19th-Century Bookcloth online workshop

 Registration is closed for this event
$ 110.00

June 26th, 2021 10:00 AM

  • Instructor: India Johnson
  • Workshop Type: Binding
  • Workshop Status: Wait-list
  • Workshop Start: June 26th, 2021 10:00 AM
  • Workshop End: July 10th, 2021 12:00 PM
  • Sessions: 2
  • In-person or Online?: Online

This is a two session online workshop.

Early 19th-century bookcloth is a beautiful and durable material, which may return to use today for its aesthetics, for repairs, or as a vegan leather alternative. Unlike today's cloth it is not backed with paper and can be molded over raised bands. Although this versatile covering material can be colored with natural dyes and earth pigments, this workshop uses synthetic XSL pigments for lightfastness and ease of color mixing. 

The class sessions are spaced two weeks apart so students have plenty of time to work independently. 

In the first demo session, students will learn: 
-to prepare cloth to evenly accept colorants (scouring) 
-to pigment wheat starch paste using XSL water-soluble synthetic pigments 
-to create linen and/or cotton handmade buckrams with the prepared cloth and wheat starch paste 

Students will have two weeks to work on their own bookcloth before returning for the final session where they will learn:
-to cover a board with these buckrams (which are generally a bit thicker than today's bookcloths) so that the corners are durable, neat, and elegant 
-other applications and uses for this durable, moldable material

Participants will receive notes with scour, paste, and starch recipes, and a short bibliography about 19th century bookcloth. 

The workshop fee includes a mailed partial kit containing several XSL pigments.

Materials to Bring: 

For the demo-only first session, students need only supply a pen and paper to take notes.

To make the cloth, students will need to supply:

  • Cotton muslin and/or very fine linen, which is called handkerchief linen. The linen is lovely to work with, and will produce a less bulky finished product, but cotton is more readily available. Cloth should be 100% cotton or 100% linen.
  • Soda ash or Arm & Hammer washing soda (NOT baking soda).
  • Wheat starch paste
  • Mailed kit of pigments


  • Stovetop or hot plate for scouring cloth and cooking wheat starch paste 
  • Small pot or double boiler for cooking wheat starch paste 
  • Strainer or screenprinting screen for wheat starch paste
  • Large stainless steel or enameled cooking pot for scouring, about 12 quarts --preferably one that is not used for food preparation. A stock pot is a good choice, they can often be thrifted.
  • 1 to 2 acrylic/plexi slabs (each should fit a piece of cloth that is about 9” x 15"). Glass will not work, slabs must be plexiglas or acrylic.
  • Scrap bookboard, old credit card, or mini squeegee for applying wheat starch paste
  • Containers for mixing paste and pigment. Empty yogurt containers, glass jars, etc. 

If students wish to cover a board in session two, they will need:

  • Piece of bookboard about 5x7” (grain can go either direction)
  • Scalpel / x-acto / olfa knife
  • Metal or plastic triangle
  • More wheat starch paste and a brush
  • Weight or something heavy like a couple of books
  • Optional: pressing boards or cardboard larger than your board, parchment paper

Workshop Fee: $110
Tuition assistance is available; please apply here.

Date & Time: 2 Saturdays :: June 26 & July 10, 2021 :: 10-12pm Pacific time
Please note there are two weeks between sessions to allow extra work time.

Location: Online over Zoom

SFCB online workshops are recorded; all registered students will have access to the videos for a limited time.

Please read over the SFCB Registration Policies before signing up for a class.


About the Instructor | India Johnson

India Johnson is an Iowa City-based artist who makes sculptures, installations, and participatory projects in and about libraries. She attended fine binding school at the LLOTJA and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Center for the Book.

Past Student Reviews:

“India is just wonderful. She brings to her students an excellent and studied mind so she can take us on a real journey into new information and ideas. Really great class and I’ve taken a zillion on Zoom this pandemic.”

“I was impressed with the scope of her knowledge. India always seemed to have a reference and further suggestions for anything that was introduced.”



$ 110.00
Online via Zoom
United States