ncharshaf handmade Adventures of a self taught bookbinder


Tools of the trade

Recently, I have been hard at work on my new 2011 calendars which will debut this week. The calendars are all fabric hard cover notebooks, and the cover alone is a fairly time consuming task. However, I was making it much harder on myself by not having the right tools.

See, each cover starts with a piece of fabric, then I sew on a little date patch that has been printed on fabric using my home computer, measure and cut illustration board for the front and back cover, spray adhesive the fabric to the board, and then line the inside of the cover with paper. Then comes what used to be the most time consuming part, punching the holes on the cover and back for the string holes, and the elastic strap. Each book requires 12 holes to be punched, and then each hole gets an eyelet set into it.

Previously, all of my eyelet tools were too puny to get through 1 layer of paper, 2 layers of fabric, and illustration board. So, I resorted to this: my awl.


Basically, I would punch through the cover, and push the awl all the way up to the ridges. This made the hole the correct size, but created a slew of problems on the other side. Because this was not punched, all the material that used to be there, just got mushroomed out. This lead to having to then take my utility knife, and shave down the hole....all 12 of them.

Yesterday, I got tired of this process, as I am making a large quantity of these books at a time. If I had any hopes of finishing, I needed a new solution.

Everyone, meet my new tool, the Crop o Dile!

I read the package, which stated that this thing could punch holes + set the eyelets at 1/8th" and 3/16" sizes in a variety of materials....paper, leather, plastic, metal, chipboard, acrylic, fabric, wood, etc. It does more stuff too, like grommets, but at this point I am not so much interested in that at this time. To top it off, it was 40% off, so I gladly put down $17.99 to take this beast home with me.

What I did not realize was that the blocks at the top and base of the tool actually pull out and rotate to gt different size and style settings, this is pretty cool, but slightly confusing. I did not even realize in the beginning that you did not use these to punch the holes. I did however finally find that there were two side pieces that were each responsible for hole punching.

After some testing (yay it punches through my material...and with ease!) I got to work. I am SO pleased with this tool, it does exactly what I need, and has probably tripled my production time of this step in the process, also it is a good forearm workout!


75 Minutes to Hardcover Redemption

I have already talked about my first bookbinding experience and how lovely it was. I am so thankful for this first experience, because my second go at bookbinding was disastrous. I was in my advanced typography class, the third and final one in the series, and probably the class I had been most looking forward to my entire college career. The main focus of the class was to create an artist book. Basically this meant finding something we are really interested in, research it, find the content, and then produce it in a creative artistic way. In continuations of my love for bookbinding, I decided to create a hardcover notebook.

I had done some research, bought the supplies, but never practiced actually creating a hardcover book. When it came time to bind the book (the day of my final) things went from bad to worse real fast. The book fought me at every single step, and then fell completely apart when I tried to adhere the fabric cover to the board, and then the book to the cover. It was a wet sloppy mess that was barely holding together. I think I was about an hour late to my final at this point, and needed to just go to class and accept the wet, sticky, mess of a failure to my first experience with hardcover bookbinding.

So, fast forward a few years, and here I am, finally brave enough to try it again. Spoiler alert, there is a happy ending this time!

Delicate flower & bold polka dot hardcover notebook

These little pint sized books are a true labor of love. Although they are a lot of work, it is so rewarding to finally have some redemption.

Here is how in 10 steps, and 75 minutes I got my hardcover redemption.

Step 1: Fold paper into signatures - 10 minutes.

2. Punch holes in signatures to prepare for sewing: 5 min

Step 3: Sew book and apply cheesecloth to spine allowing for structure, while remaining flexible - 20 min

Step 4: Trim book - 10 min

5. Cut illustration board for 2 covers and 1 spine - 5 min

6. Adhere the fabric to the two covers - 10 min

7. Attach spine to cover - 5 min

8. Attach book to cover - 5 min

9. Glue end-papers to inside of book. - 5 min

10. All done!


Cleaning Up

Not sure what it is, but it seems spring cleaning has come a bit late, as everyone seems ready to clean up their studio spaces. Nothing like the first 100+ degree day to get me inspired to spend 5+ hours cleaning my own disaster space.

My craft space ranges from unusable to disaster zone on most days. Lately it has been stuck in disaster zone after a few back to back craft shows. It seems that no matter how much time I spend cleaning the space, it always gets messy faster than I can keep up. Nothing like a messy room to ruin all creativity.

I am ashamed to show how bad it got, as often times I see people post their "before" photos and they look better than my "after" photos. But I wanted to show the transformation.


Very messy studio

Very messy table top of my studio

Very messy floor of my studio

Very messy floor of my studio


The first major change that I made was to move my laptop and printer off to a side cabinet freeing up a ton of space on my desk. I also got some assistance from my boyfriend in hanging some long overdue artwork. The piece here is a beautiful photograph taken by Richard F. Gaston.

The desk looks a whole lot nicer now, and I also have more space available on my humongous cork board. I hope to start using this more now, although I am not sure how yet. So far I added a few pegs to hold my sizzors, ruler, and thread. I thought that this was a good start. I also hung one of my Grandmas drawings above my table.

Much cleaner table plus a drawing of my Grandma's

A nice space for some of my tools

Now that it is all clean, I hope to get back to being creative, although I know it will just get messy again...just hopefully not as bad!


Trying my hand at teaching

I spent most of my childhood wanting to be a teacher when I grew up. I have always loved kids, and it seemed like something I would enjoy. As I grew up and got more into computers, my career goals changed a bit, and began to lean more towards doing something with computers. Now that I am out of school, I have been thinking that it would be fun to somehow incorporate teaching into what I do.

Today, I was invited by a local cupcake shop called Sweetspot to attend the last day of their camp, and teach the kids how to bind a book that contained the recipes that they learned that week. It was a group of about 8 kids ranging from 4 - 11 years old, and I really had no idea what to expect. I went in with the idea that there was a chance that they would just watch me make the books, or that they would be bouncing off the wall not wanting to sit and concentrate on the project.

However, Most of them seemed pretty interested, which made it really fun.  We started by letting them decorate the covers of the book however they wanted to, and they had tons of fun punching out decorative papers and gluing them to the cover. Once they were done, they came up  one by one, and I let them punch the three holes with the awl, and then gave them a needle and thread, and held the book wile they sewed it. I was very impressed that everyone was able to sew their own book. I wonder if I just trained the next great bookbinder ;)

The final bound books that the kids made at Sweetspot today


A Bookbinder is Born

I fell in love with bookbinding in college when I decided I wanted to perfect bind my final project after my teacher showed a small demo in class. The first attempt at bookbinding turned out fantastic, and I was hooked. A  year later I took a workshop on how to to a 3 hole stab bound notebook, and my love for bookbinding was re-ignited.

My first handbound book

It was not until my first day at work after graduation that I pulled out this little notebook that I had created and began to use it. I wrote tons of little notes in it from tracking my time, my to-do lists, random thoughts, sketches, project revisions and meeting notes. I carried the notebook with me everywhere, and captured my stream of consciousness for a period of time. It became so much more inspiring to use a notebook that I loved to look of, rather than the plain books I had been getting from the art store throughout college. I found that I wanted to sketch more, and the small size meant that I could carry them everywhere with me.

The book I made at a workshop and later used at my first job after college.

It was at that time that I made a goal of creating these books to sell on etsy, and here I am today nearly a year later. This has been a challenging, and rewarding learning experience, and I am looking forward to how my shop will continue to evolve.