Shopping bag soft cover sketchbooks

Inspiration for this project came my way via a video by Peter Baumgartner on how to make a simple sewn binding book, with a soft cover. I didn’t take step by step photos, as Peter’s is one of the most clearly demonstrated instructional videos I have seen.

I have 10 sheets of coloured watercolour paper (2×5 of each) to play with. For the paper nerds out there this is Bockingford Tinted watercolour paper, 300gsm, cold press, which comes in 5 different colours, oatmeal, cream, grey, eggshell and blue. Being me I’m trying all five colours in the one book.

I have had a bit of an obsession with tinted watercolour paper since I found out that my watercolour hero JMW Turner, regularly painted on blue paper.

It has taken me a while to track some tinted paper down. I tried to get some from Sennelier when I was in Paris last year, but they were out of stock. In the end it turned out that all I needed to do was look online and I found a supplier in Australia! Duh!

As these are soft cover books I have been taking the opportunity to use up all sorts of leftover bits of thinner cardboard and papers to provide inner covers, covers and end papers.

I have included some close-up photos of the spine, as I wasn’t familiar with this stitch. In short you take your thread in and out through the holes in the pages and then back under the stitch below on the outside spine of the book. This results in the ‘cross’ pattern on the book’s spine. I have secured both ends with a coptic binding stitch.

Another critical step is pasting the spine with several layers of acid free PVA to support and consolidate the spine and stitching.

Two more books clamped while the PVA dries on their spines.

Having got to the final stages of adding a cover I raided my stash of Japanese shopping bags (a dark secret from my first trip to Japan over a decade ago), to find something sturdy to use. In this case a paper carrier bag from the Isetan ‘departo’ (department store).

I have now made two further books, extending the paper with the addition of some Arches 300 gsm cold press paper. Even more shopping bags have been used for the latest covers, including one from Jim Thompson and one from Daimaru.

Of course the big test will be how well this construction technique holds up in the field. Fingers crossed.