Headbands :: How To Work Them Into An Obsession

Headbands: How To Work Them by Jane Greenfield & Jenny Hille (1990, Oak Knoll Books)

The book Headbands: How To Work Them by Jane Greenfield and Jenny Hille (Oak Knoll Books 1990) was waiting for me at our post box yesterday. What a yummy, nerdy bookbinder’s book! Seriously, you can keep your “craft porn” books full of pretty colored pictures and the stylist’s arrangements of flowers and ceramic bunnies: My favorite craft books are dull-looking things with black and white pages, unimaginative covers, plain, practical, often cheaply printed…but the pages are packed with techniques, tricks, diagrams, long paragraphs of erudition—the sort of information that a devoted craftsperson can sink her teeth into and take sustenance from!

Books by Keith Smith, for example, Aldren Watson’s beautiful pencil-drawn instructions, or Manly Bannister’s utilitarian textbook…my copies of these books are dog-eared and dirty from years of use…I go back, again and again, to these masters of the fundamental lessons.

And now I can add Headbands…  to that short list of precious bookbinding books! It’s full of delightfully clear drawings and instructions on how to work 14 different headbands. I really bought it to learn the coptic headband, but fell in love with all the others, and I can’t wait to try each one out!

What is a headband? It is possible to make books without headbands, and yet a headband, if it has been stitched on, is a functional part of the book, providing strength to the binding, pulling the signatures at head and foot together, protecting the edges of the signatures or gatherings when the book is slid in and out of a bookshelf. Faux headbands have been available for a long time…but these are glued on to the spine of a bound book, and are purely ornamental.

The headbands pictured here are examples of the most basic headbanding technique (headband with a bead on the edge), and while I did learn to make them from my new book today, I have had the instructions for the very same headbands in a few of my older books…I just never bothered to read them! Instead, cocky and impatient, I made up my own way of doing headbands, and I thought they were pretty slick, until I learned the proper way. *Um, so, yeah, rock and roll (and rue)…*

Today’s headbands, I happily concede, came out so much prettier, and they are neater, too.

And, suddenly, I want to put a headband on everything in sight…I can’t get enough of stitching them, and I have run out of bound text blocks to put them on!

Last night I had visions of stitching a headband that continued onto the covers of a book, and went all the way around, becoming a sort of ‘piped edging’. And that got me thinking about edging quilts this way. Help! I think I’m possessed.

I loved using the variegated threads to make these, and unusual color combinations. I have used a bit of silk thread, but mostly I used whatever I felt like using…some Klippans Lingarn linen threads, some DMC Perle No. 5, some crochet yarns. I love traditional techniques, yes, but I don’t believe in slavishly recreating things from the 15th century: I’m not interested in making replicas—that’s not very inventive or creative, and I like to experiment with things, and to use what I have on hand, and I don’t like being told that in order to make something I have to first buy “a traditional such-and-such from some Snooty & Sons, est. 1708, purveyor to H.M.”!

12 thoughts on “Headbands :: How To Work Them Into An Obsession

  1. So delicious! Headbands and how to work them is a brilliant book, I too own it. I once wrote a tutorial about French headbands, now it’s just buried somewhere in my blog though.


  2. I found you quite by accident, while looking for a book (and eventually found Headbands: How To Work Them, which I bought) but your photo-tutorial was SO helpful. My two friends and I set aside the afternoon yesterday and plunged in … after a fair amount of cussing and crying and complaining, we finally “got it”, and once you get the rhythm, it almost makes itself. I don’t often write comments, but I think The Smallest Forest is entrancing, inviting, full of wit and wisdom. I’ll be back – to help keep the Muse satisfied! Thanks!


  3. I also have that book and it’s pretty fabulous. I’m impressed with how industrious you are, already finishing all of those headbands. I have to admit that I haven’t even attempted one yet. 😦


    1. Ooh, I was just looking at your blog half an hour a go! You are so professional about it all, I am quite daunted!
      Ah, you know, the hardest part is to begin…I managed to get that over with quickly, and then it was easy. It only takes 30 minutes to headband a book that is an inch thick… at least with this basic headband, not tried the others yet.
      Thanks for the visit! See you on the book arts forum!


  4. how fantastic are these.. I love to wind my way through the instructions in a book.
    living where I do I rarely get a chance to study in person…. I would love to have been a silver smith… but I am a crafty person. Your colours and the purpose make your headbands a must… bravo
    sounds like your enjoying the wet.


    1. Shazz, yes I have been loving the wet! The monsoon kicked in on Saturday.
      On the other hand, I am not a classes/workshops person…I prefer to buy a few really good books on the craft, and learn from those. It’s not that I’m not a ‘people person’, but I shift into a different frame of mind when learning things, and prefer to be left alone with some very clear instructions and a few complex diagrams! Free to cuss, cry, and throw tantrums! *joke*


    1. Oh, Danielle, it was the least I could do to mention the book…it took me a little time to come across the title via http://www.bookartsforum.com (and that led me to Talas), so I hoped that one more mention on the web would make it easier for people to find this book…it is really wonderful, the sort of thorough reference one dreams will be out there on a particular subject, but too often doesn’t exist. The best purchase I made this year, I will use it for decades.


    1. So do I! And it was with regret that I ran out of bound books to put headbands on, as for every headband I stitched, I thought up 8 new color combinations to try! It is such a simple, yet deeply satisfying activity!


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