1 Great Tip For Making Better Books

1 Great Tip For Making Better Books

So I’m definitely on some kind of extreme bookbinding kick right now, and last night I made covers for 11 new yuzen (the Japanese silkscreened paper I like so much) coptic stitch journals – meaning I covered 22 boards!

I remember a  few years ago I was reading another bookbinder’s blog and I saw a huge tower of maybe 10 coptic stitch books with the caption “what I worked on over the weekend” and I stared at it with awe and not a little envy and commented something like “Wow, I could never imagine being that fast!” – well crafters and bookbinders – I’m here to tell you that I am that fast now, and I’m going to share with you my trip for making better books:


Hahaha, ok that’s not a very fun tip, but hey, I think in this day and age of instant gratification (How quickly can you look something up on Wikipedia these days? I bet it’s seconds) we all need to remember that craftsmanship hasn’t changed, you still need to train your eyes, brain and fingers to do something unnatural like knitting, pottery and bookbinding, and the only way you’re going to get better, more reliable results is to practice your art.

1 Great Tip For Better Bookbinding

There used to be a sign tacked up in my middle school band room (I played clarinet for four years!) that said “Practice makes Perfect”, and I loathed looking at it because honestly, I hated practicing – but that sign stuck with me and now I realize it’s true. You’ll never be perfect, and perfectionism is another demon to vanquish (maybe in another post) BUT the only way you’ll get better is to allow yourself to make a huge volume of work, which over the years you’ll see go from lousy, to ok to pretty good to really nice. Just remember, every expert was once a beginner, too!

At what point did you see your craft improving? Do you ever feel frustrated at not being able to “get it right”?

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Cynthia Schelzig

so true, so true what you say. I found a good way to get a “cleaner” look is to make an oooooddlle of minis of the book you want to produce,,,,they come in handy at the art markets come Xmastime,,,I have seen a difference in my craftsmanship since doing that. I gasped when I saw all those luscious corners …..you made me smile with the little caption underneath too. I can´t wait to see the stack once this project is finished….have fun!

Jamie Sprague

Absolutely true! The more books I make the more competent I feel, and the better quality they are. I stumble these days at efficiency since I’m not making books very often, but it’s still always a joy when I do. And still “I could never imagine being that fast!” = )

Brian Lieske

The single most important thing my first binding teacher told me when I ran into her shortly after the class: “Oh, don’t worry about any of that. Your first ten books are going to suck. Just sew them and get them out of the way.” It was SO liberating.


@Cynthia & Jaime – isn’t it interesting how one binding style can affect another? I basically spent this year working on Coptic stitch, but had to make a regular case bound book for a class and I was pleasantly surprised that all that time cutting, pasting and folding helped me make the case bound book that much faster.

@Brian – I spent one semester doing an “independent study” on bookbinding and I can’t believe now that it took me a whole semester to make a small handful of books! What good advice from your teacher


I am so glad to hear the first ten books you try to make are going to suck — because I am still in that range (and getting frustrated). Love your list of books. I have most of them myself. Love the Golden book and also Esther K Smith’s. I am an Aries so practice is hard for me — I want it all NOW — but I do agree practice makes perfect so I am going to go to my studio right now and try again. Love your blog.


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