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Posts Tagged ‘embroidered binding’

  1. My Hand // Into This World

    October 18, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    I recently completed a French-style fine binding around Natalie Goldberg’s Into This World. The letterpress printed text is paired with woodblock prints both carved and printed by Clare Dunne and hand-tinted by Sialia Rieke. The texture of the prints were my inspiration for the design for the binding. By combining the natural texture of the buffalo skin with embroidery and leather onlays, I hoped to capture the pops and cracks between the layers of color.

    With this plan in mind, I used a single print as my inspiration to lay out the design. For the embroidered elements of the design, I chose to play with the technique in two new ways: an embroidered title and embroidered paper doublures.

    The script used for the title mimics the author’s own handwriting taken from her signature on the title page. The title was drawn onto tracing paper and taped in place, overlapping the white buffalo back-pared onlay. I tend to pre-punch the holes for embroidery, especially when I am trying to achieve something exact. For the pre-punching, I put a thin embroidery needle in my pin vise and placed the leather onto a piece foam. Then I used the tracing paper to guide my pin vise.

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    The embroidery for the title happened in two steps: back-stitch to spell-out the letters with french knots for the i’s dots and then I wrapped the stitches to create a raised, more defined line.

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    After the title was completed, several seed stitches were scattered around the binding with the majority of them appearing on the back cover. I used the same technique to pre-punch the holes for the seed stitches, this time using the full-scale template. The title and seed stitches were sewn with 2-ply cotton thread in an ochre yellow.

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    The second embroidered element in the binding are the edge-to-edge paper doublures. The prep for paper doublures is very similar to the set-up for leather doublures; for paper I allowed a wider turn-in as I trimmed out, this would ensure a smoother surface under the paper. Below you can see the turn-ins post covering and with the leather hinge in place.

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    After scoring a frame around the board and spine edge, I began to trim off the excess leather at a slight bevel. In order to create a successful doublure, several layers are added to the board (one at a time) and sanded to make the board as smooth as possible. The first layer (shown on the right in the image below) was a piece of 10pt. card, first sanded along all four edges and attached with a PVA/methylcellulose mix. After allowing that layer to dry under weight for an entire day, I sanded the edges smooth (which is the state visible in the image below).

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    In between these stages, I began working on the embroidered paper doublures. Referencing the same print used to inspired the covers, I traced an outline of the figure from the image. I felt that her pose embodied the sentiments of the text perfectly. Using the tracing paper once again as my guide for punching the holes, I placed the paper onto a piece of foam and poked through the tracing paper into the doublure paper.
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    Once the paper pieces were fully embroidered, I carefully sanded the backside of the paper to create a smoother feel along the edges once glued down to the board. Below you can see the board in it’s final stage. After sanding down the 10pt. card, I attached a medium weight smooth paper. This piece was slightly oversized on three edges and sanded down on the spine side. After allowing it to dry under weight, I sanded it down smooth. The embroidered paper doublures were attached with MIX and put under weight for a day in order to dry thoroughly and to prevent the board from cupping inward.

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    And here are the final results. I am so pleased with the outcome of the embroidered paper doublures, it will most certainly be a technique I use again on a future binding. To see more images of the binding and it’s embroidered quarter leather clamshell box, click here.

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  2. My Hand // The Nightingale and the Rose

    February 16, 2016 by Erin Fletcher

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    This binding was featured very briefly on the blog last year in my review of the North Bennet Street School’s 2015 Student and Alumni Show. After the show, I sent it off to England for the Society of Bookbinder’s International Competition. Just last week, I was finally reunited with this macabre little binding. Its presence on my bench reminded me that this binding needed a proper post documenting the steps involved in its creation.

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    This edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose was printed by Rebecca Press in 1985 and includes wood engravings by Alan James Robinson of Cheloniidae Press. My design for both the nightingale and the rose are drawn straight from Robinson’s engravings. The text block was sewn on two flattened cords and rounded and backed in a job backer. Which was a bit excessive for such a tiny binding, but offered me a bit a humor. In lieu of a backing hammer, I used the flat, rounded side of my bone folder to achieve the rounded shape of the spine.

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    Once the forwarding on the book was complete, I could focus on the design. I photocopied the image of the nightingale and rose from the text; enlarging them to the desired size. These photocopies became my guide for drawing out each shape of the bird and flower. Beginning with the bird, the first onlays attached to the base leather were a silhouette of the body, the beak and feet. In order to get some depth and texture to the bird’s feet, before cutting out the two shapes I laid feathered onlays of maroon goatskin over thinned out terracotta goatskin.

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    Although I would normally use PVA to place my onlays onto the leather, I chose to use paste because I was worried about staining the tiny pieces of leather when applying the PVA. After the the onlays went down, I pressed the skin between acrylic boards. Then I back-pared the leather. In the image below you can see the shape of the onlays on the reverse side of the leather (the change in color appears because more flesh is being pared from the areas with onlays, this creates a smooth transition from onlay to base leather on the surface.)

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    After paring the leather, I was free to begin with the embroidery. When I embarked on this task, I had very loose plans and approached it in a very free form way. I would build up the image with embroidery and then switch to adding feathered onlays, then more embroidery until I felt satisfied with the look of the bird. You can see this progression below (please forgive the poor photography and variation in color).

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    With the design of the bird fully assembled and embroidered, I prepped for covering. After pasting out the leather, I laid down any stray tails from the embroidery beside a stitch to hide its appearance from the front. Then I progressed with the covering, formed the endcaps, wrapped the turn-ins around the cover boards and pleated the corners. After setting the boards, I put the book to rest between a small scrap of felt in my small wooden press.

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    Once the book had dried, I carefully opened each cover and began the steps to prep the inside for the leather doublures. The back doublure was embellished with a multi-onlay and embroidered rose. The steps involved in creating the rose mimic those used to create the bird. The tricky part here happened while back-paring. It was impossible to pare to the desire thickness for doublures without slicing through the rose onlay. So the rose is not a true back-pared onlay, it actually sits on the surface of the leather. I was worried this extra thickness might impact the neighboring flyleaf or the way the book closed, but neither became an issue.

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    The Nightingale and the Rose is a tale about a nightingale who chooses to give her life so that a young man may find love. By piercing her breast into the thorn of a rose, her blood stains a white rose red. This part of the story is illustrated with a tiny wood veneer inlaid “thorn”. The red goatskin Ascona onlay runs from the top of the thorn across the spine (at the “I” in Wilde) and to the rose on the back doublure.

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    The book is housed in a miniature quarter leather clamshell box. I used the same tan goatskin on the spine of the box which was used on the doublures. The rest of the case is covered in a paper I made using cotton and leek skins, also used for the flyleaves in the binding. The author name is stamped in matte grey foil on the spine and the title is stamped on a Mohawk label that sits in a recessed well. The trays are covered in granite colored Cave Paper.

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    The trays are lined with a light grey Silsuede fabric. I prefer using a faux suede to line boxes for embroidered books and veneer bindings, I think it offers a bit more cushion and less chance of wear on the binding.

    I’m really proud of this little binding. My embroidered work is definitely evolving and I like the direction it took with The Nightingale and the Rose. I have a few fine bindings lined up to complete this year and I look forward to sharing their designs and techniques with you.


  3. My Hand // Field Book of Western Wild Flowers: Part Three

    October 31, 2013 by Erin Fletcher

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    Part One can be read here
    Part Two can be read here

    I need to backtrack a bit. Part two ends with the covering of the matching leather doublures. The remainder of the design elements that are going to be explained in this post were applied before the doublures were pasted down. Part two has been revised accordingly. 

    The final steps to completing the design included the addition of a gold border and the title. In the early stages of designing the cover, I wanted to create the gold border through surfacing gilding. Which would have been done before covering because I didn’t want to risk getting gold leaf on the embroidery stitches. However, after a few tests I decided my supply of gold leaf was too yellow against the dusty pink buffalo skin. The border was therefore painted onto the leather with a fluid acrylic pigment. This is the same technique I used on the fine binding for The Songlines

    The title has been tooled with handle letters in the typeface Gill Sans. Buffalo can often feel spongy under the tool and requires slightly more pressure to achieve a crisp impression. I’ve found that buffalo will not blind in the same manner as other animal skins and can be a bit more finicky to tool. So with a bit more patience, the title was gilt in gold leaf one letter at a time. 

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    With the completion of the binding, I was set to make a custom clamshell box. The box reflects the binding in terms of color and design. The spine of the box is covered in matching leather that has also been embroidered. The design is derived from an illustration in the book and includes similar onlays from the book’s cover. The stem was embroidered freehand and Margaret Armstrong’s name has been hand tooled with gold leaf. 

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    The trays are covered and lined with the same handmade paper from Katie MacGregor that are used as the endpapers in the binding. The rest of the case and joint are covered in brown Canapetta bookcloth. A layer of Volara foam was added to the outer tray as protection for the embroidered stitches. 

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    I am really pleased with my first attempt at an embroidered leather binding. I plan to continue experiments with this technique, as well as incorporate other sewn elements. I recently had the opportunity to showcase this binding at the Standards of Excellence Conference in Washington, DC. Through the ‘Mix & Mingle’ event, I got the chance to speak with and meet many new bookbinders while discussing my binding on top of receiving wonderful compliments and suggestions. 

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    Finished binding next to clamshell box.

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    Side profile. Detail of edge decoration and hand-sewn headband.


  4. My Hand // Field Book of Western Wild Flowers: Part Two

    October 15, 2013 by Erin Fletcher

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    If you missed part one, you can find it here.

    After hours of embroidery work, I was finally ready to cover the binding. The book itself had been removed from its original case binding, taken apart signature by signature and resewn. Once rounded and backed with boards attached, the edges were ploughed and sanded down in preparation for edge decoration. At this point, I had been filling in for Jeff Altepeter at North Bennet Street School and conveniently the students already had everything set up for edge decoration and gilding. I spent the day perfecting the edge, experimenting with the application of gouache through various brushes and sponges. Finishing off the edge with the sprinkling of gold leaf. 

    The hand sewn double-core French headbands came next. I love sewing my headbands in an asymmetrical pattern and by extracting colors from the binding. Sadly, I didn’t take any in-progress photos of these two steps, but you can see hints of the edge and headband in some of the images to follow. 

    Now, back to covering. 

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    After applying a healthy dose of wheat starch paste, the embroidered leather was wrapped around the binding, being folded and tucked and squished into place. The leather had expanded after paring more than expected, so covering became difficult to keep the shape of the design within the confines of the board. 

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    The covered binding was put to rest under control weight between a bed of felt and acrylic boards. The next day I eased open the boards. Once the finishing design elements were added to the front cover I was able to line the inside of the boards and joint with matching edge to edge leather doublures. The handmade paper fly leaves are a perfect color match and came to me by happenstance from papermaker Katie MacGregor at Standards last year. 

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    Part three coming next week…


  5. My Hand // Field Book of Western Wild Flowers: Part One

    October 8, 2013 by Erin Fletcher

    During my first year at North Bennet Street School, I stumbled upon this underrepresented category of bookbindings referred to quite accurately as embroidered bindings. Embroidery has been an interest and hobby of mine since I was a child. My research into this style of binding led me as far as Cyril Davenport’s Book of English Embroidered Bookbindings, which is one of a handful of books written solely on embroidered bindings. 

    From my research, I set out to create an embroidered binding using similar materials and techniques. I bound The Crucible in 2011. The overall layout and imagery on the covers are inspired by traditional outlines and iconography seen in historical embroidered bindings. The Crucible was a success (landing me Best Binding from the OBMI Chicago Public Library Exhibition) and ever since embroidery has been a technique that I’ve been wanting to translate onto a fine binding.

    Entering for the first time to the most recent Society of Bookbinders International Competition, I decided to bind a copy of Margaret Armstrong’s Field Book of Western Wildflowers. Margaret Armstrong is notable for designing covers for Publishers’ Bindings during the 1920s. As an illustrator, she also enjoyed drawing life-like representations of wild flowers. Margaret published Field Book in 1915, surveying wild flowers throughout the western hemisphere of the United States. The book includes 500 black and white illustrations and 48 colored plates. For the design of my fine binding I wanted to capture Margaret’s fame as a designer and skill as an illustrator. The cover on my fine binding is inspired by Margaret’s design for Henry Van Dyke’s Out of Doors in the Holy Land.

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    Beginning with a detailed sketch of the cover design, I labeled each onlay with a number and color. Each flower is taken directly from one of Margaret’s illustrations. The onlay leather ranged from goatskin to buffalo, the colors chosen to best represent the natural color of that specific species of flower. The leather was pared down to almost nothing, the illustrations were then pasted down to the leather and carefully cut out.

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    I carefully arranged each piece of leather onto the sketch as a means to keep order to the mounting onlays, which came out to a total of 93 itty bitty pieces.

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    I cut down the base leather to it’s final size, I chose a dusty pink buffalo skin both for it’s soft, muted color and texture. I glued down each onlay one by one with PVA, pressing it between acrylic boards as I went. Once the onlays were in place and secured, I pared the entire skin to it’s final thickness. While paring the blade is removing more flesh from the areas with onlays creating a ghost-like silhouette, thus the technique of a back-pared onlay. This allows for a smoother transition between the base leather and the onlay leather.

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    At this point, the leather was ready to be embroidered and this became my favorite part. Each flower onlay was outlined with a floss that best matched the color of the leather. Additional colors were chosen to add highlights and shadows. Stitching through leather was surprisingly easy. However, a misguided needle could leave a lasting hole, so it was very important to accurately pierce through the leather. 

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     Part Two coming soon…