Bookbinding Soft Weight Tutorial

Time to add to my collection of soft weights. I actually have more than I’ll ever need. But I don’t yet have any chipmunk weights . . .

These are so handy when you need to weigh down small or irregularly-shaped items as they dry. I often use these when making miniature books or boxes.

I originally found instructions on Pam Sussman’s Book Arts Studio blog. This is very similar, but with my own tweak or two.

Aside from some cloth, you’ll need some BB’s. As Pam recommended, I’ve been using the copper-coated premium type.

For each weight, you’ll need:

  • BBs as described above
  • 2-3 plastic Ziploc-style bags that are around 3″x5″ (7.5 x 13 cm) or 4″x6″ (10 x 15 cm)
  • Two pieces of fabric cut 1″ ( 2.5 cm) larger on the sides and about 1.5″ (4-ish cm) longer than your Ziploc-style bags

Place the fabric right sides together and sew around 3 sides using a 1/4″ seam allowance (my metric conversion says approximately .6 cm, but the 10 mark on my sewing machine gauge is the one closest. You non-Americans can probably figure it out.). I go over the seam 2-3 times to make sure it is really strong. Clip the corners and press the seams open. Tuck the open top down about 1/2″ all around and press. Turn right-side out.

Fill one of the Ziplocs with BBs. Make it full, but not too full and tight. The feel of a firm beanbag is good. Personally, I don’t care for the slight scent of the BBs. I also don’t trust one flimsy plastic bag not to tear. So after I fill up the Ziploc and firmly seal it, I tuck it inside another Ziploc the same size, top side down. This one here in the example is actually triple-ply. This makes your weight sturdier, and also ensures that the slight aroma of BBs stays inside where it belongs.

Slip the filled sack of BBs into your sewn pouch. You could hand stitch it shut, but for laziness and durability I prefer finishing with a regular straight stitch on the machine. Like the other seams, I go over it at least once more. This will give you a nice solid weight that will feel like a heavy beanbag. This one here is 3 1/4 lbs (1.5 kg). The smaller ones in the first picture are more like 1 to 1-1/2 lbs (.5-.7 kg). Either size is handy for weighing down small and awkward items as they dry.

Ta da!

17 thoughts on “Bookbinding Soft Weight Tutorial”

  1. Hmm…isn’t this also known as a “cosh” the traditional mugging weapon? ;-) (Jokes aside, I made a similar sack, filled with small gravel.)

  2. Love this! I desperately need weights and I so have to make these. It shouldn’t be too hard to find BBs in Vermont – they shoot things here. :)

  3. Hah, what a nice use for the chipmunk fabric! I have not yet a single soft weight. This sounds and looks just so useful! Will have to try it. But what’s BB? They smell and are copper coated, mhm, so it is probably not something to eat…

    • They are quite useful. I hope you get to make yourself a few. BBs are air rifle pellets. In spite of my comment about lead above, I think they are actually still made of lead, but are now coated. They are quite heavy relative to their size. Are the sales of such things restricted in Germany? I hadn’t even thought of it, being here in the US where one can buy ammunition of all sorts at the same variety store where prescription drugs and cat litter are sold!

      • I see. No, I cannot buy these here. As far as I know – and I know very little – buying ammo is even more restricted than buying weapons here. But I am sure I can find some substitute. Will check out the craft store and ask whether they have lead pellets. Reading Dinah’s comment, I might go for gravel, too.

        • Very interesting. I’d be curious to hear what you wind up being able to get. I’m thinking perhaps also the lead that is used inside exercise weights? How heavy are pie crust weights (I have no idea). And gravel too…although I suspect anything with a lead base would be heavier. BBs are very dense. You pick up this little bottle of them and it’s startling how heavy it is.

          We Americans have such a strange view on things like the ready availability of ammunition! Alas. It gives me a weird satisfaction (if that’s quite the word) to buy them, knowing these will be used to bind books rather than shoot anything! (You should also see some of the strange looks I get from the guys tending the ammo case!)

          • Hm, apparently I was wrong in thinking I couldn’t buy air rifle pellets here. Looks like I actually can. But I am confused by the terminology and can’t figure out what I really need. Probably need to find a place where I can buy them in person and can talk to staff. Mhm, will have to search and think, I am sure I won’t be able to buy them in a supermarket (which I saw while driving though South Dakota).

            • I have to admit it was confusing for me too. The way it works here–at least in California–is there is a locked case in the back of the store with the ammunition in it, including BBs/air rifle pellets. Someone has to open the case and take your ammo to the front of the store for you. For all I know there are other kinds of BBs that I might even prefer, but these particular kind that I use are the only ones that come in a clear container. The rest are in boxes with descriptions that, to someone how does not shoot, seem rather cryptic. So I wind up just pointing to the ones in the clear container! It would be great if you can actually get someone to explain what is what to you.

              Hmmm…. yeah, I don’t suppose you can buy air rifle pellets at the supermarket in Germany. Or probably in a supermarket much of anywhere outside the USA. You were in South Dakota? I drove across once too, many years ago. Very different from California. Very different…

              • Can’t say much about the difference between California and South Dakota since I have seen so few of both states. But I trust you on this .

                I visited California only for a weekend in San Francisco and while I felt really safe where I usually stayed and walked in Minneapolis, that was the first time when I was afraid and happy to be back in the hotel after walking the streets at night. The most disturbing view was of someone apparently passed out with the head first in a garbage can; but that was during the day.

                I drove through South Dakota together with now hubby then boy-friend to visit Mount Rushmore on a weekend trip from Minneapolis. Before that trip I thought Minnesota with immense and empty of people. When I came back it looked rather crowded to me :-)

                • It’s sad. The last time I stayed in San Francisco, it was near the main public library so I could go see Marking Time when it was on display there. It was genuinely frightening to walk down the streets at night, and one of the women working at the desk in my hotel urged me to use caution going out at night. “They especially go after obvious out-of-towners” she said. Swell.

                  Driving across South Dakota is amazing. Mount Rushmore is so much more impressive in person, I thought, than it appeared in any photo I’d ever seen. A highlight of the trip for me was also driving to DeSmet–the “Little Town on the Prairie” that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in and wrote about.

  4. What a fabulous idea Ellen! Now I am really without the facilities and tools of uni this is the sort of thing I need to know – effective DIY! Thanks for sharing this :)

    • Alas… from the riches of a well-equipped uni to trying to DIY it on instruction from the Chipmunk! Oh dear. Actually, I think one of the things I like about making books is that so much can be DIY. Up to a point…

      Are you thinking of getting involved with the new London Centre for Book Arts that’s being started up by Simon Goode? I believe they’re still looking for a place, but equipment access for non-uni types is, I think, a lot of the idea behind it.

  5. I finally made two of these. I’ve had the BBs for several years! They are just great and your instructions are super. Thanks for the expertise.

    • Glad they worked for you! I love these. I actually need to make more. V. discovered that holding them makes his hands feel better when he’s tremoring badly. So I now have fewer for bookbinding… !


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