Sunday, 28 December 2008

Hot, stormy days

I've survived my first move and now I'm ensconced in the granny flat behind my kids' house. I have everything I need close to hand including the two little grand daughters, who continually make my days joyful, fascinating and exhausting.

Christmas was wonderful, the food was great, the day hot and steamy. Every day is hot and steamy actually, and at the moment it's 90'F here and I'm just hoping the afternoon storm will arrive any moment. What will probably happen is that it will be bucketing down with rain just when I have to put the chooks to bed at dusk, as it was yesterday.

We will start packing up the big house next week ready for our next and major move, and as far as I'm concerned I'm really hoping it will be my last move. I'm dying to get into my new place, which is already called the Dooken Hut (because the children call me Dooken). I've spent the day looking at house design books, getting inspiration and trying to remember what my new space looks like and how I can set it up.

The most exciting thing for me is the separate workroom which is attached to my house but can be locked off to keep the little girls away from knives and guillotine etc. It already has a lot of shelving and a sink, which is great if I'm marbling, and my workbench and plan drawers full of paper will fit really well. As I've spent the past 14 years working in my kitchen and spare bedroom, I really can't quite believe I'll have a dedicated workspace. No excuses now if I don't make books. I won't be there until the end of January so at the moment it's just nice to think about it.

Thanks to all those wonderful bloggers who are patiently following this drawn out saga of finding a new home. I really appreciate your support.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Season's Greetings

After more months of silence, and so many wonderful messages from blogging friends, I must tell you what I'm doing. In my last post I said I was leaving the beach for a new life in the country. That was what we'd planned but since then we've looked at lots of properties and have finally settled on a smaller block of land, 1 acre, but big enough to have a beautiful established garden, a tennis court, a solar heated swimming pool, a big vegetable garden, fruit trees, a huge shed for my son and a large house for the young family and a very generous separate apartment for me. And as if this is not enough, there is a workshop, just waiting to be set up for book binding!

This is in a semi-rural area but, wonder of wonders, it's on the Central Coast of NSW, not far from Sydney and there are the most beautiful beaches within a ten minute drive. So now I'm really happy. Back to the beach... can't wait.

I'm moving out of my little Coogee house on Wednesday 17 December and will stay with my son and his family at Galston for a month, until we all move together to our new home at Wamberal. This means I'm packing my computer and will probably be silent again for a while, though I'll try to keep reading all your posts once I'm not frantically packing and making books. The last thing to go in the removalist's van will be my binding bench and materials. I have a large box of books waiting for the courier to deliver to the shop for Christmas.

We'll be celebrating Christmas at Galston with my 92 year old mother and all my family. This will be the first Christmas that Sophia, nearly 3, will really appreciate and Lucilla, at 8 months, will enjoy all the excitement as well. The little girls are such a joy and I feel very privileged to be such a part of their lives.

I wish everyone a joyous Christmas and holiday season and hope we all have a wonderful year to come.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Such a long silence but now, a decision

Can I possibly be planning to leave my beloved beach to move to the country life? I think so. I've decided, after many years ago abandoning life on the land, to sell my very comfortable home close to the beach, close to the city, close most importantly to friends, to join my son, daughter-in-law and two small grand daughters in co-ownership of a small farm between Sydney and the Blue Mountains. No more coastal warm climate but a cold winter and a hot summer, but in exchange the pleasure of seeing my grandchildren growing up, spending a lot of time with my family and - very appealing, the opportunity to have a go at becoming as self sufficient as I possibly can. I want to grow vegetables and fruit, make my own bread and of course, make books. I've yet to put my home on the market but we've been looking for the perfect small farm and think we've found it, so we have fingers crossed that it doesn't slip through our fingers.

For now, I'm going on a holiday, just out into western New South Wales, no destination, just driving, looking and relaxing. I'm hoping that when I return I'll have retrieved the blogging muse. Thank you to all those who have checked to see if I'm okay. I am - I'm just overwhelmed by life.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Arte y Pico Award

Barbara at Moonbindery has been kind enough to give me this very striking award, which I really do appreciate. Thanks Barbara.

The rules for this award are:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributing to the blogger community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award-winner, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winners and the one who has given the prize should to show the link to the "Arte y pico"blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5) To show these rules.

It really is hard to choose 5 blogs from the 20 or so I regularly read but these are some of the wonderful bloggers who invariably enrich my day:

Amy at Nature Morph, whose delicate paintings combine plants and animals in a most beautiful way;
Judy at judyinthedyes, a dyer, quilter, artist and a good listener;
Cheryl at Scrappy Cat, an artist in fabric, paper, photography, and a journaler;
Rhonda at My Handbound Books, a prolific and generous bookbinder;
Amanda at amandawatson-will, an Australian ceramicist and bookbinder.

Others like Astrid and Dana already have this award and there are so many more who deserve it. Thanks again Barbara.

If my image of this award is way bigger than it should be then that's because I've given up trying to make it smaller. If by some miracle it is smaller than I think, then that's all right then, but I have my doubts. Sometimes I think I'm computer literate and then other times I just realise I'm not... If anyone would like to give me instructions on getting that image smaller, please do.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Cross structure bindings

While in New Zealand recently I was able to attend part of a workshop held by Elizabeth Steiner at the ABC bindery at MOTAT (Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology). The workshop made two Crossed Structure Bindings (CSB) using paper bags and because I only flew in on the evening of the first day, Elizabeth and the participants kindly allowed me to join them for the remainder of the class. I had brought my bone folder and a knife but apart from that I was empty handed so instead of paper bags I cut and folded old calendars into sections, and for my covers used an interestingly patterned piece of cardboard from an old avocado box.

I didn't manage to finish in the remaining time because we had to pack up for the ABC (Association of Book Crafts) Annual General Meeting, which I think was only the second I've managed to be in NZ for in my 15 years of being a member. It was wonderful to see old friends and I really appreciate the ABC for the great support they give their members, even those overseas, like me.

I did finish the book with Elizabeth's help and while it's not exactly a glamorous item, it is a good example of this particular style of CSB.

I think I first came across crossed structure bindings when staying with Barbara Schmelzer, a very experienced book binder, then based in Wellington New Zealand, and now in Sydney Australia. Barbara had made some very desirable paper bag books, and was only too happy to share this with me.

Through Barbara, I also became aware of Carmencho Arregui, who developed the crossed structure binding (CSB), and I recommend her website for more information and instruction. I made this book from some glitzy paper bags I'd been hoarding with the odd heavy quality plastic bag thrown in, one in this case used as part of the binding.

Some time later I decided to try the CSB on a book of photographs taken in New Zealand's beautiful Marlborough Sounds at the Portage Resort and combined them with examples of my marbling. I called this Blue as the Marlborough Sounds and did some tricky placement of wording to almost get the name on the inside front binding strips. This book is mainly useful as an example of what I hope to master some day when I devote some serious time to CSB but at the moment I'm still dabbling.

I think CSB is a great structure for the artist's book and I have my head full of plans as always. So many books and so little time...

Sunday, 13 July 2008

My Coptic swap

There's been an enormous gap in my blog posts but I hope from today I'm back on track. Over the past few months I've gone back to work cataloguing rare books, I've spent a month in New Zealand and - well, that's enough for excuses. My last post was about the book sent to me by Astrid in the Book Arts Forum swap so I thought I'd show you the book I made and sent to Jackie at tjbookarts. The theme of the swap was My Town so I decided to produce a coptic bound book of my own photos of Sydney and Coogee - my city and my town. Each photograph had a description on the facing page and there were two or three pages of information about Sydney and Coogee.

I used my own paste paper for covering with the title inset into the front board, and did an eight needle coptic stitch using waxed linen thread. I love the challenge of using multiple needles but eight is probably enough. I've used twelve in the past and decided I didn't really need to put myself through that more than once. I had (foolishly, as I soon realised) printed the photographs on single sheets so had to do a complicated matching and pasting to join each two pages to make a single section.

I intend to make this book again but will give a lot more thought to the way I print it and will have sections with more pages, which will give the book extra strength. Not that I didn't give it a lot of thought to start with but I seem to need to learn from experience and I certainly learned a lot from this one. I hope Jackie liked it. I found it quite daunting sending my book out into the world in a swap - quite different from selling or giving a book as a gift or donation. Daunting but very enjoyable and I certainly hope to take part in more swaps.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

A swap and a gift

I recently took part in a book swap on the Book & Paper Arts Forum and yesterday received a wonderful package from Bookarat from Germany. The theme for the swap was My Town and while I knew that this book was coming from Germany, I had no idea of how Bookarat was going to interpret that. As I opened the parcel I first came to a big surprise - 3 pages of German scraps (see my earlier post to know how generous and kind a gift that was) - then the beautifully wrapped parcel with a hand painted card - and finally the book itself! This is a very clever book, beautifully made and photographed, of signposts from the city of Kaiserlautern, with maps for endpapers, and an explanation in English of the names of the signs. I'm absolutely delighted with this book - thank you so much Bookarat.

I received another book last week for my birthday from my dear friend Vi. In 2002 Vi & I went to the Marblers' Gathering at Arrowmont and while in the US we had three meetings with the bookbinder Dan Essig. I had been very interested in Dan's books for some time so was thrilled to be able to buy two examples of his bindings. I bought the larger and the smaller of the three pictured and Vi bought the middle sized one.

The large book is 5 x 3 x 2" [12.5 x 7.5 x 5.5 cm.], has wooden boards with a mica window in the front cover, containing an arrowhead. The binding on all these books is a 4th century Ethiopian coptic style which perfectly suits the materials Dan uses. The small book is 1.25 x 1 x .75" [3.5 x 2.5 x 1.75 cm.] and the mica window contains a tiny fossil shell.

My present from Vi was the middle sized book - an absolutely stunning gift and so generous I really can't express my appreciation. What an amazing friend! Thanks Vi...
This little book (which looks quite large compared to the tiny one) measures 3 x 2 x 1.5" [7.5 x 5.5 x 3 cm.] and has a fossilised shark's tooth behind the mica window.

I have quite a collection of other binders' books (and now have added my lovely new German book to the shelves). I feel very fortunate to have 3 Dan Essig books and while I am a long way from achieving it, I think my aim is to someday make books that make me feel something of the satisfaction I get from handling Dan's books.

BookGirl had some wonderful posts when she did a week of binding at BookWorks with Dan. I felt I was vicariously attending the classes through her blog.

Happy birthday Judy
I have some tagging to do so that will be next post.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Iron Deficient Chef

Iron Deficient Chef is an internet based vegetarian cooking program made by Suzy Spoon & Tracy Smith.

Tracy and Suzy started pre-production in July 2007 and launched the site on 5th April 08. They transformed Suzy’s grandma’s double garage into a production office-come-studio where they make most of the show. Some of the cooking segments were shot with a crew of 8 people in a friend’s industrial kitchen in Alexandria. Each episode goes for 5 minutes and covers topics such as ethical eating and vegan cooking techniques.

Suzy's great passions are vegetarian cooking & making TV, radio, film & all sorts of content. Often she combines them. She has been a dedicated vegetarian since the age of 16 and in the past 10 years had her own vegan cafe, MacDonnas, in Newtown, (Sydney, Australia,) and a vegetarian cooking show, Cooking Cleverly with Beverly, on community TV. Suzy's fabulous recipes are appearing week by week on the website along with short but very entertaining videos, and other relevant information.

Tracy grew up in the small country town of Glentunnel, just out of Christchurch, New Zealand. She studied travel and tourism before venturing to Australia in 1999. She then worked in catering for several years where she developed a passion for food and the arts.

Combining these passions with the editing skills later attained from North Sydney college, Tracy's freelance editing experience, quirky sense of humour and ability to be 10 people at once are invaluable in this uniquely styled cooking show, Iron Deficient Chef.

You don't have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy the Iron Deficient Chef. If you'd like to be on the weekly newsletter to be notified as the program changes, please email Suzy and Tracy at

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Barnacle Goose Tree

My business name, Barnacle Goose Paperworks, derived from my fascination with the story of the Barnacle Goose Tree, which I first read about in my work with rare natural history books at the Australian Museum Research Library in Sydney. I came across strange illustrations of trees with unusual fruit, usually overhanging water of some kind, on which swam ducks or geese. It wasn't too hard to find information on this phenomenon and I soon discovered that a fascinating story unfolded.

During medieval times it was noticed that the Arctic bird, the Barnacle Goose, arrived annually on migration in England and Scotland at about the same time much timber was washed ashore, the timber being heavily populated with goose barnacles. A legend arose, which continued from the 12th to the 17th centuries, that the geese had actually hatched from the barnacles.

Here Conrad Lycosthenes [1518-1567], in his volume Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon, quæ præter naturæ ordinem, motum, et operationem, et in superioribus & his inferioribus mundi regionibus, ab exordio mundi usque ad hæc nostra tempora, acciderunt … Basil, 1557
illustrates barnacles growing on a tree (alongside some other wonders of nature which I'll write about another time). I'm sorry my illustrations aren't great but you can just see the geese in the water at the foot of the tree. This amazing book is a chronical of the known world, describing unnatural, strange and portentuous happenings. Beginning with the Garden of Eden the narrative follows chronologically to the year of publication, 1557. The book is illustrated with 1540 woodcuts, depicting comets, floods, fire, monsters, and pestilence of horrible proportions.

Just to put the Lycosthenes illustration into perspective, this is the full double page spread showing the terror and wonder of the seas. It always gives me a touch of satisfaction that the rather innocent barnacle goose tree made it into such an amazing depiction of wonders.

In this more complicated illustration Ulysse Aldrovandi clearly demonstrates the life cycle of the Barnacle Goose, not only showing the tree but the progression of the shellfish to the fully fledged goose. Illustrations such as this continued in the literature for centuries as did many other fanciful stories which sat quite comfortably alongside stories of actual fact.

At one time the Irish clergy were guilty of eating the flesh of the geese during their fasting periods on the grounds that the birds were not flesh, but having originated in the sea could be safely eaten as fish. The Church hierarchy was quick to put a stop to that. And the Dutch, thinking the English and Irish were very gullible, were quick to decry the whole story, insisting that geese hatched from eggs like other birds.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Scraps, swaps, oblaten, German die-cuts - a forerunner to modern scrapbooking

One of my earliest and most vivid memories of school is the tiny corner shop where Mr and Mrs Stagg made lunches (a meat pie or sandwich in a brown paper bag), sold sweets in tiny white paper bags (10 for a penny), and, for me, the greatest joy - their large wooden tray of scraps. I can't remember how much they cost but I imagine I must have been able to buy a few tiny ones for a penny, and larger ones were perhaps a penny each. This was 60 years ago and a small child got quite a lot for her penny or threepence. I feel quite certain this where I developed my collecting habit which I've never been able to shake off. This illustration of individual scraps is part of my collection bought from the Stagg's tuck shop so many years ago.

Scraps are a Victorian phenomenon, first produced in the form shown here from about the 1820s in Germany. They go by many names, one of these being Oblaten, and the little illustrations were sometimes pasted onto wafer type cakes which are still made and known as Oblaten. The chromo-lithographed scraps were embossed, die-cut, often in very complicated designs, with small ladders of uncoloured paper between the pictures to hold the sheet together. They were used on Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day cards and became very popular when decoupaged onto screens and room dividers. Scrap books still exist with the most intricate designs devised from the separated scraps.

There are scraps being made today from the original dies and templates of over 100 years ago and I have many of these new versions in my collection along with those of the past 60 years. The new ones don't quite have the charm of the old, though at all times in their production there has been a shameless sentimentality running through many of the designs. However, it's not all flowers, angels and cute children. There are sheets of animals, transport and occupations, even if the girls all seem to be teachers, nurses and mothers while boys can be firemen, policemen and ambulance drivers.

For a long time I searched almost in vain to add to my collection because suddenly stickers became innovative and popular and to my horror I found that many of the scrap designs were being produced as self adhesives. I seemed to be forever asking uncomprehending shop assistants did they have any scraps, and then had to explain what a "scrap" was. The only time I got a glimmer of understanding was when the shop assistant was of my vintage and suddenly remembered buying scraps as a child.

Now there is the wonder of e-bay and there are scraps out there as long as you have the money to buy them. Some are expensive. Some, the very old ones are very, very expensive. But now that I've found them on e-bay, and I can see how freely available they still are, I no longer have the driving need to collect - well, most of the time.

I have them in full sheets mostly, and I haven't yet found a way to display them to my satisfaction. I know, I make books, so this is something that shouldn't be beyond me, and it probably isn't. It's just something I keep putting in the to-do-another-day-basket. I don't want to break up the sheets, though if I did I could make a traditional scrap book, so that's worth thinking about. If anyone has any unusual ideas about what to do with several hundred embossed, die-cut scraps, that I'm quite passionate about, then I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 3 March 2008

A Kind Heart Award

Many thanks Wendy for giving me a Kind Heart Award. Actually it's Wendy who deserves it for all the help she patiently gives in answer to my questions. I need to pass on this award to up to five other people. It's hard to choose from amongst the generous book artists who give so much of their time and knowledge so this is just a smattering of the people I appreciate.

Judy, just for sharing and listening. Actually, these are all for sharing, especially those who freely give step by step instructions for books and materials and certainly give me a lot of inspiration to keep making books. So Kind Heart Awards also to Tulibri, Rhonda, and Bookgirl. And I must mention Marloes, who makes the most beautiful books. See her flickr site here.

I wish everyone could be in Sydney right now. This is the first week of autumn and the weather is just magic. Not too hot, a mild breeze and a deep blue that encompasses the entire sky. Down at the beach the waves are thunderous and only the intrepid are daring the surf today. After a cooler than usual summer (except for those days when the heat combined with humidity to take your breath away), it will be interesting to see what winter has in store. Gosh, now I'm talking about the weather. Time to go.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Weekend in the country

Pass through the NSW town of Gloucester, (stopping for provisions at Perenti Cafe), take a very sharp turn off the Bucketts Way, cross the river, and wind up the driveway to one of my favourite places on earth. Set in green rolling hills, my dear friends Jenny and Phil, and their Border Collie, Flute, have made the perfect lifestyle change from manic Sydney to the peace of the countryside. Not always so green, and recently in the grip of a long drought, the past weeks have seen a lot of rain across eastern Australia, and it is a joy to see brimming dams, green pastures and glossy horses and cattle.

Fran and I drove up from Sydney to spend a few days doing what seems to be the most natural thing when in Jenny & Phil's company. Sitting on the wide verandah, taking in the views from all directions, laughing, talking, doing crosswords, eating fabulous food from Jenny's stunning country kitchen, (see the homemade bread with the smoked trout), drinking good wine and spirits, more talking and laughing... I'm sure you get the picture.

The property has cattle on agistment, horses and foals in the next door paddock, and a flock of free range Isa Brown chooks, egg suppliers to the family, and beloved by Flute, who believes her mission in life is to keep them in sight in case they need to be rounded up. That is what Border Collies do best - rounding up.

Jenny, Fran and I took Flute for a walk up the hill behind the house and every direction was a picture postcard view. We were very excited to find some swan plants growing in the paddock, excited because these are the food plant of the wanderer or monarch butterfly, and there were actually caterpillars feeding on the bushes. The swan plant is a noxious weed
so not popular with farmers.

Many years ago I made Jenny and Phil this laced-in guest book and I always enjoy writing in it and reading all the comments made by other very happy visitors.

To live by the beach at Coogee as I do, and to be able to get away to the countryside now and then, seems to me to be to leading something like a charmed life. To have such wonderful friends is one of life's greatest gifts.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

I've been tagged

Yes, I've been tagged by Celia . The tag rules as I understand them are:
1. Once you are tagged, link back to the person who tagged you.
2 Post the rules on your blog.
3. Post 7 facts about yourself on your blog.
4. Tag 7 people and link to them.
5. Comment on their blog to let them know they have been tagged.

Seven facts about me:
1. I'm an Australian with a Viennese mother but to my sorrow I never learnt to speak German.
2. I live close to Coogee beach but have also lived in western New South Wales on the black soil plains.
3. I started out as a preschool teacher but then worked for 25 years in the Research Library of the Australian Museum and became impassioned about rare natural history books, natural history illustration, book binding and artist's books.
4. I've travelled a bit (but not as much as I'd like) to Tuvalu and Fiji in the South Pacific, the US, Vienna, Prague & Budapest, and to New Zealand (more times than I can count).
5. I love dogs. And I'm fascinated by wolves, coyotes, dingoes...
6. My family and friends are more important to me than I can say.
7. I have two great kids, a beautiful daughter-in-law and the most wonderful little grand daughter, Sophia, here wearing all her Christmas finery at once.

I've tagged these people whose blogs I read daily. (I didn't tag quirkyartist because she was tagged a few days ago.) There are many others I also read but 7 is the limit so I had to stop. I hope you don't mind being tagged. Until this week I'd never heard of tagging (in relation to blogs) so here I go. Please have a look at these great blogs.

1. Amanda Watson-Will, an Australian installation artist, ceramicist and book artist.
2. Judy Carpenter, a US fibre artist and quilt maker, and owner of Barker, a very handsome poodle.
3. Rhonda, from Canada, a prolific book maker and book artist.
4. Gail Stiffe, an Australian paper and book artist. Gail runs the Women's Art Register.
5. BookGirl is a US book artist and marketing professional.
6. Mary Lee is a US book artist and arts manager.
7. Beth Lee is a US calligrapher and book artist.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Marbling with children

A few weeks before Christmas I spent a most exhausting but very enjoyable day marbling with children at a local heritage field day. I belong to the Ray Park Heritage Group, formed to celebrate and preserve the old farming memories, knowledge and photographs of a part of Sydney now very suburban. Each year we hold a themed open day, the latest one being on Farming and Orcharding. We had many agricultural activities as well as old fashioned crafts for children to enjoy and I volunteered to set up a marbling table. I also volunteered my friend Nerida, who knew nothing about marbling in the morning but by the end of the day could answer any question put to her.

I normally marble on carragheen (or carrageenan) but some years ago I did a workshop with Marianne Peter, a Belgian marbler who had us marbling on guar gum. I decided to use the guar gum with the children and found it easy to prepare and it worked reasonably well. I used acrylic paints thinned with water and with a drop of ox gall to make them spread. I alumed 80 sheets of cartridge paper the day before and prepared the gum and the paints on the day. As we were marbling in the Boy Scout Hall there were many restrictions and I had sheets of protective plastic for metres around the work table in case of splashes; just as well because the children loved spattering the paint with the whisks.

Most of the children were aged between 4 and 10 but there were a few 3 year olds and a few mothers who couldn't resist having a go. We started at 9am, finished at 5pm and had a 30 minute break in the middle of the day. There was such a constant queue of children that Nerida and I didn't get outside to see any other activities; in fact we didn't have time to eat.

Because we were so busy helping the children to marble their sheets of paper neither Nerida nor I managed to take any photos of the children's work. I feel rather sad about this because there were some really lovely papers and it's a shame no one took a photo of the colourful hanging racks. I know the children were delighted with their efforts and after hanging them to dry they very proudly took them home. The next day when we were cleaning up (and what a huge clean up it was) children were coming in to ask when could they marble again. Maybe next year, though I rather think I'd like to make books with them next time.
Certainly I wouldn't have been able to get through the day without Nerida and my willing helpers for setting up and cleaning up, Jacqui and Rosemary.

I do have two pieces of marbling I produced at Marianne's workshop, illustrated here. These were done on guar gum, with printer's inks and onto shiny white paper. Marianne is a stunning marbler and her workshop was an eye opener for me, being used to water colour marbling. As I've said before, I'm only a dabbler when it comes to marbling, so it was a great thrill to produce these two pieces.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Caterpillar, Centipede or Millipede?

I had seen and admired Keith Smith's caterpillar spine sewing in his Non-Adhesive Binding Volume II [keith a smith BOOKS 1994], and in fact the book (with all his others) was on my shelf, but I had felt daunted by the complexity of the sewing. Keith credits Betsy Palmer Eldridge with teaching him the caterpillar.

A couple of years ago Adele Outteridge (Studio West End, Brisbane, Australia) taught several coptic binding styles in Auckland, NZ, including the caterpillar, but I just missed getting to the class. I live in Sydney, Australia, but I try to get to New Zealand each year to make books with my friends in Auckland (on the North Island), and that year my timing was wrong. However, generous Elizabeth Steiner allowed me to photograph the books she made in Adele's class and I decided to try making the caterpillar from the photograph. I prepared a few book blocks and covers while staying with binder & good friend Sheila Coltman, and then went on to the South Island to stay with my friends Alison Evans & Dain Simpson at their resort,
The Portage, in the Marlborough Sounds. I knew I would have plenty of time for sitting in the sun and sewing a book or two.

After doing a 4 needle coptic stitch I had the book secure but I had no idea how to start the caterpillar. I had already punched the holes using Elizabeth's photos as a guide and after a couple of false starts I got into the swing of it. I was delighted to find my caterpillar forming, though I suspected, quite rightly, that it left a bit to be desired as far as Keith's caterpillars go. I also decided that mine was a centipede because a caterpillar only has 6 legs.

I did all my sewing in the sunny lounge at The Portage Resort Hotel, looking out over the glorious blue Marlborough Sounds, and occasionally being offered hot chocolate or a glass of NZ wine (Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc of course) by the bar staff. The other guests were fascinated and I had to overcome my desire to go and hide and instead gave quick off-the-cuff explanations of hand book binding. I found this very satisfying actually as most people are amazed that it is possible to make a book and they loved to see the books taking shape.

When I returned home I started another smaller book, also a coptic, sewn with 6 needles. The caterpillar, now a centipede in my mind, was made following the instructions in Keith Smith's book [pp 265-271]. In these instructions each caterpillar actually attaches the book block - in other words sewing the sections, but mine were already sewn so I sewed into the 2nd and 3rd stations. At first sight the instructions are incredibly complicated, as are just about all of Smith's diagrams but if you really concentrate they are quite wonderful in their intricacy and detail. You just need to be fairly dedicated and desirous of the end result.

Another version of this stitch has been developed by Abi Sutherland at The Evil Rooster Bookweb. Keith's stitch takes 7 stages to make each section of stitches but Abi has designed her Half-Hitch Millipede Stitch which takes 4 stages. This is an elegant solution and Abi's instructions are wonderful. In fact her entire site is wonderful so please have a good look.