Monday, 29 October 2012


I'm having to take a break from bookbinding for a couple of weeks, in order to look after my mum who is due to start some gruelling radiotherapy treatment for cancer.  It's going to be a tough few weeks, and I will miss my binding for the creative satisfaction and emotional calm it provides me with in difficult times.

Somewhat appropriately, the last book I produced was covered in a beautiful royal blue velvet effect paper, with the word 'Believe...' highlighted under a glass cabochon on the front cover.  That I should produce something with such a positive message at a time in my life where I feel my beilefs are being tested to the absolute limit is entirely coincidental.  But somehow, it seems kind of fitting.  Subconsciously or not, the idea behind this journal was linked to the importance I personally place on the having a journal or notebook as somewhere to offload the troubles of the day, to dream, write out fantasies, but ultimately as somewhere to connect with our inner selves, in a way that tapping into a computer just doesn't quite manage.  Writing down thoughts and feelings has, for me, always been tremendously therapeutic, and creating a beautiful and inspiring receptacle for these thoughts and feelings is a constant challenge.

The word 'Believe...' appealed for its simplicity, its ability to apply to any number of circumstances, and for its connotations of hope, optimism and achievement, whether its getting through a gruelling course of radiotherapy, or writing a novel.  We live in uncertain times, and it's often difficult to remain positive about what the future holds, but just one tiny grain of hope is better than none at all, and in many ways that's what this journal represents - that things can, and will, get better, if we work at it, and most importantly, if we...(you've guessed it) ...believe...

What gets you through the tough times?  Do let me know!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Hallowe'en is nearly here!

It's that time of year again.  The nights are drawing in, the leaves are tumbling down, and there's a definite nip in the air.  Yes it's autumn, and with autumn comes...Hallowe'en!

I've always loved Halloween, the dressing up, the decorations, and the whole vibe, despite the huge commercial circus that it has turned into.  It's hard to believe that, at one time, it was virtually impossible to get hold of Halloween costumes, spooky decor and the like.  We had to be inventive and create our own outfits out of mum's cast-offs, whereas now, you can pick up every conceivable object with a Halloween theme, along with your weekly supermarket shop.

But in spite of this rampant commercialism, there is something about Halloween which brings out the inner kid in me, and I love nothing more that playing with every spooky gadget and rummaging through the fancy dress outfits with my daughter.  No, the commercialisation of Halloween is here to stay, so we may as well embrace it.  Besides, I'm always fascinated by every year's new range of products, which somehow seem to get more gory/bloodthirsty every time, but it is interesting to see just how creative the range of Halloween products can get.  In particular, I love those products which have a slightly different slant on the whole Halloween theme, daring to veer away from the predictable pumpkin/witch's hat/spiderweb/black and orange combinations.

Which brings me neatly to my Etsy selections for this week.  As always, I'm staggered by the huge array of wonderful products out there, and the boundless creativity of the Etsy sellers, especially when it comes to Halloween-inspired creations.  Amongst my favourites are:

Vampire IstriaDesign

This Vampire journal by IstriaDesign is dedicated to the little-known Jure Grando, the first vampire mentioned in the written word.  I love the originality of this item, and the combination of goth and vintage elements.  Wonderful stuff!

Haunted London pop-up book by niapaper
I've always loved pop-up books, and the way they can convey a miniature world in book form, almost like a doll's house.  Perfect for Halloween is this Haunted London pop-up book by niapaper, uncovering tales of ghosts in the capital, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and St. Paul's Cathedral.  Enjoy!

Skull Bats book by Idle Workshop

My final selection is this highly original Skull Bats handmade book by Idle Workshop.  Perfectly capturing the Halloween feel, the book contains 70 pages of wizard parchment and magnificent carved bat-winged skulls on the cover.  Exquisite!

Whatever you're doing this Halloween, enjoy yourself, and if you're working on any Halloween-inspired items, I'd love to hear about them.

Until next time,  have a great week!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Longstitch binding

It was with some trepidation that I recently had a go at long stitch binding, my previous attempts some years ago having been far from satisfactory.  I must credit the fabulous 'Mini Book Necklaces and Keychains Tutorial' on the 'Art by Wendy' blog and 'Altered Alchemy' for providing the inspiration for my creations.  Their beautiful work encouraged me to have a go, and having some small leather samples to use up, I had another attempt. 

As you probably know, long stitch binding differs from traditional bookbinding in that the stitching is sewn directly through the covering material, leaving the (hopefully) beautifully neat stitches exposed on the spine.  Popular in the middle ages, the method has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, and I'm starting to appreciate why.  It's a reasonably simple binding, requiring very few tools, and you can see the results fairly quickly.  It's also surprisingly versatile, with many variations of the style available.

Miniature leather longstitch binding
My own version uses the long stitch and chain stitch combination, but there are many different styles, often much more complex and detailed.  There are also many different closure mechanisms, ranging from leather cord to buttons.  My own version, I have to confess, was taken from the 'Art by Wendy' tutorial (sorry Wendy!), but I loved it so much, and it was perfect for a long stitch binding of this size (ie. miniature).  Attached to the covers were some beautiful filigree style embellishments from The Funky Aardvark in Chester.

The popularity of the long stitch binding is evident in the number of Etsy sellers producing remarkable work in this style.  There were too many to mention here, so I've whittled my selection down to the following beautiful examples:

This leather journal sketchbook by absolutelyevo demonstrates how beautiful the stitching can look.  The closure mechanism is a leather wrap closure.  Stunning work.

I love the stitching on this LongLink Bound Leather Notebook by ipiccolilibri which features a brown leather long as a closure mechanism.

 I love the clasp closing mechanism on this Embossed Leather Journal by Coco's Creations.  Beautiful leather and stitching too.

If anyone fancies having a go at long stitch binding, I found these online tutorials very helpful:

Sew Technicolor: Handbound (Faux Leather) Journal Tutorial

YouTube: Medieval limp binding

YouTube: Simple Bookbinding

Until next time, thanks for reading.  Have a great week!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Funky Aardvark

Last weekend I visited the beautiful city of Chester, where I had the privilege of meeting the inspirational Bex Raven, who runs the Funky Aardvark, a fabulous shop/gallery which showcases the work of a range of up and coming artists, as well as holding regular exhibitions and arts courses.

I was lucky enough to meet one of the talented artists whose work was on show - Katie of Kipper Tie and Cake, who makes the most wonderful badges, felt tattoos and traditional hand sewn teddy bears.

Alfie mohair teddy bear by Kipper Tie & Cake

Other work which impressed me included the colourful glass creations of Chrissie Smith Glass and Alicebead's individually designed jewellery and bags.

Happily Bex liked my work, and so I'm lucky enough to have some of my items on sale in the Funky Aardvark shop.  If you're ever passing through Chester, please do call in and show your support for this wonderful venture.  You won't find anything like it on the average high street.

A final mention must go to the Cheshire Sandwich Company, who make the most amazing sandwiches, and provided the kind of customer service that is sadly so often lacking these days.  Check them out if you get the chance.

Until next time, have a great week!