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Posts Tagged ‘embroidered binding’

  1. 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.


  2. 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…


  3. 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… 


  • Visit My Bindery
    My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
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