Going Vinyl

Seems I’m always behind the times. Everyone has a Kindle these days but I love the way a book feels, looks, smells, and I just love to turn pages. In fact I love books so much, I create my own.  These are handbound blank books for writing and sketching.

handbound books with long stitching on ultrasuede spine

And everyone is downloading music onto their phones and laptops while I still cherish my collection of vinyl albums and 45 rpm vinyl records.  Thing is, I don’t own a record player anymore and most of the records in my collection are unplayable anyhow because they’ve been overplayed.  So I have a few scratchy and worn down records.

some of the unplayable vinyl records in my collection

There’s a great collection here.  Lots of Memphis music – Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Milton, Isaac Hayes, Johnny Taylor.  Not to mention Memphis labels like Sun and Stax. And lots of non-Memphis music too – Motown, The Beatles, The Kinks, Flatt and Scruggs and the list goes on. But it’s all unplayable and pretty beat up.  I couldn’t bear to throw them away, so I recycle them.  I cut them, preserving the studio labels of course, and use them as front and back covers of a handbound blank journal or sketch book.

Cut vinyl records waiting to be bound into books

Some of the finished books will be sold at the Memphis Brooks Museum in conjunction with their upcoming exhibit, “Who Shot Rock and Roll:  A Photographic History 1955 to the Present”.  This is a traveling exhibit organized by the Brooklyn Museum.

Here are a few handbound blank journals I have  finished.

Handbound blank journals with vinyl record covers

And if you can’t bear the thought of an unplayable record, I also make hand bound blank journals and sketch books with handmade paper covers, silk fabric covers, and covers made from hand printed Indonesian batik fabrics.

Display of my hand bound blank books at The Spring Show

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Planning Ahead

When I first met Mr. MemphisWeaver, one of the things I remember him saying was  “Man plans, God laughs”.  This from a well known Yiddish proverb,  Mann traoch, Gott Lauch. We’re all laughing now, because at that moment we weren’t planning on marrying and being together for at least 26 years.  But it’s true. Yes, it’s true.

And now I am planning ahead for some projects that will keep me busy for awhile.  Short term are two art and fine craft fairs where I will be selling my handwoven scarves, accessories and handbound books.  One is happening this weekend, February 20 at the Hutchison School in Memphis. The second show will be at Christian Brothers University in Memphis the last weekend in March (26-28).

Some of the items that I have been working on to include in these shows are handwoven scarves woven with bamboo, cotton and ribbon yarns, and also a series of handbound books made with hand made paper.  The book bindings are varied ranging from herringbone, coptic and long stitch.

Handwoven bamboo scarves

Handbound books with Thai mango paper covers

The long term projects I will be working on are the eight ceremonial prayer shawls that I will be weaving  by commission for a large synagogue.  The shipments of  yarns required for this project recently arrived, and I will be warping my looms as soon as my production for the art/craft fairs has calmed down.  The warp for this project will be 8/2 undyed natural tencel yarn from Webs.

16 pounds of undyed 8/2 tencel yarn

The background weft will be the 8/2 tencel, and the pattern weft will be Bambu 7 from Silk City Fibers and a luscious hand painted 5/2 tencel from Yarns Plus. The friendly folks at Yarns Plus were especially helpful in guiding me in the preparation of the hand painted tencel, particularly in light of the fact that I will be weaving it with undyed tencel.

Bambu 7 Yarns to be used for the prayer shawl project

Handpainted 5/2 tencel yarn

I’ve wrapped the yarn and color sequence around a foam board as a way of planning the pattern design.

Yarn and color sequence for 2 sets of prayer shawls

The first set of four prayer shawls needs to be completed in time for the High Holy Days in early September. My goal is for this to happen! These are my plans and I hope no one laughs…

R-E-C-Y-C-L-E

The sounds of Motown are in my head, but I’m hearing R-E-C-Y-C-L-E instead of Aretha’s amazing voice and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I’ve been on a recycling toot ever since I learned how to sew a  Belgian secret binding from Hedi Kyle. The workshop was at Shakerag some years ago, and I seem to remember an abundance of liquor. There were a lot of cardboard beer cartons in the recycling bin, and some of us decided to salvage them and use them to try out our newly acquired bookbinding skills.

Bohemia beer carton book with Belgian secret binding

I used the Belgian secret binding again with recycled pages from an old art museum calendar.  I cut the pages into strips then wove them to make a front and back cover.

Recycled art calendar book with Belgian secret binding

For some upcoming art/craft shows, I will be selling these mini books which I made from old scratched up vinyl  45 rpm records.  For the spine and lining, I used fabrics from discarded sample books.  Some had a binding made from ultrasuede scraps leftover from previous projects. I used a simple long stitch to sew the signatures to the spine.

Handbound books made from 45 rpm vinyl records

The Captain and Tenille vinyl record handbound book

So instead of placing my beer cartons and cardboard packaging in the recycling bucket, I’ve been saving them with the intention of binding them into books.  Looks like I have some work ahead of me.

Cardboard boxes and cartons destined to become handbound books

For those of you who want to try this at home, Re-bound by Jeannine Stein has some excellent ideas and examples plus clear diagrams and instructions for your own creations.  Re-bound can be purchased here.

Re-bound by Jeannine Stein - Creating Handmade Books from Recycled and Repurposed Materials

All Shook Up

Legend has it that Elvis wrote “All Shook Up” after shaking up a bottle of Coke.  Actually, it was Pepsi. And it was the songwriter Otis Blackwell who wrote it on a dare by one of the owners of Shalimar Music.  Although Elvis did share the songwriting credit with Blackwell.

All Shook Up

All Shook Up

This shaken up bottle of Coke is how I feel right now.  A little aimless  with bubbles bursting before anything can be enjoyed.  After 30 years of weaving and my attempts to eke out some semblance of a living as a weaver and weaving instructor, I’m facing a dilemma.  I’m getting increasingly frustrated  in selling my handwovens for  their true value and at the same time attracting  students interested in learning to weave.  It may be that I’m in the wrong place.  After all, Memphis is music, not fiber.

Case in point, I regularly donate my handwoven scarves, purses and wall hangings to local non-profit organizations with art auctions as fund raising venues.  My pieces always sell and the organizations are able to benefit from my donations.  It’s a win-win situation. This past year, I donated two rep weave wall hangings to one of these  non-profits.  Total value was for $300. No one assumed that that would be the highest bid, but it would have been nice to receive a little something with 3 digits for both pieces.  Each piece takes between 30 and 50 hours to design, prepare, weave, and finish.  Sadly, that was not the case, with one piece receiving only $25 and another only $30. And so my bubble was burst.  I just can’t compete with paintings which seem to be the most popular medium wherever I look.   There are many hobby weavers here in Memphis, but I’m one of just a couple of studio weavers, so there aren’t enough of us to educate the public and compete for their attention about our medium.  Certainly not in  the way that the  great number of painters are able to. Sad.

But I have another love, and that is in creating handbound books.  In my upcoming shows, I plan to test the local market and offer some of my book creations for sale.  These are blank books that can be used for sketching, journalling or photo albums.  Eventually I would like to explore sculptural books and create artists’ books.  I am currently taking an online class called “Creative Bookmaking” with Sue Bleiweiss of Two Creative Studios. I have been working on some fabric covered books, using either hand printed Indonesian batik fabric or dupioni silk fabric.

Blank book covered with Indonesian batik fabric.  Longstitch/Linkstitch binding on spine.

Blank book covered with Indonesian batik fabric. Longstitch/Linkstitch binding on spine.

Inside cover and end page of Thai mango paper

Inside cover and end page of Thai mango paper

The books I made have 8 signatures of a 32 lb. weight fine writing paper.  I followed instructions for the longstitch/linkstitch binding in Keith Smith’s book, Volume I: Non-Adhesive Binding, Books Without Paste or Glue. It was a little tricky as I had to drill the stitching holes in the spine between each of the signatures that made a pair rather than aligning the holes with each of the  signatures.  Stitching for each pair of signatures was done in the same holes for the long stitch part of the binding.  The link stitch looks like a chain stitch and it appears at the top and bottom of the spine.  Some more examples:

Dupioni Silk cover with Kaffe Fassett cotton fabric embellishment

Dupioni Silk cover with Kaffe Fassett cotton fabric embellishment

Inside cover and end paper of Thai mango paper

Inside cover and end paper of Thai mango paper

Dupioni silk cover with Japanese cotton print fabric embellishment

Dupioni silk cover with Japanese cotton print fabric embellishment

Inside cover and end paper of Thai mango paper

Inside cover and end paper of Thai mango paper

Detail of Longstitch/Linkstitch on spine

Detail of Longstitch/Linkstitch on spine

And so this looks like the future of book arts and me in Memphis!  I will continue to create whether at the loom or the book bench, and we shall see what the market will bring.

My fabric covered handbound books

My fabric covered handbound books

Silk Degrees

Remember Boz Scaggs’ breakthrough album, “Silk Degrees”? It came out in 1976, and it was just about the sexiest thing I ever heard.  The recent sultry days in Memphis brought back the memory of his seductive voice from that album.  And believe it or not, that was what inspired me to do some work with silk which is something I rarely do.

I made two pieces of silk fusion paper by layering some carded tussah silk noils between two layers of soy silk roving. I added embellishments to each piece to give it color and texture. Most of these were  items that I had in my stash:  cochineal  dyed Lincoln wool fiber, angelina fibers, gold metallic flakes, skeleton leaves, angel wings.

Handmade silk fusion paper with cochineal dyed Lincoln wool fiber

Handmade silk fusion paper with cochineal dyed Lincoln wool fiber

Handmade silk fusion paper with skeleton leaves and angelina fibers

Handmade silk fusion paper with skeleton leaves and angelina fibers

So, you’re asking, what is silk fusion?  Silk fusion is silk paper fused from silk roving or sliver  using a textile medium or adhesive.   Treenway Silks has a good description of the process as well as a little bit of history. A good source offering instructions for a variety of silk fusion projects is Kath Russon’s book, Handmade Silk Paper.

Handmade Silk Paper by Kath Russon

Handmade Silk Paper by Kath Russon

Here is a free tutorial on making your own silk fusion presented by Sue Bleiweiss. A project can be completed in a very short time.  The longest part is actually waiting for the silk fusion to dry as that takes 24 hours.

The two pieces I made will probably become covers for blank journals.  But I am hoping to experiment more with 3 dimensional silk fusion such as masks and small sculptures.

As far as journals, I have been working on those as well.  I made one with some left over Kaffe Fassett fabric.  For this I made two covers with Peltex sandwiched in between the fabric. I used a zig zag stitch all around the edge of each cover. To attach the covers to the signatures, I used a double needle coptic stitch.  That is, each binding station required two needles, and as there were 3 stations in this binding, I was sewing with 6 needles at the same time. That beautiful handmade Thai mango paper that I love so much makes its appearance again as an end paper here.

Journal with fabric covers and double needle coptic stitch

Journal with fabric covers and double needle coptic stitch

Inside cover of Journal

Inside cover of Journal with handmade Thai mango paper as end paper

Now I still had some covers left  that I had made a few months ago using the handmade Thai mango paper. I decided to try out one of the stitches I admired in Keith Smith’s book, Non-Adhesive Binding Books Without Paste or Glue. This one is “long stitch with chain” found on page 164 of volume I.  My book didn’t have a spine cover, so instead I used sewing supports that were cut from ultrasuede fabric, then the supports were glued to the inside covers of the book. I used a gold 5/2 pearl cotton that I rubbed on a block of beeswax for the stitching.

Book bound with long stitch with chain

Book bound with long stitch with chain

I like the effect of the long stitch alternating with the chain stitch.  It adds a decorative element to the spine. I can see after doing this, that long stitch can probably be used together with several different stitches to add some interest in the binding.

Still hot here in Memphis, 96 degrees is what I hear it is.  But I am still hearing that luscious voice whispering in my ear: Three a.m. its me again and wouldn’t you know things would have to end this way…..

Books-a-Go-Go

After my mica book workshop with Daniel Essig, I’ve been inspired to play a little with some new books. I had some handmade Thai mango paper from Dick Blick.  I made several covers with this paper awhile ago, and finally had the courage to do something with them.  I used the coptic stitch to bind these books:

Coptic bound book with handmade Thai mango paper

Coptic bound book with handmade Thai mango paper

Inside cover

Inside cover

The paper on the  inside cover of this first book came from wrapping paper from a gift purchased at West Side Judaica Gallery in Manhattan.

Coptic bound book #2 with handmade Thai mango paper

Coptic bound book #2 with handmade Thai mango paper

Inside cover of book #2

Inside cover of book #2

I really like the organic look of the second book.  The inside cover is a copy of a photo of a  fossilized shell. It was printed on an inkjet printer on card stock.

Also, some months ago, I had taken an online workshop with Sue Bleiweiss, and never quite finished all the projects. I was intrigued by the piano hinge binding that was her last lesson, and wanted to try it.  So I did, a little belatedly.  Here is a photo of a book with piano hinge binding, using bamboo skewers to hold it together.  The cover is the same handmade Thai mango paper and the pages are sheets of a colorful  paper from a scrapbooking paper pad I found at Michael’s.

Piano Hinge Book

Piano Hinge Book

Opened page of piano hinge book

Opened page of piano hinge book

I think this would make a nice mini photo album.  However, I found that the hinge itself didn’t seem very stable, and the book had to be handled carefully. I wrapped some fine cotton around the ends of the skewers at both the head and tail of the binding, then applied  some PVA glue over the cotton to hold it in place, but because there were no true sewing stitches to hold the binding together, it turned out to be a bit delicate.

Then I wanted to incorporate some weaving into an ultra-leather blank journal.  I picked out some images I thought represented my secret muses:  Calliope, muse of eloquence and epic poetry. She is always seen carrying a writing tablet.  Then there’s the the cute and fun loving Betty Boop. My faithful companion of 25 years has always professed a secret love for her!  And lastly, Peter Max‘s interpretation of the ever mysterious Mona Lisa. An eclectic trio, no?

Cover, Book of Muses

Cover, Book of Muses

Inside cover, Book of Muses

Inside cover, Book of Muses

Using fine cotton (10/2 pearl cotton), I warped three small windows on the book’s cover. Then with narrow strips cut from a copy of each image I wove a weft through the cotton warp. The binding was a long stitch that I modified with a “cinch” around the center of  each section:

Modified long stitch binding

Modified long stitch binding

Enough of the playing! Now I have some weaving projects to attend to as I am preparing my handwoven items for fall shows and fairs.  This is the bamboo scarf with warp floats that is awaiting her turn on the loom.

Bamboo scarf to be finished soon!

Bamboo scarf to be finished soon!