Yesterday I gave my first bookbinding workshop in Tuscaloosa since last May. In just under four hours, I taught my students how to create their own limp leather journals using only the most essential bookbinding tools. We tore down sheets of paper into folios with deckle edges, relied on bonfolders and our strength to reduce swell in our freshly folded sections, and used scissors and x-acto knives to complete the rest of our cutting. The only larger piece of equipment we used was a punching jig.
The structure I taught was based on historic models with long and link stitches, These structures originate from Northern Europe (especially Germany), and to a lesser extent, Italy and Spain. These stitches were commonly used for books that contained choir scores and academic texts. I taught a basic version of the long and link stitch but many more elaborate historic models exist, including those that feature leather and bone buttons, wandering link stitches, and wrapped long stitches along the spine. Nearly all of these limp bindings have reinforced spines, which ensure that the bookbinder can sew with enough tension and that the structure will be durable.
The long and link stitch is an excellent example of a structure that you can make without a full bookbinding studio. The stitch pattern looks just as beautiful when paired with hand-torn deckle pages as it does with more conventional board-shear-trimmed sheets. I can't wait to offer this class to a new set of future bookbinders, and show them how easily one can make beautiful books with modest tools.