Saturday, January 22, 2011

Making bookcloth

In the past I have used the method of making bookcloth described in the extremely helpful Handmade Books by Kathy Blake. I've had fairly good luck with it, but it is messy and time-consuming, and I've had problems with air bubbles. It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I could just use fusible web (usually thought of as a sewing notion) to bond the paper and cloth.I decided to experiment by making a piece of bookcloth with which to rebind the artist's book of The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock I attempted to bind in college. (I did okay, but have learned the right way to do it since.) For the cloth I chose a piece of 100% cotton in a red shade that matches the original piece of fabric I used. (I ran it through a wash cycle and dried it before making the bookcloth.) The paper is a sheet of kozo, a Japanese paper recommended by Kathy Blake. The fusible web I've had for years-- it's available in any fabric store.

The process is simple: sandwich the fusible web between the cloth and paper and iron the whole thing. I used a hot (cotton) setting and steam. I put the smoother side of the kozo on the inside, toward the web. And, important!-- the grain of the paper and the fabric must run in the same direction. The grain of the fabric is parallel to the selvedge, or finished edge of the cloth. The grain of the paper is the direction in which it is easiest to fold the sheet, without resistance.

I am very pleased with how this turned out; it's all very firmly fused with no bubbles. When it's time to cut it, I'll find out if any spots did not adhere, but it doesn't look like that will be a problem.

A 17" x 19" sheet of bookcloth from Daniel Smith costs $7.00; I estimate this costs half that and it's slightly bigger. The biggest advantage of homemade bookcloth, however, is in the variety of colors and patterns to choose from. I think any natural fiber woven cloth will work, probably some blends as well. So you can walk into any fabric store and think: "Bookcloth!"

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