Long and Link Stitch

I realized after my last post that when I took these pictures I did not include anything for scale. Therefore you (the gentle reader) have no idea what size these books really are. All of the models pictured are in fact quite small; the finished page size is about 15.5 cm tall x 11.5cm wide.

We continued our exploration of non-adhesive structures with a variety of long and link stitch bindings. The first was a simple link stitch with covers of single folios of decorated paper sewn through the fold. The folios were then sealed shut with double-sided tape to make a stiffer cover. Unlike the Ethiopian and Coptic bindings, these bindings are all sewn with a single needle.

The long stitch structures are all sewn through slots or holes in the covering material. As this style of binding can become very complex, I began with the most straightforward of pattern in a slotted wrapper of 20pt board.

The covers in my first model are cut to include a fore-edge flap for added protection to the pages. While the sewing can be a bit tricky to start, I was surprised at how stiff the cover attachment became in the end. It opens quite well.

I had a bit of the University of Iowa Case Paper lying around, so a made a better looking version of the same sewing pattern – only this time with a yapp at the fore edge.

After making a few entirely limp structures, we watched a video of  Adam Larsson’s 2004 Guild of Book Workers presentation about a collection of Medieval limp vellum and leather structures found at the Uppsala University Library. The collection originates from a monastery library and contains around 1000 volumes. Many of the items in this collection have stiff spine plates made of wood, horn, or leather and can be highly decorated with inlays or weaving over the exposed sewing.  The covers are usually leather lined with linen cloth (sometimes cut flush with the pages at the head and tail, sometimes turned-in) with a fore-edge flap that ties to buttons on the front cover or spine plate. Larsson reports that while the text of these volumes is typically on paper, the innermost folios of each section are either made of or guarded with vellum. It would appear that the original binders did not believe that the strength of paper alone was enough to hold the sewing together.

After showing a series of images from the Uppsala collection, Larsson demonstrates one of these structures with link sewing and buttons across the spine plate. While the pattern looks very simple on the outside, it is actually very difficult to follow. Larsson is quite fast in his demonstration and the instructions become a  blur of “in section 1, station 2. out station 2, row 1. in station 2, row 2 into section 2, station 2…” Luckily, someone from a previous class was kind enough to make a transcript of the instructions, and after much cursing and resewing, everyone ended up with their own model. My version has case paper covers and a spine plate made from two strips of vellum adhered to a leather core. The ties are woven linen thread that is stitched through the fore-edge flap.

This one also opens quite nicely – although the buttons on the spine do make it wobble around on the table surface.

For my second attempt, I worked on a long stitch structure with elements based upon the common features in the Uppsala collection. This one also has case paper covers and a layered spine plate of vellum and leather. The designs are made by shaping and punching the outermost layer of vellum to reveal the leather underneath. The exposed sewing is woven on the outside of the spine plate and the edges of the covers protected with sewn-on strips of leather.

I had a lot of fun with these limp structures and I will continue to experiment. There are so many different variations of sewing patterns and materials that, as Larsson says in the video, “the only limit is your imagination.” I am currently working on another model with a stained maple spine plate that I hope to share soon. I also found a thin brass plate the other day that I’d like to try out. But more on that later…

Next up, I’ve got pictures from our recent sharpening workshop.

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4 thoughts on “Long and Link Stitch

  1. I was wondering if you could shed some light, maybe with some instructions as to how you achieved the stitching on the books with the flaps around the fore edge. I think that these are really beautifully bound books, I would love to try my hand at something similar.

    Thanks!

    • Most of the stitching on those is a simple chain stitch. You start the chain by coming out of the first hole, making a little loop, and going back in. When your thread comes out of the second hole, pass it through that loop, and back in. On the third hole, the thread passes under the first loops, between the first and second hole. You continue along in this fashion to form the chain. Hope that helps!

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