Friday, June 15, 2012

Bookbinding 101: Linen Tape

When a book structure calls for tape, linen tape was traditionally used, and today it is still used by most bookbinders and conservationists instead of cotton tape.

It's not sticky backed tape like duct or masking, rather, it is basically a narrowish woven fabric, which you sew, and maybe also glue, to the pages when constructing some styles of books. The ends of the tapes are then glued, and/or sewn, onto the covers. The last photo below shows one way tape is used in bookbinding (however ribbon was used rather than linen tape - the stitch is the Romanesque stitch).

Linen tape comes in different sizes. Just pick the width that fits your design and/or budget.

Cotton tape is not as strong but it is cheaper, so if you're making a book that doesn't need to last for a long, long time, then it can be a good alternative that costs less.

Cotton tape

A trick I learned from Lizzy House: use book cloth as the tapes. I've had a lot of fun experimenting with this.

Bookcloth can be a tape substitute

Here are three good reasons to try substituting linen book cloth for linen tapes:

Reason 1: you can cut the book cloth into strips as wide as you need to, which especially helps when creating larger books. 

Reason 2: The linen bookcloth, if backed with paper, adds extra strength to the binding, and adds a little thickness (which can help for reason 3).

Reason 3: You can make fun designs with the tapes on the inside or outside of the cover by cutting the ends into shapes. In a previous post we have a few examples of book-cloth-as-tapes showing through the the paste down (the paste down being the cover side of the endpaper). The pages are sewn onto those tapes just the same way as can be seen here. You may optionally place the decorative ends of the tapes on the face of your cover, and depending on the book structure it may either show as a raised design through the cover material, or you may leave it visible. The last photo below shows visible tape on a completed book (albeit with ribbon instead of book cloth).

Reason 3a: With book cloth, your color choices are much greater than when using "real" tape, giving you more options in your design.

Book cloth backed with paper

You may of course use traditional linen or cotton tape in similarly decorative ways, but book cloth gives more options in width, shape, and color.

You can also use ribbon instead of tape or book cloth, but durability may not approach that of linen.

Ribbon used as tape - works, but may or may not be as durable
- Romanesque stitch -

Anything to add to the discussion? Please leave a comment.


Baghy said...

Great info, thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

When you're binding with cords or the linen tapes (or anything else), what is the purpose of stretching them over the sewing frame? Is it so that when they are let off of the frame, they will shrink back down to their original size? I imagine that after they're glued down, this would make for a tighter spine? I appreciate your answer. I've been curious about this, and no searching seems to be able to find me the answer. I know it's a universal step, but I can't find out why!

Karleigh Jae said...

They don't stretch, really, but are just pulled tight. The frame makes it easier to work with the pages, and cord, and thread in a way that helps keep the binding tight, and the line of the cords straight. Without a frame, the cords or tape can bunch up between signatures as you sew, if that makes sense. A frame isn't an absolute necessity, and with smaller books might take more set up time than it's worth, but it can make sewing better, straighter, faster.

Anonymous said...

Aha, that makes a lot of sense! Thank you. I'm so glad to see that you're so responsive to comments here, it makes your blog all the more valuable as a resource. I can't wait to see the home-made sewing frame instructions when you get to post them!

Sarah said...

Where can I find 30mm linen tape?

angela said...

I came across your blog and your wonderful work with bookbinding. Loved it! congratulations!

Unknown said...

Thanks Angela! We hope you keep coming back :)

Unknown said...

Sarah, I'm not sure where you can find 30mm bookbinding tape. I know Hollanders sells 20mm. You can always make your own linen tape out of bookcloth though. That way you can make it any width you'd prefer. You can view this post for some examples of tapes I've done with book cloth:

kochfede said...

Hi, greetings from Argentina... Its strictly necessary to use linen tapes? I had a couple of book sewing in automatic machine, that dont have the tapes, I thought to glue the mull and then the covers... you think its the same strength in spine?