Book binding and hand made journals

Book binding and hand made journals

My adventure into this fabulous craft.

Earlier this year, when some kind of normality was allowed and ‘real’ classes were running, I took the opportunity to spend the day with my dear friend, Teresa. Together we attended a book binding course at the wonderful Ardington School of Crafts in South Oxfordshire. (

Janina Maher was the tutor for the day, and she was a fabulous instructor.

We were introduced to two styles of books: a Midori-style travellers’ notebook and a wrapped stitch binding style, both in leather. For my vegan friends and followers, don’t panic, book binding can be (and is) done in non-animal product coverings too, but I will get to that.

First, I wanted to say that I take classes all the time, when conditions allow, and in all sorts of different disciplines just to see how things are done. I never want to stop learning, and to see if there is something out there that I would really like to do more (or less) of.

For instance. I love pottery and china so I thought taking a class using clay would be fabulous. No. It really wasn’t for me. I don’t like the feeling of cold, wet, slippery, clay; it gives me the shivers. Likewise felting. I just found it boring and monotonous and I couldn’t get away from the class quickly enough.

Book making, however, was a revelation. I have always enjoyed sewing and I love any project I can do whilst watching TV of an evening. Actually, between you and me, I use night-time activities like sewing and drawing to remove myself from the TV shows we often watch. Currently it is The Fall, which so many people have told me they thought was brilliant. I just find it rather farfetched but frightening. So, I actually listen to it rather than watch it.

Anyway, I took to this like a duck to water and once home started perfecting the skills. I was able to get leather from a friend who makes bags, and my eldest son gave me some sample pieces he had, and I started making.

Most of the pieces I made to begin with are earmarked for Christmas gifts and some friends have also asked me to make for them. I have posted images of what I have done on Facebook and Instagram and have had enquires about making books for people who have found me online. I didn’t see that coming but I am delighted and looking forward to producing orders for people.

However, the most incredible opportunity which arose was from another dear friend, Cecilia. Cecilia and I have been meeting online twice a week for over three years now. She is the most incredibly talented embroiderer, who teaches her advanced and highly developed skills to people around the world.

Cecilia asked me if I would teach a shared class with her, to show her embroidery students how to turn their work into books or journals. She explained that her students are always looking for new ways to use their skills, as there are only so many cushions or bags, they can make without it becoming very boring for them. So, I jumped at the chance.

My embroidery skills are not up to much these days but, apparently, works using running stich are all the rage and I quickly put together a piece to use and test out with my book making skills. I will be honest, as is often the case, the first piece wasn’t great. My sewing skills need work, and I came across issues which I haven’t faced with leather but that is why we do test pieces first to make sure we are ready for anything that could go wrong.

I will make a few versions in preparation for the class, to further inspire the students beyond what we will be teaching on the day and show them other types of inserts or elements which could be incorporated into other projects they may wish to tackle.

The class is free to anyone who wants to take it and it will be online on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th December 2020. We decided to split it over the two days as it is likely to be a four- or five-hour session. Until we have taught it once we have no idea how quickly the students will pick up the techniques we are sharing, so felt that a split session would work better for everyone.

If you fancy being part of this totally free, “we don’t want a penny for doing it because you will be guinea pigs” event, do let me know and I will send you the link. We know that we will learn lots from offering this session for free, and that our students will be slightly more forgiving if the tech plays up; Cecilia is based in Switzerland and I am in England, so the opportunity for gremlins is huge.

We will manage. Zoom is such a fantastic tool, so everything should be good but having never done this kind of split hosting event before we honestly don’t know if there is something we haven’t thought of. We will be testing it on a couple of friends next weekend, so please keep everything crossed for us.

In the meantime, I have ordered more leather which should arrive this week, which is exciting. I am working on making vegan versions of these books or journals using either fake, or as they like to say these days, “faux” leather and paper only versions too.

As a result of the online embroidery class opportunity I am going to be looking at making fabric covered books for journals, too. All my books or journals will have pieces of my original artwork in the lining and I am also looking at ways of using my art on the covers, too.

Many years ago, I was also taught how to make books using a binding method called Coptic. It is my intention to make these larger books using watercolour paper for artists. The paper varies in each book but in some use quality writing paper and other versions a quality cartridge paper perfect for sketching on is used.

For years I have bought new and second-hand buttons and beads and I have now found a perfect outlet for using these, although some are going to be difficult to part with.

I have no intention of making multiples of the same, so each book or journal will be completely individual. This is because I can’t think of anything more boring than trying to make everything look the same and, more importantly, no two pieces of leather or my art will be the same. I have a huge variety of buttons and beads and I will simply use what feels right to me when finishing each item.

Who’d have thought a day spent with a friend could so quickly turn into such a huge passion and become such a fantastic way to share my small pieces of artwork?  

Most of these journals are taken but if you would like me to make one for you, please contact me.


6 Responses

  1. wordsinclay says:

    Love how you have picked up this skill, developed it way further and taken it into your practise. Workshop sounds wonderful!

  2. Mireya says:

    love the inside panting

  3. Alison Bowden says:

    I would love to do this course please! Have just messaged on your main page but maybe it wasn’t the right one?

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