Looking for some easy gifts to make for the holidays? I may be biased, but I think handmade books make great gifts. They're beautiful and functional and even in an era of iPads and iPhones and iEverything else, it's still nice to write or draw things by hand.
The three books above took me a total of four hours to make from start to finish, and I had no grand plan in mind when I started out.
At top left is a basic accordion book with a ribbon tie, and the instructions for that can be found in this post. Below is a three-signature mini-book made from a felted wool sweater; the hearts were needle felted and it has a button closure. The taller book at right is a one-signature sewn book bound with a five-hole pamphet stitch. The cover was made from patterned scrapbook cardstock that I collaged.
Needlefelted Sweater Journal
This book's cover started out as a felted wool sweater. Felting is a simple process and the most fun you'll ever have doing laundry. Use old, outdated or damaged sweaters that are 100% wool--if they're not they won't felt. I usually find mine at thrift stores.
Place the sweater in the washing machine on hot with a little bit (about a tablespoon) of mild detergent, such as Woolite. Placing the sweater in a mesh bag or pillowcase cuts down on the amount of fuzz produced.
If you're washing just one or two sweaters, putting a pair of old jeans or a big towel in with them increases the agitation. That causes the wool fibers to rub against each other and mat, making felt.
Going through the hot wash cycle should make the garment shrink considerably, but I've found each one is different, depending on the wool and type of knit. At this point you have some options: air dry it if it's good to go as is, or put it through the wash again if it needs more felting. I usually throw mine in the dryer, where it should shrink more and make those fibers more compact. If by that time the sweater isn't as felted as I'd like it to be I do the whole process again. Sometimes the dryer can create a fuzzier texture on the sweater, so you might want to experiment to see what works for you.
When the sweater is felted it won't unravel when cut. At this point you can cut it up--I use a rotary cutter and quilting ruler but scissors work too. For the book above I cut a piece 4 3/4" x 10".
The cover is decorated with needle felting. The heart designs were created using a canape cutter as a template, but you can also use a cookie cutter or do a free-form design. If you've never done needle felting, you must try it. I promise you it's easy--I taught myself how to do it and I'm usually terrible at teaching myself stuff. It's also really fun and you will get great results right away, which is a huge win and makes you feel like a rock star. If rock stars needle felted.
Instructions for needle felting can be found in the Needle Felted Journal chapter in "Adventures in Bookbinding," or do a Google search and you'll find tons of information. You'll need special felting needles (they're thin and sharp and barbed), wool roving and a special foam felting block. All these materials are easily found online or in some yarn and craft stores, and they're not expensive.
Or, you can embroider or embellish the cover to your heart's content using whatever materials you have: flowers, beads, buttons, rhinestones, sequins, charms. If you're using a patterned sweater you may want to stick with that. A blanket or whip stitch around the edges adds a great finished look.
After needle felting the cover I adhered a piece of fabric to the inside using double-sided fusible web. This not only covers up the underside of the needle felting, but adds some heft and it looks great. The fabric should be slightly smaller all the way around than the cover. Instructions for this are also in "Adventures" and in "Re-Bound," where you'll find a similar felted journal with a different binding.
For the button closure I cut a slit with a craft knife in the ribbed flap large enough to accommodate the button. I sewed the button to the cover, directly underneath the buttonhole.
The three 12-page signatures were sewn with about 15" of waxed linen thread using a three-hole pamphlet stitch, which is described in this post (these pages are 6 1/2" x 4 3/8", then folded in half). However, for this book I started sewing from the outside of the book instead of the inside. In pamphlet sewing, where you start is where you end up. Otherwise the sewing is exactly the same.
Starting on the outside allows you to add more decoration, which is always a nice thing. Above, I've added a small glass bead at the knot, cut the threads to about 1/2" and frayed them. Since the signatures are sewn in separately you can use different color threads--these match the colors of the hearts on the cover.
There's something special about books made from wool. They're tactile and incredibly comforting. This one is small enough to fit inside a purse or tote bag, but I think it prefers to be out and about.
This book is so easy you could knock out 20 in a day. Seriously. After a lot of coffee. I made the covers from double-sided patterned scrapbook paper, cut to 11" x 9 1/2 and folded in half to make a cover 5 1/2" x 9 1/2". I rounded the corners but you can leave them as is.
For the collage I cut out an illustration from a McCall's pattern book, circa 1974. I also added some of the pattern information as well and adhered both pieces with glue stick.
Using my sewing machine I stitched around the perimeter, sewing in a vintage Bullock's Wilshire clothing label (Anyone remember Bullock's Wilshire? It's a law school now). If you don't have a sewing machine you can draw on stitches, do some hand stitching, or leave it plain.
The inside pages measure 10 1/2" x 9 38", and I rounded the corners of those. I nested the pages inside the covers and punched five equidistant holes on the fold (for information on punching signatures check out the instructions in this post). I threaded a needle with about 20" of waxed linen thread and sewed it with a five-hole pamphlet stitch which is as easy as a three-hole pamphlet stitch but is better for taller books.
Figure 1: Enter the middle hole from the inside and pull the thread through, leaving a 3" tail (A). Enter the next hole up from the outside (B) and enter the top hole from the inside (C). Go back into the second hole from top from the outside (D), trying not to split the thread that's already there.
Skip the middle hole and enter the second from the last hole from the inside (E). This is where I like to start tightening up the thread. Pull the working thread parallel to the spine in the direction of the sewing. Never pull the thread up--you can rip the book.
Figure 2: Continue the sewing, making sure stitches are tight as you go: Enter the last hole from the outside (F) and go back into the second hole from the bottom from the inside (G). Enter the middle hole from the outside (H and I).
Figure 3: When you bring the needle through the middle hole, make sure you come up on the opposite side of the center stitch from the tail thread. There should be one thread on either side of the center stitch.
Remove the needle and pull the threads parallel to the spine in opposite directions to tighten. Tie the threads in a double knot, capturing the center stitch, and trim the ends to about 1/4".
Told you it'd be a cinch. This book is going to the very talented Christine Haynes, whose site you should check out. She's working on her own pattern line now, which is so great.
It's always nice to tailor a handmade book to the recipient and his or her needs/likes/design sensibility. You can make a photo album for new parents, a sketchbook for artists, a journal for a teen or an older person, a book of inspirational quotes for someone who needs a little motivation, or a recipe book for your favorite aspiring chef.
Why not do eight books for the eight days of Hanukkah? Or make a library of 12 small journals, one for each month of 2012.
What are you making for gifts this year?