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hand me my leather

February 24, 2010

Green leather journal You know, I’ve never been a big fan of leather, I’ll be honest. When my teenager daughter asked for a leather vest for her birthday last year I literally guffawed and made a teeny tiny little judgment in my head about wearing leather, using leather, buying leather, etc. And then of course, I went out to the local Goodwill and found a leather vest with a knit back. I’m a sucker, what can I say? But, I still wasn’t sold on leather. Not for awhile, in fact, was I to be sold.

Not too long ago, perhaps a year or so, I read online another bookbinder’s obsession with leather, so to speak. She started using leather because, let’s be honest, leather sells better than case bound books. She said that when customers want to buy handmade they want it to ‘look’ handmade, and again, let’s be honest, a professionally crafted case bound book does not look ‘handmade’. It looks perfect. And that was the problem she was running into. And so came her obsession with using leather for books. And even though I read this, and I wasn’t having a ton of success in my shop selling ‘almost’ case bound books, I still steered clear of the leather. That is, until I discovered the JOY! that is long-stitch binding.

I started using the ‘ancient’ method of binding a few months ago, just before my first craft show. I’d had all of these pieces of vinyl wall-covering that I simply did NOT know what to do with. They were too inflexible to paste around book board, and yet, I didn’t quite know how to make them work as soft covers (at the time). So, I flipped through my Keith Smith books and found the long stitch and then, my life (and my store) changed forever.

Soft Cover Blank JournalsFirst, I began simply using one of the pieces of scrap vinyl wall covering and I sandwiched between them thick hefty pieces of watercolor paper (because, hello, I like to draw, paint, gesso in my books and that calls for thick hefty watercolor paper) using the long stitch binding method. I immediately fell in Love. After that, I had a custom order from the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange Winter mini for a moleskine type journal made with only graph paper. I knew my customer didn’t want a hard-bound journal (hence the moleskine) but I also wanted to make something more hardy than the simple one piece of vinyl wall covering samples I’d been using. So, a new brain-child was born. I used PVA to glue two similar pieces of vinyl wall covering together, pressed and then used my trusty old broken sewing machine to secure the edges and provide a decorative touch. From there, I added the graph paper, using the long stitch of course, and voila. Love.

travel & take #3So, where does the leather come in? I know, you’re waiting and I’m taking forever to get to the point. Well, working with the vinyl is GREAT because, well, it’s sturdy and comes in many colors, I have a TON of it, it’s upcycled because a friend saved it from some big corporation’s dumpster a while ago and it’s durable. But, let’s be honest (again) no one was buying it. No one really *knows* what vinyl wall covering samples ARE- hell, I don’t even know what they are, I’m just reading the back of the samples. And so, I decided I would try my hand at leather. It couldn’t be so bad right? But, I refused to buy any. Yeah, that made it a little more difficult.

See, I’m on this kick where I have to use what I have or use what someone else would be throwing away. Sure, at times I have to purchase good drawing paper for the insides of my books, but I really like to use what’s on hand. Waste not want not you know? And so, I waited and waited. Finally realizing no one was going to hand over a nice piece of leather for me to try my hand at, I stumbled across an upholstery type shop in downtown Chattanooga whilst there to visit my mother-in-law. There I found a single solitary piece of black leather for $12. I figured, why not? I’d waited this long, I might as well pay for one piece to see what all the fuss was about.

3Be Mine Leather JournalSo, I did. And I’ve made a couple of books out of it- but it’s a rather hardy piece of leather and it’s only one color. I was sad, and disappointed because my vinyl was/is so much more versatile. But then, lo and behold, I went to a local upholsterer to get my couch cushions re-stuffed (for a mere $300 mind you) and I just sort of casually mention to the man in charge (it’s a one man band) that I’m a book-maker and if he had any SCRAP leather that I could, you know, try my hand at (totally willing to pay btw) that I could take it off his hands. And you know what this kind gentleman did. He found not one, not two, but FOUR different colors of leather ‘scraps’ for me to use, loaded them in my car and sent me on my way. And that my dear, is how I fell in Love with leather.

This leather is AMAZING! It’s versatile, it’s hardy, it’s beautiful, it’s different, unique and all those beautiful things you want in leather. I’m such a fan. SUCH a fan. I mean, see for yourself;)

Maroon leather journal w/ chartreuse bead

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