Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Vinyl "handbag" sketchbook

While I still have three more of my Mum's leather handbags that I want to turn into notebooks/sketchbooks, I turned to one of my own old bags to use for making for a sketchbook as a long overdue gift for a vegetarian artist friend. This was a good little bag that I received as a gift many years ago, but was out of circulation due to a broken strap. 

The first step was un-seaming the bag and taking measurements. The bag's flap with design patches was actually like a pocket so I kept it intact for possible further use.

I figured out the size for my signatures (folded paper groups) and measured the vinyl to size for a wrap-around cover. I had decided to go back to the very first bookbinding method that I learned - the Medieval tacket book - and slightly modify it to my needs. In the image below, lines marking the interior spine are visible with approximately 1/4 cm between each line.Two signatures will be bound in corresponding holes along each line.

Using graph paper I decided the distance between the binding holes. In the picture below the extra lines denote where the signature spines will be -- the meetings of perpendicular lines marking the locations of the binding holes. NB: it is important that the TOP and BOTTOM of the cover and signatures are obvious; I mark the interior spine (it won't be visible after binding) and always have a deckled edge at the top of my books. Likewise, the template should also be clearly marked.

Each signature is opened centrally to facilitate puncturing binding holes. Each signature for this sketchbook is ten folded pages, i.e., 20 pages. The pushpins need to poke completely through the ten pages, in the middle of the fold; the graph paper provides a template for where the holes will be.

A book cradle is ideal to facilitate the creation of binding holes; I have made a useful enough cradle from cardboard. It has gotten a bit wonky at this point, with much use, but I keep repairing it with duct tape and additional bits of cardboard in strategic places so it still serves its purpose!

Back to poking holes in the sigantures: the two white pushpins are stronger and easier to use than the round headed pins. However, I only have two of the white type so they are my main men for poking holes, and the round ones act as placeholders, keeping the signature aligned with the graph paper template. While working on the book, I thought of this step as the "dance of the pushpins": I kept having to move the pins around till all the holes were punctured.

Looking at the signatures not in the cradle, one can see the holes punctured in the signature spines. These are the binding holes. Note that there are seven holes in the paper signatures; five of these holes will be bound to the cover, but the top and bottom holes are for thread entry, exit, and signature binding -- they are not used to bind to the cover.

As with the paper, the cover needs to have holes punctured. Five holes per line are punctured, corresponding to the five binding holes in the signatures. I used an awl to make the holes, but as with leather, the vinyl wants to heal itself! Safety pins and earring wires are handy to give those pesky holes a nudge to stay open; these handy pin items need to be removed completely before beginning to bind.

 Start binding in reverse order. That is, the last signature (with end paper) is the first to be bound. It is probably the most tricky, so it's good to get it over with. Leave about 2 inches of thread at the entry hole, starting from the outside and threading into the centre of the signature. Threading through the second hole you bind the signature to the first hole in the cover and come back through the cover's second hole to the third signature hole. The thread then goes to the centre hole and it is here that a decision must be made: the thread has to go back through the same hole, so either another thread or a decorative bead or button is used in order to facilitate the bind (otherwise it would come undone). The following signatures do not have this dilemma as the binding thread loops through the previous binding thread (i.e., signatures 3, 5, 7, and 9. The second signature on each line (i.e., signatures 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10) is not bound to the cover at the centre hole --  the hole is bypassed as one long thread to the next hole (lower or upper hole, depending on your sewing direction).

I am happy with the final book, I chose the teal embroidery thread (3 strand) to match the endpapers, which is paper giftwrap from Prague that I had been saving. I thought of using one of the ceramic buttons that I had made as a decorative, practical element in that first tricky signature binding, but I found the glass beads and thought them more appropriate and less likely to damage the threads with time.

As I am planning to mail this sketchbook to my friend, I was delighted that the "pocket" of the original purse flap is large enough to contain the sketchbook. Though it's a bit of tight squeeze, it will offer considerable protection in the post!

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