Here’s a detail of the spine. There’s a functional part that holds the sections of the book together, and then there’s the purely decorative part running over the front and back covers, which becomes part of the overall design of the book.
If you’re interested in trying out a caterpillar stitch yourself, there’s a few different options. One great basic textbook on sewings like this one is Keith Smith’s Non Adhesive Binding Volume III: Exposed Spine Sewings. He says that he learned this sewing from renowned bookbinder Betsy Palmer Eldridge, who he quotes as saying “While exploring traditional and historical sewings, it was a discovery or invention made that proves sewing techniques are not a dry subject.”
There is, however, a roadblock to learning this kind of sewing from a book. Take a look at one of the diagrams included by Smith :
Does 13xb go right or left? Do I get to rest after 15x??
I love the sewing diagrams included in these books, but for me they’re more useful as reminders once I’ve already learned how to do something, than as let’s-start-from-scratch tutorials. What this book, as all of Keith Smith books are, is really great at is including a wide range of different possibilities, which can really give you a heads up on the vocabulary of stitches. Smith also includes instructions in this volume on how to make and use a sewing frame as well, and background information on why a sewing frame is necessary.
However, the complexity of this kind of stitch can be hard to get a handle on, which is why having someone show you the steps involved in person is the ideal way to learn this kind of sewing. This involves interacting with others one-on-one, which is admittedly not for everyone. Luckily for us shut-ins, we now have the internet to teach us almost everything we need to know.
However you choose to educate yourself, we can all agree that the world of exposed spine sewings is vast and varied. You can find copies of all of Keith Smith’s wonderful how-to books on his website here.
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