Activities · How-To

Teaching a Workshop is (Also Fun) Work

Just joining us? Tune in to the first part of this two-parter here!

The hour for me to teach arrives, and I’m SUPER nervous. Who am I to teach others about how to make journals? Who thought this was a good idea?

Trying to stuff self doubt under the rug, I face five fellow writers waiting expectantly for me to Share Knowledge on Making Journals. I take a deep breath and start explaining what we will use to make covers: binder’s board, spines, and fabric from a random assortment of scraps I brought. I also get out the glue (pH-neutral PVA is my adhesive of choice), a wide array of brushes, and old pillowcases to function as drop cloths. We are ready to begin!

I coach everyone through cutting out fabric for outer and inner covers (why did I only bring one pair of decent fabric scissors for five people??) using my pre-made templates. Once everyone has cut out their fabric, we begin the gluing of the boards to the fabric. This is where things are both fun and a bit nerve-wracking. You see, PVA is a great adhesive because it dries quickly but not instantly, but it’s also a pain because, being fairly viscous, it’s really really easy to put too much on.

I was so, so proud of their work. I’m not crying, you are.

My for-the-moment students start panicking that their cover boards are sliding around due to the (over)abundance of glue. Most, if not all, of them have never handled PVA or binder’s board before, so this is to be expected. I remind my writer-students that they are doing a lovely job even if it doesn’t look just so, inadvertently slipping into Soothing Mom Voice when they are getting frustrated or are worried their books are going to look terrible.

Once the cover boards and spines are glued onto the outer fabric and the edges of said fabric folded in, it is time for the inside! A much simpler endeavor; just brushing glue on the inside to 1/8″ or so from the edge and laying down the fabric. The workshop was divided between two evenings, so this is where we ended the first session to let the glue dry overnight before sewing the book block in.

They did it! I gave instructions that weren’t awful!

The next evening, after wine, fantastic desserts, and more wine, we get back to it. To sew the book blocks to the covers, students each get a needle and a few lengths of sashiko or jewel-toned crewel thread. Everyone has their (mostly) dry covers, where I have punched guide holes for them through the spines so they don’t have to make stabs in the dark. Well, mostly not in their fingers, since, as you can see, our workspace was fairly well lit.

The underappreciated needleminder chicken takes her job seriously.

Baha, I crack myself up! Anyway.

I walk the writers through sewing the book block, signature by signature (aka each section of folded pages, of which there were five), to the cover. This mostly goes okay, except that I lose track of the sewing pattern even though I made so many notes AND a sample AND I was sewing a sample along with them. Oops.

I mostly knew what I was doing. Mostly.

But these writers weren’t going to give up on me that easily! We consumed more wine. We laughed a lot. We managed to sew some paper to some fabric and boards.

Yes, one of my students is wearing a head lamp. So maybe the workspace wasn’t that well lit…

All in all, we only had one book that got blood on it, nobody cried, and everyone ended up with a whole journal! I was so proud of my little bookbinding class and their book-babies. And hey, maybe I knew something about binding books and teaching folks after all…

Hmm. You would think that when this keeps happening I would remember but that means I would have to trust myself, or something. Ha!

A book-baby home with its creator; proof out in the world that I’m not an impostor! (It’s all about me, you see)

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