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This little binding was made for an exhibition being put on by Designer Bookbinders as part of London Craft Week at Maggs Bros. Ltd (48 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DR) between the 8th and 12th May 2019. Shown in the ‘modern department’ of the Bedford Square store with other modern bindings surrounding the room, it was in very good company!

This is a binding I had had on the go for a very long while, it is rare I get to do speculative pieces so it was a pleasure to work on something a little different. A relatively small book measuring 186mm x 127mm x 15mm with a series of instructional knots making up the contents.

“Gilcraft” was the pen name for Francis Gidney who was an early leader of the Scouting movement in the UK. He used this name when writing articles and also in several instructional books and booklets for both adult Scouters and boys, such as this publication of “Knotting”. Published in 1942 by Morrison and Gibb Ltd, London and Edinburgh.

The original was in a soft covered in green cloth. The book was pulled and re-sewn onto three tapes. It then went through the forwarding process.

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Within the book were numerous instructional diagrams in how to tie a variety of knots. Amongst the contents was the following: How To Use Ropes, The Tenderfoot Knots, Five Hitches, Some Special Knots, Six Stopper Knots, Six Plaits, Splicing, Blocks and Tackles, Lashings, Lifting Weights and Holdfasts.

I started by scanning each of the pages so I had images of each of the illustrated knots, an example below.

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I then traced the ones I liked best, twenty eight in total, onto separate pieces of tracing paper. Following this I drew a grid onto a piece of paper and worked out where each would best sit on the cover and joined the rope ends together.

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I was then able to trace this pattern onto another piece of paper. I chose sage green leather for the cover and planned to embroider each of the knots in a different colour thread onto this. I selected a colour palette of greens/oranges/greys and metallic threads and cut off small pieces of each and stuck them to my master drawing. This was to ensure no two of the same colours were too close to each other, or appeared twice on the front or back covers.

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I was then able to transfer the pattern onto a tracing paper sheet which became the template I worked from for pricking the embroidery holes through the covering leather.

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Each knot was then sewn onto the covering leather. I merged the colours into one another where they met by using a whipping stitch, creating an interlocking pattern. 

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It was necessary to have the pricking template close at all times to try and keep track of what all the pre-pricked holes belonged to!

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I use very fine needles to do my hand-embroidery, they are “Gold Eye Sewing Needles: 10 Betweens”. I am always losing them (and occasionally then tread or sit on them around the house – ouch!) so I have now stocked up on multiples to keep me going…

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After quite a few hours of sewing, the embroidery was completed and the leather was then ready to be stuck to the book block.

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The leather was dampened, pasted out and stuck to the book block. It was left to dry overnight before sticking down the leather joints and doing the infills on the inside of the boards. This then had a layer of Zerkall paper stuck to it which was sanded flush in preparation for the paper doublures.

Two of the knots I chose on the cover were illustrated wrapped around wooden dowels. I therefore opted to use teak veneer to illustrate these two elements. Shown in the image below is where I cut away some of the covering leather so that I could inlay the wood veneer into the space. Once glued down it was then flush with the surface. This strip of wood had to be cut into three parts and was bevelled with sandpaper at the edges of the board.

I also included some small additions of gold wire on two of the knots on the front cover. This wire was attached by drilling through the boards with a tiny drill bit, feeding the wire through and bending the ends into channels on the reverse. These ends were then concealed with the infills.

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The book was also blind-tooled along the lines of the ropes using a hand-made finishing tool. 

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The following is a list of knots that appear on the cover. I made this up as I wanted to work out how many letters and therefore spaces, were required to write each one:

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I wanted the names of each of the knots with a reference page number to appear on the doublures. I used tiny handle-letters to tool the names onto individual paper discs (in a colour to match the thread they had been sewn in on the cover). These were then stuck around circles of different sizes, with the gap filled in with a partial line of stitching, again, in the colour to match that of the cover embroidery.

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The sample board was a useful tool to try out my ideas ahead of doing the actual binding. Initially in my head I thought I would like to blind tool the space between each of the knots however after doing so I thought it would look far more refined to tool within the rope lines instead. Plus, I thought I wanted to use an off-white paper for the doublures, however decided to use the same hand-made green paper as that of the endpapers in the end. This sample board is number 52 in my series.

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And so the binding was complete!

FULL COVER

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DETAIL OF FRONT COVER

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DETAIL OF HEADBANDS

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The book was housed in a tulip wood box with the title of the book on the lid. The tulip wood had a channel routed into it to hold the panels for the lid and base in place.

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The box was lined with the same hand-made green paper as used in the binding. Spacers were made and covered in black felt to hold the book securely inside the box.

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I also added a “TIE YOUR OWN” pouch in the box lid. This was made with a magnetic fastener to hold it closed. Inside I put a square of card with some thick threads wound around them so that the knotting instructions inside could be tried out – in true Scout style!

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More images of this binding are now on my website here. Plus, I will get some pictures up of it in the Maggs exhibition space!

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