Headband Challenge

Celtic Weave Geometry, blank book, featuring two-coloured Coptic endbands, bound and designed by H. Kurzke,

My love with headbands has been a fierce but sporadic one. I first learned to make Coptic headbands in from Nina Judin in 2009. While she was teaching us, I found the directional asymmetry of the Coptic stitch (and endbands) striking. I asked her whether instead of from left to right, it would be possible to work from right to left. – She confirmed. I then asked her whether you could do both, first making one from left to right, and then another one, maybe in a second colour from right to left. – She didn’t quite get what I meant, and I had trouble explaining. — That was the start of researching, not finding, and finally developing my two coloured headbands.

My fumbling with a simple headband the other day

Since then I have been fascinated by headbands, and I started to invent headband-type stitching and included them with my books. I not only did my own thing, of course, mostly I looked into traditional styles, monastic endbands, headbands with beads on the edge and on the spine, French, Renaissance… I then fell pregnant with twins, and when I was not yet in hospital (that’s a whole different story which I talked about in length here) but already restricted to my couch, I made this bunch of training pieces that I just found again the other day (see below).

Different headbands, training cards

And then I had twins… Bookbinding became something I didn’t do daily anymore, and headbands were done in bouts of sudden fierce love, but restricted by the fact that you can’t just go and look what your children are doing and then return to it later.

Every time I return to headbanding, I feel like I am starting from scratch again, and I need something more steady to keep me going again. so I thought:

Headband Challenge

Mainly I am going to challenge myself. I’ll find a topic per month and make a headband to it. It will probably start with some styles, but maybe also just design challenges, like “three coloured” or “asymmetric” or something like that. Wouldn’t it be fun to support each other in learning. We could share our efforts and teach each other a thing or two. Just like the old times, when the book binding forum still existed. If you are “in”, then please let me know. (I’d love to hear that I am not alone in this!), follow me on instagram and/or the hashtag #headbandingchalling to find the challenge for each month, and tag your work , too. Let me type it once again: #headbandingchallenge. Let’s get talking about them again!

Links and Literature

I have two books dedicated to headbands

  • Jane Greenfield and Jenny Hille, “Headbands, How to Work them”, ISBN 978-0-938768-51-7, Oak Knoll Press
  • Les Tranchfiles Brodées. Etude historique et technique, Bibliothèque Nationale – contributors are listed in the preface, but it’s published without author’s name(s), apparently to emphasis the joint effort of the whole conservatory team; this one proved really hard to get my hands on…

You’ll also find headbands instructions in most books on bookbinding (as part of the finishing).

There are many blogs out there that deal with different endbands. The one I like best is:

Here’s a little bit of self-promotion and links to my own stuff:

Got more useful links or literature references? – Let me know, and I’ll include them.


  • BPG Endband Wiki – Only discovered this one right now, and going by the title it should be an awesome resource
  • Rodrigo Ortega used to post about all kinds of endbands and made beautiful examples. His main blog seems no longer maintained, but here are still a lot of examples: https://artesdellibro.mx/cabezadas
example with bead on the spine

A New Book – Greek Eco Journal

Greek Binding by H .Kurzke, blank book, complete open cover view

Things move slowly along their projectory in this house. And I have to learn to come to terms with that. In the artist book/scroll that is today for the last day on display in the Share Bears Exhibition at Backlit, I wrote:

And then, very suddenly as if someone had pulled a lever, something shifts within me, it is an almost physical feeling inside my chest:
This torn and pushed, hasted feeling of never being enough vanishes. Where there used to be a hard, heavy spot like a stone right under my right clavicle, there now is soft tissue, a source of confidence and calm. I realize that I have been fighting for a long, long time against being pigeonholed: as a student of a specific subject, as a teacher, a mathematician, an artist, a mother, …

And right here and now I stop fighting. I know that I will be fine.

from “346. A Journey While Staying As Still as Possible” by H. Kurzke

While maybe this lesson lasted in that I don’t care as much as before to fit within a prescribed shoe-box, the haste, and feeling of not being enough, is still very much there. The many things of which I do “just 30 minutes daily” eat up pretty much all of each day, and so, everything takes time…

The pages for this book were eco printed in 2021, almost 10 years ago, and thus have been sitting on my desk for almost a decade, waiting to be bound into a book. That sounds so solemn, but actually, it involved moving twice, one of them across borders.

some pages are blank, some are printed, all are handmade (not by me) 100% rag paper

The covers are semi-soft, laminated boards, covered with goatskin, decorated with eggshell panel and a laced in parchment strip (painted with an acrylic paint). And those have been sitting around, with the pages inside, for 3 years now. So high time to actually, finally, get the book bound.

I had 12 gathering prepared with a mix of printed and not-printed pages. I was always going to make this a Coptic binding, but decided on the spot to make it a Greek binding. What I like about the Greek binding is that it is symmetrical. A chain stitch always has a direction, you put on a new signature, and then link it with the signatures before, and thus it is always visible in which direction you have sewn the book, and the covers are attached essentially the same, but due to the direction of the sewing, there’s always the cover that was put on first, and the cover that was put on last. A Greek binding on the other hand, has the two halves of the book sewn individually and identically, and then there’s a symmetric, figure eight style join in the middle of the two halves. To show and stress that, I decided to choose a different coloured thread fort his joining part.

spine view

There are many different Coptic Style or Chain bound binding styles. There are those “with lock” and those “without lock”, and to make the chain, you always link to previous sections, and this is done by a “drop one” in the simplest case, but can also involve a “drop 2” or “drop 3” and so on. A Greek binding according to K. Smith’s instructions involve a “drop 3”, and thus requires at least 20 signatures. So I modified the instructions slightly. The pages that I am using have a high volume and since the format is rather small (A6) I figured, a “drop 2” would be enough for stability, and it allowed me to do the binding with 6 signatures for each half. I then added two completely empty gatherings for the linking in the middle.

Yue Fung Button Thread – 3-ply, lightly waxed linen thread

The binding thread is Yue Fung Button thread, and I must say, I am very impressed with how it stood up. I used it as it came from the spool (lightly waxed) for the green stitches, the sewing of the two halves. And then, for the linking, I chose to additionally wax it lightly – but I don’t think this would have been necessary. It’s such a pleasant thread to work with. Although it wasn’t waxed, it didn’t show any signs of abrasion damage. For this book I used the thickest thread they make. They label it was 332 (to indicate it compares to Fils Au Chinois, Lin Cable No. 332), but it is thinner than that. I would say it’s very comparable to a NeL 18/3 thread. They do not label their thread with the industry standard NeL, though.

Here some more images of my book, click to see more.

Freshly Pressed

Yay! A new newsletter. The first one in almost two years. Incredible. I always intend to write them more regularly when I have just finished one, so maybe I shouldn’t promise too much. But if you’d like to see a very short summary of the last 2 years, plus a 30% discount inside, have a look on my newsletter page to download the latest edition.

Back to Life, Back to Reality…

beeswax in a variety of forms

Have I shown you all the new wax pieces yet that I have made last autumn? – I am not sure anymore. Lockdown came on hard and too fast last December. Anyway, if you want to take a look, head over to my supplies page and download the new catalogue. Or you could click through to my newly re-opened Folksy shop (or Etsy) and take a look there at even shinier photos. I realize, I have not even listed all the blocks yet.

Well, about Brexit and lockdowns and all the miserable in the world… The past year for me – as for many others – has been a little bit like living under a glass dome. But the last lockdown hit especially hard. I am not the only one experiencing this winter lockdown or rather, for me it’s the school closure that’s so very disruptive, especially hard. While I was home schooling (and I was home schooling more than many of my co-home teaching fellow parents), I had to close shops and didn’t get much done in way of my own art projects.

Now I feel like I am re-surfacing and find the world changed. I opened my shops again, albeit, only for UK customers for now. It’ll take me a few weeks to figure out how to ship internationally in this changed world now, marked by postal delays and new custom borders.

I am also trying to sort through my begun, ongoing, or maybe abandoned art projects.

New Work: At Home

I did work on a few ideas since last summer. It is still a little too “unbaked” to formulate in coherent speech, but it’ll be about premature birth (again), and I strive to use a new way of interaction. For that I started to teach myself electronics:

a breadboard and arduino board
One of my very first arduino sketches: a modified “blink” (with an on/off toggle switch), the electronics variant of each programmer’s first program: “hello world”

I don’t think I am especially good at computer stuff. I wanted to be good at it for a while, and I studied computer science for a while (without finishing it). But I wasn’t all that brilliant back then. And that was more than 20 years ago.

While back then a new computer meant to fun and joy to discover what new it could do, now I am mostly annoyed by things not working the way they did before, whenever I have to change computer. – So I am your typical, mid 40s woman for you there.

But what maybe sets me apart a little, is that I am not afraid of digging into code when I have to. I managed to learn to program before, I refuse to believe that there’s something I can’t learn if I want to. And so I just started. I bought a student kit from arduino, and just got started.

What I would like to build, ultimately, is a room (or a model) with a life-image that viewers on the internet can interact with. For example open a drawer when they click a button on a website.

In principle this should be straight forward. Arduinos are relatively small and easy control boards that are programmed in a programming language that’s essentially C or C++ which is what I used before.

Therefore it didn’t come as a surprise that I found the programming side of electronics to be the easy part. However, now there’s also mechanics, electrical circuits, and, well, all that real-world stuff involved. And that’s where it got hard for me. Especially the mechanics, gears, spokes, and putting it all together. Gears work so easily in theory, but when you put them together, even just a few wobbles can make it all fail.

I posted a series of videos on instagram, if you want to see a bit of the progress I made over a few days. Do let me know if you like these kind of images, and what else you might want to see!

a miniature hat to put in the miniature drawer, so that something is revealed by opening the drawer

But, yeah, that’s how far I got with that project: I have a model with a teeny tiny chest of drawers, and when you press a little button, a wonky robot arm pulls open a drawer. The plan at this moment is threefold: a) to make that button virtual, b) to add more interactive elements to the dollhouse (and more things), and c) work on a larger scale model to interact with; this one is too small… – I’ll keep you updated.

Milk and Blood and Thing with Feathers

I posted here before about my statue that pretty much took me the last 12 months to finish. Those who follow my instagram stream have seen images of first the feet, the legs, my struggle with the hands, and images of how I finished the bird baby during lockdown at home. It’s the biggest of my paper mache projects to date. I envisioned it from the start as some kind of book – as all my paper mache scultpures I made so far. There’s the heads who I think of as scroll cases with the scroll still missing. I have an idea what I want them to say in principle, but they are still lacking their words in any concrete way.

I can see the statue clearly within my body of work that also has the “Flight” sculpture – without words, and the “eggs” – again without words. Yet for this one, words were always important to me.

And now I have found them:

Milk and blood until she bleeds.
Men and women, repeat, repeat.

Drink deeply, until she bleeds,
she will be one or two or three.

Made inside her, thing with feathers,
made with blood until she bleeds.

She heard that hope is in the heart,
love, moon, cycle, until she bleeds.

Rings of life, her body the sea.
a crumb in the gale, until she bleeds.

Hope and pact with angel birds,
she feeds the storm, until she bleeds.

Her body milk, life of another,
the soul is pregnant, until she bleeds.

Milk and blood, thing with feathers,
is what stays until she bleeds.

makes love, imagines endlessly,
pregnant bird, until she bleeds.

I am not 100% sure this is the final text. Not that I am unhappy at this moment with any part of it, but I intent to leave it for a couple of weeks, and then I am going to put it onto the statue itself. I am not quite sure yet, how. I think I would like to simply write them on, or maybe project them onto it.

Would that make it book art?

(click to enlarge)

I think it does, because the words are an integral part of it. Actually I think of the video on the top already as book art.
I know that some might react and think: Well, if the artist calls it a book, then it is one. But then you have to take that seriously, and interprete what you see really as a book. Too often, I think, this sentence is thrown out to reject the discussion about whether it is a book, what is a book. And that discussion, the question: “What can I make that bends the boundaries but still is accepted as a book?” That question is central to my work, and I’d be ever so grateful if you would want to join the discussion.

And with that, I claim:

  1. The video above is a piece of book art.
  2. The statue with the text projected onto it is a (different from the video) piece of book art.

Do you agree? Would you have described it as such without my claim? Does it change your interpretation of the piece?