Big Jump Press

How a horrible Ikea couch became a bookbinding tool.

IMG_7835For the last twelve months, I have lived with the worst couch in the world. This is a couch whose sharp, plywood corners could give you a concussion; a couch whose cheap, polyester upholstery has been disintegrating since its arrival. Before sitting down after a long day,  a person is obliged to heave its unwieldy cushions back into their correct configuration only to have to get up and repeat this sad ritual at several points in an evening. If two people wish to sit in this couch at the same time, every shift of weight or crossing of legs becomes an aggressive play for space. This is a couch made by martians who once heard vague stories of human furniture through the static of interstellar space.

It was time for it to go.

As you can see above, a brand new, real life, honest to god couch has usurped the worst couch in the world. Because I am a believer in Using Every Part of the Buffalo, (and perhaps because the long months with the worst couch in the world have given birth to a twisted, quiet rage,) I decided to wrench the thing apart and see if I could salvage some bits and pieces.


IMG_7849Turning the couch into a limp pile of debris brought some measure of satisfaction, but not the raw materials I’d been hoping for. I thought the thing might yield extra press boards for the bindery, but the powdery plywood I exhumed was of such poor quality that I gave up that ambition almost immediately. The foam, however, I had more hope for. Several years ago, I came across a copy of a copy of a copy of a bookbinding handout* suggesting a little something that I wanted to try, and the death of the couch had delivered what I needed.

First I hacked off a piece of foam roughly the same dimensions as my press boards.


IMG_7859The foam was a bit thick for my needs, so divided it in two with my olfa knife. This process was surprisingly reminiscent of old videos I’ve seen featuring whalers collecting blubber, further enhancing my gruesome fantasy of harvesting the couch for parts.

IMG_7865Now watch this:

IMG_7852I made a little paper and thread string of bunting. This is fun binding time, so a glass of wine was allowed in the bindery.

IMG_7853I glued the paper bunting to a bit of spare binder’s board:

IMG_7856I covered the board, but did not spend any time working to adhere the cloth to the face of the board with the paper bunting. I attended to the turn ins and board edges with my normal care:


I set the newly covered board face up on a press board, put the foam directly on top without any scrap paper, and added another press board.

IMG_7861I quickly got it into the nipping press.




whoa, dog.As far as I am concerned, this is a bookbinding miracle.

Bookbinding friends, do you want to try this? You don’t need a whole ikea couch, just a good piece of foam. I’d love to see what is possible with this goofy technique. Send a photo by May 1st and I’ll put them all online. Maybe even with prizes. Extra credit if your foam has been harvested from something horrible. What say you? (Low res) Photos should be emailed to me at

PS. A NOTE ON FOAM STORAGE. I swear to you, six people have entered our flat since the foam has been deposited here, and not one of them has noticed it yet. Spot the foam:





*Thanks due to Dr. Elsi Vassdall Ellis for her handout

40 comments on “How a horrible Ikea couch became a bookbinding tool.

  1. Bob Bryant
    April 12, 2013

    Just wonderful. Love it!

  2. roberta
    April 12, 2013

    I am laughing so hard right now! You are too funny…..but couldn’t you have returned the couch for a refund? I mean I am happy that the foam came in so handy but at what cost? OMG………too funny!

    • Big Jump Press
      April 12, 2013

      Much too late for a refund unfortunately! We got what we deserved anyway for the price that we paid. But we did not make the same mistake twice!!

  3. sjdonaldson
    April 12, 2013

    excellent! I was about to start some work, but hey, its almost the weekend….Im off to find some foam instead! 😉

  4. sarahnicholls
    April 12, 2013

    You’re like a bookbinding MacGyver.

  5. Amber Edmondson
    April 12, 2013

    I’ve been wanting to try something like this for a while–thank you for posting! And just so I’m clear, do you apply glue on the face of the board?

    • Big Jump Press
      April 12, 2013

      I applied the glue to the cloth and then wrapped the board, but you could do either. If covering in paper I would glue the paper and not the board for sure. Good luck! Please send a photo!

  6. Chelsea || My GoodMorning
    April 12, 2013

    haha I like your storage place for the foam. What a great idea though, cool way to reuse that couch!

  7. dymphie
    April 12, 2013

    that foampiece is huge… whale blubber… *lol*
    Great technique! I’ve used ‘soft’ rubber plates for this, but the foam will be much cheaper I guess (especially when re-using a coach :))

    • Big Jump Press
      April 14, 2013

      Soft rubber is a good idea, this was a first try for me and, in the end, couch foam may not be the perfect solution. Someone else has mentioned using felt. A lot of experimentation to be done! Thanks so much for posting (and for reading!)

  8. Ray McGaughey
    April 12, 2013

    you….are my hero.

  9. Simon Goode
    April 12, 2013

    i totally used to do that trick with dampened printmaking paper and a shellac-ed piece of carved greyboard – DIY debossing!
    Nice nipping press…

    • Big Jump Press
      April 13, 2013

      HA! Yeah, thanks! She’s a beaut allright. Does the little dolly look familiar, too?

  10. Anne Campagnet-Reed
    April 13, 2013

    Not only did I learn a cool embossing technique, but you filled a good 4-1/2 minutes of my life with chortles of healing mirth. I love your humorous, descriptive and (may I go so far as to say) cathartic prose. Well done!

    • Big Jump Press
      April 13, 2013

      Thank you Anne! What a lovely comment to get so early in the morning!

  11. Glenn House Sr.
    April 13, 2013

    Must be something special in that English air, water, earth, wine, and Ben that keeps you out front.

    • Big Jump Press
      April 14, 2013

      Must be something in the Alabama air and red dirt (plus Kathy) that does the same for you!

  12. Ellen Slade
    April 13, 2013

    A lot of people are talking about what you wrote! Love it!

    • Big Jump Press
      April 14, 2013

      Thanks! WordPress featured this post and so everything is very exciting all of a sudden!

    • Big Jump Press
      April 14, 2013

      Well hello there, mom! You sat in that awful couch. Wait until you try the new one!

  13. Elissa R. Campbell
    May 5, 2013

    Your foam storage looks like a cheese installation.

  14. paperwallah (@thepaperwallah)
    September 7, 2013

    Followed your instructions to the letter and now have a big chunk of foam missing from an armchair seat but did this:

    Thanks for some great inspiration!

    • Big Jump Press
      September 9, 2013

      It looks AMAZING! Thanks for the photo. You are inspiring me right back, I need to get back in the bindery and break out the foam again. Best wishes,

  15. Pingback: Initial relief | Paperwallah

  16. Susan Tomi
    June 17, 2014

    you are too funny!

  17. btetenbaumb
    August 16, 2014

    Dear Lord, I JUST BOUGHT THIS SOFA!!! I bought it to fit my tiny office and to have a second guest bed. I can’t believe how uncomfortable it is and where you managed to pull foam from, since it clearly has NO softness to it. I ended up putting a mattress on top of it for the guests, but sitting on it as a couch is such a challenge. Cats like it at least.

    • Big Jump Press
      August 17, 2014

      AAACK!!! GET RID OF IT! That couch can give you a concussion. How many times have you discovered the MDF corners lurking just under the upholstery on the arms? God that couch was a nightmare. I am getting dizzy just thinking about it. But at least the cats are enjoying it.

  18. sappling
    October 1, 2014

    My children came running when I saw the picture of your foam storage, because I laughed so loud! I have actually been using this technique for a couple years for this book:

    • Big Jump Press
      October 2, 2014

      Hi Sappling! I enjoyed reading your post! That foam was finally discarded when we moved last year, all but the chunk I harvested, which I still use with some regularity. I also started using car wash sponges. Nice Adventure Book!

  19. Pingback: Making book covers with titles in relief | Su Bonfanti

  20. Candis
    February 16, 2017

    I found this through Etsy last month and love it! There’s a source for small-ish pieces of foam in Walthamstow (guess what, they make sofas there!) and I now have some at the LCBA ready for use. Did you ever use it to imprint thread shapes on paper? That’s the direction I’d like to explore. Have you seen someone working with this idea?

    Hope baby*jet*lag abates. Do you have access to a heated swimming pool? Playing the pool for an hour or so in the late afternoon seemed to be shorten time zone adjustment for my kids. It seemed to untangle the kinks and let them float off to sleep that night.

    • Big Jump Press
      February 20, 2017

      Hi Candis! I am so glad you liked this post! I did try out some thread shapes when I was teaching at Penland a few years ago. It worked very well! I haven’t seen anyone working much with it. Let me know how it goes for you! Baby jet lag is slowly abating. The first three days we all got up at 3am. Today, a blissful lie in until 4:45. Life is different than it used to be.

      • Candis
        March 1, 2017

        Having sleepless little ones made me really understand why sleep deprivation can be used an instrument of torture. I hope you are having lie-ins until at least 6 by now.

        I’ll let you know how the thread shape experiments go. I hope to start them mid-March.

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