally there were no courses that I wanted to do near to my birthday, so it wasn’t until 10 days ago that I actually got my present. To make it even better, my friend Sue (Going Batty in Wales) also booked to come along, so we had a lovely day together being creative. The course I chose was Coptic bookbinding.

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Sue’s cover under construction (c) Sue Laverack

I did do a little bit of bookbinding at primary school, but it’s a long, long time ago and I have no real recollection of it, apart from knowing that we made stitched books with a covered spine (no idea what the technical term is… is that case bound?). Coptic binding, in contrast, has exposed decorative stitching and the course involved making a keepsake book, with both pages and envelopes bound in. Because there is room for expansion, Coptic binding lends itself to a book that you might want to stick things in or with envelopes that might end up fatter than when originally inserted. The open spine shows off the pages inside, so using coloured paper around the bundles of white pages (the signatures) and for the envelopes allowed us to make attractive finished books.

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Making an envelope (c) Sue Laverack

Our tutor, Carole King, provided hand-printed paper of her own design for the covers and keepsake envelopes, along with lovely plain colours to choose from. We started by making the covers for our books, pasting printed paper onto the boards and then adding a colour to cover the inside of each cover. I chose a black on white print of little houses and Sue chose a fishy design on green. After that we cut out three envelopes to go inside (one in the print and two coloured ones) added any extra colour we wanted and arranged our pages into a pleasing order.

After a delicious lunch in the café (thank you Sue for treating me), the afternoon was spent learning to stitch our books together and finally finishing off by gluing the envelopes closed (you have to leave them open to allow access for stitching) and trimming the pages.

It’s an ancient technique, but still being practiced and valued today. I’m pretty certain this won’t be the last book I make and I already have my eye on future courses to learn different techniques.

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21 Comments

  1. Really nice!

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  2. Ann Pole

     /  April 8, 2019

    Wow, that is beautiful! Are you coming to the NDG? I wondered if to bring our wedding memory book.

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  3. It was a lovely day and I really enjoyed sharing it with you. I haven’t done a blog post about it yet because my book is a gift so I don’t want to reveal it until it has been sent. Like you I would love to do more versions of the same book and more courses with Carol. Being creative and learning new things is such fun!

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  4. Oh that brought back memories Jan! I did a bookbinding course for a whole year about thirty years ago and loved it. Can’t remember a thing about it now 🙂 Your books both look stunning – what a joy to learn something new as a gift and alongside a friend. Happy days!!

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  5. Your book looks great – I love the paper you chose for the cover. What will you use it for?,

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  6. I’d like to try this too. Yours came out really well.

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  7. It looks like peaceful, creative fun, the best kind. Did you need any specialist tools, or just what you’d find in an ordinary tool/craft box?

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    • It’s a wonderfully low-tech craft – paper, board, glue, glue brush and an awl. It’s helpful, but not essential, to have some sort of frame to hold the pages and covers when you make the holes so that they stay still and which has something that doesn’t matter if it gets stabbed into, but I think you could just use an old, unwanted book for this. Carol had a few frames that she had made herself.
      Anyway, I really enjoyed the process – made a few mistakes and learned so much. I especially liked combining paper and sewing… not something that I’ve experienced much before, but which has made me think about some new potential projects.

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  8. What a fun gift and especially when you get to share the experience with a friend. It looks like fun. My daughter’s birthday is quite soon so I bought her a watercolor class that goes several weeks and the kit of supplies she needs for it. So much better than something to put in a drawer or closet. Experiences are the best gifts of all. You have a good husband there. Love the results of the class too.

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  9. What amazing, fabulous books. I fear I would make a lot of them if I learned how, but I may have to cast about for a class nearby. It’s inspiring–and then a useful thing of beauty.

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  10. Clever Mr. Snail to know the perfect gift ~ and this one was a beauty! Your book is great. I also wonder what you will use it for.

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  11. This looks lovely Jan, I’ve just added the topic to my creative “will do” list. Over the last couple of years I’ve become a big fan of “bullet journalling” (i’ve renamed my version as “seed journalling!” ), as being my “hub” for organising and keeping track of everything in my life basically! I love it, its part of my all day every day, but I keep having a think about creating my own journal for it, rather than starting with a blank bought “dot” journal. And your idea here could really work i think! x

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  12. This really cool–and your first effort looks very fine!

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  1. Getting creative – Going Batty in Wales

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