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Japanese binding with kids

Dear Friends
        This discussion of Japanese stab bindings has been wonderful. I thought
I'd share the way I do it in the schools. As those who are working  on a
production basis make changes to tradition to make it economically
worthwhile, I've made lots of adaptations to make it easy to do with
accessible materials. I've had up to 35 middle schools kids sewing the
book at the same time.
        I use copy paper for the pages and colored copy paper for the covers,
all folded in half. I mostly use 8 1/2 x 11, but sometimes legal or 11 x
17 when teachers want larger format pages to work on. I make the holes
with nails and two pieces of wood, one under and one to use as a hammer.
It's easier to get lots of pieces of wood than hammers and it hurts less
when you hit your finger. For a large group, I have strips of paper with
marks so that we don't have to measure. I use 4 holes for the smaller
book and more for the large. I make them 1/2" wide and the height of the
book. It is held flush to the spine and the marks are made with pencil.
I'm always working in a tight time frame and once I give them rulers, it
takes forever. If I have a small group, I may use them. For sewing I use
size 16 tapestry needles. I use crochet cotton; it's one strand which is
easier to thread than embroidery floss and I'm always using accessible,
cheap materials so things like silk thread are out. The eyes are large
which makes them easier to thread. I tie the thread to the needle so it
doesn't come undone. I clip the pages together at the top and bottom
with clothespins.
        I sew from the back starting at the top hole. To help them make sure
they start from the back, I have them feel the hole. You can feel a bump
from having used the nail. I use the clothespin to hold the thread in
place with a tail of about 6". We wrap all the edges on the way down the
book. I do the top and side stitches at the first hole and the side at
the second hole step-by step together. I don't let anyone go ahead. This
drives some of them nuts. At this point, I ask them where do we go next,
up to fill in the space or down to the third hole? By getting them to
this point together, they can see the basic principle, that we are
wrapping the edge or edges and then moving down to the next hole. We go
to the third hole and don't worry abou the gap. It will be filled in on
the way back up the book. They do the wrapping on the rest of the holes
on their own. It helps to remind them about the bottom edge. From here,
they just fill in the gaps to get back to where they started. I remind
them that they will be stopping when the front is all filled in, but
there is still a space on the back. To make it easier to tie the knot, I
slip the needle under the top stitch to anchor the ends and tie a square
knot. I don't bother to tuck the ends into hole. I tell them to leave an
inch tail on the thread. I usually find that I always say more because
they tend to want to cut too close to the knot and risk unraveling.
        The students usually share the wood and each has her own packet of
tools. I have ziploc baggies with the clothespins, the needle, the nail,
and a golf pencil. It's a little easier to keep track of materials.
        I make blank books with the kids. I would prefer to sew up written and
illustrated pages, but it's just too complicated to schedule. I recently
worked with a small class of high school kids over two sessions and
thought I'd try having them sew the completed pages, but a lot of them
weren't finished in time, so I have sworn never to do it again. The only
exception was an end of year project with my son's 6th grade team. They
worked in groups and wrote about the class events of the two years they
spent together, some kids designed the cover- we used one layer of
stiffer paper. The pages were typed and copied on legal size paper and
each student sewed his own book.
        I hope this is useful.

in good spirit,

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
author, Multicultural Books to Make and Share
Newburyport, MA

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