[Production Notes] Caravan by Hifsa Asharf

Today a poem went live in Folded Word’s #WrittenWordWednesday series that was written by a poet who lives in Pakistan. Since PayPal accounts are restricted there (thus no way to pay her royalty), I was asked to make a pamphlet for her that would be thin and light enough to mail several copies in a letter-sized envelope.

The first step was to figure out the construction method. If it was bound with a cardstock cover, then the dimensions would have to align perfectly so the binding wouldn’t crink in the big rollers the post office uses in sorting. Also with cardstock, only one copy could be sent per envelope rather than the required 4 copies. In studying “Caravan”, I realized I wanted readers to travel along with Hifsa Asharf on her search for homeland. To do that, a standard bi-fold signature simply would not work. Instead, I opted for a waterfall fold pamphlet made from a single sheet of paper without any need for stitching or gluing.

animation of waterfall fold
Waterfall Fold: working out the size and functionality using scrap paper from my Poetry Out Loud judges packet.

Once I had the mechanics figured out, including which “pages” would need to be set upside down vs. right side up in my InDesign file, it was time to design the content. I knew I wanted this pamphlet containing Hifsa’s tanka to summon the spirit of the ’60s chapbook revival — when marginalized poets huddled in basements around discarded mimeograph machines producing collections of their poetry for underground distribution. What better way to do this than by typing out the poem on my salvaged manual Corona? I photographed the ink-on-paper stanzas with my DSLR and imported them into my file.

Next came the issue of the cover. As you can see above, I originally wanted to do something hand-lettered. However when I finished with the zentangle border on graph paper (trying to emulate some patterns I’d seen on Pakistani pottery and tile), I didn’t like how busy the lettering was. After photographing, I covered the lettering with a white box in Photoshop and replaced it with a typewritten version of the title.

finished cover of Caravan by Hifsa Asharf
The finished pamphlet – a touch of warmth on a snowy day.
I was able to print two pamphlets per sheet of Caslon Ivory Parchment paper, double-sided on my laser printer (note: use the “bond paper” setting on your laser printer when doing this). I used a bone folder to get a crisp fold on the stiffer paper, which will help keep them flat in the mail and *cross fingers* ensure they actually arrive. I found that folding first and then cutting the pairs apart with my guillotine worked best. After I got the first pair of pamphlets done they looked a little bland, so I lightly tinted the zentangle border with watercolor pencil. So…what do you think?

Bookbinding Workshop at VynnArt

I love my new home! The winter white kept  me inspired from November through April, though I think I was the only person in the Lakes Region excited by all the snow we got. Now that the spring thaw is in full swing, I’ve been getting out and about. Last week I went to New York City for a chapbook festival. Next week I go to Western Massachusetts for a reading at Flying Object

Examples of the projects we’ll make. Click for a detailed workshop description.

…and next month I get to teach a three week workshop on bookbinding at the VynnArt Gallery in Meredith:-) I have given talks about chapbooks and bookbinding before, but this will be my first hands-on workshop. I look forward to sharing my passion for paper and thread with others. Maybe even with you?

Introduction to Bookbinding is designed for the absolute beginner, so no worries if you don’t know an awl from bone folder. And where else can you play with a guillotine? While the projects in this workshop are designed with 2D artists and photographers in mind, they can easily be adapted for writers wishing to make their own journals or bind their own writings into a collection. If there is enough interest, I’ll propose an intermediate workshop for autumn. But for now, download the workshop description and consider joining me for three weeks of wicked good fun putting paper in stitches while surrounded by Lakes Region art.

Prelude No1

The first Grayestone Journal is now available for purchase SOLD in the first hour through the Folded Shop, $9 US + $3 shipping ($6 int’l).

purchase from the Folded Shop
first blank journal of the series


  • 4.5″ wide / 5.5″ high / 0.3″ thick
  • 80 pages, celadon green parchment
  • 5 signatures, 2 signatures have custom fold-outs
  • 1 of 1, numbered and signed on last page
  • title page can be customized with buyer’s choice of words/name in calligraphy (uncial in black ink)
  • binding: 4 needle stitch, beeswax-coated Irish linen, embroidered with colored floss
  • cover: ultra-flexible softcover made with “Europa” archival paper from 7gypsies
  • disclosure: paper from reams salvaged from a university press, so some corners are dinged a bit

Additional photos available on Flickr. I am happy to answer any questions posted in the comments section.

IF YOU MISSED THIS ONE and would like a heads-up when the next one is released, please comment below and let me know. I’ll email you when the time comes.