Sewing Over Cords #1

Oh boy, it is a while since I made any books – at least made any that I’ve blogged about. I still make books fairly regularly, but have been a bit obsessed with other things of late… So I am returning to sewing over cords, something I have done in the past occasionally but not particularly explored beyond the basic technique.

Probably the best example I have made of this type of binding is this one from last October:


I would like to do something a little more elaborate with the covers too, but first I want to improve on the binding; a more compacted and consistent wrapping around the cords giving a more solid appearance.

After cutting down the paper and collating the sections using a standard weight cartridge paper I decided to be a little more organised than I did before. As I don’t yet possess a sewing frame I decided to fashion one from my lying press, using nothing more sophisticated than masking tape:

This is not an elegant solution. Nor is it a terribly practical one either, as I really need to put some tension into the cords. This method allows me to hold them steady, but not very tight. I don’t think it would take me too long to make a more useable attachment to the lying press, but I’ll save that for another time.

Once the cords are set, I cut some linen thread and waxed it with a small round of beeswax, to stiffen it a little and allow it maintain the tension as I bind. I simply pull the thread against the wax under my thumb both ways:

After laying the first section against the cords I tape off one end of the thread for now and enter the first section at the first station:

The first row is quite difficult as the paper moves around too much. This improves after a couple of sections are secured in place on the frame. I reached the end of the first section and realised that I had not ‘packed’ the cords; that is wrapping the thread around each cord before moving on to the next. I could have unpicked this and started again, but I had really struggled with every part of this and was unhappy with how I had started.  I decided at this point that this was to be a practice run as I felt that I needed to gain more confidence and fluidity in the sewing.

At the end of the first section it is simply a matter of beginning again on the second which is placed directly upon the first:

Each pass through the stations also included a double wrap around the cord before re-entering:

On the return At the end of the second section, the thread is not passed back through the last station. Instead, the other end which I had taped off at the start is put into a needle and sewn into the last station:

Where it is tied off and trimmed, before the I continued out with the (longer sewing end of the) thread:

This continues back and forth along the spine, securing each end with a kettle stitch:

I really need to practice this. I missed several stations entirely and was not consistent in the packing. The end result looked pretty crummy when you looked at the details:

But didn’t look to bad generally. You can see from this image that once the book is removed from the frame the cords are much longer than will be required to secure the cover boards, but the cord I am using is not wound very tight and unravels very easily.

The cords are cut from a peice of thick string that I found on the floor in town a couple of years ago. I picked it up, had a good look, gave it a sniff (well, you have to check!) and thought “that might be useful” and so it is. I have dipped the cut ends of each piece in candlewax to stop it fraying whilst I am working with it.

So what next? I am going to cut the threads and re-use the cords and sections. I’ll have another go. I’ll plan some covers. I am a bit disappointed, but feel ready to make another attempt, improve my technique, and use this method to create a beautiful book. At least, and interesting one.

Thie thing about blogging is that there is a temptation to show off all the finished stuff and use it as a showcase. When I started this blog, the intention was to use it as vehicle to share my own newfound enthusiasm for creative exploration. It has certainly been that, but I have also done a fair amount of showing off too. I think that this post brings me back to my original intention. I am not a professional bookbinder, printmaker or ceramicist and don’t get everything right. I make mistakes, I reflect upon my process and intent, revise my approaches and try again. It’s what learning and improving is all about and none of us should be afraid of sharing that.


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