More from the boxmaking workshop with CBBAG

Here is the whole collection made in the workshop offered by the Canadian Book Binders and Book Artists Guild of which I am a new member:

The papers are REALLY handmade in Nepal, India and other countries but available commercially – thus we can distinguish them from our instructor Maggie McGovern's handmade papers from plants.

You don't have to be a member of CBBAG to take workshop. Info about other workshops at CBBAG Ottawa Valley here:



Treasure Box Workshop at CBBAG Ottawa Valley

The Canadian Bookbinders' and Book Artists' Guild (CBBAG or “Cabbage”) offered a workshop on boxmaking, instructed by a great teacher, Maggie McGovern.

The participants completed a lidded box, 7cm wide x 7cm deep x 9cm high. I dove for the RED paper in the pile of workshop supplies.

We used commercial papers with a handmade look for covering standard bookboard, decorated the lid with small bookboard shapes and attached a bead for a knob to lift the lid:

Techniques learned are all applicable to the construction of book covers – careful measuring, cutting bookboard and gluing with PVA and cornstarch paste in a 50-50 ratio. For attaching beads as lid decoration, Maggie taught us a neat trick: Carve a wee groove on the underside of the bookboard that holds the bead so that the wire or thread pushed through the bead can be nested into the groove, thus avoiding lumpiness underneath the board and allowing it to lie flat:

I attached my bead “knob” with waxed linen thread; some folks chose copper wires ( I forgot my camera so have no pics of most of the other boxes but will post when I get them.):

The paper hides quite a few construction sins! I like how the stacked profile on the lid turned out. I would have preferred a black bead but I thought red looked best in the absence of black:

I learned a neat shortcut to make the decorative attachments stacked on the lid: Cut the board using a 2cm-wide metal ruler as template.
Instructor Maggie has a great Problem-Solution approach to making: Any “mistake” is usually an opportunity for a new creative direction. Or it can be sanded off, filled in with glue or covered with paper. Only in desperate cases is it necessary to abandon ship.
In her capacity as a retired technical writer, she provided handouts that were a pleasure to read. I appreciated those notes being made available during the class because my hearing is so poor (…my beloved three-year old grandson has mislaid my two brand-new hearing aids. Well, I am blaming that on him…)
Last pics are of the box made by my husband who also attended the workshop:
Husband chose a two-colour black and orange scheme a la japonaise. He used both the printed and the plain sides of orange-and-gold paper, preferring the printed design as an accent on the lid that he decorated with an assemblage of bead, board and wire:

Next post: My recent eco prints on paper.

And maybe some images of Canadian fall colour which has been utterly spectacular this year.

I heard from a gardening guru that our severe drought this summer has caused the leaves to become thinner – thus allowing more sunlight to shine through them and causing them to appear lit from within.

Only a few more weeks to collect the leaves while they are juicy.


More from the Story Chair

Well, have you ever made something you find you just adore? I just love that vintage needlepoint chair I made for First Daughter and Son.One very pragmatic reason is that after all these years, I have FINALLY stopped procrasinating on at least ONE “vintage retrouvailles ” project and have actually produced the work I had written up in an ancient sketchbook. This Chickie finally hatched that Egg!

As for the narrative content in the work: Depending on how I place the seat cushion in relation to the back cushion, different sets of stories present themselves…What are the permutations? The reversible square seat cushion can be placed eight different ways; the reversible back cushion (not square) can be placed four different ways, thus each pairing of cushions can be read visually with multiple connections…and that is without counting the contribution of side views from the eight gussets which contribute yet another set of multiples…

This Old Guy (my age I think) you see on the right is from a Quebec needlepoint named “Pecheur” or “fisherman”. I rather like the ambivalence of the title printed on the canvas in capital letters because the word can also be mistaken for “sinner”….

Here are some more Stories:

Interesting that the subjects of the stitchery are often portraits of some kind- here, the Carmen-like dancer (Jane Russell? ) and the free spirited dancing figures twirling textiles above them as dancers from Mid East cultures might do.

Fruit, flowers, wine, fish, the dance…allusions to all the sensual pleasures are stitched- smoking too!

And some close ups of the Work Of Their Hands, may they be blessed:



And of course how can we escape reference to the landscapes of the Group pf Seven and that stereotypical – still lovely, though! – Canadian fall landscape:

In contrast to but in sympathy with the heroic cross stitchery above (on crappy polyester) the machine made embroideries from patterned polyester ribbons:

Draped over the arm is a companion for the Story Chair, a wool crochet cuddle “blankie”, shrunk to feltedness, also a rescue from the sallyann.

The design of the Palestinian embroidery reminds me so much of the Fair Isle “jumpers” my mama used to knit for me when I was small. In future, I will post some images of a wool “jumper” knitted in Orkney (where I was born and lived as a child) and which has many similarities of patterning. I am so grateful for the inspiration we derive from the legacy of women's creative, generous and industrious spirits from every culture and across time. The Story Chair brought this all to my mind and heart.

‘Twas a Dark and Stormy Eco Print…

A series of posts about eco prints with rust on cotton rag paper and on fabrics.

This group of prints on 140 lb. watercolour paper is shown assembled in accordion book form.

Watercolour paper was cut, folded into four page accordions and layered with leaves and pieces of rusted iron; the stack was soaked in water and vinegar then steamed as usual for an hour or so. This collection was left to cool before removal of the eco printing “plates”. The combo of leaf tannin, iron and vinegar gave deep, dark colours, including several irridescent patches, not uncommon in rust prints.

Here are some of the individual pages:


Maple leaves with an iron square:

Maple (acer saccharum ) and Chokecherry (prunus virginiana). A teal surprise! Likely the result of a concentration of vinegar in that spot where the iron, maple leaf stem and prunus touched.

Iron rectangle/fragment behind maple leaf

Chokecherry leaves in three colours. Dependably dark! Greys, blacks, plums beside slightly merlot maple leaves, all a-wash in blue- grey.

Blue grey chokecherry with rust halos.

Irridescent. Striped like a geode.

Maple in a shade of merlot.

Next post:

Twice-eco printed papers: first rusted then printed with tannin-rich maple leaves for a completely different result from the collection shown here.


The Story Chair

My stash of vintage needlepoints has a new life! Every stitched panel with so many old stories and many new ones to come.

I was thinking of the hands that embroidered the canvases and of First Daughter who will curl up on it with her son to read and make up stories together.

To make the upholstery fabric, I cut preshrunk muslin to fit the cushions and applied fusible web. I cut up the embroideries (I took a deep breath and just went to it…) and fitted the pieces onto the muslin to make reversible cushion covers. Then I ironed the pieces onto the muslin-fusible. I stitched all the pieces down to the muslin first with a straight stitch around each one, then with a wide, close zigzag to connect the pieces and to fill in any little gaps between them. Hook and Loop tape was inserted into one of the gussets and (purchased) heavy black piping cord around all. Leftover pieces will find their way into art books!

Next post

Rust prints!


Needlepoint Retrouvailles

About half of my needlepoint stash – so many years in the closet ! – is in the process of recreation as a chair covering. First Daughter, sister of The Bride with Eco Printed Chuppah, has fallen in love with this kind of handwork, whatever the subject : Portraits, florals, landscapes (especially in Group Of Seven style), forests, Old Country cabins…Here are some of the collection, cut up and fused to muslin, ready to be stitched into chair cushions.



First Daughter and her mama are especially pleased by the placement of two of the pieces – a modern design stitched in Israel, and the other, a traditional cross stitch border in a Palestinian design:

By the way, Daughter and I noted with some satisfaction that the September issue of Vogue is showing needlepointed fashions galore – dresses, bags, even shoes!

Next post: rust and leaf eco printed papers.


Eco Print and Natural Dye Sampler Book – done!

The medium is the message!

My sampler book illustrates and describes aspects of my processes for eco dyeing and printing on fabric and paper. Dye printed fabrics and papers make up both form and content of the book.

Now my sampler “pocket” book has its covers, endpapers, “flags”, text, inserts and closure.

Covers are made with dye and paste printed 140 lb watercolour paper (madder, cochineal and logwood)

Back Cover

Front Cover

End papers: Logwood paste paper, embossed with a wood block:

“Flags” made from fragments of eco printed and dyed silk samples, inserted into the inner accordion spine by sewing with waxed linen thread:

An array of eco dyed silk flags printed with madder, logwood and cochineal:

The signatures sewn to the spine are intended for images of the dyes and for text and images about them. There are enough pages for me to keep adding info as it appears useful for my records. I transferred inkjet printed images from a transparency to silk organza using Purell! Then cut out the silk organza images and fused them to the book pages. R to L: Cochineal insect, chemical structure of logwood, logwood plant. (…partially successful with the Purell transfer- will keep working on that technique! … No close-ups, ha ha)
The pocket inserts below are constructed from a large sheet of eco print leftover paper fragments, glued on to a thinner paper background and cut to size, 2″ x 4″ approx. The back of each printed insert records my handwritten info about the print:
The sampler closes with a machined-cord tasseled tie attached to each cover. I used the same red waxed linen thread as for the bindings. For the ties, I punched a hole in each cover with a screw punch ( from Lee Valley Tools. Martha Stewart makes a decent one, too )


Last looks at my newest toy!

Inside the book showing paste paper pockets, sewn signatures, eco dyed/printed silk flags and paper inserts:

And the outside of the book, showing covers, ties and madder-printed accordion spine:

Next posts: Stash Busting!

1. Back to the textile stash! I am recovering a chair with my collection of needlepoint canvases from the sallyann.

2. And a new Artist Book about my stash of rust printed papers, linens and cottons

A bientot!



Dye Painting and Printing Book Papers

I making progress with my paste paper book “Sampler”. Some of the papers shown in my previous post have now been incorporated into an accordion-fold artist book about papers painted with natural dyes, the aim being to integrate form and content.

I have based my “Sampler” design on the “Pocket Flag Book” shown by Alisa Golden's lovely and instructive “Expressive Handmade Books” . I am taking Alisa's design for a little walk…going down a few wrong turns, taking interesting detours, gathering some new companions on the way, tripping over stuff in the dark, exploring always…

First, let me tell you about the African handcarved blocks from Oshiwa Designs in Namibia, designs you see on some of the paste papers. I love that I can read the names of the artisans on the blocks – thank you, Joseph, Paulus and Ndumba! My friend Paula Benjaminson introduced me to their work when she lived in Ottawa. Read about Oshiwa on Paula's blog Paula lives in Gabon at the moment where she explores surface design with an African esthetic.

Samples of Oshiwa blocks in my collection:


After folding my paste papers into accordions, pockets, signatures and spines, I used glue and stitch to finish putting the basic book together:

Accordion structure, back view. That band on the bottom was a glued -on addition because I had cut the paper too short…The papers are monoprinted with madder. The colour of the madder changes with the paper used. The band is white paper while the accordion is buff- coloured thin cardstock.

Accordion from the back, folded. Signatures inserted on the front, sewn pamphlet style with red linen thread, waxed. Red because that colour relates to madder. I put the knots on the outside because I liked their texture, all lined up. Alisa's model book did not include sewn signatures but I was desperate to see what happens if…You know how that goes… The holes are rather too big but they have a certain shaggy textured charm…but rats! and one set of holes is out of line…Not sure how that happened because I did use a piercing cradle to hold the signatures…

Accordion spine, from the back

The structure, top view, showing three-slot pockets made of paste papers, four-folio sewn signatures and a double wee spine insert to hold the “flags” when I get to that stage. Manila tags are inserted into the centre slot-pocket. They will play their part for book content down the road.

Sampler book from the side, accordion spine on the right, paste paper pockets and folios on the left.

I like how the folds and the bands create coloured planes with the intersecting lines.

The diagonal line is the side pocket fold; the darker red rectangle below is a wide band of printed silk organza wrapping around the bottom of the pocket to enclose it, to keep inserts from slipping through the opening. Alisa's model created two side pockets. I have added a third pocket by gluing on a band to connect the two side pockets along the bottom.

To the left are the folios, in the centre is the mini spine which will hold “flags” and to the right are the paste paper pockets, with an Indian block print in logwood.

The signatures are stitched pamphlet style, knots outside on the spine.

Some text content about the dyes

How the pockets work

More on the functional aspects of the book form

Just a few last pics of the book's accordion spine

In future posts:

The book covers

The endpapers

The “flags”

The closure device

The text

The pocket inserts

A bientot!


Eco Dyed Paste Papers

To paint the covers and endpapers of my artist books, I am using powdered plant dyes from Couleurs de Plantes (France) in partnership with Maiwa (Vancouver). Most of them I cannot obtain from my own garden.

For this set of experimental papers, I use a mix of corn starch paste, about 2 tablespoons/30 ml to half a teaspoon/2.5 ml of dye powder – mas o menos…The papers are Canson, various weights. (Paste recipe: one part corn starch to three parts water, cooked, cooled, blended/processed and sieved to de-lump)

Dyes used for this selection of papers: logwood, madder, cochineal, weld,quebracho, chestnut and lac.

Madder, logwood and cochineal on 140 lb watercolour paper. Cochineal goes grey in acidic conditions.

Ditto, above.

Madder and logwood, wood block print.

Logwood, brushed.

Two layers: Golden Rod first overprinted with madder on wood block.

Golden Rod overprinted with logwood and combed

Logwood, brushed

Lac with wood block removing paste

Golden Rod, combed

Quebracho, colour lifted by wood block

Cochineal, combed

Logwood, brushed then stamped with Indian textile block

Chestnut, stamped with African block to lift colour.

Note that sometimes you can lift colour off or lay colour on with the printing blocks.

Next post: Paste paper book