Adventures In Bookbinding

It’s National Stationery Week here in the UK so I thought I’d share a little more of my bookbinding journey. A couple of weeks ago I took a class to learn how to make a hardback journal and I feel so proud of the results.

I started my bookbinding adventures last year when I took a class to make a Japanese stab bound journal. I use this journal for calligraphy and hand lettering practice.


Then I took a class to make a long stitch book which I blogged about here.


I knew the process of making a hardback book would be a lot more involved, but Edel took us through it step by step so we could finish a book within a day. It was hard work but such fun and made me appreciate the old bookbinding techniques that are still used today.


Here are some phone pictures I took on the day of each step of the process. We worked over 7 hours to create our books.


We used some Victorian equipment and techniques in making our books and I expressed my curiosity as to what glue was used before PVA and paste were invented. Apparently animal glue was common in bookbinding and is still used in some studios today.


We hand stitched each section of the book which you can see below. Did you know that paper has a warp and weft just like fabric?


We had the privilege of talking to experienced bookbinders who were also using the studio for restoration projects. We were able to ask about thesis binding for the University and to take a look at old manuscripts and journals from the 1800s.


I’m so proud of the finished result. Of course it has its imperfections but that’s all part of learning a new skill. We left the class feeling that traditional bookbinding is in fact a real art and I am grateful to have historic studios in Cambridge to learn at.

Claireabellemakes-Hardback-JournalThank you for letting me share my bookbinding efforts with you today. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing my experiences and I’d love to know if you have any experiences with bookbinding!



Vintage Books and Bookbinding

In our neighbourhood we have a ‘free shelf’. It’s a place to put or take, and to share items you no longer need. It is a nice community project which encourages recycling and we often use it for donating items and finding treasures!

A couple of weeks ago I was cycling past and spotted a large amount of vintage books on offer. I stopped and realised they were all historic books on Cambridge. One book from the 1900s had a beautiful ‘Cambridge Blue’ cover and illustrations of the city inside. Unluckily, I missed out as a couple passing by had noticed its beauty moments before me. I am sure it was worth a pretty penny too!


It felt pretty special to stumble upon these books (which were left by an older lady who was clearing out her home) so I added a few to my bookshelf. I especially like Things I’ve Seen in Cambridge which is part of a series of books for different cities. Some of the books are from the 1800s and have names or messages in the front covers.


I love that my home city has such a rich history and I have been enjoying learning about medieval Cambridge and traditions that still take place today.


Aside from the content of the books, I was also drawn to how they were made as many antique book binding techniques are still used today. A couple of weeks ago I visited Brignell Bookbinders in Cambridge for a class in Long Stitch Bookbinding with Edel Hopkin. Edel started by telling us a little about the history of bookbinding and then we got started on making a long stitched leather journal.

Here are some photos I took on my phone during the class. Look at that Singer! It was honestly the most wonderful place to learn, full of old letter press machines and ancient books. We learnt that many theses of Cambridge students were bound there.


Making a book with the Long stitch binding technique is very satisfying and we managed to make our journals in just one evening. I learnt that accurately measuring the components of the book is key, so the stitching is even and the pages are held together in correct alignment.


I am definitely going to be making more of these, perhaps for gifts or perhaps just for my own (enormous) notebook collection. I need to purchase just a few inexpensive supplies to get started, but I am confident it is a craft I can continue at home when I have time.


Now I just have to decide what to use my book for. Perhaps I’ll start my own series of things I’ve seen in Cambridge…..


I have started a Bookbinding board on Pinterest below, so do follow along if you’d like to see my inspiration. I would also recommend the You Tube channel Sea Lemon if you are interested in learning bookbinding and don’t have classes in your local area.

Follow Claireabellemakes’s board Bookbinding on Pinterest.