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I have been positively gorging on treats this week, and it is only Tuesday. First there was the day out on Saturday, then there was the day off on Monday. My life doesn’t have many days off in it. Partly this is because there never seems to be time, but it is also a side-effect of being a research student. There are no official terms and conditions saying what days I have to work and what leave I am entitled to — and the result, sadly, is not more holiday but less. So I felt quite bold saying to my supervisors that I would not be available: I was taking a day off.

The reason for this day and its timing is that my aunt, Pat Foster of the blog Purple Donsu, has been visiting these parts. She and my mother organised a day at my mother’s house for a group of us to learn the basics of Japanese style bookbinding. If you visit her blog, you will see lots of examples of Pat’s bookbinding work and of her interest in Japanese textiles.

It was a really busy day! We started at 10 and carried on until the last of us (yes, that would be me!) had finished making two books; I guess it was nearly 5 pm by then. The first book we made was to be covered in paper, and Pat had brought lots of different designs for us to choose from. I picked this…

…because the colours and shapes reminded me of the American south-west, one of my favourite parts of the world. Once I got into the covering process I did begin to have second thoughts, however. Picking a design based on a grid means that any squintiness in the final object will be really, really annoying! I spent ages peering through the paper by holding it up to the light before I was confident even to draw a line on the back, never mind cut into it, but it seems to have worked out OK in the end. [You will notice that I have actually shown you a picture of the finished book already and not a work-in-progress picture. After n years of blogging, where n is getting quite big, you might think I’d have got the hang of taking my camera around with me, but you would be wrong. So all these pictures were taken at home, about an hour ago. Sorry.]

Inside the book, the text block — i.e. the stack of pages — is supposed to be flush with the covers, which was pretty much achieved on this book. The text block is more or less A5 (officially that’s 210 x 148 mm or about 8.3 x 5.8 in). Oh, and I used a thick red textured paper as the endpaper. Having spent the last 24 hours being flattened under heavy volumes of statistics, the poor little book didn’t really want to open up for the camera, so I had to squash it back open again with paperweights (it was either that or Stuart’s fingers, and these weights are rather prettier).

For our second book we used fabric to cover the boards. We chose our fabric about a month ago and sent it off to Pat, who mounted it for us onto bank paper. With that done, we were able to use it pretty much like paper. My mother and her friends do lots of dyeing of cotton fabric and had all sorts of lovely designs. I chose a leftover piece of handwoven fabric (leftover  from the end of this cushion warp, in fact) — I wasn’t sure how well it would work, but I wanted to see whether I could use this co-ordinating band of tablet weaving as some kind of tie. (I had been going to put the two together to make a bag but that has been not happening for several months already.)

Of course, I had picked another straight line design, hadn’t I? With fabric rather than paper it did prove a bit too challenging to get the lines straight, but I think that is permissible on one’s first day.

And I think that once she is wearing her jaunty sash it will hardly matter.

Book two is a similar size to book one, just a smidgeon larger. In the first place this is because the text block inside is this lovely khadi paper, which is less regular than the sketchbook paper used above…

…and, secondly, I forgot to allow for the extra thickness of the fabric when I cut out the boards. I made them the same size as the extremes of the pages, but the fabric covering makes them several millimetres bigger. So in this case the flush finish was not achieved, but the lesson has been learned. We used the same stitching pattern on both books: a plain four-hole binding you can see at the top of this page. I enjoyed sewing through the punched holes — it reminded me of those cards we used to sew pictures onto when I was very small — but finishing off the ends was seriously challenging. I am not sure how I will manage it at home alone. You may hear screams.

Naturally the current situation in Japan was much on our minds and in our conversation during the day, and then I came home to an email from the proprietor of Kakara Woolworks, which had been forwarded on to me. Yuka stocks the Journal — yes, all the way over there — but was letting us know that she needed to close the shop for the time being. At least she and her family are safe and well.

I did manage to take a picture on my phone of the assembled books at the end of the day. The brown one in a portrait orientation in the middle of the top row was one of my mother’s — isn’t that fabric lovely?

books” was posted by Cally on 22 March 2011 at

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5 Responses

  1. Sandra Rude
    | Reply

    What a wonderful way to spend a “day off!”

  2. Evelyn
    | Reply

    Wonderful work! I love the cloth bound one especially. What will you use it as?

    • Cally
      | Reply

      I think with those khadi pages it is destined to be an album of some kind…

  3. Ana
    | Reply

    Covet! I mean lovely covers! Funny how I can still get all worked up over a beautiful book.

  4. neki rivera
    | Reply

    what a wonderful day! and a great way to use textile samples!

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