Category Archives: Occasional Book Club

Occasional Book Club Four, Part II

Make: French Sewn Book

Cake: Rachel’s Granny’s Orange Yoghurt Cake

The invite was a real cobbled together affair combining scavenged print finishing leftovers and the coming out of retirement of my Imperial typewriter (swapped for a shiny set of rotoring pens when at Chelsea School of Art nearly 30 years ago and still going strong). Typewriting is a perfect way to challenge the perfectionist within and I forced myself to embrace the mistakes and their inherent charm. It was a good exercise and opened up thinking for future projects.

The making of the book from our french sewn block in part I, took place at Robert Smail’s Printing Works on Tuesday 22 August 2017. We decamped to ‘work’ so that we could make use of the nipping presses, guillotine and extra space. This involved gluing the spines, attaching the ‘mull’ or scrim’ and craft paper to stabilise the block. Then we moved to the quarter case bound cover. I had pre-cut the boards to save time and Heather again provided comprehensive instructions for each step of the process. It was really useful (for someone who usually wings it) to have precise measurements as that really helped the neatness of my finished results.

I had never made a quarter bound case cover before and I have to say I liked it. Traditionally to manage production costs a more expensive (stronger) material (say leather) was used for the spine and extended slightly onto the covers with the rest
being covered with a cheaper material.

Our books consisted of a buckram spine and paper covers. This allowed me to use one of the lining paper roller prints I had made in collaboration with Ruth Broadway at a wonderful workshop led by Stephen Fowler (King of the Rubber Stamp) at UWE back in May. Others used print room make ready sheets, end papers, wallpaper samples and gift wrap… the possibilities are endless.


Andrea’s Book using Machine Make Readies

It was time-consuming… we all underestimated how much time it takes to measure, cut and glue but a couple of us got there by the end (with a chance to finish next time, rather than rush for the others).


There was a satisfaction in making a ‘proper’ book and I liked the potential for the combination of materials this format opened up. The other combination of materials (or rather ingredients) we all liked was the orange yoghurt cake. She has recently inherited her Grandmother’s recipe book and brought this in for us all to see. It was a beautiful, well-loved, well used object and it sparked conversation and equivalent memories and laments for everyone. The thing that made it magical for me was the greasy finger prints, embedded crumbs and especially the little notes put next to the recipes (some glued in from magazines, some handwritten). Their provenance was always acknowledged… ‘Mr Little’s Marmalade’, ‘Isobel’s Coffee Buns’ (not as good as Mum’s), some were ‘good for freezing’, some ‘nice for parties’… a personalised Mrs Beeton which connects and resonates across the generations… the people known forever linked to the food eaten. Will Rachel add her own recipes and notes or conserve it as epitaph all bound up in a book? I wonder…. maybe the book from this OBC will be the start of her own? The Orange Yoghurt Cake had made it into the book three times so it must have been a favourite and after tasting it we could see why… thank you Hazel, I will add it to my own collection with its provenance acknowledged and think of you every time I make it (possibly with a note… ‘not as good as Rachel’s’).


Orange Yoghurt Cake on an Orange Plate & Granny Hazel’s Recipe Book

Occasional Book Club Four Part I

Make: French Sewn Book

Cake: Yummy, Scrummy, Carrot Cake and Malteser Tray Bake


French Sewn Block

The fourth OBC happened on 18 July 2017. The invitations were little three hole stitch books with a self-contained wrap around clover with slot and tab fixing. We were very pleased this time to have Andrea join us around the table. In the continuing spirit of recycle and re-use the covers were off-cuts from old, left-over, prints.

This time Heather took the lead to get us to do some ‘proper grown up sewing’ and introduced a stitch that was new to most of the group. It was one which she had been shown on her bookbinding course at the Borders College. See the link for further info, she is really enjoying it!

One of the joys of Heather is her organisation so we had copies of her beautifully written college notes to keep for future reference. She truly had the patience of a saint and was having to do a dynamic risk assessment as most of us handled the folding with no problem but the making the holes with a Stanley knife was slightly erratic to say the least! I would definitely review this part when I do more for myself. Holes were eventually made both in sections (huzzah!) and tablecloth (boo!) but thankfully not actually in anyone.


Once we had calmed ourselves with tea and cake we continued. The sewing was actually straight forward when you concentrated (note to self) and the finished results quietly pleasing… it brought discussion about books with exposed bindings like these beauties from Ruth Bleakley. Future project for the making methinks!

Thank you Heather and we are all looking forward to Occasional Book Club Four Part II when we will take our French Sewn block and turn it into a proper book!

Occasional Book Club Three

Make: Pop Up Books

Cake: Heather’s Lemon Drizzle

The third OBC happened on 6 June 2017. The invitations were little postcards. All survived the post!

This time Rachel took the lead with enthusiasm and introduced the group to ideas for creating pop up elements to our books. We tried three versions: the ‘box’, the ‘diamond’ or ‘mouth’ and the ‘zig zag’. These were very effective methods that everyone found easy to re-create and there was excitement about the applications possible beyond the book form… Heather left buzzing with plans for Christmas cards (and it is only June!).


Occasional Book Club Two

Make: Zhen Xian Bau (needle thread pockets)

Cake: Chocolate Brownies

The second OBC happened on 19 April 2017. The invitations were little folded books that fitted into A7 envelopes. I have been keen to test what gets through the postal system and whilst three survived without incident, one ended up arriving in a ‘apologies we have tried to kill your post’ bag.

The lovely Muriel (heidihanddyes) took the lead and introduced the group to Zhen Xian Bau (needle thread pockets). These are a little known Chinese folk tradition that she had discovered through the books of Ruth Smith. She showed us some beautiful examples that she had made from her textiles and used to form a part of gifts she had given.

“It features making ingenious paper-folded containers for storing embroidery threads, packets of needles, paper patterns, often a precious family photograph and personal memorabilia. The reason for their little known history is partly due to the fact that ‘zhen xian bao’, as they are called in Mandarin Chinese, are utilitarian, made for use in the home, and being made of paper wear out with use.” Ruth Smith

Click to access zhen_xian_beyo.pdf

Following on from the first OBC and the conversations about the secrecy and hidden messages, Muriel suggested the group try these. The lovely Steve had produced the instructions for after use (thank you Steve) and frenzy of folding and gluing began. The first two layers (we went for the 5 box book… the 15 one will be coming!) consisted of measuring and folding to make three collapsible boxes. One large base and two half-size one top. This went by without too much incident (although my basic ruler and mental maths skills left a bit to be desired!). The top layer, with its twist and fold pockets caused much furrowing of brows and muttering as fingers and paper manipulation were not always playing the same game. It echoed the clockwise twist and fold of the OBC one ‘puzzle purse’ where suddenly, once you are almost ready to give up and eat more cake, it happens and you don’t know how you did it. The sense of achievement was palpable, well done all and thank you Muriel! I loved it so much I made a neater one soon after using scraps of end papers and white paper.

Occasional Book Club One

As a way to get making and baking again, the Occasional Book Club (OBC) was set up to bring a small group of people together to share thoughts and ideas whilst making books. I am also increasingly drawn to the ideas of ‘potlatch economies’ where the personal exchanges of ideas, skills and action replace those of money and goods. Finally remembering that ‘thinking about it is not the same as doing it‘, I made a call for a response. The invites (thankfully) survived the postal service and as a result the first OBC took place on 14 March 2017.

Make: Victorian Puzzle Pouches and Envelope Books

Bake: Yummy, Scrummy Carrot Cake + Pear & Ginger Loaf

These require no gluing or stitching, just folding. They are designed as containers for other books/objects/gifts. We have all experienced the pleasures of receiving and opening a gift, the promise of a handwritten envelope on the doormat… an effort that makes a simple connection and spreads some joy. The idea was to move away from, or subvert conventional formats, to add curiosity, intrigue and engagement of the recipient.

PUZZLE POUCHES were very popular in the Victorian era. They were easily made by hand and many were covered with intricate hand drawn or painted patterns. They were often used to pass secret Valentine messages, a lock of hair or other personal gift.


Getting to grips with the folding, remembering that 1mm out at the start can become a metre by the end!


It was a simple way to start and gave the time for people to get to know each other. Lots of common ground was discovered, ideas were shared and help offered. We discussed ideas of the haptic both as maker and receiver and how the thought and the hand work added value to the action. It was also a very useful way to recycle and re-love some of the small mountain of ‘that will come in useful for something’ scraps I have hoarded. Paper and covers were recycled from old prints and make ready sheets or from paper off-cuts. Additions were made with rubber stamps, sequins and googly eyes. Jane won the inkiest hands competition and I think lovely time was had by all.