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!


Product Photography

Today, I got back my shop critique from  Amber over at Mommy the Marketer. I highly suggest investing the $20 into your business and doing this. She came back with a really great critique of my shop with tons of detailed ideas on how to improve. It all made tons of sense, and I am starting right away in implementing her ideas. The only thing that I am sad about is that I did not do this a long time ago.

I already knew that working on my photos was something that I wanted to work on, which is why I have been working on getting my lightbox set up. Amber made a great suggestion to look at photos from your favorite brands for inspiration, and to look at it like a photo in a magazine page. So, I started thinking of my favorite sites that I go to for eye candy and my top two popped right into my head Decor8 and Papercrave. I surfed around for a bit and my heart began to sing. There is something about every single product shot in each of these blogs that just make me happy. I decided I wanted to take photos that made my heart sing, no pressure.

What I noticed from these two blogs, is that staging of the product is quite important. After a moment of near defeat thinking I could not afford to buy cool things just to stage my photos, I put on my creative hat and got to work. I gathered some tulle, and colorful buttons that I had gotten from a recent Craft Buffet I attended, a pencil, tall shot glass, and then picked some pretty weeds from my overgrown backyard (I knew there was a reason we had not mowed it yet!)

I moved the objects around a ton, and took tons of photographs, and then came back inside thinking I did not have anything I would like. It was not until I got them into photoshop, that I started to get excited. Not only did I have some that I like, I had way too many that I liked. I spent the next two hours adjusting, sorting, and refining my selection until I had something that I liked.

I wanted to post some before and after photos of what the listing looked like before, vrs what it looks like now. Granted this was one of my worst photographed items that I took in a dimly lit room with my iphone (I am not sure what my logic was on this one), but needless to say I think I have made an improvement.


Before Photo


After Photo


Finding the (white) balance

Eager to try out my lightbox that I built yesterday, I went outside and took a huge batch of photos. The problem was that I got them inside and they all had a beautiful tungsten glow to them. My goal with the lightbox was to shorten my time in post production as opposed to raise it. I use a Canon EOS Rebel XT camera, and I have been a bit spoiled with how well it points and shoots without much fuss. Although I do typically shoot in manual, I enjoy how the camera is fairly easy to get great photos out of. Up until this point, I have been using the camera's auto white balance and changing the rest of the settings.

However, with the auto white balance not getting the color that I wanted, I decided to start experimenting with the other white balance settings. I went outside and took a picture of the same object on each setting, one with flash, and one without. I am glad that I did, because I think I found the right mix that will get me beautiful photos with minimal touch up. I have gotten used to adjusting my own shutter speed, focus, and f. stop, and now it looks like I will add one more setting to my list.

I thought it was interesting how drastic the photos changed with each settings, and I set up a chart for reference.

Testing the different white balance settings on my camera.