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Sometimes all you need is something simple! I was recently involved with the production of Njal’s Saga, directed by Master Toki Skáldagörvir (Michael Dixon) in the Barony of Thescorre, Kingdom of Aethelmearc. I performed in the production, two sections of the saga to which we devoted a full day of performance and two years of planning. I kind of have a helium hand problem going on and was struggling at the end to feel confident off-book. I knew both parts well, but the flow of some of the translation never felt quite right to me and so I would stumble. Icelandic saga is BRAND NEW to me, and I learned a great deal, but I didn’t want to let Toki down. Many people were not off-book, and so I decided at the last moment that I would keep my notes with me. Toki had asked though that we provide a suitable covering rather than a paperback or pieces of paper.

So of course I made a book. The night before. Nuts? No. Pamphlet stitch.

We had revised our parts for time and flow and so I needed to print my part from a digital copy rather than from a book. I did that using a favorite tool of mine called Cheap Imposter. This is shareware for the Mac that will take your linear digital document and position the text for binding. You tell it the size of the sheet, how many pages you want on each sheet, and how many sheets in each signature. It then does the work, including shifting the text over a fraction of an inch to adjust for the depth of the folded signature – so your text lines up as you turn the page. As long as you remember to change the printer settings to short- or long-edge binding as needed. (DO read the documentation – it really helps alleviate the frustration with getting it right!) Over time, you learn the patterns of how the pages back onto each other, and then the tool is simply handy for the fraction-of-an-inch bump to the text block for aesthetics. What’s not to love?

I chose a compiled quarto of 8.5 x 11″ paper, which is basically two sheets of paper folded once from the landscape position, making two nested folios. The page layout then looks like this:

Compiled Quarto Diagram

I took my printed pages and then dug through my stash of cover stock to find something remotely reasonable for a period production. I cut it down to size, folded it and then punched three sewing stations through the cover and the two signatures I ended up with based on the length of my text. One hole was at dead center, the others 1/2″ in from the head and tail.

To stitch the pamphlet, decide if you want your tied ends to be inside or outside. If outside, begin stitching from the outside; if inside begin stitching from the inside. I chose inside for this so as to be discrete, and I did not desire to use the ends to tie the book shut. (A technique I use often when teaching this stitch to children, allowing them to add decorative beads.) Go in the center hole, up to the top and pass through that hole – signature AND cover, then all the way down to the bottom, through that hole and back through the middle. Tighten up your thread and tie a knot. Do this for as many signatures as needed. Note: do be careful with the selection of your cover material if you have multiple signatures, and consider punching sewing stations next to each other, rather than using the same hole (as I did below) so as to not tear your cover.

Guess what? You’re done. Easy peasy. And I was done – I actually only prepped the materials the night before and sewed it the morning of the production. What? That’s pretty normal!

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