Bookbinding with Shirley Levine, Part II

Did you have fun experimenting with bookbinding over the weekend? If you made a book, we’d love to see it–give us a link in the comments if you post photos, please~~

Here’s the link to Shirley’s tutorial where she shows you how to make a journal from a recycled book, like this one:

Recycled book by Shirley Levine

Recycled book by Shirley Levine--end papers

Here’s the rest of my Q&A with Shirley, with links to her bookbinding tutorial on her blog.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the process?  

I love all parts of bookbinding.  In general I prefer teaching myself techniques, but I took a 1 1/2 day bookbinding class to learn how to make book covers and refine other techniques.  I love finding perfect books to recycle.  They are very inexpensive and soon destined for the trash.  I look for cheap, used books with a great title and a few illustrations that I can incorporate in my journal.  I practice drawing hands, faces, and feet in separate sketchbooks and my two favorite recycled books are called The Illustrator and Artist and Model.  The book I recycled for the tutorial I just posted on my blog is called Italian Dreams, and I incorporated some of the Venice pages for our upcoming trip to Venice.  My summer beach book for 2012 is a $1.00 book called Gift From the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  I draw lots of shells when I’m at the beach, and she has small shell drawings on the chapter pages, which I will mix in with watercolor paper. I love doing the stitching – since needlework is one of my first passions. I love dying cotton fabric and making my own book cloth for my daily sketchbooks.  I now have a row of brightly covered, completed sketchbooks on my shelf and they give me great pleasure.

Q: Any part you don’t much like?

I prefer 140 lb watercolor paper in my sketchbooks and it is difficult to get the signatures sewn tightly together.  So there are gaps between signatures that bother me.  Gluing the spine helps some, but not completely, so I sometimes use strips of the end paper to glue over the gap.  Then I have a fun set of pages, with a partial collage border, when I turn to those spreads.

 Q: Any tips for beginning book binders?

If you want a custom sketchbook, just start making some.  A 3 hole pamphlet stitch, single signature book, is really easy to make and requires only paper, thread, and a needle.  It is important to know what size and paper you prefer using, and sometimes making a few pamphlet stitched books of different sizes and with different papers can help you decide.

I used 90 and 140lb paper, hot press, cold press, and rough in my first recycled book.  It was very easy to tell that I hated rough paper because the pen work was difficult.  And the 90 lb paper buckled too much for scanning for my blog if I painted on both sides of the page.  Over time I worked with hot press and cold press, liking and disliking some qualities of both.  Then I found soft press by Fabriano and now it is the only paper that I bind in my journals.

My preferred book size is 6X 8 portrait format, or 6-8″ square journals and I make both.  When I buy a book to recycle, I look for a similar size used book.

 Q: Any sources you’d like to share?

About recycled books: Gwen Diehn’s Decorated Page.

There is a small section at the back of this out-of-print book about recycling books as journals.  Gwen Diehn’s two books, Decorated Page and Decorated Journal are being combined and republished this spring.  She added artist profiles and journal pages from current sketchbook artists and I’m thrilled to be one of them, especially since her book inspired me to begin this journey.

Jan Allsopp’s blog to see the books she made for her European travel sketchbooks.  I would be shocked if these didn’t inspire you.

Multiple Signature Sewn Books:

 Jana Bouc’s blog to see how she struggled to learn bookbinding on her own and the beautiful sketchbook she made.  She has some great resources listed that help her.

Roz Stendahl’s blog to see the books she makes for her own use, and the classes that she teaches.  Roz also has a list of books on bookbinding on her blog.

Bookbinding Supplies:

Most good art supply stores have some bookbinding tools – bone folders, awls, thread, and needles.  And there are several bookbinding companies to mail order a full range of books and supplies.



Volcano Arts

Here’s the Introduction to Shirley’s tutorial.

Part I

Part 2

Part 3

Thanks so much, Shirley! This has been fabulous~~


Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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