Module 2, Chapter 10, Activity 1 (Part 1)


2.10.1: Make small trial sketchbooks to try out stab stitch and fold and stitch techniques.

I’ve split this post into two – the remainder will follow at a future date because the others are not finished – but I wanted to show some of them to prove I am working!


I loved doing these, especially when I was working with a theme – I may not be very adventurous, and I didn’t always stick to my plan (things evolve), but it made me think about what I was doing, and the various ideas I could explore and how I could bring different techniques together, without feeling constrained by doing an ‘activity’ in proper bound book with all those blank pages. I think this is more likely to influence the way I work in the future than anything I’ve done so far. It makes it all seem much freer and more individual. I can see how it works with a ‘mix and match’ approach for the various activities I’ve covered in modules 1 and 2 (plus anything else I want to try) and how it means you can take an idea for a project (even something you might not be very interested in) and run with it to get something that is your own interpretation through research, playing with colour, samples, notes, sketches, techniques, inspirational pictures/photos/information etc.

General Notes

  • I preferred the stab stitch method as I felt it gave a greater degree of flexibility with different sized papers, thickness etc, but but I have tried to produce books using the two different techniques, as well as in different shapes and sizes.
  • On some samples I stitched to the ends of the pages, but if you’re not careful the holes pull and near if they’re too near the edge, so it’s better with a gap.
  • When stab-stitching decorated pages you need to remember that may lose some of the design/lettering along that edge. And with something like my ‘H’ book a design may end up narrower on that side and look unbalanced.
  • Think about whether the holes are big enough for the threads.

The Book of Writing Tools

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The finished book.

For this one I used the papers where I tried out different writing tools (2.2.1), because it seemed a nice way to keep them together. They are all roughly eight inches square, so I wove paper strips from a magazine to make the covers, free-machine stitched them, sloshed white paint over, and used a variety of tools  to make the title on the front. The holes were made with a Japanese screw punch, and it was stab stitched together with six strands of stranded embroidery thread – there are a lot of pages, so it needs a thick thread to hold it firmly.  I embellished it by wrapping a wooden satay stick with threads (using a half-hitch over and over again, in the same direction, so the knots wind round and the stick), making beads for the ends, and loosely plaiting brightly coloured silk sari ‘ribbon’ with red and yellow embroidery thread to make cords for ties. The sari silk is beautifully frayed all along the length of its edges, which makes for an interesting textured surface, but I roughed it up a bit more with a toothbrush, and frayed the ends to make thin tassels. I also made cords to dangle from the stick, using the half-hitch and beads.

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The book cover before I took it apart!

However, once I came to fix them to the covers I realised the paper wasn’t strong enough, so I unpicked the stab stitched binding, and used Bondaweb to stick black felt to the inside of the front and back covers (sandwiching the ends of the cords between the layers, with double sided tape to make it more secure). Then I added painted Bondaweb, foils, tissue paper and embossing powder because the felt looked a little dull! The grid pattern  echoes the woven squares on the front and back. Finally I stab stitched the pages back together again, with the wrapped stick held against the spine. If I did it again I would add the felt to the cover at an early stage, then stitch through all the layers, which would look better and hod everything together more effectively, then print the title.

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Inside front (the back is very similar)

On the down side, the edges of my papers weren’t very straight, which can make stitching tricky, and because the pages were already decorated bits of my lettering disappeared into the holes and stitching – there’s obviously a very good reason why books have margins!

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You can see the stab stitching more clearly on the back cover.

On the plus side, I was surprised at how quickly the addition of decorative covers and a stitched spine turned a somewhat disparate collection of pages into a unified whole – it looks and feels like a proper book! And it was SUCH fun!

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One of the beads and part of a cord – I can’t get a decent close-up of the detail.

The Book of ‘Photo Letters’

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A grotty photo of the front of my ‘Photo Letters Book’ using rail tickets and printed letters inspired by photos.

Remember the photos I took of things in the environment that looked like letters for Module 2 Chapter 8? And how I said I wanted to try and draw some of them, and produce other letters in the same style? Well, this seemed the ideal opportunity.

I started off attempting to reproduce them with the same proportions, nice straight lines, and lots of detail. I even tried tracing shapes from small photos – and it all looked terrible. Then I remembered what a mess I got into trying to slavishly copy Jasper Johns’ work, so I took a deep breath and, using the photos as inspiration, drew freehand  letters on funky foam, cut them out, stuck them to foam board, and got along much better (except for the peculiar ‘O’, which was based on the centre of the pink flower, and hasn’t worked at all, but I’ve included it anyway).

photo letters book 1 (2)I printed my letters on to old train tickets painted white on one side and black on the other (because I couldn’t resist black gouache when I spotted it in a shop and, having bought it, had to use it immediately). I planned to use black, white, red and silver for printing, but added other colours. And I hopped about, making various letters in various styles. The covers are photos, with the words ‘photo letters’ scratched into the surface, and acrylic paint rubbed in, but it wasn’t very successful, so I printed over them with my letters, which didn’t improve things. They’re backed with black card from a packet of tea leaves.

photo letters book 2 (2)The book is stab stitched together with red wire, that I aged by added blobs of black gouache, which don’t really show in the photo. I tried adding beads, and wire coils that I made, but they didn’t look right, so I left the ends at the front, and wound them into kind of disjointed coils, which I like. Wire needs biggish holes, and small pliers to pull it taut after each stitch.

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I love this, and I’m  really pleased with it, even though it’s not perfect, and it hasn’t scanned in very well. I was aiming for an ‘urban grunge’ look, and overall I think I succeeded – I particularly like the effect of the black gouache as a background, and the letters I created exceeded my expectations (apart from the horrid ‘O’). The materials I chose suited the design, it’s much more textured than it looks in the pictures, and my colours aren’t too bad – the original palette was fine, and the small amount of green is OK, but the blue and yellow don’t add anything. I think the book needed more cohesion: it would have been better with one overall design style, or one letter printed in many different ways. And I should have punched holes in the tickets before printing the letters so it was easier to position them. I had a good idea, but if fell down a bit on the execution.

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The Book of Purple

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This is a stitch and fold sample. I used decorated A4 sheets from my stash (c reated way back in Module 1),  glued together with fungicide-free cellulose paste (1 tspn of powder to half a pint of cold water) so they were decorated on both sides, then I left them to dry, and flattened them overnight under a pile of heavy books. I folded them in half lengthways and as the pages were fairly thick and strong I didn’t make a separate cover. And, as the colours are quite strong, and the front is very busy, I decided the book didn’t need decoration, but I trimmed the front edges to give a layered effect – each page is roughly half a centimeter narrower than the one below it. I made a twisted cord with three strands of thick crochet thread, in purple, pink and gold, using an old hand drill with a cuphook in the end (this cost me 50p in a junk shop and it is BRILLIANT – it twists anything together, even wires). The cord is probably a bit too thick (I had to enlarge the holes, which made them messy, but I don’t think it matters). I left the threads hanging down the spine of the book, and used plain, simple lettering for the title, so it didn’t detract from the printed pattern on the cover.

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For some reason I have a lot of purple papers in the box, which is odd, because it’s not a colour I’m overly fond of. Anyway I took purple as my theme, and wrote about it in purple felt tips – nothing else would have done! The book was partly inspired by Sei Shonagon’s ‘Pillow Book’ – she was a lady-in-waiting at the Japanese imperial court at the turn of the  10th/11th century and she wrote the most wonderfully lively, gossipy account of her life, like a diary on a grand scale, with stories, poems, lists of things she did and didn’t like, historical information, comments about people, and details about clothes, customs, weather and so on. So the format of my book is a kind of Pillow Book, with lists and information, and the idea of the layered edges came from her too – she describes how Japanese ladies at that time wore layered clothes, and the hem of each layer was slightly shorter than the one beneath, so they all showed, but they had very strict rules about the colours used and the distances between the edges.


I wish I’d made this bigger – it’s crying out to be a ‘working sketchbook’ rather than a complete book. I could have used more details (I wanted to included the purple silken sails on Cleopatra’s barge, but didn’t have room), and some pictures, and a map to show where Tyre is, and some samples of different types of purple, and some dying experiments, and some poetry… I can see how even a very simple idea can be expanded into a sketchbook packed with ideas to use in future projects.

putple 5

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The Book of Texture

DSCN6314This is a work in progress, which is a bit further on than the photo, but I’ve included it to show what I’m doing. It was inspired by Lizzy’s feedback on my struggles with Jasper Johns, when she suggested adding texture to the paint wit things like sawdust, chalk and sand. So I had a play with all sorts of stuff – sand, sawdust, seeds, snippets of thread, bits of paper… And I decided that books don’t have to be square or rectangular, so I’ve stuck to the Jasper Johns theme and am making this one in the shape of a letter ‘H’. It will be a stitch and fold book, and include notes on the left-hand pages (so I know what I’ve done). I’m going to gently brush over the textured paint with pearlescant mica paint to highlight the surface.

The Book of Feathers 


Feather pages waiting to be stab stitched into a book.

This started as a simple collection of pages from the stash where I experimented with monoprinting feathers – some bought, some collected on walks. But it grew… I tried some rubbings, and trying to make impressions by pressing feathers in textured paint, moulding paste and light-weight Fimo (can’t remember what it’s called). I wanted to try and get a fossil effect… Then I found sun photograph paper in a shop in Brixton, so I made sunprints of feathers, which I love, love, love, and it is ever so easy.


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Sun prints! Aren’t they fantastic!

And I even plucked up the courage to try some drawing – I started by copying drawings of feathers in books, and progressed to drawing a real feather! I’ve made stitched pockets to hold feathers, notes, rubbings etc. And I’m trying to make stitched feathers out of paper for the cover, but they look more like leaves!


Stitched feather sample looks more like a leaf!

The Book of Rosalie Gascoigne

I always intended to make a cover and embellish the book I made in Module 2, Chapter 4, but I put it on hold while I concentrated on the activities I was meant to be doing. So I am weaving a cover, threading strips of magazine pages through a biggish-holed plastic mesh – I found long strips of this, in bright colours, in Brixton Market (I get lots of stuff there, because my younger daughter lives in Brixton). But you’ll have to wait for the big reveal until it’s finished.



One response »

  1. Pingback: Module 2, Chapter 10, Activity 1 (Part 2) | takingathreadforawalkblog

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