Hand-bound Hardcover Valentine's Book / by Leslie

Handmade Valentines are nice. I think while you are making them that you imbue some of the love you are feeling into the paper. Last year I tried my hand at making my husband a hand-bound hardcover book. It was the first time I tried to bind a hardcover book and I think it turned out well. It's a detailed process, but I had two books to work from and even though there was some guess work involved, I think I mostly figured it out. If you would like to try this project for yourself here are the things you will need:

  • Bookbinding Instruction Books: Bookcraft and The Handmade Book 
  • Self Healing Cutting Mat
  • Utility Knife
  • Awl and small hammer
  • Needle: #1 Darner or Tapestry
  • Linen Tape
  • Wax coated linen thread
  • Watercolor paper
  • Bone Folder
  • Binder boards or Millboard
  • Book cloth or Buckram
  • PVA Glue
  • Glue Brush
  • Decorative Paper for collage
  • Scissors
  • Photographs
  • Fabric swatches
  • Stencils
  • Paint & Brushes
  • Sewing Machine

The first step is to create the block of pages that forms the inside of the book. Determine the size of the book that you would like and cut the watercolor paper to the correct height and double the length. Fold each page in half and line up all the folds. Following the directions in the bookbinding books for a multi-section sewn binding, create holes with your awl and stitch the pages together. I used thick water color paper for each section, but you could easily use thinner paper and more pages per section to make a book with more pages.

I decided to decorate the pages first, before I glued them to the cover. I used paint, paper collage, sewing, stenciling and charcoal to create Valentine's inspired artwork. After the pages are decorated you can add notes and messages, envelopes with surprises in them, or even a mixed CD. Get creative and have fun, if you do something you don't like, you can always cover it up or re-work it. No fear! If you like, you can also sketch things out lightly with pencil first, to see how it looks, and then finish it in ink.

NOTE: Do not decorate the front of the first page, or the back of the last page of the block of pages, those will be glued onto the binder board and will not be visible.

I sewed a fabric swatch into the book to use as a base for a collage and the opposite side (see below), with just the stitches, became a frame for a stenciled word.

Use any kind of white glue to decoupage paper elements into the book. Decoupage is when you add layers of glue on the top of the paper to seal it. Traditionally decoupage uses multiple layers of varnish on 3D objects to create an inlayed look, but you can do the same thing on paper with just regular glue.

Once all your pages are done, measure out and cut your book boards and buckram, again following the directions in your bookbinding book. I wanted to have raised letters on the cover, so I cut them out of cardboard and glued those onto the binder board first before gluing the buckram down. 

Use PVA glue and a glue brush to glue the boards to the buckram, folding the edges up and over the binder boards, taking care at the corners to fold them neatly and correctly. Once the buckram is glued to the binder board, you can glue the outside pages of the sewn block of pages to the inside covers of the book. 

I am not an expert book binder, so I will leave the technical details to the books, but I will say that this project was very fun and satisfying to make. There were moments when I was confused by the directions and not sure exactly what to do, for example, that linen tape that I stitched around that is hanging off the book signature, I didn't know whether to cut it or not. I ended up cutting it short. I don't know if that's right or not, but by the end it looked like a real book, so as long as the book doesn't fall apart, it's a success!

There is so much room for creative book binding and artistic expression in the creation of unique hand made books. One of the design classes I took at Alt Summit was book binding so keep your eyes open for a post about that soon. I hope to do more of this kind of work. It's a perfect mix of art and precision.

For more inspiration and information on handmade books, check out the following: