Adventures in Calligraphy, Embroidery & Book Binding

I’m really into crafts, this should not be a surprise to you. I do all sorts of things; photography, knitting, graphic design, and even small adventures in stained glass & jewelry making. For a while, I was getting really exhausted with looking at my computer all day and then all night at home. So I decided to go totally analog with my crafting.

Keith and I were celebrating our 1 year anniversary and I have this tradition of always making him something whenever it’s gift giving time. I decided that I wanted to make him a book. Yeah, a book.

But I didn’t want to just go and design one online and then click some buttons and click order and have it show up on my doorstep one day. I wanted to really MAKE a book. I wanted to make the cover, the insides, the text, everything.

First I had to decide what the topic of this book was going to be about. I could have written a book about pizza, cats, or biking. I didn’t really think he would find much romantic interest in that, so I decided to make it about our first year together. How fitting for a 1-year anniversary present.

bookbinding-banner

Step 1: Learn Calligraphy

Sure, that’s easy – just go to the art store and get a thing of ink and one of those fancy pen things and go to town.

NO. IT DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY.

I didn’t want this book to be some boring run-of-the-mill cojo-sans font. I wanted it to be beautiful and romantic, just like us. Obviously this meant I needed to learn Calligraphy.

I took to the Internet to try to find video tutorials online, but they were all boring and poorly filmed. Then I tried to find local workshops here in Denver. I found a few, but they were months ago, which did not help my cause. When I thought there was no end in sight, I found Wordshop Paperie. They were hosting a Calligraphy class and I signed up as fast as I could.

It was a bit expensive now that I think about it. It was only 2 hours and it cost $100. But I guess that paid for the 2 glasses of wine I had, right?

 

bookbinding-calligraphy1

Calligraphy: Day 1

The instructor, Evette Goldstein, mentioned that she was having a 5-week Calligraphy class in Littleton in a few weeks. Guess how much that class cost? $99…you do the math at which is a better deal. But I signed up for it and went for 5 weeks and really learned a lot from her.

I went from making weird looking ‘G’s to making elegant flourishes! I became OBSESSED, like really obsessed. I think I spend probably 10 hours looking up Calligraphy and only spending maybe 5 hours a week actually doing it.

The class with Evette was really amazing and I’m so glad I decided to take it. I ended up meeting some amazing people in the class and then starting a Facebook group called “Denver Calligraphers Anonymous”.

bookbinding-calligraphy2

 

Page 1 of the book. Left: final version. Right: rejected version.

Step 2: Do Embroidery

Of course, because it’s me, I couldn’t have just a regular old printed book cover for this thing. IT HAD TO BE AWESOME.

I decided the best way to do this was to make a custom embroidered cover…duh. I haven’t embroidered anything since I was a child and I was creating unicorns and rainbows. Just add that to the things I needed to re-learn.

Turns out – I also love embroidery. It’s really easy to do on a plane or curled up with a kitten. After a bit of practice, I started the final iteration of the cover, which was an elaborate number 1.

bookbinding-cover

Design and progress of the cover

bookbinding-cover-final

Keith was all “since when do you embroider”, to which my mom covered for me and said “since forever”. Phew. He was almost on to me.

You should also know, that I’m planning and building this book, all while living with the man that I’m making it for.

Step 3: MAKE BOOK

Easy!

No.

You need so many things to make a book! Cardboard thick enough (and not corrugated) for the cover, the cover art (my embroidery), decorative paper for the inside of the covers, waxed thread, an upholstery needle, a bone folder, an awl, and paper for the pages.

I had to buy 90% of these things, which made explaining my “oh shit I need to go to the craft store” excursions difficult.

bookbinding-awl

Pages of the book with holes punched and ready for stitching together – thanks to my new awl.

After I gathered all the pieces, calligraphed the pages, and quadruple checked that everything was in order I was ready to build this thing.

I took a class on Skillshare on how to make a Coptic Stitch book. It’s a really pretty way of stitching the pages of the book together so that you can tell that the book was HAND MADE.

Turns out assembling a book, once you have all the tools, is really easy. Assembly only took about an hour – or however long it takes Keith to mow both the front and the back yards.

bookbinding-coptic-bind

Coptic Stitch on the bind almost looks like knitting.

bookbinding-coptic

Coptic Stitch on the insides of the pages.

 

bookbinding-coversInsides of the covers, featured lots and lots of bikes!

Step 4: Surprise Boyfriend

This was the hardest part! I wanted to give it to him right when it was finished, but resisted.

We had planned a week-long trip to New York to celebrate our anniversary and to watch my best friend run the NYC Marathon. We made reservations at a fancy (but not TOO fancy) Italian restaurant. I am really proud of myself for waiting until after the appetizers to give him the gift.

Needless to say, he was obviously surprised and in total awe that I made this thing for him.

Now I just need to continue this trend every year 🙂

Shout out to Tini for helping me with the book!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *