15 March 2013

Bookbinding 101.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Chinatown for yet another class at Monster Gallery. I'm becoming a regular at Joe's place, and I'm okay with that . . .  This time I was taking a class on something I knew nothing about: bookbinding.

I've made a book only once in my life, about 10 years ago. It was a simple stitch--very quick--and I don't even remember what the technique was called (for shame). But this style of bookbinding--the one featured in my Monster Gallery class this time around--was called a Coptic stitch. 

Coptic stitching originated in Egypt by Copts, native Christians of Egypt (4th - 6th centuries AD). It is a form of binding multiple sections of pages together so that they lay flat when the book is open. It is ideal for journals, prayer books, and sketchbooks. (I must admit, I did feel rather monk-like working on my book.) This type of stitch has remained popular for over 1500 years!   

Our class was taught by S. T. Leng, bookmaker extraordinaire. He sells his beautiful books online at Bukurama. He was so great at teaching, too: lively and good-natured. I asked a lot of questions--as I tend to do when learning something new--and he never once showed exhaust . . . 

The materials we used were very basic: thread, wax, a small metal ruler, white glue, cardboard, a metal paper punch, a medium-sized needle, and paper. 

We covered the cardboard in craft paper and lined the insides. I chose a vintage ticket stub patterned paper for my book covers and green paper for the inside lining. We folded 5 bunches of thick white paper together, each bunch containing 5 pages. 

We punched our holes after lining everything up and marking our pages gently with a pencil.

Then the sewing began . . . We looped through one cover, through a section of paper and down the mid section of it, and then through another stack of paper. We kept repeating these steps with each of the additional stacks of paper until we had looped through each of the sections. We finished the stack off with our second piece of cardboard, the back cover. 

A quick tutorial on the stitching process can be found here. And a beautiful downloadable guide can be found here. (Although neither link could quite compete with a physical hands-on, in-person guide.)

Last stitch!

To learn this technique and make my book ended up taking just under two and a half hours to complete. And it was so relaxing and enjoyable to create, zen really. 

I had this idea of sending my book back and forth to a friend of mine in the States, as a way of interacting through old-school written words and photographs (i.e. not Facebook, Instagram, or email). But I might just keep it for myself . . . 

Walking back to the train station after my class was absolutely beautiful. The weather was clear and the streets were almost completely empty, aside from the millions of lanterns hanging everywhere. I snuck this quick picture as I was turning the corner. Not one person in sight!

I am now working on a much larger book for my friend Kate who lives in Nashville. She will be using it as a photo album. I'll keep you posted!

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