tools worth having

getting things together .2 lo-fi/level-up


Yesterday's snowy second act was the perfect backdrop for a cozily productive morning in the studio.  Above are thirteen little glue-books-to-be.*  The largest is 5.5 inches square.  Most are considerably smaller.  The picture also features a long-arm stapler which you in no way need to get yourself going.  It's there, honestly, to corral the most unruly of the books prior to flattening.

I've built this post in hopes of encouraging you to commit to creating some kind of booklet over the next few weeks.  Just one.  Just for you.  The fact that many more are pictured above (and they're not for me) relates to my realization in the middle of making them that I could concurrently shoot the same space and supplies with this post in mind:

a guide for gathering lo-fi very basic book making supplies as well as a level-up supplementary guide for those who have time, money and/or supplies on hand that can be re-purposed in intuitive and unconventional ways

 [the booklets above and down yonder are made from light greige office supply store cardstock.  It's perfectly smooth and that's ideal for paper-on-paper collage.  My next post in this series will talk more about choosing paper substrates for your booklet.]


super low-fi bookmaking supplies:   

This grouping presumes your interest in making a small simple book by hand is new and you'll be starting from the ground in terms of supplies.  To get started  You really only NEED a pencil, a straight-edge (preferably 12") ruler and a small 'craft grade' stiletto.  To collage as well as make booklets you also need a pair of sharp dedicated for-paper-only scissors.  But to create a basic and suitably sturdy gluebook all you need is a straight edge and the nerve to tear your paper flat and smoothly against it.  Please note my scissors aren't included in this image because their price-point puts them in the level-up group.

also not pictured:   binding thread.   If you sew and have twisted cord/embroidery floss/buttonhole weight thread use that.  If you've got beading supplies use a mid-weight filament.  DON'T use fishing line unless it's very thin or you have the ability/tools to crimp it in place with a metal clamp.

note:  in a pinch you can use a double-strand of dental floss.   Especially if you aren't sure you'll want to make this type of book more than once.

say you're reading along feeling like you could really do this project even though you'll have to to purchase binding thread first.  Go with buttonhole weight sewing thread or a mid-weight beading filament rather than trying to select from items you'll find by searching on 'bookbinding supplies'.  The threads on offer in that category will be much too thick for our needs.   You'll want to use something thin yet strong that's also resilient enough to pass repeatedly through any paper you've selected for inclusion in your booklet.  The thread must also be sufficiently durable to withstand multiple collage sessions without abrading.


As a general rule I like to use an HB pencil for marking the folio cutting lines.  It can get smudgy but sometimes I like that as part of the booklet's vibe (also see the dustless eraser in the level-up section) Choose your favorite sort of pencil to fill this crucial role.

You might also really appreciate the inclusion of two colored pencils; one well-visible on dark paper and another for lighter options

a 6 inch dual-measurement ruler

NOTE:  You may wind up considering a longer metal cork-backed ruler like the one pictured to be a necessity.  Especially if you get partway through this project, don't already have one, and find yourself wishing you did have something slip-proof and super durable because you can already tell simple bookmaking is a thing you're going to be exploring in more depth.  I advise working with a 12 inch because that's the most versatile size to store and use as well as the most widely available option

A small craft-grade stiletto that's sold in a protective storage case probably belongs in a hybrid category such as luxurious necessity.  I think you'll be really glad to have one unless you have on hand needles that are both thin enough to prevent holes much bigger than the thread that has to pass through the paper AND sharp enough to pierce nearly every type of paper you're likely to use in this kind of project.   That said people make do with all kinds of things quite happily.  For example I thoroughly enjoyed using an old fashioned poultry lacing skewer for years.  I simply employed the sharp tip to make the initial puncture then passed a waxed tapestry needle back and forth through the hole a few times.  Got the stiletto at a local scrapbook store when I at last grew tired of the overly large holes the tapestry needle created.  Immediately wished I'd gotten one much much sooner.


level-up supplies that can be incredibly useful:

 butterfly binder clips.   You want a pair of each size you find useful.   For getting into collage and making simple books I'd recommend picking up both small and medium size if you can. 

 bone folder.  I know.  Successfully folding pieces of paper in half is hardly rocket science.  But getting a uniformly crisp edged fold that allows all your folios to successfully nest inside each other is trickier than it seems at a purely logical level. 

You might want a proper (size small) bookmaking awl if you feel you're destined to create some simple books from thick handmade paper, pre-collaged papers, fabric and so forth.  If you get one have a cork right on hand when you un-package the awl.  Plunge the sharp tip firmly into the cork and sequester the pairing when not in use especially if you live with pets children or overly curious adults who don't always leave the things they've examined in the same way you left them.

I find a dustless eraser indispensable.   For bookmaking specifically they're great because the polymer residue collects itself in a bundle.  You can pick it up easily in a flash - whisking all the graphite it contains far from smudge range.

2 and/or 4 ply waxed linen beading cord in a few colors you love.  Because you will use them. Quite happily and inventively.  Trust.

Scissors that are coated to resist sticky residue and dulled edges. Oftentimes these lightweight Super Shears also boast an ability to cut fabric and paper with equal precision time after time.  Got mine during a two-for-one $8 special promotion three or four years ago so I figure they're $11 or $12 a pop by now.  Love these babies quite a bit.  I keep one pair with my house-based creative supplies and the other here in the studio.  Haven't been remotely precious in the way I treat them, especially the pair pictured above, but as you can see it's as immaculate as if I'd just unpacked it.

*and now.  as to the ultimate purpose of those 13 booklets:  they are going to Grace's place in order to support her in Old Nana guise.  All these little books.  At least a couple-few for Grace herself perhaps but mostly for Old Nana to have on hand - taking up barely any room at all but oh the possibilities.  Even beyond her hope to have this maybe as a thing made special with her 6 year old granddaughter.   Just any grouping of her people sitting around.  very gentle forms of togetherness.  Or needing  such togetherness.  Old Nana produces the books.   And not only them. 

She also has on hand the paper stash.  Lordy Lou - the stash.  Getting it into the kind of shape where it meets my specs for being sufficiently Varied & Mixed and also honors the space constraints I promised Grace - beyond the fact that the ways in which it wasn't completely as streamlined and literal and honoring as I'd envisioned solely because I suddenly realized I was putting together this Old Nana support kit in addition to fulfilling the original offer and its more specific intent.   The proverbial tale within a tale.  Seeds sprouting other entirely different and new seeds of their own.

please leave questions in comments or email if you prefer.  the next time I post about this project It will be a step-out look at constructing a customized single signature gluebook bound with the pamphlet stitch.  The step-out photos will be interspersed with a specific gluebook from my past.  The extra images will help maximize the potential to spark idea for what you might do to personalize the things you like the best about what I did.