Handmade Notebooks with Scientific Illustrations

Jellyfish handmade notebook by Ruth Bleakley

So depending on how often you glance at the left sidebar of my blog, you may or may not know that in addition to bookbinding, I am also a wedding invitation and stationery designer. Concertina Press specializes in unusual wedding invitations featuring antique scientific illustrations collected (in scanned form, not paper form!) from my time spent working at a scientific library just after college.

Not all of these illustrations make it onto wedding invites (although I do have pufferfish thank you notes) , so I’ve begun creating little notebooks to feature some of my favorite illustrations – click any of the pictures below (or above) if you’re interested in buying one – they’re for sale in my Etsy shop.

Jellyfish handmade notebook by Ruth Bleakley Jellyfish handmade notebook by Ruth Bleakley Pufferfish Notebook handmade by Ruth Bleakley Red Crab Notebook handmade by Ruth Bleakley Pink Squid Notebook handmade by Ruth Bleakley


Onionskin Bookbinding class at Penland School of Crafts

Ruth Bleakley bookbinding at Penland School of Crafts

This summer I got to fulfill a dream of mine for many years, to attend the Penland School of Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina near Asheville. Ever since reading about it in the Penland Book of Handmade Books, I’ve wanted to go take a class. Well, after getting back from a week-long course on Onionskin Binding taught by Benjamin Elbel, all I can think is “why didn’t I go sooner?!”

I am hoping that I’ll get to go back at least once a year if time and finances allow. They do have a work study program where you get free room and board and 1/2 price tuition in exchange for working 10-20 hrs during the week, but as it was my first time attending I thought I would check it out first before accidentally signing up for ditch-digging duty (don’t worry, it’s mostly dishwashing and cleaning).

I have SO MANY PICTURES (thanks for the birthday iPod, Mom & Husband!) so I’ll try to group them together in posts by type – today is showing the modeling and production of my first onionskin album and I’ll probably also post about Asheville in general because it was an absolutely charming city that I’d love to visit again.

Benjamin Elbel demonstrating onionskin binding at Penland Onionskin bookbinding in progress

operating an old fashioned guillotine cutter for bookbinding

Onionskin Bookbinding after trimming in the guillotine

blank signatures all folded and ready for bookbinding at Penland

Benjamin Elbel's onionskin bookbinding course at Penland

More pictures to come, in the meantime, if you want to check out the book that started it all, you can purchase The Penland Book of Handmade Books on Amazon – over 400 photographs of gorgeous journals, handmade books and artist’s books (one of a kind books with content) to inspire you!

Penland school of crafts offers 1 week courses, 2 week courses, 8 week concentrations and a 3 year core program in way more than bookbinding – you can also take courses in jewelry making, wood working, glass blowing, ceramics, textile dying, weaving, paper making, printmaking – and more! The list goes on, depending on what’s currently being offered – I loved my time there in the mountains!




This post contains affiliate links

Tiny little pamphlet books made just for fun

Blue Dot Handmade Books by Ruth Bleakley

Today I’m showing off these cute little blue pamphlet stitch and perfect bound (glued spine) books I made – I printed out sheets of patterned paper myself – I have a fairly fancy Canon printer because I have a stationery business, and I have LOTS of black ink, so I experimented with printing my own patterns on card stock, with great success.

Over the past few days I’ve been challenging myself to:

A) work on bookbinding projects “just for fun” and

B) Start and finish a project in one sitting – or at least clean up after myself after each project!

For those of you who are reading and going “what do you mean, just for fun? it looks like you’re always having fun!” Well, yes I am, I love bookbinding – in fact, I sometimes jokingly refer to it as more of a “compulsion” than a hobby. HOWEVER, I start to get into a mode where I think “if I make this, will it sell?”

I do rely on sales from my etsy shop and local craft fairs to help keep me from being buried in a pile of handmade books, as well as fund new paper purchases and all that fun stuff. But then I end up making mostly things I know will sell, and rarely experimenting or just doing whatever I want (fellow crafters, does this happen to you?).

So I’m changing that!

And now, less talk, more pictures:

blue and black patterned paper

Gluing a tiny perfect bound book by Ruth Bleakley

tiny blue and black handmade book by Ruth Bleakley(and then ‘viola!’ your tiny book magically grows larger after you cut it…just kidding! I forgot to take a picture of the smaller book with trimmed edges, so this will have to do!)

I can’t find my trusty very favorite bookbinding awl (so sad! it’s in here somewhere…) so after getting fed up with piercing holes for pamphlet stitch with a needle, I thought “hmm, is it possible to just do a glue binding with PVA?” and then in the spirit of “doing whatever I want for fun” I tried it, and it came out great.

And in case you were wondering, yes I did manage to also come through on challenge B, cleaning up after myself – here’s the proof! Maybe one day if I’m feeling more self-revelatory I’ll post what it looked like BEFORE I took it upon myself to keep it clean…
Ruth Bleakley's Tidy bookbinding studio


5 Great How-to Books on Bookbinding

Are you interested in learning bookbinding, and wondering how you can get started binding your own books? Believe it or not, most of what I learned about making books by hand is self taught! Here are some of the most helpful do-it-yourself bookbinding books I’ve personally used, in order of easy to difficult with links to [...]

Troubleshooting Tips for Suminagashi Paper Marbling

Suminagashi Marbling Tips - ink bleeding

Suminagashi marbling is a Japanese paper marbling technique that involves floating sumi ink on water in concentric rings. While relatively easy, there are still a few things that can go wrong while you’re marbling, so here are some tips if you’re running into trouble on your marbled paper.


Problem: Ink isn’t Floating

Answer: add another drop of dispersant to [...]

Handmade Wasp Journal

Handmade Wasp Journal by Ruth Bleakley - red and navy

An oldie but a goodie – I can’t beleive I made this almost exactly 2 years ago. For a while I was on a hardcover case-bound book bender, before I switched to coptic stitch books. Part of the reason I like coptic stitch better than the traditional “hardcover” book you see here is that you can [...]

Little Paris Travel Journal

The story behind this little Paris-themed handmade book is that it’s the first I’ve made in over four months! This might not seem like such a long time, but because of a cross country move I’ve had to pack up nearly all of my bookbinding studio supplies and put them into storage.

Right now I’m living in [...]

Suminagashi Marbled Handmade Journal

Suminagashi black and whtie Journal handmade by Ruth Bleakley

Suminagashi is a gorgeous type of paper marbling invented in Japan over 1,000 years ago. I wrote a post a while ago when I taught a suminagashi marbling class at Clark University and you can see every step of the process. Basically you float rings of black sumi ink (I really like using this Yasutomo brand [...]

Bookbinding Tutorial Secret Belgian Binding

Secret Belgian Binding

It’s tutorial Tuesday! I am sharing great bookbinding tutorials I’ve found around the web on Tuesdays – today’s tutorial is about a mysterious sounding bookbinding style called “Secret Belgian Binding” – This binding was invented in the mid 1980s by Anne Goy, a Belgian bookbinder. She was looking for a Western version of the traditional Japanese [...]

Chevron Washi Tape Chain Stitch Journal

Chevron Washi Tape journal handmade by Ruth Bleakley

I love Washi Tape! A friend from Japan sent me a huge care package of washi tape, a thin Japanese masking tape with designs printed on it ( you can even get washi tape on Amazon)- I used the tape to create this pretty striped pattern on raw book board, and then sealed the whole thing [...]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...