Sunday, November 22, 2009

Binding My Own Sketchbook!

I have decided to make my own sketchbook from art papers that are my favorite to paint on. The sketchbooks we buy from the art stores are very nice but I wanted one with a variety of Fabriano surfaces as well as some fine drawing papers like Rives BFK in several tones. Many of the pages already have paintings or sketches on them because I began forming the pages for this sketchbook by tearing and folding from larger sheets of paper months ago and then I started using them even though I hadn't bound them into the book yet.

This photo shows the book block after I have assembled all the signatures and the cheesecloth spine and then sewn them all together. A signature is a group of folded leaves, or pages, inserted one inside the next for binding. I'm using a good book to help guide me through this process called Books, Boxes, & Wraps by Marilyn Webberlye & JoAn Forsyth. I've never bound a book before so this is a whole new experience for me.

Here you can see that the space between the signature units when laid flat is probably a little too wide. I must have left too much slack in the thread when sewing them. I was concerned that if I pulled too tightly I might have trouble getting the pages to lay flat when open but I may have over compensated. I spent hours doing this step so I decided not to redo it. I'll just pay attention to this possible outcome with the next sketchbook I make.

Putting the glue on the mat boards I am using to make the cover. I'm using my cotton boards that are left over from matting paintings so the boards are archival. I bought a piece of linen from Joann Fabric Store for the fabric cover and that is precut, ironed and laid out in the center of my framing table.

Brushing the glue across the entire sheet of mat board.

Placing the mat board on the linen glue side down. I pressed down in the center and then in all four corners, flipped the cover over, placed a paper towel down and smoothed it with a bone folder. The folder takes out any air pockets and the paper towel is there to absorb any excess glue that might seep up through the fabric.

Here I am brushing glue on the turn-ins which are then folded over and pressed down on the board.

To dry overnight I have placed a sheet of homesote board down first. Next came a sheet of wax paper to protect the homesote. Then a slip sheet of newsprint. The book cover is next with newsprint over it, then another sheet of wax paper and another homesote board on top.

This photo shows the last step in making the case to set the signatures in. You see the stack of 2 boards that I have placed the case between and the books on top to weigh it down. Those heavy art history books come in handy. I left the sketchbook cover (also called the case) to dry overnight. In my next blog entry I'll show attaching the book block to this case.

This drying process is the same method I use to flatten my watercolors by the way, after they are finished. I set the painting face down on this same table because it is waterproof. I spread water across the back of the painting with a large hake brush and put a sheet of plastic over it while the water soaks in for about 15 minutes. If you haven't seen this process done before it is a good idea to test it first on a scrap watercolor because you must be careful not to put too much water down or it could soak through to the other side where your painting is. 300 lb. paper needs more water than 140lb. paper. But you must use enough water to cause the paper to relax. I put a clean piece of cloth cut from an old cotton sheet down on the homesote board, put the painting on top of that. Then another piece of cotton goes down on top of the painting. Finally another piece of homesote board is placed on top and heavy books on top of that. I usually leave the painting under these weights for a day and a half. The homesote board is what I use in printmaking to dry etchings after pulling an edition. It is a board which pulls moisture into itself. Flattening this way makes matting and framing the painting easier as you won't see buckling of the painting under the edges of your window mat.

I'm having a lot of fun with this and I can hopefully finish it soon! Stay tuned for the next installment of my book binding!


  1. Wow - what a lot of work! But you will have something totally unique and beautiful when finished. I have to admit, in looking at your photos, I envy you that beautiful space you have to make art! Looking forward to seeing the completed book.

  2. Hi Deb, glad you are enjoying this process. I was inspired to try bookbinding after seeing Cathy Johnson's personal sketchbooks on her site I just noticed she has an instructional CD on this subject too. I am grateful to have this extra room. My sweetheart of a husband built the table for me from recycled materials from a work project.


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