Moonlight Bindery: handcrafted books in Alexandria, VA

Katie's studio

I have met many creative people in the Washington DC area who own and operate a handcrafted business, but Katie Wagner is unique among them. She is the owner and creative soul behind Moonlight Bindery, where she makes hand bound books for all occasions. Her educational and employment background is in…believe it or not, bookbinding and book conservation! This is unlike the typical DC area crafter, who might be an accountant who likes to make jewelry, or a lawyer who bakes cupcakes for birthday parties on the side.

Katie has been interested in bookbinding since college. She took classes in book conservation at the Smithsonian Institute, and has studied under Tom Albro, former Chief of Conservation at the Library of Congress. Suffice to say she knows a thing or two about making books, making them beautiful, and making them last.

While working in the conservation field, Katie occasionally made decorative books for friends and family, but didn’t start Moonlight Bindery until August of 2007, when she opened her Etsy shop on a whim. After enjoying brisk holiday sales, she began applying to area craft shows, including the Crafty Bastards show hosted by the Washington DC City Paper. Her experiences with Etsy and shows like Crafty Bastards showed her that people in the DC area and in general were hungry for unique, handmade items, and she knew she was on to something.

coptic bound book

Katie’s product line has evolved over the years, and now she offers two basic types of book: coptic bound and case-bound. The coptic bound journals, like the Build Your Own Cover books made from LEGO base plates, are sewn together by hand. Katie folds the paper to into sections, and then cuts them to size. She punches holes in the sections and then sews each section together by hand. For case-bound books, Katie uses pre-printed text blocks (e.g. the printed innards of an address book or agenda/planner), and creates a decorative cover using boards, bookcloth, and anything else that strikes her fancy from her collection of lovely materials. After the case-bound books are assembled using archival, acid-free glue, they spend a while in Katie’s cast-iron nipping press to ensure a lasting bond.

cast iron nipping press

Using these two processes and a variety of materials, Katie can make an essentially endless array of books. She is inspired by the materials she uses, and not just traditional bookbinding supplies. In addition to LEGO base plates, she has used handmade papers, paste paper, fabric, chalkboard oil cloth, felt, maps, custom-printed bookcloth, and even Hershey’s kisses wrappers to make books!

chalkboard oil cloth case-bound journal

Katie is also inspired by her customers, and loves to work with clients on special projects. She can even add foil lettering to the final book using her hot stamp machine, for personalized items like wedding or baby photo albums. She always purchases her special materials – felts, fabrics, and fancy papers – in small quantities, so her books are always unique. Looking at some of her custom creations, I can’t help but covet the idea of a travel journal made from a map of the place I’m going to visit!

book made with map of Europe

Although sometimes people don’t think of books as possibly handcrafted items, Katie has found that people respond very well to her products. “The DC area is full of libraries, and as a result, people who value books,” she says. Those people really treasure the idea of a handmade journal or photo album. Most of the time at craft shows, she is the only bookbinder, and people really do appreciate the effort that goes into each item. Katie has found that even people who have taken bookbinding classes would rather buy from her than make their own!

Bookbinding may be an unusual craft, but it is in Katie’s blood, and she didn’t even know it back when she took her first conservation class. Her great-great-grandfather was a bookbinder who emigrated to the US from Denmark. His picture sits in her studio as inspiration, and as proof that Moonlight Bindery was meant to be!

marbled paper case-bound book

You can find Katie’s handcrafted books in her shop and at local craft shows.

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I heart Pomegranates

{image credit Heidi Adnum}

The Mascot stood in front of the open fridge and called out, “Hey, Mom. What’s with all of this pomegranate stuff?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said as I sipped my pomegranate-flavoured green tea and watched the flame dance from my hand-poured pomegranate-scented soy candle. The kid has a point, though; we really do have a lot of pomegranate products in the fridge and around the house. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen examples. From the pantry to the powder room, there is hardly a room in the house that the funny little fruit doesn’t make an appearance, in one form or another. Without me realizing it, pomegranate has become the new pumpkin.

So, what is it about pomegranates that makes them so irresistible; and for how long have people fallen under their spell? Some believe that in the story of The Garden of Eden, it was actually a tempting pomegranate, and not an apple, that led to Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden. And, in Greek mythology, it was pomegranate seeds that forever tied Persephone to Hades, lord of the underworld. The Pomegranate Rose perfume oil (pictured above) by Flourish Bath and Body combines the captivating essence of pomegranates with rose, red berries, and lemon zest. That sounds impossible to resist!

Bursting with its 613 juicy seeds, or arils, pomegranates are (for obvious reasons) an unabashedly sexy fruit. For centuries, cultures around the world have embraced them as symbols of marriage, love and fertility. Following the principals of Fung Shui, newly married couples in China display the fruit for good luck and to encourage success in producing offspring. Israel-based designer Yael Falk, aka Yoola, uses fine metal wire to crochet these delicate and striking pomegranate sculptures (above); perfect for gifting to newlyweds (or keeping for yourself). If you are feeling especially brave and would like to try your hand at making your own, she also offers the pattern as a downloadable PDF tutorial.

Introduced to California by Spanish settlers in the late 1700s, pomegranates originate in the Mediterranean, where they have been cultivated since ancient times. According to legend, the goddess Aphrodite brought the pomegranate to Cypress and there are mentions of these mysterious fruits in the Bible, the Koran, Homer’s Odyssey and even in the inscriptions found in the kings’ tombs of Egypt. As beautiful as the fruit that inspires them, these silver and garnet earrings (above) by Dganit Herzog have a royal connection as well; Dganit’s maternal grandfather was a royal goldsmith in Iran.

Thanks to the health-promoting properties of its juice, the pomegranate is known as a Superfruit; a term coined to describe fruits of “exceptional nutrition.” In fact, just one cup of pomegranate juice contains 40% of an adult’s vitamin C requirements, plus potassium, vitamin b5 and an abundance of antioxidants. Those virtues aside, it’s hard to deny that the appeal for most of us is the sweet-tart flavour and irresistible scent. Amber Dawn, of Caravan Herbal Beauty, captures that tanginess perfectly in her organic Pomegranate Peach lip balm (pictured above). Pucker up!

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, pomegranate juice is used to treat everything from sagging breasts to cataracts. Applied topically, pomegranate has a laundry-list of benefits including its ability to soothe, moisturize and regenerate the skin. In this serum (pictured above) by Rainwater Botanicals, pure pomegranate seed oil is combined with phytochemical-rich sea-buckthorn to provide an intensive treat for problematic and aging skin.

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  • Handknit Hugs
  • Spring Organization: Workspaces
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  • Fiber Jewelry by Susan Sanders
  • A pincushion for every day
  • Twirly Fabulous Upcycled Sweater Skirts
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