Book binding

Ideas for reusing old materials in bookbinding

You never know where you might find something that could be a useful material for your bookbinding projects. Now that I’m learning book binding, I find that I can use a lot of old material, that would have otherwise gone to waste.

There is a distinct joy that I think you get when you find use for something that has otherwise been relegated to the category of “not useful anymore”. It’s as if you breathe new life into that object. Done well, it can also add a bit of a story to your book. For eg: If you’re using vintage leather from an old bag to cover your book, your book is not simply covered by leather. That leather comes from a bag that perhaps belonged to you or someone else, and had its own life and experiences in many ways. And now that story is part of your book. Whatever marks it has developed over its life – they’re now a part of your book. In many ways, I think old and used materials can look even better than brand new materials. And of course, reusing old material also helps reduce waste in the larger scheme of things.

There are endless options for exercising creativity when it comes to finding ways in which you can use old objects in your bookbinding projects. Here are 4 materials that I’ve salvaged from old objects for my bookbinding projects:

  1. Leather: I’ve had a leather bag lying around for a long time. Having finished its life and I’ve moved on to a new one. However, the bag is made of good quality leather and for some reason I’d been holding on to it. Now that I’m learning bookbinding and use leather often to cover my books, I’ve salvaged two pieces of really great leather from this bag. The leather has a nice patina from its previous use, and is soft and supple because the bag was used extensively. I think these pieces would make for great book covers! Plus, the detailing on the cover might end up accentuating the books they’ll adorn in interesting ways. We’ll find out 🙂

2. Linen cloth: I’ve been using the same cotton linen garment to act as mull for my books. I would have otherwise thrown it away, but its found a great use as an endless mull provider for my bookbinding projects.

3. Old brooch: I’ve had this brooch for a really long time, it was a gift from my mother 🙂 It looks absolutely gorgeous. However, except for a few special occasions, I’ve never really worn it. It’s one of those objects that looks beautiful, feels beautiful but there are only a few occasions that merit such a gorgeous ornament. So it’s been sitting in my closet for many many years.

Until recently when I started to photograph my books. A book, photographed on its own, feels a bit a “empty”. I like creating a bit of a scene and a mood in the photographs, and I find the brooch a great accompaniment for this purpose!

4. Vintage end pages: Your end pages don’t have to be the same old, printed boring paper. I came across this really old sales pamphlet in a library book sale. It was published in 1981 and reads a bit quirky in today’s times – it’s 40 years old! But that’s exactly the fun bit 🙂 Something like this can make for really fun and interesting end pages.

5. Fabric doubling as book cloth: I have this gorgeous fabric from many years ago that I haven’t had the heart to throw. But if you know how to make book cloth, then it can really open up your options in terms of the kind of covers that you can use for your books. Note – ideally you do not use cloth to cover your books directly since the glue would seep through and create splotches. Book cloth is made especially for the purpose of covering books and being able to handle glue. There are enough tutorials online on how to make book cloth in case you decide to go down this route.

Beautiful printed fabric should make for interesting book cover

This is just a starting point. I’m sure there are lots of other, more creative ways to reuse old materials in your books. If you have ideas, please share in the comments section below!

1 reply »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s