Thursday, August 08, 2013



This post is slightly different, but I needed to put it somewhere accessible and my blog seems as good a place as any. It's certainly poetry-related!

A friend of mine is working on making her first chapbook. She had some questions about the procedure and was curious as to what kind of a device, if any, I use to facilitate putting the holes in the spine. I went down to my studio to take a picture of said device (which Ted made for me; it's very handy having a handy person around), then ended up employing the "picture is worth a thousand words" technique and photographing the whole sequence. 

So, here we go. I'm sewing a copy of George Bowering's chapbook, Los Pájaros de Tenacatita.

The wood device Ted made me that is responsible for the next 19 pictures!

Make sure your pages are as square as can be

Keep as much of it as you can perfectly lined up

Gently coax it so that the edges line up as perfectly as possible (which won't be completely perfect as a rule) 
You're now ready to lie it down and crease the spine 
Meet the bone creaser, so named because they were originally made from bone but now are made of some sort of hard plastic. While you're at it, meet the awl I use, which is only here to show the relative size of the business end.

Obviously your going to hold the book down as in the picture directly above while you drag the bone creaser down the spine. There was only so much I could do whilst taking this photo! 
Now you're ready for book to meet that wooden thing Ted made 
I just eyeball the hole positions. Do the middle one first, then the other two. 
Cut a length of thread (linen is great if you can find it; otherwise a coat-weight thread from any notions store will do) about 15" long (38cm, but I'm betting my friend speaks inches!). Draw the thread through some beeswax a few times. (Those little votive candles work well).

Starting from the cover side, insert needle through the centre hole.

Now go back through one of the other holes

Note that you've left a tail about 2.5" (just over 6cm) long in the middle. Now take a giant step and go back through the remaining empty hole. 
Your last sewing moment is to go back through that same middle hole and come out on the cover side.

Make sure the two loose ends are on either side of the long stitch

Tie a square knot around that long stitch. Tie it tight. Trim the ends to whatever length makes you happy. Mine are around an inch (which we all know is 2.54cm).

Here's a fuzzy look at that fan-creep you end up with. It's the nature of the beast.

Meet my guillotine. I realize most people don't have these in their basements. You can bundle up your sewn books at this point and take them to your trusty printer who probably has one that's a lot fancier (and more accurate) than this one.
I'm going to trim about 3/16" (1/2 cm) off the edge. I'm not going to show you a picture of this because the guillotine is very sensibly made to only work when you employ both hands pushing buttons that are far away from that blade!
Voilà! All done. And remember, as in all things practice makes perfect.

And here, by popular request (okay, one person asked), are pix of all four of my own chapbooks.

My first collection, ways to get to here, was stapled, not sewn. Published in 2004. On the page with the publishing info it says: 
"ISBN planning this for a long time"
I still had lots to learn. Still do, come to that.

Generation Dance came along in 2008. That's vellum over the cover, which is a collage of all the family folk who get mentioned in the poems. The title poem originated as an August postcard poem in 2007.

Starting at top left, Aunt Nancy, grandson Kyran, son Jesse, my mom's cousin Billy in Ireland, Mom, Nana (my mom's mom), Braco (my mom's dad), the old Major (my dad's dad), Dad and his mother, a gaggle of cousins on the beach in the early 60s, Aunt Nancy heading down the hall to her room at Jubilee Manor with Kyran leading the way, my cousin Fred and me. Now I'm wondering, how did my sisters get left out of this one?! Probably because the last poems I wrote specifically for/about them were penned in about 1962. I'll have to get on that. Oh, that's me in the middle, age 11, photo by Helmuth Mayerhofer whose sons still have Vogue Studio in Nelson.

Etiquette, 2011. (This is why I now get my covers professionally printed. The ink eventually flakes on the ones I do at home.)
This one is my latest, created this year for Nelson's 2013 Elephant Mountain Literary Festival. Earlier this year, the title poem, What's Best for Us, was immortalized in the form of a very special artist's book by Meredith Purvis. It's a one-off and she calls it "Lung Book". My poem is on the scroll that's tucked into the windpipe.

You can read about the exciting collaboration that allowed this beautiful piece to be born over on The Light Ekphrastic.

Actually, I have one more chapbook with about four or five poems in it, titled Tea in a China Cup, but somehow I didn't hang onto a copy of that one nor get a picture of it. It was cute, too. Sort of square, if memory serves. I'll have to try to track one down.


Stuart Ross said...

Or fold sloppily and then staple with a long-necked stapler, if you're a lazy-ass like me.


Linda Crosfield said...

lol...I've done them that way, too!

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Linda H. said...

I enjoyed this blog post very much. The step-by-step instructions and the photos to make it more clear are wonderful. I just may have to try this when I have enough material for a chapbook.