La Charrue D’Érable (The Maplewood Plough) Part Four: Embroidery and Covering

~ Cutting out the leather onlays for the leaves in different tones of green

Finally the time had come for me to do the bit that I like the most – decorating the covering leather! The first step in the process was to cut out all of the leather onlays I needed to complete the design, including lots of lots of little leaves. On a couple of occasions I brushed past these loose leaves sitting on one of my benches and dislodged a few and it was a rather frustrating game trying to find their correct positions again!

When it came to the apples, I cut out a multitude of discs in different tones of leather and tried to spread the colours out as evenly as possible over the front cover.

~ Sticking down the leather onlays onto the covering leather

Once all of the onlays were down, I went through my box of threads and pulled out a selection of greens, reds and oranges with which to start sewing the detail onto the cover.

~ The selection of coloured threads used for embroidering the cover

Firstly I concentrated on sewing all of the ‘branches’ using a dark green thread. This also helped to secure each of the leaves onto the leather. Each leaf in turn was then further embroidered with little stitches all the way up in a contrasting green to the colour of the onlay. As the leaves on the front and back covers were mirror images of each other, I made sure to sew the corresponding leaves in the same coloured thread.

~ Adding thread detail to the leaves

The apple blossom was attached to the leather using a double criss-cross stitch to look like the stamens of the flowers. I pricked the holes first with a needle pricker as the vellum inlays were tough to push a needle through.

~ Adding thread detail to the flower centres

Onto the end of each of the criss-cross stitched (eight in total for each flower) I tied a small French knot. These were done in a variety of different coloured threads to add variety.

~ Adding French knots to the flower centres

The apples on the front cover were also embellished with a variety of coloured threads, enhancing the colour whilst also securing the onlays down.

~ Adding thread detail to the apples

The back of the leather looked like this once the embroidery was complete – a random scattering of coloured threads!

~ The back of the leather with all of the completed embroidery

So, the time had come to cover the book, always a daunting task after spending so much time embroidering the leather beforehand. I laid a few layers of newsprint down onto my bench and got together all the tools I needed for the process: sharp scissors, teflon folder, scalpel, fine metal tools for forming the head caps and some cord, also for forming the head caps.

~ The leather and tools just prior to covering the book block

The front of the leather was spritzed with some water to prevent marks from forming on the front of the leather once it dried. The back was pasted out three times using flour paste, with time left in between each application to allow for it to absorb into the leather.

~ Spraying the front of the leather with a water atomiser before pasting the reverse

The covering of the binding requires all the hands and nerves I have so I often don’t get many photos of this part of the process! The leather went down well and the book was left to dry under weights between blotting paper for 24 hours, with the blotters changed regularly. The following day, I dampened the joints with a water pen and carefully opened up the boards. The leather joints were stuck down into position with PVA whilst both of the book boards were open.

~ Putting the leather joints down

I bought some 18 carat yellow gold sheet in order to add one gold apple to the front cover. This was pierced into shape using a jeweller’s piercing saw and holes drilled through it. One of the criss-crosses was sewn with metallic gold thread, the other had gold wire passed across it to physically attach the gold apple to the book board through small holes that had been drilled using my Dremel..

~ Adding a single 18 carat gold apple to the front cover

Small channels were cut out of the reverse of the board and the ends of the gold wire were bent into these to permanently fix the gold apple in its place. The insides of both the front and back boards were then infilled and sanded. The first layer was some watercolour paper, which was the same thickness as the turn-ins and the leather joint. The second layer was a piece or Zerkall, cut a few millimetres smaller than the size of the boards. This was then sanded completely flush to get rid of any lumps and bumps.

~ The gold apple was attached with gold wire through the front board

It was then time to stick the paper doublure down to the front and back boards. All of the pierced shapes had been filled with gold leaf backed onto Japanese tissue.

~ The endpapers and doublures were pierced and backed with gold leaf

Once stuck down, I wanted to add extra detail to the endpapers and doublures. For the apples inside the front board, I cut out tiny criss-crosses from black paper. 

~ Detail was added to the apples by sticking down hand-pierced paper pieces

These were then stuck down onto the gold using PVA glue.

~ The black hand-pierced paper shapes stuck down to the gold apples on the endpaper

For the blossom inside the back board, I used black acrylic paint on the end of a needle pricker and applied paint to each of the flower centres.

~ Detail was added to the centre of the gold leaf apple blossom using black acrylic paint

Finally, I wanted to add a little of the cover leather to the endpapers and doublures. I cut out small shapes from thinly pared cover leather and stuck them randomly amongst the branches.

~ Small flecks of the Pistachio covering leather were cut out and stuck randomly to the endpapers and doublures

The next, and final, blog post in this series shows images of the completed binding and wooden box that was made for the binding.

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