August 2019


Concertina (or accordion) books are incredibly simple to make, require little in the way of equipment, yet provide for endless creative possibilities. Take a look in my online shop The Museum Shelves to see the many books I’ve made using this format.

Apart from paper, you only need a pair of scissors and some glue. For extra precision I like to use a scalpel and a ruler to cut out paper and also a bone folder to score and crease the paper. A good alternative to a bone folder is a knife from the cutlery drawer – just use the back (ie, blunt side) of the blade to score the paper and the handle to firm up the creases.

To make the pages of the book (known as the ‘book block’) simply fold/crease the paper to create alternating ‘valley’ and ‘mountain’ folds. You can make the pages any shape or size you want – the only restriction is the length of the piece of paper you are working with. This can easily be overcome by joining sections.

I prefer to join pages in a ‘valley’ fold as I find it is easier to hide the join at this point. You need to leave a tab at the end of the first strip of pages – about 1-2cm depending on the size of the pages.

Add glue to the tab on the left hand side and then align the pages on the new section and press firmly. Wipe away any excess glue.

The pages for my concertina books arrive from the printers on the roll. I first of all cut out the pages for an individual book.

I like to score the paper so that you get a good, crisp crease. To ensure the fold is at right angles to the edge of the paper I use the grid on a cutting book for guidance.

In theory, you should be able to go along the strip of paper scoring valley and mountain folds for creasing and end up with even pages . Inevitably, however, this results in pages that do not stack up exactly one on top of the other but have a tendency to creep in one direction or another. I get round this by only scoring and creasing the mountain folds. I then align the first mountain fold with the front edge of the paper which folds that section of paper exactly in half. I then place my fingers on the edge where the mountain fold is align and slip my bone folder under the top layer of paper so that I can crease the fold that is forming underneath.

I am somewhat of a perfectionist and, as I also sell my books, I need to make them to as high a standard as possible. Feel free to omit this refinement, or only adopt it once you have a made a few books and feel comfortable with the process.

You can just use the reverse of the front page to make a cover. I often do this when I’m making a mock-up of the books I design.

However, it is very easy to make a cover – and it does make it more book-like. To calculate the measurements for the cover you first need to decide by how much you want the cover to overlap the ‘book block’. I tend to allow about 0.25cm for the small books I make.

The width of the cover with will therefore be 2 x width of page plus 2 x width of overlap plus the width of the ‘spine’ (the middle part of the cover, which is determined by the depth of the book block). The height of the cover is 1 x height of page plus 2 x overlap. Note: there is no overlap allowed the side where the book block meets the spine of the cover.

I keep a record in my ‘Editions’ book of the size of the covers for each of my books.

While I often use PVA glue to join sections of a book together, I prefer to use double-sided tape to attach the book block to the cover. Alternatively, you can use something like Pritt. I prefer these options as there is no danger that ‘wet’ glue will make the paper in the front cover crinkle.

Attach a strip of double-sided tape (or used glue) on the reverse of the front page of your book on the side closest to the spine. Place the book block so that is aligned along the right hand side of the spine and has an equal overlap around the other three sides of the book block. Carefully close the cover so that the front and back cover edges are aligned.

The front page of the book will now be attached to the inside front of the cover. And that’s it!

Pages from my ‘Tulips’ concertina book

Next month I’ll look at how to plan the layout of a book by using storyboards and making mock-ups of your designs.


Red Admiral butterfly

It’s been a fantastic Summer for butteries so I thought I’d take a moment to consider the best plants for attracting wildlife into your garden.

Painted Lady butterfly

Top of the list is the buddleja which is not called the butterfly bush for nothing! It will go on attracting Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies well into Autumn.

It’s also useful for providing food for bees too…

Meadow Brown butterfly

…as is Echinops, or globe thistle and…

Painted Lady

…of course, lavender.


This month’s recipe is, appropriately enough in all this heat, from Morocco. This is a slight adaptation of the recipe I was kindly given by Fatima, the lovely chef at the fantastic Riad Le Calife in Fez.

Simple to make, these deliciously moist biscuits are perfect to eat sitting in the garden with some mint tea and memories of the fantastic holidays we’ve had in Marrakesh and Fez.

Coconut Ghriba

Makes 12 biscuits

1 large egg
50g icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g desiccated coconut
50g semolina
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
1 tbsp orange blossom water (optional)
icing sugar 

You will need

1 baking sheet
non-stick liner or baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark four and line the baking sheet.

Place the egg, sugar, oil and vanilla extract into a mixing bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the desiccated coconut, semolina and baking powder and mix well.  Cover the bowl with cling film and allow to stand for 10 minutes (this gives the finished biscuits a lovely texture and makes it much easier to shape them). 

Put the orange blossom water (or just plain water) into a small dish and use to moisten your hands before picking up a walnut-sized piece of the dough and firming it into a ball shape. Flatten this slightly between your palms and place on the baking sheet.  Repeat until you have 12 equal sized biscuits

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes until pale golden around the edges and slightly soft in the middle – the biscuits will be tough if they are overcooked.  

Leave the biscuits on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes to firm up and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Lightly dust with icing sugar.

These biscuits keep well stored in an airtight container.

Until September…

Work in Progress

I’m designing my latest concertina-fold book – a little book on British Butterflies.

Having researched information about the butterflies, I’ve drawn up a ‘story board’ showing the initial layout for the book.  The next stage is to produce a mock-up of the book as only when you’re turning the pages in your hand can you tell whether the layout of the book is going to work.  As you can see from the many rubbings out, the ideas get changed time and time again.

I’m currently working on the lettering, using my favourite Sennelier ink (grey rather than my usual choice of brown) and experimenting with different nibs.  Once I’m happy with that I’ll start work on the illustrations of the butterflies.

Flowers for Butterflies – A Little Concertina Book

I’ve always gardened for wildlife – I love watching the butterflies, bees and birds that come into the garden.

This female green-veined white butterfly spent a long time feeding on a sunflower in the garden – long enough for this photograph to be taken!  It prompted me to think about producing a little concertina book that illustrated the flowers that attract butterflies into a garden. If you’re looking to add a plant or two to do the same, here are the Latin names of the flowers illustrated in the ‘Flowers for Butterflies’ book:

Wallflower – Erysimum
Pasque Flower – Pulsatilla vulgaris
Pinks – Dianthus
Hollyhocks – Alcea rosea
Cranesbill – Geranium
Heartsease – Viola tricolor
Lavender – Lavendula
Shasta Daisy – Leucanthemum x superbum
Pincushion Flower – Scabious
Sunflowers – Helianthus annuus
Primroses – Primula vulgaris
Sneezeweed – Helenium
Purple Coneflowers – Echinacea purpurea
Red Valerian – Centranthus ruber
Stonecrop – Sedum spectabile
Michaelmas Daisies – Aster symphyotrichum
Verbena – Verbena bonariensis
Butterfly Bush – Buddleja davidii

Butterflies prefer a warm and sheltered part of the garden so plant your chosen flowers in such a spot and wait for the butterflies to come and feed.

A small tortoiseshell butterfly on a lavender plant.