Book Binding, Decorative Papers & Costumes

Book Binding, Decorative Papers & Costumes

Undertaking this post I was in a place of total indecision….to tell you about my book binding exploits or report on a wonderful costume exhibition….I’ve decided on both. So before you read on make yourselves a drink, plump up the cushions and get comfortable.

Decorative papers for book binding….

A while ago I mentioned I was asked to teach a workshop. This was to be to my local textile group following our AGM and there would be no charge (unlike normal visiting tutor workshops), then I was advised there were likely to be around 30-35 people….!!! Knowing this well before Christmas I let a few ideas percolate through the layers and finally at the beginning of the new year I set to creating a few examples of books and decorative papers. I should explain here that I haven’t done any book binding (except for the stitched eco printed leaf book shown in previous post) for around 13 years so I had to completely refresh my memory.

I decided to make ‘leather’ paper (using tissue paper) and crepe paper dyed designs. I discovered this last one many years ago, by total accident after I spilled some water. Rather than start from scratch I dug out my teaching notes from 2003 (it pays being a hoarder and never throwing things out!)

I once taught adults with learning disabilities, so these notes were geared to their needs.

The colouring I used was food colouring (easy for anyone to repeat) and some left-over inks that I had, in total – red, yellow, orange, green, brown, blue and violet. The tissue paper samples ranged from white to pale grey and mucky yellow.

Laying white copy paper directly on top of the tissue, and also on the turned-back film

I always try to maximise opportunities, so used the surplus surface colouring to make ‘ghost’ prints. These were easy to do and even when still damp can be over printed (with care) several times creating wonderful colour designs.


Ghost prints
Some finished leather paper samples, dried and ironed flat.

Crepe paper designs –

A blurred photo unfortunately, but I hope you can still make out the texture of the paper as I don’t know what it is called outside of the UK.

Again colours were limited to what our group had to keep costs down. The technique is very simple – cut pieces of crepe and sandwich between water sprayed paper. Obviously for this to work it is necessary to have non-dye fast crepe paper!

I personally love overlapping the pieces as the dyes bleed into each other.
From this technique there is also a fabulous by product….the actual crepe paper….the resulting pieces can be gorgeous

With the ‘un-arty’ scruffy wet crepe pieces I decided to scrunch, twist, roll and dob onto lining paper….the result was interesting….BUT……..the whole reason this works is because the paper is not dye fast. I had coloured fingers & nails for 3 days afterwards – so be warned!

Book binding….

The books – I made several small samples to stimulate ideas for ways to present textile works.

Accordian fold books – as the name implies the pages are continuous and can be coloured or plain, attached both ends or one end, folded to create pockets or cut on a slant. They can be bound in a folding cover hard or soft, or with individual front and back covers. The covers were bound using leather paper on used Christmas cards (cost saving) or other decorative papers such as a paper candy bag and floristry wrapping. If you look closely at the centre photo you can see the inside end paper is a ghost print.

A particular favourite

Stitched signatures – again as the name implies the pages are stitched in. These can be stitched on the inside or the outside allowing for embellishment with coloured thread or beads. The covers can be hard or soft. For the samples I used both using the crepe paper design pieces, coloured paper and envelope paper….take a look at the inside of envelopes and there are a wealth of patterns to be explored.

Crepe design paper used for the covers & ghost prints used internally

Pegged concertina – my name for this book type. A ‘spine’ is created by concertinering some card. Each folded section is then fed through a slit in the pages and held in place with a ‘peg’ (card, lolly pop stick etc) that is longer than the height of the spine. The covers are usually individual (front & back), the ‘spine’ being secured either on the inside or outsde.

With so many (imagine 30 ‘students’, a large hall and newspaper all over the floor with pieces drying) I didn’t get any time what so ever to take photos of work in production so I can only show you the samples I prepared in advance.

The workshop was definitely a challenge on time and energy….although I knew every wrinkle and possible question, had prepared ‘stage’ examples (to prevent boredom watching glue dry!) and had broken the workshop down into various sections so as not to inundate folk with information I still also learned a lot, the important points being –

  • Don’t be too ambitious – I’d planned 3 books, in reality only 1 was manageable coupled with making the papers.
  • Remember folk struggle with measuring – I’ve spent a life time measuring at the drawing board and working with paper so for me it is second nature.
  • Keep the numbers low – the instructions, whilst simple to me, can be difficult to others which requires a lot of individual attention.

Would I do it again? Yes. I’ve been very diligant in keep notes of everything – from supplies keeping costs low to ‘what could I do better next time’ notes………I just hope it won’t be another 13 years!


If you are still with me then I’ll tell you about a wonderful exhibition called Costumes, that I attended with my textile group.

The costumes were all loaned to the Preston Park Museum from Angels. Angels (the name is the original surname) is a 7th generation run family business creating, making and loaning costumes to the theatre and film industry globally. Based in London the warehouse has 8 miles of clothing storage rails and evidently anyone going to work there spends 3 months learning the ‘filing’ system before they start their work proper. They employ specialists in the field from costumiers, miliners, cobblers to wig makers etc.

As a group we were guided around the exhibition by the curator who gave us some wonderful anecdotes to the costumes. And – we were allowed to get inches from the fabric, much to our delight.

The original dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.






This is a replica of Queen Elisabeth II coronation dress for the film The Queen. When a TV series was subsequently made, the dress was already in existence and fortunately it fit Claire Foy who plays ER II.
Queen Elizabeth was played by Judi Dench. She appeared in this dress for only 8 mins and it weighs 28lbs!!!!
It has metal that runs inside down the back to hold Judi and the dress upright.

As a group of textile enthusiasts cameras were clicking endlessly with this particular costume….the details were beautiful.

This dress was worn by Cate Blanchett. The museum have several medieval type mannequins with very tiny waists to display vintage corsetted garments….they used one for this costume but the museum staff couldn’t do this dress up! On close inspection none of us could believe the waist size.

Dresses for lesser characters in Beauty and the Beast


Tom Baker was the 4th incarnation of the Doctor. He was given ideas for his identity, but felt something was missing. He decided a scarf might work and gave his gran a bag of wool to make one. When he went to collect it he discovered that his gran had misunderstood and had used the entire bag of wool….his identity was born.




Harrison Ford’s costume – sadly no anecdote here.
Worn by Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio. Note the sailor’s jumper – the ‘White Star Line’ is backwards. The only place the filming could get a good ‘un-modern’ shot of the ship in harbour was the wrong way round to how it would have been setting off on it’s maiden voyage….solution – film it with the crew wearing backwards writing then turn the film over!
Bohemian Rhapsody was just on the point of being released when this exhibition was on. Angels surprised the museum by adding these costumes to the loaned collection.

And lastly –

Aidan Turner’s Poldark costume. I’m not sure if Poldark has ventured beyond our British shores so this may just apply to British audiences but the actor is….mmmmmmmm!
He has appeared a few times topless and has a well turned out physique – evidently in addition to your normal make-up artists there are special artists to enhance six-packs….I never knew that!

The curator told us of a lady in a previous group who went up to the costume to ‘smell’ Aidan Turner. We are a group of mature ladies but we were like young star struck girls who all went up to do likewise. I can report that Angels sadly did too good a job of keeping their costume clean!

Preston Park Museum is small but the exhibition was great. Their next exhibition is Wedding Belles: 140 years of Bridal Fashion 12 March – 6 May 2019 if you are in the area.

If you have made it this far congratulations….I hope you have found something in my offerings to interest you….now you deserve another drink!

12 thoughts on “Book Binding, Decorative Papers & Costumes

  1. Wonderful post Antje! The costumes are magnificent in your photos so they must have been fascinating up close. Thank you for sharing them.

    Finding out there would be over 30 people to tutor would have us running for the hills, but your careful planning certainly paid off.
    Love the results from the crepe paper and the triangular fold books are lovely – will have to have a go at those.

    1. I’m lucky that we were able to take photos, but I had cleared it with the curator too. The costumes were amazing up close.
      I hope you manage a go at the accordion triangular book….it really is great fun.

  2. Looks like you were well prepared for the class but as I do, expected the students would be much quicker than they were. I think that is the same type of paper that we call crepe paper too. I haven’t used it in that way so I have no idea if the dye will bleed or not. I will have to try sometime though. I did dye a scarf once with tissue paper where the dye bled.

    The costumes are marvelous and I loved all the little stories to go with.

  3. Ah ha – I’ll have to try that….dyeing some fabric or wool with the crepe paper! It certainly stained my fingers, but whether the colours would be fugitive I’m not sure.

    The stories certainly made our trip come alive.

  4. Thank you Marilyn, I’m glad you liked it all….at least I know I have 3 survivors after this lengthy post!
    Yes I’d be happy to teach again – I do miss seeing the moments of enlightenment dawning.

  5. Great post, Antje, it was like having a cosy chat with an arty friend over my Sunday morning coffee. Love the books. A friend is running an art project ‘the tiny book collaboration’ where she makes tiny books and mails them to people who fill them and send them back to her. I’m waiting for my book to arrive and you’ve given me lots of ideas of how I might decorate it.

    Also the costumes and stories are a joy. How gorgeous are those fabrics.

    1. Glad you liked the post Lindsay, I’m sure you would have loved the fabrics and details….there was so much work in them.

  6. PS if anyone is interested in participating in the tiny book collaboration – she mails them anywhere in the world – see

  7. I will have to go look at the tiny book site. That sounds like fun. I really like the triangular book. I might have to try that this summer. I think you were brave and they were cheeky to have that many students and for free. the costumes look amazing and no glass to keep people away. Poldark made it here. I think PBS had it and it is on Netflix. I remember my mother reading all the books when they first came out.

  8. Ann the triangular book is fun to make. I’m hoping to get more details up eventually particularly how it can be used for different displays.
    You didn’t say if you had watched the Poldark series which leads on to….what your opinion of the actor is?

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