Do you feel guilty buying a product from someone else that you make yourself?

I love stationary! I love the smell, the look, and the different textures. My favourite item of stationary is the book, blank books or journals specifically; all different sizes, shapes and materials. Since I was a child I have been drawn to the stationary aisles of supermarkets, department stores and, now stationary is cool, shops like Smiggle and Typo often capture me as I walk past. I honestly think they pump out new book smell to tempt people like me into their wonderful stores. Image

A new book is filled with potential and a certain magic. The precious first page, just yearning for  marks to be made. I will often leave the front page blank as the pressure is too much! I am scared the magic the book holds will dissipate if I put the wrong image or thought on that page. But the guiltless pleasure I used to find in purchasing a beautiful journal has been tainted.

I have not bought a blank book or journal in more than a year. This began the minute I started making my own. I still love books, mine and other peoples but I cannot justify a purchase as I can just use one of my own. I covet them at stores and glimpse them online, but I don’t buy them because I feel guilty of betraying my own creations.

Do other creatives experience this bizarre affliction? Does the baker secretly desire the cakes in the shop window of the other bakery in town as she/he walks by? Does the jeweler yearn to buy and wear another makers wares?

Do other creative souls suffer with this strange self inflicted torment, or is it just me?





I just bought half a Cow and not a steak in sight

Last week I went on a spending spree through the town of Melbourne.

I bought many things, but the most exciting was half a cow. Apparently it was an upholstery cow, who would have thought cows had an affinity to interior decor.

This is the first time I have bought ‘new’  leather,  previous books have been clothed in recycled leather or leather that has come from recycle stores such as Resource Rescue in Bayswater North in Victoria, Australia.

I would highly recommend the adventure. I went to Leffler Leather in  West Melbourne, and was fortunate enough to have someone show me all the different types of leather available. Firstly the leathers are differentiated by the animal lucky enough to have their skin used. Then the differences are  colour, texture, thickness, size and the chemical used.

Being a poor book binder, only just starting out, I went straight for the bargain aisle, admiring more expensive leathers along the way, and there were so many. I went for half a cow cause I would get the best bang for my buck. (no pun intended).

Mildly overpowered by the smell of leather and the fact I was parting with lots of money I chose my cow.  I did not intend to spend so much of my hard-earned money on leather but the minimum purchase was half a hide, so I decided to go the whole hog and get two cow halves, brown and red. The red is a  lovely deep cherry and I have already done one custom order with this leather. The brown leather is one that has had minimal tannery procedures to enhance the leather. You can still see  the skin creases from the cow and it marks easily, but when you apply warmth the marks disappear. This shows the beauty of leather.

I use leather as well as board covers for my books and when they come with me to an outdoor market, I see the organic nature of leather at work. If the market morning is damp, many of  the book pages tend to ripple a little (a subtle version of what happens to a book if you take it in the bath); but not the leather books. The leather acts like a skin around the pages protecting them from the little ravages of life and weather.

It is easy to see why people are enamoured by leather bindings and feel a book is worth more if it is bound in leather, they are always my best sellers.

Here is a photograph of a book made from the Brown Leather I purchased.IMG_5262 (778x1024)

The Day I Made My Own Wormhole

I think I have created a wormhole and am in danger of falling into it. You might well ask how a book binder can delve into such science, and it is because of an app that I discovered. It was not called ‘Make your own Wormhole’ but rather it is a list making app called ‘Wunderlist’.  It seemed to have enough functionality  to appeal to my organisational self so  I downloaded it and that is where my wormhole problems began.

For any list makers out there, take care, this is how it worked.  I made a list of things I needed to make a list about. Then I entered into each item on that list and made a list. But it did not stop there. Upon viewing each item on the sub list I realised i could  refine it by adding  a further to do list. To begin with I thought I may be in heaven but something tells me I may have stepped over the line and am currently on the slippery slope to entering the Wormhole.

I wonder if there are organisational experts already trapped in the wormhole who are frantically making lists to enable their escape while at the same time knowing they are creating their own inescapable tomb.

I leave you with this question, if I succeed in completing something on my to do list but don’t tick it off, did it actually happen?

Five Rules for Using a Blade in Craft

I managed to ruin my thumb a couple of weeks ago when I thought ” I’m only cutting a small line, let’s just cut horizontally”, then…..there was blood, pain and feelings of stupidity as I held my hand towards the sky to stop the bleeding.
I would share with you the wisdom that I myself am yet to accept.

The five rules to cutting anything paper /card using a blade.

1. Always cut down. This means the cut you are going to make should be as vertical as possible in relation to your body. It is easier to cut a straight edge this way and also easier to see what you are

The right way to cut.

The right way to cut.

2. Use a guide, be it a ruler, a plastic straight edge, something the blade can rest against ( I like to use a quilters square because the edge is thick and the area I can rest my steadying hand on is wide). This means there is less chance the knife will jump the edge and attack your hand.

The wrong way to cut.

The wrong way to cut.

3. Make sure your blade is sharp. Sounds a bit silly to suggest having the sharpest blade possible when I am advising of the best ways to retain all of your fingers but there it is. Less pressure will be needed and less repeated runs of the blade if you are cutting thick card.

3. Know where the pressure you are exerting will send the knife/blade if it were to jump the guide and come for you. When you realise the potential trajectory, make sure your hand is not in the way. That way, you’ll only have a nasty slice on your ruler/guide and not on your very precious skin.

I wish you the best of luck with your blades. Feel free to check out the outcome of my blade adventures; my beautiful books- all guaranteed blood free at

Artistic Beauty in a Hardware Store – How to Find the Materials to Make it!

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Artistic beauty is not on the average persons mind when they visit a hardware store, but for all the artists out there, it should be. Hardware shops are where you will find many things that are supremely useful and cost effective. What more could you want.

I hand paint the covers to a couple of my books and the secret ingredient is from Bunnings (Hardware Store). Here is a picture so you get the idea of the effect this tutorial will achieve (hopefully)

Hand painted Book Cover with Zebra

Hand painted Book Cover with Zebra

The Zebra is an after market addition (children’s book image), it is  the painting underneath that I speak of. How did I create this type of pattern? The key is a product you can find in the painter and decorator section, it is called Masking Paper. Painters use it to stop paint splashes getting everywhere, we’re going to use it in exactly the opposite way.

This paper is non-absorbent, strong and the coolest thing ever if you like to screw things up to satisfy your stress levels. ( I love it!) The reason it is so good for the following project is when wet, it retains its strength.

1.First rip off some paper from the roll (I use about two arms length) and screw it up into a ball, unravel it and screw it up again, really tight! You will notice that the paper is strong but still pliable. It does tear though, consider yourself warned! Once you have scrunched sufficiently, un-scrunch your paper and smooth it out with your hands, so you have the shape of the paper to work with.

The paper on the way to being a scrunched canvas

The paper on the way to being a scrunched canvas

2. Lay it out on a table you can paint on safely, it can get really messy so would recommend coverage of said table. This is another fun bit.  (in fact the whole thing is a bundle of fun, if you like this kind of thing, which you do otherwise you would have stopped reading by now). Use  a water sprayer bottle and wet the paper, use your

My painting table (the dining table)

My painting table (the dining table)

acrylic paints and dollop and squeeze a fair amount on the paper. Using a damp paintbrush, spread the paint around in an ‘artistic manner’. It is up to you what colours you use, I would recommend those that do not turn to brown when mixed as there is a fair amount of paint mixing with this method. Continue to use the water sprayer if the paint is starting to dry and you haven’t finished.

3. Repeat Step 1.

4.Smooth the new piece of scruched paper out and  lay it across the painted piece. Sometimes I wet this second piece of paper before putting it on the paint, and sometimes I don’t. Use your hands to press the paper into the painted piece when it is layed on the painted paper. ( I forgot to take a photo of this part of the tutorial, sorry)

4. Remove the second piece of paper and hang it somewhere to dry.

A close up of one of my creations

A close up of one of my creations before I made a book cover out of it.

Hanging to dry on the balcony

Hanging to dry on the balcony

5. If you have kept your original painted paper wet with the sprayer you may be able to create another print from it with another creased piece of paper. If not, don’t worry as the original paper can be hung up to dry and used as a book cover, or whatever use you have imagined for it.


Notes: For the book shown above, I used a core of tyvek and then glue the paper to this core before creating the cover for my books. It provides stability and also means the cover cannot be torn.

This is my first attempt at a “how to” so feel free to ask any questions you like. 

The Ultimate Bookbinding Book Review

I was looking for a bookbinding text. The descriptions publishers provide give you some idea of what a book is about, but I personally look for reviews by the real people in the world who have actually read the book. It was during my study of reviews that I came across a little gem.

Most book reviews are about the content of the book, but when you are dealing with people who actually create the binding the book is presented in, you get the committed bookbinder whose review is  about the the binding of the book! I love it!



Reviews for Manual of Bookbinding

Write a review

  • This is a print-on-demand verison Book rating:4

    Tony ChengI’ve got a copy of this book and to be surprised to find that this is a print-on-demand edition. The prints are not that clear when compared to the original edition and the binding is perfect binding instead of section-sewn paperback. Overall this is only acceptable.








Playing Favourites

My lovely man, Jeremy suggested I do a post telling everyone which one of my books is my favourite. But favourites are hard to choose.

I remember as a child, my sister and I would forever be asking my Mum which picture, we had each made that she liked the best. Disappointingly, my Mum would always reply ” I like them both the same”.

My sister and I would argue the point, but we knew what she meant – a Mum cannot play favourites with her children. It may start with a picture, but where will it end!

As a parent myself now, I understand that you can love two things equally but often for completely different reasons, that’s where it gets interesting.

People visiting my stall will sometimes ask which book is my favourite, but the question is too broad.

Is it my favourite:

  • to make?
  • to sell?
  • to admire?

My favourite to make, is the Large Leather Wrap Around Journal.


It is a large project that I must settle in with. I become acquainted with the book and its personality,  as the sewing requires patience and attention to details. I am good at attention to detail, but sometimes patience is a virtue I glimpse and hold for only short periods of time. This book forces me to stop all background noise and focus on the task at hand. The smell of the leather as I work, the sound of the thread pulling through the pages and the finished product are all the reasons for voting this book my fave to make.

My favourite type of book to sell are my Coptic Bound Books.

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These type of books were  the first kind I made. I love to sell these because the craftsmanship is there for all to see. The spine of the book is exposed and all the stitching I do is visible. I love the fact I can use fancy paper, children’s book illustrations, old maps or even a recycled hard bound book (see last photo with bird detail). This means they appeal to a wide variety of people.

Lastly, the most treasured of  my creations is my Hand painted Journal. It is tactile, beautiful, flexible and just the right size with lots of pages.  It also has a pocket to put all those bits of paper I collect and an extended back cover to act as a bookmark. If I was browsing my own stall these are the books I would be drawn to purchase.

hand painted journal IMG_4155 IMG_4175