Ch. 21 – Helping hands


Bookbinding is a mainly solitary occupation in which one person can become happily absorbed for long periods of time with any one of its multifarious tasks, but there is one thing for which assistance is required, or at any rate very helpful to have, and that is sorting the skein of thread into manageable portions.

The advice on Hewit’s site on how to do this is by no means clear,  the only fault I have to find with them: it does instil the dread of ending up with a tangled mass but does little to relieve it. Fortunately my wife is long used to working with wool, and indeed I myself remember as a child lending my hands (literally) so that my mother could wind wool into balls for knitting.

The skein is secured at several points by a piece of thread tied round it, and these should be cut, so that the skein becomes a single loop made up of myriad strands. If you are working alone, then hang it up on something that allows it to fall free for its full length; but if your daughter is around, then have her extend her hands a metre or so apart and wrap the skein round them. Then try to see if you can find the right end first time (there are only two, but a bit like inserting a USB, it seems inevitable that you will have to try it twice) – it will be the one that allows the thread to be easily unwound.

I had estimated that two metres would be enough for each book, so my wife wound off a two metre length and saved it as a small hank loosely tied in a bow. Be careful to get your measurements right at this point, and err on the generous side  – a bit of extra thread is no inconvenience, but finding yourself short with a signature to go is a (minor) pain, since you have to tie on an additional length and then cope with knots and all the rest.

The thread itself is coated with beeswax for ease of sewing and is quite stiff, so in small portions it is not prone to tangle and can be stored in quantities in a small box for ready use.20170819_124955

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