My Hand Bound Books

The covers for this landscape A4 hand bound book were made using original cyanotype prints. The front cover is a wet cyanotype, created using so many wildflowers gathered from the hedgerows around my beautiful Wiltshire home … there are Wild Mallows, Oxeye Daises, Buttercups and Toadflax. The back cover mainly features Wild Mallow flowers.

So, I should start by
being straight with you … I am a stationery addict! There! It’s out there! Now
you know my biggest vice!!

I’m also a writer and
a keeper of journals.

I am a lover of words
… their meanings, their origins, and their use. My home has always been full of
notebooks, there are piles of the things on every available space on the shelves,
in the cupboards, in the drawers.

Then, a few years
ago, I had a life-changing experience … I attended a Coptic bookbinding
workshop with local artist, Isa Carmona.

Why “life changing”,
you ask??

Well, imagine you absolutely
love music, and one day, someone sits you down at a piano and shows you how to
play, and then imagine that you’re good at it!!

Well, that’s what
learning to create books was like for me! I am a voracious writer, I am a woman
who has always found her voice in the written word, rather than the spoken one.
Hence the aforementioned mountains of stationery!

Here was a way for me
to create the very journals that I love to fill with words.

Here was a way for me
to create something special and beautiful with my own two hands.
 

A photograph of me creating a journal, folding the paper for the pages
The paper is always recycled cartridge paper

From that first workshop an obsession was born … hand bound books … it goes hand(bound) in hand(bound) with my love of words, of writing, of seeking solace in the blank pages of a journal.

I use Coptic stitching to bind the book together. Coptic binding means that the book lie completely flat when opened.

I used Coptic stitching to bind the book togetherI used Coptic stitching to bind the book together

Coptic bindings are characterized by sections of paper sewn through their folds and attached to each other with chain stitch linkings across the spine of the book. The book artist who taught me Coptic binding told me that traditionally, hand bound books would have seven signatures, or sections, and that is how many I use.

Coptic bookbinding is an ancient art, which has been used for centuries to create handbound books. It’s strong and beautiful and very practical.

Using Coptic stitching to bind the books together is so perfect for journal-making the pages lie flat and make it so much easier to write. And it’s strong … these journals do not fall apart, no matter how often you open them and write in them!

Coptic binding means the journals lie completely flat when openedCoptic binding means the journals lie completely flat when opened

The Materials I Use … The Covers

Because I want my hand bound books to be beautiful, whether they be journals or commonplace books, sketchbooks or photograph albums, I use only the loveliest materials.

The covers are made with original cyanotype prints, a fascinating alternative photography process, which is part art, part science, part alchemy.

I use wildflowers from the hedgerows around my home, or flowers form my garden, as the subjects of my prints.

Because no two cyanotype prints are the same, even if I’ve used the same flowers and ingredients in both, every book I create is completely unique.

During the cyanotype process the print goes through many and various colour changesDuring the cyanotype process the print goes through many colour changes

It’s important to me to not only use paper that is aesthetically pleasing to me, but also that is either handmade, environmentally friendly, sustainably sourced, or fair-traded. In an ideal world it will tick all of these boxes!

The paper I use for the pages is always recycled cartridge paper, 140 gsm, or even heavier weight for sketchbooks or albums.

The paper is recycled from used coffee cups, and is supplied by a small, family run business in Brighton, again, because I want to keep it local and keep it small as much as possible.


Because it’s 100% recycled, it has a slight texture to it which is great for crayons, pastel and paint work, so my books are perfect for artists.

I hand tear it or cut the paper to size, to keep the natural feel to the process.

All of the cartridge paper for the pages is recycled, mostly from old paper cups, and it’s all hand cut to size
  All of the cartridge paper for the pages is recycled, mostly from old                       paper cups, and it’s all hand cut to size

The grey board I use to keep the covers stiff is also recycled … got to think about our carbon footprint whenever possible!

For the inner covers, I like to use handmade Nepalese Lokta or Washi papers, and always try to find the best match for the prints.

Once I have assembled all the parts … the covers are glued and have holes punched in them, the pages have all been pierced in the appropriate places … the books are then bound together.

The thread that’s used in Coptic bookbinding is waxed. When I first started out, I was using waxed cotton, but then I read that the best thread to use is Irish Linen, because it doesn’t stretch. I have also found that it is extremely strong, making it perfect for bookbinding.

Coptic bindings are characterized by sections of paper sewn through their folds and attached to each other with chain stitch linkings across the spine of the book
Coptic bindings are characterized by sections of paper sewn through their folds and attached to each other with chain stitch linkings across the spine of the book

Eco-friendly All The Way

The subjects for my artwork are wildflowers or flowers from my garden, which Nature produces for me in abundance!

And I use the sun to develop the prints … as an energy source, you can’t get more sustainable than that!

The Sizes

My journals come in lots of different sizes and formats, A4, A5, B5; portrait and landscape.

As a journal keeper, the books I create for myself are usually A4 … A5 is too small for someone who writes as much as I do and whose handwriting is, frankly, a bit on the big side!!

But I do know that sometimes a blank page that big (A4) can be a bit scary!

So now I am creating a line of journals in B5 size, halfway between the two! It’s actually quite the perfect size … big enough for prolific journalers like me, but small enough to fit in your bag!

Why I Love To Make Books

According to Krystyna Wasserman in “The Book as Art. Artist’s Books from The National Museum Of Women In The Arts” …

“Women have been pioneers in the field of book arts, crafting intimate and insightful works that blend word, image, and media together in exciting and unique ways.”

I like to think that I am crafting something exciting and unique when I create one of my journals.

I also love this quote by Audrey Niffenegger in the same book …

“Books transcend time and space. To make a book is to address people you’ve never met, some of them not born yet.”

I love the idea that people will write in the journals I create, and treasure them, and that one day in the future, their grandchildren or great-grandchildren might pick up the book and say, “Wow, look at this!”.

So, if you should be kind enough to buy one of my books, you can be assured that each and every one is created with love and care, and with very special materials.

And why do I do all this?

Because Your Words Are Worth It.

I used Coptic stitching to bind the book together
                                       Your Words Are Worth It!

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4 thoughts on “My Hand Bound Books

  1. Fabulous! I am totally a stationery addict so love this!

    1. Thank you so much, Dottie! I do believe that all the best people are stationery addicts!!!

  2. Lovely to hear how you create your beautiful Journals and your inspiration. From a total Stationery addict too! xoxo

    1. Thank you, Sharon! I think we part of very select group of people … stationery addicts of the world unite!!!

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