Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bookbinding no 4

This picture shows the components of the journals before they are assembled.  You can see the cardboard covers held together with card shaped over the book spine, the fabrics ready to be stuck to the covers and the pages all ready with headbands and ribbons.
Et voila, they are finished!  I've had so much fun these last 2 weeks stitching and sticking and the learning curve has been very steep.  I made a few mistakes and have learned from them for the future, but now I can't wait to get started drawing in them!
Here are a couple of Autumn nut pictures from the nature journal.
We planted this walnut tree a few years ago now and had enough nuts to eat last year but this year has been very poor mainly due to the wet summer and maybe the birds got there first!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Bookbinding part 3

I thought it was time to take a few photos so you could see what I'm up to.  Having made the signatures (sets of paper) and organised them into books, I marked them along the spine for the stitching.  To do this I put the pages between 2 pieces of board and measured the spaces between the stitches, then used a fine hacksaw to make small cuts across the top of the spine.  I had to make sure everything was perfectly level otherwise I could end up with different sized holes.  Please note the excellent book press/vice Bob masterminded from a pine shelf, 2 brackets and 4 bolts and wingnuts.
Having prepared all the books it was time to start stitching using the cousoir I bought from Michel.  A continuous length of tape was spread up and down between the top bar and the slot at the bottom, held in place with pins at the top and large needles at the bottom underneath the base.  The tapes were then carefully positioned to line up with the marks on the paper.  Then with a long linen thread and a needle I started sewing doing one signature at a time and knotting each subsequent one to the previous till the book was complete.  The next step was to carefully pull the tape out till just enough was left to hold it all together, see the stack on the right, and trim the ends.
With all the books stitched I started on the glueing.  This helps to avoid ugly gaps between the pages when you use the book. I glued the spines and pressed the glue into the paper using the bookbinder's bone, then when they were dry I shaped a round spine by tapping with a hammer and pressing along the spine at the edge of the fold with the bone. That's it for now, I'll be getting on with the next phase over the weekend.
Here are a couple more autumn pics from the nature journal.
These pink flowers are called Femmes Nus (naked ladies) here as they bloom before the leaves grow.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Climate change

When we first arrived in France just over 10 years ago the climate was very pleasant with warm, even hot summers and mild winters.  The first year in 2003 we had a 'canicule' (heatwave) which lasted for weeks when we saved all our washing water for the garden and spent lovely afternoons on the terrace under the parasol.
The winters were so warm we barely needed the heating on and our hot water bottles stayed in the cupboard!  We hardly ever get frosts overnight, hence my comment in this journal page about sloe picking.
Since thore early balmy days everything has changed, the summers are cooler and wetter and the winters are much colder.  We had snow for the first time in 2008 and last week another lot fell, although it didn't last more than 36 hours here, inland it has been quite severe.
Where we live on the top of a hill, exposed to the westerly wind, we always feel the gales first and have lost many branches from our mimosa tree which seems to be especially delicate.  Fortunately we've had nothing as bad as the great storm of 1987 when many of our garden trees fell.
I started nature journalling a couple of years ago to try and record the weather and rainfall and to try and prove to Bob it doesn't rain every day.  It's been interesting to look back and see that it has been dry from time to time but just lately he seems to be right!!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Bookbinding part 2

I'm slowly assembling what I need to bind my own journals and Bob is helping with ideas for making a book press from floorboard offcuts and wingnuts and bolts.  I've collected the glue and thread from Anne and rearranged the back bedroom as a workshop.  Anne has also given me some very interesting ideas for different styles of covers.  I'm amazed at how busy she is as a bookbinder in a tiny village, she has got some fascinating projects of restoration and can't ever see herself going into retirement!
Yesterday I tore up 25 sheets of mi-teintes paper to make into sketchbooks.  I had bought a lot of lovely pale pastel colours from a local art department that is closing down.  Next step will be the stitching of the pages into book inners in different sizes  and deciding on the covers. 
I have a collection of patchwork fat quarters and other bits and pieces to use and I've also been eyeing up a few old shirts as potential covers, anything is possible.  It's a shame they don't have charity shops over here otherwise I could find all sorts of useful old clothes to cut up!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

New year creativity.

I've been talking to Justine recently and we've both noticed an increase in our creativity this month.  Is it the new year and having more time now that Christmas is over perhaps?
I'm full of ideas for my bookbinding and have already rearranged the back bedroom to use as a workshop. I'm gathering together all the equipment so I hope I'll be ready by the beginnning of next week to get started.
Alongside that I've made a couple of tops this week for our holiday to Tenerife in March as well as continuing with my 75 day challenge drawings.  The person who told me years ago that when I retired I would wonder how I ever found time to go to work was quite right!
I hope these pictures from last summer cheer up those cold dark winter days!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Down our lane

Our home here in Perros is on the edge of town where the streetlights and pavements stop at the start of our garden.  From there on it's a narrow country lane lined with 'talus,' the traditional Breton boundary, basically a high bank which is constructed when the house foundations are dug.  Instead of taking away the soil they just pile it up aroud the property and plant things like shrubs in them.  It's a much greener solution than a fence or a wall, which need planning permission here.
All around us the narrow footpaths meet up with the lane and are a haven for wild flowers and creatures.  I often go for a walk and try to collect as many different flowers at a time as I can find which has been over 20! I enjoy drawing and identifying them from my field guide.
After ours and our next door neighbour's modern houses all the buildings along the lane are old stone cottages or farmhouses, full of character.  The farm barn opposite is home to the flock of swallows that arrive every year at the same time and delight us with their acrobatics while feeding on the insects that love the flowers in my garden.
One day we saw this amazing sight, a buzzard was gliding around in the sky above us and as he came lower all the swallows came together to swoop and dive at him and eventually he slowly flew away.  After he had gone there was a great commotion as the swallows all chattered at once, obviously congratulating themselves for chasing the predator away!

Saturday, 12 January 2013


This week I had my first lesson at local bookbinder's shop in our village, la Clarté.  Opposite the church is a tiny shopfront hiding inside an old fashioned wood panelled shop with a jumble of rooms at the back filled with traditional equipment.  The workshop is lined with benches and banks of drawers filled with mouth watering papers of all sorts, including handmade, japanese and some even over 100 years old which are used for renovating ancient books.
Anne, the proprietor, had told me when I first visited the shop that it could be possible to make a sketchbook in 3 hours so I went prepared with my watercolour paper already torn to size and arranged in 'cahiers'.  I was shown first how to use a 'cousoir', a stitching frame, to stitch the sheets together and then glue and shape the spine.  We then started on the cover which I had chosen to cover in a fabric from Anne's collection of scraps, being more robust for a sketchbook than paper.
We cut and glued the cover, well actually Anne did all the work so I could see how it was done properly. I was very impressed with the result and having made many notes I'm sure I can turn out something decent when I get started!  It took all of the 3 hours too and I enjoyed every second as well as meeting the other 3 students who were working on their own projects of book restoration.  I returned yesterday to purchase a second hand cousoir and arrange to collect a supply of glue and other bits I need to make my books.
I can't wait to start making my own sketchbooks but I think it will be a while before I break even and start saving money on the cost of buying ready made ones! 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Gardening in January

I managed to get some gardening done this week on a reasonably dry day (few and far between at the moment).  I decided it was time to prune the hydrangeas having left the flowers on for longer than usual because they had been so prolific last year.  This picture shows one of my favourites, the lace cap which had grown to fill a gap which belongs to the hellebore in winter.
When we came to live here Justine gave me a selection of seeds she had gathered in her garden and these Nigella still self seed every year and delight me with their dainty flowers.
These fuschia were also a group of cuttings from Justine and are still going strong and very popular with the blue tits.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Le Lavoir de mez gouez

In this part of Brittany, on the Cote de Granite Rose, there are many lavoirs.  These are places where spring water bubbles out of the ground and have been used for canturies for drinking and washing water.  In the towns a structure is often built around the source to make it easier for the inhabitants to use.  Out in the country they are left natural and the water forms a stream through the rocks.

This one is near to our home and we often take our walks down the pretty lanes through the woods.  One day I decided to go and sketch there and set off with my equipment only to find my quiet corner over run with cyclists and bikes.  They were a group being shown the sights by a leader who told stories of local history.  I sat down and started to draw and listened to the tales of spirits while a curious boy climbed the bank behind me to see what I was doing.  Afterwards some of them gathered around to look and were complimentary about the picture, saying what a nice way to record nature.  I drew this second picture at home adding another drawing of the split tree with flowers growing out of the fork
This cluster of pine cones feel off the tree I sat beneath  while I was drawing.


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2nd Jan 2013 and looking forward to Spring

All the flowers in this sketch were picked on the same day down our lane.  The primroses are very long lasting around here, I've just picked one today from a sheltered spot nearby.
I decided one day to collect as many different grasses as I could find and have been amazed at the variety of shapes and sizes.  Grass is so commonplace along the lanes and in the garden that we take it for granted but close inspection of the flowering heads and the pollen is very rewarding!
I've always been keen on growing herbs ever since I had my first garden in Salfords 40 years ago. They are always the first thing to be planted when we move to a new house.  I do use them in cooking as well of course!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Happy New Year to all who read this blog, family and friends around the world.