My 36th Weekly Challenge, bookbinding, required me to go to a very special place I try very hard to avoid: craft corner.
Historically, anything involving my hands, scissors and glue has brought me out in a rash. As an impatient lefthander with fingers like sausages, I’m just not cut out for activities like bookbinding. But My Year In Flux is a journey of novelty and self-discovery, it is a quest of small failures amounting to larger victories. So with trepidation, I ignored the alarm bells ringing in my head, signed up for a local bookbinding course, and awaited disaster…
Despite fearing the worst, I discovered that what I lacked in finesse was more than made up for with a perfectionist streak I didn’t possess as a youngster. As our bookbinding teacher talked us through the various stages of folding, stitching and glueing our books, I found that, rather than racing with my classmates to get the job done or trying to impress the teacher, I drifted into a hyper-focused state of JUST. TRYING. TO. GET. IT. RIGHT.
I think that learning a new skill such as bookbinding may have been beyond me before My Year In Flux. But trying my hand at so many new things this year has armed me with the patience and resolve which enables me to (sometimes) override frustration and fear of failure. Learning to hand-stitch a book using the coptic binding technique, for example, required me to carefully fold and align paper before stitching across the spine in a (to me) relatively intricate pattern. If you’d have handed me the finished book at the beginning of my bookbinding lessons, I would have told you that I wasn’t physically capable of making that object. But by the end of the week, I was turning my own coptic bound book over in my hands with a real sense of achievement. However, though it was clever, my own coptic binding wasn’t a patch on my hard-bound book, which actually looked and felt like a genuinely professional item.
Using a bookbinders’ frame with some sewing tape stretched across it, I learned how to stitch the spine of a book ‘block’ (the inside pages, not the cover) together. Once stitched, a little glue and some special ‘mull’ netting material was applied to the spine to give it extra strength. Next, we covered grey board with book cloth, glued it and carefully attached the cover to our stitched book blocks. The result was a quite beautiful notebook of which I am very proud.
Dipping my toe in the water of bookbinding, and learning some of the ancient bookbinding techniques has been a really exciting little journey. If you want to make something beautiful with only a few humble materials (paper, card and something nice with which to cover your book), and have a little patience, I’d definitely recommend giving bookbinding a try: in a world of ebooks and iPads, there’s something wholesome and good about making a real book. And for a left-hander with a severe aversion to craft, bookbinding proved an immensely satisfying activity.
For details of bookbinding courses and training across the UK, do what I did and have a look at the Society of Bookbinders website, and sign up for a course. Tomorrow you could be a bookbinder!