Monday, March 31, 2014

Double needle coptic stitched book

The double needle coptic stitched book was the most challenging and rewarding book we made.  Early Christians living in Egypt are thought to be responsible for developing the coptic style of binding pages, by stitching their edges together and to front and back covers.  The binding stitches form of chain from the folded edge of one signature to the next.  This type of binding is strong and flexible, and allows the book to open flat.  Uncovered the spine of the book exposes both the chain stitches of the binding as well as the folded edges of the paper, which can be very beautiful, as seen in the photo to the right of our classes books.

The 6" by 9" tall book would have seven signatures of eight folios each.  That meant it was time to measure and tear more paper, and fold more signatures.  Because the spine's of the signatures would be visible when the book was complete, decorative paper covers were cut for each signature.  The covers were folded and glued to the spine of each signature.  The finished signatures, at right, were placed under a weighted board to flatten.

The covers and signatures are so close in size only one jig was needed.  The jig has 4 holes (one pair at the top and the other at the bottom).  This type of coptic stitching always uses pairs of holes.  There is a length of thread for each pair of holes and a needle is attached at either end of the thread.  I used an open-ended hole punch cradle and needle awl to punch all the signatures for the books I made in this class.  The signature is placed in the cradle, with the jig on top.  Signature and jig are always pushed up against the top of the cradle to ensure the punched holes will all lineup.

Book board was measured and cut for the front and back covers.  Decorative paper was glued to the outside of the book boards and wrapped around the edges of the board to the inside.  Smaller pieces of a complementary decorative paper were glued to the inside of the book boards, covering the edges of the paper wrapped from the outside (similar to how the accordion book covers were made).  The finished covers were placed under a weighted board to flatten while drying. The same jig was used to determine the correct spacing of the holes on the covers, which were then punched with the needle awl (finished covers at left sitting on the foam board used for punching holes).

The covers and signatures were stacked in order for sewing.  Two lengths of 4 cord waxed thread long enough to complete a pair of bindings were cut.  If the thread is too short additional lengths of thread can be attached using weavers knots (A lesson I learned).  So we could try using both curved and straight needles; one length of thread was attached to two blunt straight needles, and the other thread was attached to two blind curved needles (as seen at right).

We started by attaching the first signature to the front cover.  The thread was adjusted so it was equal for each pair of needles and locked in place using a locking stitch.  I continued adding each additional signature, snugging and locking the stitches in place.  The back cover was attached to the last signature, snugged and locked in place.  The final knots were tied and threads trim off.

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