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Choosing the Right Bookcloth

Here in our shop, we carry Bookcloth in a wide array of colors, textures, finishes and types of backing. With all of the options, even some of the most experienced of bookbinders might occasionally find themselves distracted, or paralyzed in the face of such a decision.

Choosing a color might seem like the easiest decision, but then, what if your project will be using more than one? What if you are working on many projects at once? Now we’re talking a full on palette decision. We make it easier for you, by providing¬†swatch books¬†in our shop, so you can hold different colors against each other to see how well they play together.

We’ll now cover some basics that might be review for experienced bookbinders, but are good considerations.

Paper Backed vs. Starched

An important element of Bookcloth, is that it is paper backed or starched. This prevents the PVA used to glue it to the cover board from seeping through the weave and ruining the cloth. We use both in the studio, and both are available in the shop. The coated and metallics tend to be starch backed and the linen types mostly paper backed (but this there are exceptions to this as well as many variations of starch types and paper weight). The weight of the backing and stiffness of the starch can affect your project measurements and how easy or difficult an individual bookcloth is to work with, but are not the only factors.

Coated and Metallic Bookcloths

Coated and metallic types wear especially well, and wipe clean easily with a damp cloth. They are ideal for albums, guestbooks, menus and other projects that will be handled often. Add a little glitz with a wedding album in metallic pearl or invitation panels in metallic gold or navy. The brands we use for our coated and metallic selections are Arrestox, Lustre and Pearl Linen.

Uncoated Linen

These are mostly matte, woven, classic bookcloths. From simple and neutral to wild and bright, jewel tones, earth tones… Linen bookcloth is the most prevalent in our shop and studio. (Though these are all categorized as linen, it’s important to note that the composition of the material varies by cloth and brand, and often includes a cotton poly blend.) Of the linen Bookcloth, we carry the brands Verona, Brillianta and Natuurlinnen For the ultimate beginner, we recommend trying a sample pack or 1/2 yards of a variety of these. Those with a heavier paper backing, a really obvious weave, patterned or very thin, fine bookcloths can be more challenging to work with. Do be aware, but don’t be afraid to play with different types of Bookcloth, and make some mistakes.

Pro Tips:

Experienced bookmakers know: always make a mockup! (even just a small sample to check your gutter measurements, test a new material, etc)
Jigs are timesaving, especially if you are making multiples or editions.
order a little extra, for tests and in case of mistakes
Be careful, but don’t be afraid to fail (this is just good life advice too)
And with any project, measure twice and cut once.

Advanced Bookbinders, what’s some advice you might have for beginners in dealing with Bookcloth? Is there something we didn’t cover that you wish you knew starting out?
If so, comment below!


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