New space, new sketchbooks

Last week, my partner and I decided that it was time our bedroom got a little bigger. We’re expecting a third soon enough and figuring that we’d probably want optimum cuddle space, we decided to switch our bedroom and my end of our studio. Except for getting the box spring hopelessly caught in the stairwell for a good hour, it was a really quick and easy move (we got it out magically and we plan on not leaving this place for several years… can’t wait to do that again!). Here is my studio in the living room in transition:


and here’s the new space!

Still needing some shelf space and probably one last good clean, but it’s working out lovely.. Now to get that sewing machine fixed up….

Finally- sending out these, the first two books made in the new space. These are the books that I had started in my last post. Super soft, covered in dereskin and pigskin suedes, filled with 140lb watercolour paper and fitted with a back pocket and strap for closin’. Get em while they’re hot! Custom made, $90 plus shipping, you pick the leather.

new things debuting this weekend- pt.1

Just in time for wedding season, I’ll have a slew of beautiful handmade guest books and photo albums to choose from at the NSDCC Summer Show this weekend.

Here are a few sneak peeks:


Fat leather sketchbooks and upcoming show news

I had a lovely gal from BC ask me to make her a custom leather sketchbook recently, one very similar to the one I made for local Nova Scoria artist Daina Scarola for her Painted Road Project. I really love this style of book, the thickness, the material, the weight… It’s inspiring just to hold it. Here are a few shots of the finished book I sent out last week.


She really loved the finished product and hopefully the word will spread and I’ll get to make some more. I think the next one I make will be for myself.


This week I’m getting ready for my second NSDCC Summer Show in Victoria Park here in Halifax. Last year was great despite one rainy day (which oddly enough was my busiest) and I’m sure this year will be even better. I have a few new books I’m pretty stocked on like wine journals, address books, a pregnancy journal and some great wedding albums and guest books that are looking pretty fab. So I’m going to now get off the computer and get to work so I’m not kicking myself in the pants come Thursday.  See you all there!

i can be pretty unobservant….


I made a pretty silly mistake on the workshop poster… The date is wrong… Well, wrong in the sense that Thursday the 21st of Feb. in the year 2014 does not exist…. it is supposed to say FRIDAY the 21st.

Oy vey…. Here is the updated poster……….


new custom work

I’ve had the opportunity to work on some pretty fantastic custom books in the past few months. Wedding guest books and photo albums have been picking up big time which has been really great because I am finding that I am getting a lot of requests that really work with my aesthetic. And that’s always nice.

The last big custom job I did was a gift from someone I had as a customer at a cafe I used to work at. He, along with about 25 other fellows, were mentored by this one doctor (for whom the book was for) who seemed to have had a pretty profound impact on all of these peoples lives and careers. The book was comprised of pictures and stories from each of the fellows dating back to the 70’s and as recent as the late 90’s. The words and pictures in the book are really lovely and I was so honoured to have had a small part in the story of this remarkable guy.

Here’s the book finished:



The book is covered with brown suede and linen book cloth. For the end papers I used my favourite St. Armand paper.


I took a few photographs while I was making the book and I always mean to take more! I tend to get absorbed in what I’m doing and before I know it I missed capturing some integral step… Anywho…


This image on the left is the suede attached to the covers before the linen cloth and spine are attached. The right image is measuring out the corner cloth and the bottom is the cover before it is used to case in the text block.


tiny little books

The next project I have been working on is with this really awesome author I met at the Halifax Crafters Spring Fair. We’re working together to make some prototypes of tiny story books. The process has been unbelievably enjoyable as we are both in love with tiny things and just seem to click really well. Here’s a few shots of the books I have made for her so far.

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 •Awling tiny pages.2013-07-23 16.01.16

Sewn up •

2013-07-23 21.23.24 This kills me… It’s just so goddamn cute! Tiny text block with mull, spine strip and head bands.

2013-07-23 21.27.58-1All ready to be cased in while fat cat sleeps in background •

2013-07-27 19.01.33-1• And finally all done up in orange suede. Oh my. What a handsome little bugger.

I wanted to do another style of book so I printed the text out and made a miniature Japanese stab sewn binding version (below)

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from wanting a book made to getting it in the mail

binding styles• When I get a custom order for a book with printed matter, the first step is getting the material that the book will contain and formatting it on the computer. The book, depending on the type of binding style, needs to be formatted correctly so that after it’s printed, it will read in the right order.  I made this PDF (left) to send to folks who inquire about a custom book so I can get a better idea of what they have in mind.

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I use inDesign to lay out the book and I use a number of visual aids to help me format the book in the right order. Although it might seem/ look ridiculous, for books that will be sewn with signatures, I use this long scroll piece of paper (right) that I made a guide on to format the book on the computer. Since I’ve done this a few times, I’ve picked up on the formula that the pages go in, but I am very much a visual thinker and need to look at what I am working out in order for me to get it right, especially in this case…!

After I’ve formatted all the material I’ve been given, I send off a PDF version of the layout of the book. This way, you can run through it with a fine tooth comb and make any last changes. Once I get the OK, I send it off to be printed.

In terms of the colours and materials the book is covered with, I usually will ask for any favourites and with some ideas in mind, search through my ever changing material stash. If I don’t have just the right thing on me, then I hit the streets and search my go-to thrift shops, fabric spots and the leather stops and send off some pictures of the materials I’ve collected.  After that, I keep you in the loop with updates, insights and ideas until everything is finished and I send it off to you wrapped nice and spify- your own hand-bound, published work.

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Here’s a few other custom books I’ve finished up this past month:

D+T- the story of one young couples’ very long relationship. A wedding gift written by the bride to the groom.




WHEAT- A book of poems written by one sister. A surprise gift from the other sister to the poet.






These are custom wedding guest books, so they’re blank on the inside and sewn together with paper perfect for writing or drawing or attaching photographs.



I am working on one more guest book for right now that is in a style I haven’t worked with a whole lot and it’s coming along really beautifully, so I’ll post that when it’s all finished.

Aside from this, I am in the midst of a really big project (probably the biggest and most involved project yet!) working with an old cook book. I am scanning each handwritten page, correcting them in Photoshop and then reprinting and binding the book. This such a huge project for Mule Mother and I am learning a ton from it. More on that later…

For now, I’ll leave you this pic of our plot in the North End community garden. Trying to soak up all that summer has left to offer but I have to admit, I did think for just a second about that cool crisp autumn air and smile just a bit… (This image is actually a few weeks old, so things are actually quite a bit more full…!)



DIY Book Kit Tutorial

I’ve been wanting to do this post for a while now- Just in case the directions are not crystal clear in the DIY Book Kit or, if you don’t have a kit, were thinking about picking one up and you want to see exactly what your signing up for…. Here’s a little picture tutorial on how to put together your kit. I’ve also been having a hard time placing an appropriate age on these suckers… There are some pretty clever 6, 7, 8 year olds that could swing this no prob, but everyone is different and if you had a young’un in mind that might be into making books, you can see for yourself if you think they’re up for it! (I would say DIY Book Kits are good for anyone 12 and up to be on the safe side…)

Here goes.

THIS IS YOUR KIT (ruler and butter knife not included ) *I would suggest decorating the cover before binding! I left mine blank so you can see a bit clearer.

kit includes

So after you made yourself a pretty little cover, your going to start off by folding the cover and every page individually. Make sure the folds are as even as possible. Use that butter knife to really press the creases down. The better they’re creased, the better the book will stay closed.

folding bkt

bonefolding bkt

Next your going to awl the cover and pages so you have a guide for your sewing. Start with one of the inside pages and the cover paper. Place the inner paper inside the cover paper and line them up evenly. The cover paper is a bit bigger than the inside paper, so make sure the paper is tucked in nice and evenly, leaving the same amount of room on each side like the picture:

preawl bkt

Now, using your ruler, measure to the middle of the inside paper and poke a hole. (It’s good to have a cut mat or something underneath like a piece of cardboard to protect your table!) Then measure halfway between the middle hole and the edge of the inside paper and poke another hole. Do the same on the other side making sure the t-pin goes right through both sheets.

awling bkt

Using that first piece of inside paper with the poked holes as a template, individually poke holes in each sheet then stack together so the holes are lined up.

awlingpages bkt

book kit tut

Now place the stacked inside pages in the cover paper, lining up the awl-ed holes and get your needle and thread ready.

Your going to start from inside the book coming out the centre hole and pulling the thread through leaving about 3 inches. Hold onto that with your thumb so it doesn’t fall through when your tightening the thread.

sewing one

sewing two

Now, from the outside of the book, go down through the right hand hole back inside the book.

sewing three

Passing the middle hole inside the book, go out the left hand hole.

sewing four

Pull nice and taught (remembering to keep your thumb on the bit hanging out in the middle). Now from the outside of the book, go in through the middle hole. It’s very important that the string running along the middle of the spine lays in between where you initially came in and where the end is coming out (see pic).

sewing five

sewing six

Now for the knot. Just remember left over right, right over left.

tying knot bkt

1. Pulling nice and taught (not too hard or you’ll rip the paper!)

2. Left thread over right

3. Over and under and pull tight

4. Right over left

5. Over and under and pull tight

6. Trim ends

Remember if your kit has 2 books, keep that needle threaded and repeat on the next book.

Place the finished books under some heavy books or blocks over night and your done!

finished bkt

If you’ve got yourself a DIY Book Kit and you’ve finished your masterpieces, I would love love love to see them! Please do post them to the Mule Mother facebook page for all the world to see and admire.

Time-Lapse Book Making/ studio noise #2

I forgot that I had started a video book making project when my partner and I first got to Toronto back in December. I wanted something that I could edit a bit more but I wasn’t really in the position to be buying software. Luckily I found this free stop-motion-maker online and recorded myself making a batch of books from beginning to end. It goes really fast because I didn’t have any control over the speed (which is actually pretty funny at times) but it gives you a pretty good idea of what the whole process is. Its recorded in steps over the course of a few days (hence the wardrobe and hairstyle changes) and has a few cameos of my partner Naryn. (pardon the smooch at the beginning, I couldn’t edit them! Very PG, no worries )

I am planning on doing it again, with a different program that has more editing capabilities, a real video camera instead of the computer one and some music.

…and for your listening pleasure today, I discovered this song just today from my super rad, finger-on-the-pulse-of-everything-awesome, sis-in-law who posted it on facebook and I think I just might be inlove…