A Simple Fixture to Hold Leaves Upright on a Sewing Frame

Inside view. Note the extended bed on the frame.
Outside view.

Large books are a pain to sew.

It is often impossible to reach all way to the end when holding the needle, so it is necessary to switch hands mid-way and suspend a floppy half-gathering at the same time. This fixture alleviates the problem by holding the leaves up and out of the way. Some might want something similar for smaller books. It also speeds up two-on sewing, which is occasionally necessary.

I made the one above out of binders board, book cloth, and sewing cord. It needs to be large enough to support the leaves, and heavy enough so it doesn’t swing out of the way by itself. Plexiglass might be nice….

The idea came from Tim Ely’s sewing frame, which has a similar acting wire device to keep the upright part of the page out of the way.

Sewing frames are often quite shallow, so extending the bed, as pictured above, keeps the leaves flat and is a must for accurate sewing. Otherwise there are always weird tensions in the finished binding.  A loaded stick also helps to keep the sewing under control and the spine in good shape.

The next step is to coin a less prosaic name. A fixture to hold leaves upright on a sewing frame?!?!  Yuck! There are already a lot of piercing jigs for sewing, so it needs to be something other than a generic “sewing jig.” The Pageprop?

Standing at a Vice and Teaching Craft

Jules Amar, The Human Motor;or the Scientific Foundations of Labor and Industry, London: George Routledge & Sons, LTD., 1920 (p. 418)

Amar’s The Human Motor is extraordinarily precise in dictating how a worker should position themselves while working. After all, this was the era of Frederick Winslow Tayler and scientific management. Such dogmatic instruction now seems a little crazy — position your feet at exactly 68 degrees! — and it would certainly put a damper on worker motivation and engagement. However, there are corollaries in teaching and learning craft technique.

Most people hate to be told how to accomplish a task in such excruciating detail, yet several bookbinding teachers I’ve encountered have a dictatorial style which embodied this “one right way” approach. Is our musculature (and ability to manipulate it) so much the same that there is only one right technique to accomplish a specific task? Traditional craft does usually have a very specific end product ideal, so it makes sense to follow exact procedures to achieve exact results. Considered optimistically, traditional techniques have undergone a Darwinian type evolution, resulting in efficient production. The downside of this results in people unthinkingly replicating the techniques they were taught, irrespective of the results.

There is a difference between being told how to do something, and learning how to do something. Learning styles vary: some of us are experiential learners, some didactic learners, and sometimes it varies with the task to be learned. Trying and possibly failing with a variety of techniques can teach us a lot about craft, and often not just the project at hand.

Granted, there are easier and harder ways of doing most craft actions. This is possibly one of the most common reasons for taking a class or workshop: to learn easier ways of accomplishing a craft action. Learning one successful way, then branching out and experimenting with others, is often a good foundation. A constant challenge is balancing the workload in able to continue learning with the pecuniary pressures of working efficiently.


Paring Leather in a Continuous Strip Two Times Around

I’m using a M2 Hybrid knife to edge pare this small rectangle of vegetable tanned goatskin all the way around two times, without breaking the pared strip.

The trick is to reverse the direction of the knife by pushing it to turn the corner.