marbling patterns: feather

Now we come to some exciting compound patterns in our series of marbling pattern tutorials. These rely on a series of basic patterns repeated one after another. For the most uniform results, use a set of marbling combs and keep your hand steady, with your eyes focused on the movement of just one tine through the pattern in the vat. Of course, you can achieve similar but more organic results by drawing with a stylus. Remember, the diameter of the stylus will impact the line quality, and the spacing of the pattern at each step will influence the outcome, so feel free to play with the scale along the way. And, lastly, remember to take your paper grain into account when planning out the pattern. The feather pattern begins with a getgel, continues with the nonpareil, and is completed with a widely-spaced getgel.

The getgel at left is followed by the nonpareil.

Then follows a widely-spaced getgel (about 3"), perpendicular to the nonpareil pattern.

Having completed the getgel, the nonpareil is now drawn with a stylus or a nonpareil comb.

Perpendicular to the nonpareil stripes, this is followed by widely spaced parallel lines.

In the spaces between these lines, another series of parallel lines are drawn running in the opposite direction.

And the feather pattern is complete!

marbling patterns: nonpareil

Today our series of marbling pattern tutorials brings us to the nonpareil pattern, from the French "without equal". Though truly the nonpareil is not one of my favorites, it is a step towards some further compound patterns whose elegant line quality depend on it. This pattern requires a nonpareil comb, whose tines have 1/8" or 1/4" spacing - but if, like me, you don't have such a comb you may carefully use a stylus. This gives a looser, less static quality to the pattern.

Complete a getgel pattern (at left above), then draw a series of tightly spaced parallel lines perpendicular to it.

The nonpareil pattern begins with a getgel, which may be repeated once or twice for finer lines. Remember before beginning to make a note of your paper grain direction, and do some strategizing so that the completed pattern will be oriented as you wish.

Working perpendicular to the existing pattern, pass your nonpareil comb through the pattern once or draw a series of closely spaced lines with a stylus.

I did not pull a print of this pattern, but continued working on it. However, below are some lovely vintage examples of the nonpareil from the digital collection of the libraries of the University of Washington, which also illustrate the effect of pattern orientation.

the kettle stitch

The kettle stitch, which holds the tension along each signature and acts as the change-over for many bindings, is a persnickety little stitch until you get the hang of it. When learning the coptic or sewn-to-tape bindings a common problem is an incorrect kettle stitch that does not 'lock' the tension, or a kettle so successful it cinches the head and tail while the center of the spine bows outward. These diagrams illustrate how I execute the kettle stitch, along with a trick for regulating the sewing tension both along the spine and between the signatures.

On reaching the head or tail of a signature, I exit the last sewing station, make certain the thread is nicely taught, then clamp down with a forefinger on the fold about 1/2" inside the last sewing station. The thread (and tension) is held firmly by this finger, and the end of the signature pops up just a bit. That tiny bit of extra space will prevent the kettle from cinching too tightly. I hold this position until the kettle stitch is completed with my other hand, locking the thread in place.

To execute the kettle stitch while holding this posture may seem acrobatic at first, but it can be easily done using the technique recommended in Non-Adhesive Binding, Volume III by Keith Smith. Having made certain to place the sewing stations a distance from the head and tail that is shorter than the length of your needle, its point will emerge from between the signatures and can be pulled through the loop in one easy motion. To tighten the kettle stitch keeping that extra iota of space, pull the thread straight upwards. And finally, release the finger that has been clamping your signature down all this while.

Another helpful technique is the french link stitch, which regulates the tension across the spine (between the signatures) by linking each stitch spanning a tape to its neighbor. The french link stitch is an extra step, but the herringbone-like pattern it creates can be a lovely addition to an exposed spine.

french link stitch diagram