In December of 2013, I found myself in the middle of two challenges. First, I was tasked with editing and organizing twenty poems into a chapbook manuscript. The next phase of the Writer’s Digest 2013 November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge involved submitting a manuscript and I didn’t want to miss the deadline. Second, Christmas was a week away and I couldn’t decide what to give a good friend of mine. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, yet I wanted to give him something special.
It turns out the first challenge helped solve the second challenge. With a completed (and submitted) manuscript, I realized I could turn my work of art into a one-of-kind gift. Thanks to a new bookbinding technique I learned last summer, it was a snap to turn my chapbook manuscript into a handmade book.
I made the cover using standard card stock in navy blue. The cover design was made using only one layer of a contrasting color and two black and white embellishment pieces. The title, along with the poetry pages was printed from my computer.
Inside the front cover, I included a decorative page that continues the black and white pattern theme.
The poetry pages were a unique challenge in that I had to make sure each poem was placed in the same place on every page, no matter the length or width. Through a little trial and error, I figured out the margins. Then, I measured each page to be a hair smaller than the cover. This was the tricky part because it’s incredibly important for the pages of a book to fit inside the cover and stack evenly. A lot of patience and a paper slicer made it possible to cut out each poem page with spot on precision.
To bind the book together, I used a Japanese side stitch bookbinding technique. A simple tutorial for hole-punching and stitch order can be found here. Once I had the holes punched, I stitched my book together using thick beading thread. I coated the thread in beeswax to give it more strength and to make it stick in place as I sewed the book together.
Before I knew it, I had a handmade poetry chapbook! My friend got a unique gift and I got to live the dream of seeing my poetry in the form of an actual book. As nice as it would be to see my chapbook published, I wouldn’t mind making another handmade version of Finding Gravity for myself.
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