Thursday, August 22, 2013

Embroidered Metal Mesh Pencil Cups

When we were at Ikea buying a pencil cup for my office desk, my husband mentioned he needed a pencil holder for school. He's an elementary school media specialist, and teaches some classes in the library.

I mentioned that all the teachers were posting "sharp" and "dull" pencil cups to Pinterest. He immediately grasped the classroom management principles, so I offered to make a pair for him. He liked the price of Ikea's Dokument pencil cups ($2.99 for 2), so I told him about the embroidered metal mesh pencil cups I had seen on Ikea Hackers.

A week later, he had a pair of pencil cups in the school colors, and I had a new pencil cup for my desk.

At the bottom of the cup, I embroidered a line of heavy chain stitch. At the top, I made two lines of back stitch three rows apart, working over two openings. In between, I worked a row of herringbone stitch, which I planned out to follow the lines of the mesh.

If you're going to work with the Ikea Dokument cups, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. It's a diamond mesh, so ditch any pattern that relies on a rectangular grid. These cups flare out. The spacing between the rows is a bit irregular. It may not be absolutely straight, either. Also, there are a pair of big raised dots or bumps on each side. (If you look closely at the center of the photo, between the two cups, you can see it a bit on the sides.) And finally, there's an overlap on one side; this is the seam. I was able to work around all of this, but some embroidery designs may not work as well.

When using metal mesh for embroidery, keep in mind that it's very open. Knots may show through if you're using floss instead of thicker yarn, especially if you're using a very open stitch (like the herringbone stitch). I put up with the inconvenience of very long threads just so I could avoid knots, on the herringbone. Instead, I tied the starting end to the finishing end once I completed the round.

The cardstock label is sewn to the mesh at the corners, carrying the thread behind the label so it's invisible from the front.

By the way, my husband is very happy with his new pencil cups, and claims they'll be the coolest in the school. And I realized metallic embroidery floss is evil.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Introduction to Pamphlet-Stitch Books

Though I'm a graphic designer, that's not my first love. At heart, I adore books. I read them by the score, from children's books to science fiction and fantasy to nonfiction. I can't get enough of them.

And what's almost as fun as reading books? Making books! No, not writing books. Making books. I'm absolutely addicted to book arts and papermaking.

I fell in love with book arts when I was a senior at Georgia State University. (Many years there's only one book arts course, and it was limited to sixteen or so when I was there. So if you weren't a senior, you would never get in!)

Like any addict, I want company. So I'm going to show you how to make one of the simplest of books: single signature pamphlets.

Here's the idea. One sheet of paper is folded in half, to make a "folio." Nest several of those together, and you have a "signature." If the outside sheet is heavier, like cardstock, you can stitch it all up and have a basic little book. These can get fancy, but they also make excellent little notebooks. The best part? You can use whatever paper you have on hand.

How to Make a Simple Book

This is a folio. Nest them together to make a signature.

  • Four sheets of lighter-weight paper (pages)
  • One sheet of cardstock or heavy text-weight paper, same size (cover)
  • Bone folder or other implement to smooth the folds
  • Ruler or other straightedge
  • Pencil
  • Embroidery floss or bookbinding thread
  • Awl, pushpin, or heavy (sharp-pointed) needle
  • Embroidery or similar needle for sewing

Prepare the Pages and Cover

To make a pamphlet-stitch book, first you'll have to assemble the signature.

  1. Fold each sheet of light paper in half, as shown at left. (If you're serious about this, you'll need to fold your paper along the grain. However, if you don't tell, I won't!) Do not fold the cover yet.
  2. Run your bone folder (or whatever) along the fold of each folded sheet (folio), flattening and smoothing it.
  3. For best results, find the center of your cover. Align your ruler with it and run the edge of your bone folder along the fold line. This will press a crease into your paper (called "scoring"), making it fold more neatly.
  4. Fold your cover and smooth with your bone folder.
Assemble the Book
Open one folio and lay it flat, with the fold down. Use your ruler to find and mark binding holes along the fold line: one in the center, and .5" to 1" from each edge. (Keep the marks light!)
  1. Using your awl, pierce a small hole, just larger than your sewing needle, at each mark.
  2. Using this folio as a guide, pierce the cover and remaining pages. Make sure all holes go exactly through the fold.
  3. Insert the page you used as a guide inside the cover. Nest the other three pages inside it. (This hides any errant pencil marks!)

Sewing It Up

It's easy. Really.
This method leaves your knot in the center of the book. You can experiment with this. If you start at the outside, at the top, you can tie on a tassel with the tails of the thread. (I love to do this!)
  1. Thread your needle with a length of thread equal to four times the height of the book.
  2. Bring your needle up through the middle hole, leaving about four inches of thread as a tail. Your thread will come out of the book through the middle.
  3. Bring the needle down through the top hole, to the inside. Pull it snug, and check to make sure you still have enough of a tail.
  4. Bring the needle up through the middle hole again, being careful not to pierce the first thread.
  5. Bring the down through the bottom hole, to the inside.
  6. Bring the thread back up to the middle and run it between the pages and the first thread. Do not take the needle through the cover and pages!
  7. Snug up all the threads and tie a secure knot in the tails. A square knot is fine.
  8. Optional: Dab a tiny dot of glue on the knot and let it dry.
  9. Trim the thread ends.
This may seems complicated, but it's actually very straightforward. And once you've made one or two, it's unlikely you'll need the instructions. It's that easy.