Monday, March 11, 2019

It's a calendar, it's a zine, it's a diary — It's the Useful Calendar Almanac!

Yeah, I know. I'm writing about my 2019 almanac in March of 2019. What?



I actually finished the thing in January, and stitched together a prototype, which I marked up with corrections and notes, and then decided to use that one myself rather than discard it. Then I made a second one for my husband, who was missing his old-style printed calendar-planner. It's the size of a quarter of a letter-size sheet of paper, 4-1/4 by 5-1/2 inches, a nice handbook size that's also manageable for me to print and assemble at home.



Then I ran into a friend at the coffee shop, and when I showed him my copy he immediately said he would like one, so I made a few more to display during a neighborhood art event in February, the LoLa Winter Fine Art Exhibition, and he bought one, and the remaining 5 copies are now available in my Etsy shop. 


The truth is, this has been about four years in the making. Since 2015, I have made some version of an almanac-diary for my own use and as prototypes, always finishing them after the first of the year and telling myself I will make the next one in time to sell in the fall for the following year. These prototypes had limited text, since I didn't want to research and write articles, lists, and such for myself only.


But as I have modified the design of the Useful Calendar to allow more room for art, and to keep the font a readable size, and still keep it small and pocket-sized, I have left out more and more of the fascinating tidbits of information I gather along the way, and I really wanted to make them available in some complementary format, for which an almanac seems just the thing. And then it just made sense to have a few pages for a person to jot their own notes of whatever sort, whether using it as a planner or diary or phenology journal. So I added three lightly gridded pages per month.


This time I was determined to just get it out there, no matter the poor timing, and set the precedent that there will now be a Useful Calendar Almanac every year, alongside my usual compact-yet-informative calendar formats.

But I'm also equally determined to do all of it myself, from the research and writing, to illustrating, to printing and assembling and stitching. Because that's just how I do things, inefficient though it is. The following photos show the steps in the assembly process. Each one takes me about an hour to assemble, so I find something interesting to listen to and just immerse myself in the doing.

The cover, printed on card-stock, about to be cut and scored for folding


The flap to the left will form a pocket, because I gotta have a pocket.

Here are the pages, to be folded into signatures to form the text block.

Marking the signatures for where I will punch the sewing holes. The cover has the holes printed on it, so I punched those first and then use them as the guides for marking the holes in the signatures, because I will be sewing through the spine.

I chose some pretty-colored linen thread since the stitching will be both functional and decorative; the signatures will be sewn through the spine in a criss-cross pattern that forms X's on the outside. It means the center signature gets a bit more stitching than it would with a different style of stitch, because it is being sewn to the first and then again to the third signature in the process of stitching it all together. The result is a good securely bound book.

After all the sewing is done, I brush the spines with PVA glue, which remains flexible when set, so it will strengthen and protect the spine and the stitching. I brushed the glue over the edges, too, because I figure that's where the most wear will occur. They'll stay clamped like this overnight, after which the glued spine will still feel a bit tacky for a couple of days, but eventually it will just have a kind of rubbery feel.
I was going to offer these through my shop as a made-to-order item, but after I assembled a few and realized it takes about an hour just to do that, I thought I really can't ask what they're worth so late in the almanac season, so I am just offering the five that I've already made for $15 each, with a note in the description that the 2020 edition will cost $25 so as not to create the impression that $15 is a normal price for a hand-bound book like this. In truth, $25 isn't really a normal price either, but I do want to strike a balance between what I see as affordable and how much it's worth to me to make them. Because while I enjoy making them, I'd enjoy selling a few of them too.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the wonderful explication of this process! I have long wanted to make books (having sewn one small, terrible one for my mother so many years ago), but, alas, I am not good with my hands and have not the practice of the artist/artisan. These are wonderful and I regret not purchasing one with my last order (just some minutes ago). I marvel at those who practice art.

    I also enjoyed your anecdote about the legos. (I feel another "alas" coming on...) I am so frustrated with the state of childhood these days. My kids are now moving on (20, 17, 15) from it, but it was frustrating to try to raise kids according to my own understanding of "childhood" in today's tech-heavy, brand-saturated world. Your post resonated with me.

    Anyway, I just stopped by to say hello and thanks for the good read and lovely stuff on Etsy. Keep up the good work. You may not be able to price it, but that's just proof of how valuable it is. The mantra running in my head these days goes something like this: If this world does not accept it, can't have it, kicks it back, it must be something good. Because this world shows its true colors all too often, and they are usually not for me.

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Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts.