With the forwarding of the book complete and the design established it was time to get to work on the onlays and the embroidery. As with the sample board, I used the pared off suede strips of the bull skin for the large onlays on the cover of the binding. These were backed with thin lens tissue to stabilise them before cutting them to shape. As they were paring machine parings, the strips were no more than about 3cm wide (ie. the width of the razor blade mounted in the paring machine) so I had to piece them together to create the larger areas of onlays I required. Where I had to join the onlays I made sure I did so where a line of embroidery was going to run across the top to conceal the joint.
The design of the perpetual calendar was split and stretched around the spine, with a central disc left complete on the spine area in order to add a title here. I cut out an onlay using red suede for this area.
As before with the sample board, I used the tracing paper template as a guide through which to prick holes to mark for the embroidery. These holes were drawn around with a fine red pen, which I knew would be concealed once the stitching was done.
I then worked my way around all of the lines using a red thread, using the sample board as a guide.
Firstly I used a running stitch, followed by a whipping stitch to consolidate all of the lines.
Once all of the red lines were embroidered, detail was added to each of the leaves using black thread. I also applied outlines in different colours of thread to the large suede onlays.
I wanted to block in the suede onlays with small stitches of different colours, partly to add some colour variation to the neutral pale grey suede, also to conceal any joins in the leather onlays, plus also to anchor the large onlays down to the covering leather.
Although a time-consuming process, I felt that this added a pleasing textural element to the covering leather too.
The title circle was the next thing to do. I mapped out the words to match the placement of the text in the centre of the original brass perpetual calendar which read “FOR 40 YRS | CALENDAR | 1963 TO 2002”. The brass calendar had a screw in the centre to allow the disc with the dates on to be turned, I planned to use an onlay in the centre of this leather disc to illustrate a screw on the spine too.
I pinned the template of the wording down on top of the onlay and pricked through the template so I had a guide for where the leather onlays needed to be be glued down.
The title letters were carefully cut out from thinly pared black leather.
The red leather onlay was embroidered with a black thread border, and also small little grey stitches like elsewhere on the cover leather. The letters were then glued down to the disc using PVA glue.
The final onlays to be worked on were the letters on the rest of the cover. I split down some red and black leather very thinly and cut it into strips of the correct width for the height of the letters. I then split these strips into smaller pieces and by eye pierced out the numbers and letters using a scalpel.
As well as the numbers and letters, I prepared thin strips of leather for onlays to be stuck down across the spine to join the characters that were stretched where the design had been split.
Using the same method as explained earlier in the blog post, I had pricked through and marked where the onlays needed to be stuck down. I picked them up using thin tweezers and applied PVA to the reverse before adhering them in place one by one.
Some extra fine stitches were added around these final onlays, using variations of red, grey and metallic threads.
The leather was then totally complete and ready to stick to the text block – an exciting but always nerve wracking process given the time it has already taken me to get this far with work on the covering leather!