Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Making new journals from old books: headbands

I'm going to give you a few behind-the-scenes looks at some journals I've been making, using vintage book covers. This is not a tutorial, sorry. It's more like a show-and-tell about different aspects of making handbound journals. (But I do link to a tutorial now and then, so click those links to see how it's done.) 

This post is about headbands.

These journals (except Werner Arithmetic, which was purchased by a mathematician), and others, are being added to my Etsy shop, which is also called Sharon's Compendium, over the coming days and weeks.

One of the appeals of making journals from old books, beyond the obvious fact that some vintage book covers really are more appealing than their contents, is that I get to take them apart and examine how they were made.

I'm interested in traditional bookbinding methods, but I'm not a purist, so I end up using a hybrid of old, new, and modified techniques to make my journals.

One intriguing feature of traditional casebound books is the headband. It is attached to the top and bottom of the text block (the paper that fills a book, whether or not it actually has text on it). It's not just a decorative touch, it actually protects the edges of the paper at the top and bottom of the spine. (The one at the bottom is more correctly called a tail band, but only fussy traditionalists call it that anymore.)

In high-end bookbinding, the headbands are actually sewn with silk thread in a meticulous process. Here's a good how-to from Papercut Bindery.

At the other end, you can buy headband material that looks embroidered, and glue it to the ends of the spine.

The middle way, which I have adopted, is to make them from fabric and cord, glued with PVA (a bookbinder's glue that dries slowly and remains strong and flexible).

Here I've removed the headband from an old book and opened it up

The glued fabric headband, made from striped shirt fabric, was common by the early 19th century, writes Laura S. Young in Bookbinding and Conservation by Hand: A working guide. (I borrowed a copy from the Hennepin County Library.

I have prepared a few strips of headbands using leftover scraps of cotton fabric, including some from my husband's old shirts. The cord is actually hemp twine, which seemed like the right thickness to me. I just cut off a piece to fit the width of the spine when I'm ready to attach it.

And I figured that, as long as I'm making and attaching headbands, why not add a ribbon to use as a page marker? The ribbon is glued to the spine first, then the headband over it. There are a couple more steps before the cover is attached, which I'll write about in a later post.

Notice that the headband is not attached to the cover, just to the text block. This maintains the flexibility of the spine so that the book will open easily.

Another time I'll tell you a little about spines, and why the ones I make are flat, not rounded. And then there are the endpapers, which can be plain or decorative. Or I might write about something else I'm working on. You never know. So please check back sometime. Thanks!