Book Review: Eco Books

A few weeks ago I received a copy of Eco Books: Inventive Projects from the Recycling Bin by Terry Taylor (Lark Books) in my mailbox. As excited as I was when I opened it, life unfortunately got in the way and it wasn’t until recently that I was able to sit down and really sink my teeth into the book.

The book features 40 or so projects, each made with recycled materials that, for the most part, are readily available around the house or office: waste paper, egg cartons, manila folders, tea bags and coffee filters, etc.

I decided to make three projects from the book:

1. Diskette Book

Diskette Book I’ve had a box of these small floppy disks for years, just waiting for the perfect project to come along. This little book was fun to make, and I’m quite happy with the results.

This project is bound using the 2-needle coptic binding. Although I personally prefer the 1-needle coptic binding method because it’s faster and less frustrating (the thread is less tangly), I followed the directions in the book to see if they were easy to understand.

Most people who have used the coptic binding method know that using curved sewing needles (instead of straight needles) makes the binding process incredibly easier. [Trust me, switching from straight to curved needles will change your life. Try it. Go on.] Unfortunately the author did not mention this important fact, which may lead to unneeded frustration from someone trying this binding method for the first time.

The instructions were generally clear and well written. I couldn’t quite figure out how the author came up with the hole placements for the covers and signatures – the result was uneven distances between the stitchings. I personally prefer even and symmetrical spacing between stiches, but I am fully aware that not everyone is as obsessive about these details and I am.

2. Bar Notes

Bar NotesMy second project was this chunky book made with beer coasters. I must admit, this was my favourite project from the book and everyone I showed it to fell in love with it too! One person kept talking about how great this book fit and felt in her hand, and I totally agree.

I used Tyvek bookcloth for the spine, but duct tape would also provide great results. This binding method is called long stitching – the wonderful thing about this type of binding is that it’s so versatile: you can create an assortment of looks from the same basic stitches. Fortunately the author gives several examples of looks you can create withthe long stitching method.

I can definitely see myself making tons of these books – next time I’ll use new beer coasters (although the ones I used for my book give it a “rustic and authentic” look).

3. Slinky Map Book

Slinky Map BookThis was actually the first project that I had started to make from this book. I wanted to try a binding method that I had never attempted before. This type of binding doesn’t seem to have an actual name; the book mentions that it’s a custom stitch that the designer learned from someone else.

Even though the final product is pretty fantastic, the process was LONG and PAINFUL. Trimming, folding and punching 120 folios, then stitching each one individually (read: 120 signatures!) made for a project that lasted several long hours. The repititiousness (did I just make up that word?) involved in sewing the singatures together would have made for a mindless, almost relaxing binding process – if the threads didn’t keep tangling. This book required two long threads and four needles throughout the process, and keeping the threads straight was definitely a challenge.

That being said, I definitely love this tiny book (each signature is actually only 2″x2!). It gave me the opportunity to learn a new binding method [I’d definitely like to explore how to use this binding on a larger-scale book]. And even though I usually prefer to make functional books that I can use (for journalling, note-keeping, etc.), this book is actually quite fun to hold in your hand and play with. Believe it or not, it really feels like a Slinky – the toy many of us enjoyed as children!

All in all, I enjoyed many of the projects featured in Eco Books. I wonder about the functionality of some of the projects (egg carton books – how does one use those?), but as I explained earlier, I don’t tend to make books purely for form – the have to have a particular use.

The instructions for the projects I tried out were pretty clear, although I’m not sure how clear they would be for someone who is a complete newbie to bookbinding. Several standard binding methods (coptic stitching, stab binding, long stitching, etc.) are used repeatedly on various projects in the book, so don’t expect a different binding for every project. Once you understand how the different bindings work, you can usually substitute one method for another one if you’re going for different looks.

The publisher (Lark Books) has graciously offered a bonus project to you, my dear readers! You can download it here: Eco Books Bonus Project.

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