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Challenge 17: Coptic Book Binding


Through and through, I am a creature of habit. My planner is the most important purchase of the year and I thrive off my Sunday night organization session where I outline my upcoming week in multi-colored pens. I have certain habits for grocery shopping and laundry and when I like to study foreign languages.

These routines, much like running and writing, keep me grounded and focused. But at some point, routines can become too much. It isn’t until you’ve stepped outside of yourself for a day or a week that you notice how much you’ve missed. You know that feeling of taking a long weekend trip? Suddenly, Saturday seems to last forever as you forget about buying bananas and bread and focus on enjoying wherever you are.

All this is to say that while I appreciate some of the structures I’ve given my life, I can’t help but wonder what’s just outside the box. The new idea for Sunday blog posts is to write about one experience I had in the previous week that was out of routine, that wasn’t predictable, that made me think a little differently about myself and the world I live in.

Challenge 17: Coptic Book Binding

Last fall, I was at an event for work perusing the auction table. There was a gift that hadn’t been bid on yet – a “Brooklyn Enrichment Package.” It had gift cards to different experiential places – the Brooklyn Brainery, a dance studio, the Textile Arts Center. The amount of gift cards made the minimum bid worth it and I turned to a colleague and told her I was going to write my name. In my mind, it was going to make me try new things and it was a bargain!

She turned back and reminded me that I live in Manhattan. I paused for a second.

True, but maybe this will make me actually go to Brooklyn. Trying all kinds of new things.

We laughed and at the end of the day I took my prize to research my new adventures.

The Textile Arts Center hosts classes in two studios (one in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan) in embroidery and crocheting and fabric dying and so on. I was looking at my options before my eyes settled on Coptic Book Binding.

In truth – I had never heard of Coptic Book Binding. But it had the word “book” in the title so I was intrigued.

Coptic Book Binding was developed in 4th century Egypt. Coptic Books are defined by the stitches that stretch across the spine allowing the book to open flat. I was sold.

After work, I hopped on the train to the West Village studio (okay, so we’re still working on the “go to Brooklyn more” thing). My class was small: a teacher, three other students, and myself. As I was sitting on the subway, a wave of doubt clouded my vision. It had been a long week and I’m not sure I have the brain power to learn a completely new skill. What if I’m really bad at it? I’m already tired and…

All my fears were silenced when I sat down at the table. The other ladies around the table talked about their backgrounds in the arts and why they were interested in this. Then we got to work.

Three hours later. I was holding my very own book. I had folded and cut my paper (they’re called signatures). I had cut my covers and decorated them. I had used the awl to punch holes in the covers. I had sewn every page. I had made a book.

As I finished my book and opened it flat for the first time, I was hit with this weird burst of adrenaline. I had made a book. From start to finish, I had made every aspect of this book. I looked at my classmate who was doing the same heart-eyed smile. We made books!

There’s something really beautiful about having the opportunities to do things like this. There is something really fascinating about being able to walk into a studio with zero knowledge of the process or the history of the craft or anything and walk out with something you made.

This brings me to my last point – if you are ever given the opportunity to learn something new, take it… even if it might mean going to Brooklyn.

Love always,


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