Thursday, November 12, 2020

Resewing & Restoring Endbands

If you have followed our blog, you may remember that we have mentioned resewing endbands previously as part of a full binding restoration. Endbands, sometimes referred to as headbands, are attached to the spine of a book at both the head and tail and rest between the spine and the cover.

Handsewn endband

Endbands can be structural components of a binding as well as decorative elements. They may also simply be aesthetic with no real substantive support to the book. There are many different types of sewn and "stuck-on" endbands. Stuck-on endbands may be machine-made or handsewn separate from the book and adhered to the spine of the book with adhesive. Sewn endbands, rather than just being glued to the spine, are mechanically attached to the spine with thread. Periodically, as an endband is sewn, it is anchored to the spine of the book by a loop of thread that goes down into a section of pages, through the spine, and back up to loop around the endband again. (See picture below.)

Image of several textblocks with handsewn endbands with anchoring threads sewn through the spine of each textblock
Aatu Dorochenko, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Sewn endbands may be sewn with a single color of thread or they may have several colors interwoven to create a decorative pattern. One of our favorite reference books for sewing many different kinds of endbands is Headbands: How to Work Them by Jane Greenfield and Jenny Hille. Endband sewing patterns may vary by historical time period or by geographical location, or both. The most common structure we use is a single core endband with a bead on the edge or the spine. The thread wraps a single core material, such as linen cord, and a bead, or decorative weave or braid, is created as the cord overlaps itself.

Stuck on endband material
Stuck on endband

Stuck-on endbands come in many varieties as well. In some cases, an endband may be handsewn as described above but separate from the book and later adhered to the spine with adhesive. In such a case, the endband serves more as decoration than as structural. Many mass-produced hardcover books have stuck-on endbands that have been machine woven to appear similar to handsewn endbands. This type of endband is sold in rolls that can be cut to length based on the width of the spine. (See picture above.) Stuck-on endbands can also be made by adhering cloth or paper around a core of cord, which is also cut to length based on the spine width and adhered with adhesive. (See picture below.)

Handmade stuck-on endbands
paper or cloth wrapped
around linen cord
Handmade stuck-on endband

Often, when completing more extensive book restoration projects, we need to resew endbands. In many cases, there are remnants of endband threads still attached to a book indicating that one was once present. Or, we will find one endband intact and the other missing and needing a replacement. It is nice to find at least one of the endbands still intact so that we can model the replacement from it. However, if both endbands are missing, we have to do some guesswork based on the historical time period of the binding for what style and colors of endbands might have been used originally.

Left: linen cord core for an endband
Right: linen cord wrapped in paper

If we have an endband to use as an example, we try to match it as closely as possible. One step of that process is to use a core material that is close to the diameter of the original. Endbands may be sewn on linen cord, leather, parchment, rolled paper, or other materials. We most often use linen cord, though at times we have to adjust the diameter of our cord by rolling it in paper (see image above) to more closely resemble the original. Then, we try to match the thread and pattern of the original endband as we resew a new one.

Partial replacement of a sewn endband

Recently, a book had part of the original endband still attached but about a third of it was missing. Because the remaining portion was in relatively good condition and securely attached, a partial endband was created to supplement the original. This proved somewhat challenging in that a new core needed to become an extension to the existing core. Fortunately, the exiting core was the same diameter as our linen cord. The new cord was consolidated (stiffened and compacted with adhesive) and tipped onto the existing cord with a drop of adhesive. Once dry, a the winding threads were wrapped in the same pattern around the new cord and it was periodically anchored to the book by sewing down through a section of pages and out through the spine. It can be a challenge matching thread colors at times. In the case of this repair, the original thread was quite discolored from age and dust, so it may have been a more successful match if a darker thread was used rather than the cream colored thread pictured. Hindsight is always 20/20, no?

Resewing an endband

Sewing endbands is both tedious and time-consuming, but it is also very rewarding as it provides both structural support to a binding as well as aesthetic beauty. It can be somewhat meditative as well as it is a repetitive task that requires a great deal of focus - perfect work for 2020.