Maria’s book

Book coverThe book – I took the photo after two large glasses of wine, in a hurry, and in low light, and yes, there is camera movement – happens to us all sometimes!

When we first moved to this area we rented a wonderful 17th century cottage – living in it felt like being enveloped in a warm hug.  We became good friends with our landlady Maria, who is one of the most delightful and lovely people you could ever hope to meet.  She loves her cottage too, so when we left I wanted to give her something very personal as a thank you.

That was about a year and a half ago, and it’s taken me till now to do it.  My idea was to photograph small quirky parts of the cottage and make the resulting images into a keepsake book. I took all the shots before we left and then things stagnated for a while, partly because we were very busy settling into our new home and partly because I didn’t know how to make the kind of book I had in mind.

Eventually I went on a small workshop that took me through the steps of making a leather-bound book, but then my ambitions began to soar and I had so many complicated ideas for how Maria’s book should be put together that I confused myself into a standstill.  Eventually I got clearer (and simpler) on what I wanted to do, and while still a bit overly ambitious for a first attempt, it began to look do-able.

Unfortunately there was little prospect of seeing Maria for a long time, as she was then sole carer to her two very elderly and infirm parents and rarely had any time to herself.  I’m the kind of person who’s far more likely to get things done if there’s at least a loose sort of deadline in place, and knowing I probably wouldn’t see Maria for ages meant that the book was constantly put on the back burner.

Things change, however, and Maria’s mother died a short while ago and with only her father to care for she gained a little bit more time for herself, although I still hadn’t managed to meet up with her.  Then last week we had a small impromptu party and I invited Maria, expecting her to say that it would be too difficult for her to come.  But then she said yes……

I was thrilled she was coming, but went into instant panic about the book.  It meant I really had to get it finished, and in a matter of days, at that.  But I did it, and the pictures you see here are the result.

Book - title pageFirst page – the lace lining is part of a curtain that used to be in the cottage

Let me explain something of how it was put together.  The leather cover is lined in lace and the lace came from a small curtain in the bedroom of the cottage.  One day when we were out, there was a sudden summer storm and when we got back we found the bedroom window (which we’d left open) had been banging back and forth in the wind, trapping the curtain and tearing it.  When we left, I took the torn curtain with me thinking I’d use it in some way for the book.  Part of it made the lining, and I used the piece that was left as a kind of stencil.

Because the images aren’t hugely interesting in themselves, being meaningful only if you know the cottage, I felt that some of the pages needed jazzing up a little.  I had the idea of spraying gold paint through sections of the curtain lace, and tried to link up the pattern with the photograph – eg, on the opposite page of a photo of the brick kitchen floor, I used a section of curtain that looked a little like a brick pattern.

Sewing the pages in wasn’t easy.  I had some thin cord that I wanted to use, but then found I didn’t have a needle with a big enough eye in it to get the cord through it.  With a bit of help from Geoff, I did manage to thread it in the end, and then found that I had to make what seemed like enormous holes in the spine to get it through.  I was worried about the lace inside tearing, but fortunately it didn’t.

The cover needed decoration too, and some kind of fastening.  Eventually I found some outsize decorative wooden buttons on Ebay, and some fancy string-like trimming in a local shop.  I had planned to sew the button on, but it would have spoiled the effect of the lace inside as the stitching would have shown on it.  In the end, I glued it on with fabric glue after creating some fake stitching to make it look sewn.  I also glued the trim to the underside of it, and the trimming then wrapped round the book and was held in place by the edge of the button.  Surprisingly, it all worked out very well.

I finished it yesterday, and handed it over, wrapped in Christmas paper, to Maria.  She won’t open it till Christmas day, and I really, really hope she likes it – but more than that, I’m just so relieved to have it finished at last.  And for those of a worried disposition, she doesn’t read my blog so I think it’s safe to post……

Balderton mapA little bit of research on Google produced this map from 1906, with the cottage marked on it

Welcome signThe Welcome sign on the outside of the cottage, plus a view from outside, looking into the kitchen

 Victorian brick floorThe original brick floor in the Victorian kitchen extension.  The gold stencil on the left page echoes the brick pattern of the floor.

Wall lightThe beam above this wall light in an upstairs corridor is covered with 1950s newspaper, announcing Queen Elizabeth the second’s coronation

Stencil detail Close-up of the stencilling, created with gold paint sprayed through part of the lace curtain

Mind the StairsThe stairs to the attic master bedroom were all of uneven heights and sizes and twisted round in a curve.  The door at the bottom warned you to Mind the Stairs.