For my second book binding project of 2011, I decided to try to copy a stitch pattern from the spine of a book that someone else made. It looked to be a fairly simple stitch, crossing through 5 signatures inside the book, with two sets of exposed crisscrossing threads on the soft leather spine. To work out the sewing for myself, I pierced holes in a piece of book board cut to the spine width I wanted, and by trial and error, sewed through the holes until I figured out the order of things.
Decoding the pattern was not difficult once I had needle and thread in hand, and though I wasn’t sure it was stitched in exactly the same way as the original, it would look just like the book spine it was modeled after.
Digging through my box of leather and suede scraps for a soft but sturdy piece to make a wraparound cover with, I chose a thick red one, close to the book height I wanted. One of its edges had a diagonal slant that would make an interesting cover flap, so I worked from there, trimming the top and bottom edge to match. For the pages, I found some tea dyed paper left over from a previous book that would complement the cover and style of this binding. The paper was already very close to the right size, I just needed to fold the folios and trim it down.
There are no pictures of the process, but here is the end product, the 4 3/4″ square book, thick enough to be hefty, and perhaps small enough to fit in the pocket of a big coat.
The strap was added last, another leather scrap that I considered trimming before attaching it, but in the end felt right just as it was. This is what one of my teachers meant when she told us to “build the book from the book;” rather than starting from arbitrary measurements and pre-determined sizes when making a book, fold and divide from the actual object, whether it be paper, board, or leather. This approach is more intuitive and more about manipulating what you have, and less about rulers and fine-tuned marking and cutting. Maybe that is why building the book from the book suits me so well.