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Blog Books Pamphlets Publishing

Foot Wear – a handmade mini-pamphlet

finished pamphlet - cover1

So there I was with a handful of poems from my ill-fated ‘Business Class’ collection that couldn’t find a home. What to do? I started thinking about the themes: workplace tensions, multicultural office environments, illicit relationships, anomie…and shoes! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? I was working in the sports shoe industry. And I realised shoes have been a theme in my life – from doodling enormous platform boots all over my rough book at school, to my first job in a shoe shop, to persuading my bosses at Nike that netball was a viable sport and players needed netball shoes.

I picked over what I had, chose a few unpublished poems and adapted a couple that had been published, added in a few new shoe-themed poems, and the little collection made a good narrative arc.

Shoes are made by hand, so why not the pamphlet?

I wanted this to be a small collection of poem ‘vignettes’, semi-autobiographical, related to my life in shoes, in limited edition. I wanted each poem to be accompanied by a photo. I also wanted to make the pamphlets by hand, as much as possible – not hand written and not handmade paper (would be nice, but very expensive) –  but hand-bound and finished. The point is that the trainers we wear are by and large handmade – from the pattern cutting to the stitching, dyeing, glueing and finishing – by hundreds of assembly-line workers in the far east, and it’s skilled work. The least I could do, to pay homage to that process, was to make the pamphlets myself.

A bit of info for stationery geeks

My plan was to print the inner pages on my office printer. I was excited to find A5 paper for sale online, and I ordered it in 170gsm, a bit heavier than normal printer paper. I thought perhaps there’d be less chance of a printer jam and the heavier weight would look classier. I hadn’t really considered the thickness of the finished article. But with only twenty pages it turned out fine in the end. Similarly, I had the covers printed in 380 mic pulp, which turned out quite thick – but I don’t regret it. I had no trouble folding the pages in the end because I had a lovely bit of kit called a bone folder.

A noob at numbering

The first challenge was to print the pages in the right order, with the correct back-to-back pagination. This proved harder than I thought and I wasted quite a few sheets of paper in my frustration!


Anyway I succeeded in making a mockup, glued together, which became my blueprint. There then followed the sloooow process of printing the pages. Ten at a time invariably meant a misfeed of the paper, which when it was side two being printed meant reprinting all over again both sides. Ugh.

Meanwhile I created a cover design using a photo of the tongue label from my trainers and a background image suggesting a cardboard box. This I had printed at an online printers.

tongue label


Adventures in book binding

I was looking forward to binding the pamphlets. I bought a ‘bookbinding starter pack’ from a wonderful shop based in the Orkneys called the Vintage Paper Company,  and followed their instructions for how to make the simplest of bindings.

preparing to bind

inside - binding the pamphlet

That was it! Or so I thought… I realised then that the pages protruded outside the cover. They would need trimming. After trying unsuccessfully to trim a thickness of 5 sheets using a blade, I realised I’d have to do it singly.

In the end I got quite good at it, although there were a few rough edges I thought that was fine – all part of the quirkiness/individuality of each pamphlet.



Ta da!

The final product is lovely, if I say so myself! I’ve only made ten so far, and there’s going to be a limit of fifty. My plan is to sell them at readings.

In fact I made my first sales on Monday evening in Winchester – more about that in the next post!

finished pamphlet - open at page1

finished pamphlet - cover1








  • Peter Raynard

    Looks great. I’ll buy one Robin

    • Robin Houghton

      Aw, thanks Peter. Do you want me to send you details?

      • Peter Raynard

        Yes please. You have my email.

  • Carrie Etter

    Ah, this post should be wonderfully useful for my third-year students, who will be making a pamphlet of their own poems as part of the module! Many thanks!

    • Robin Houghton

      Glad it might be of interest to your students, Carrie!

  • Ann Perrin

    You are a genius I love it all!
    A friend made a tiny book of poems for her brother.
    I love linking art with poetry myself!
    I don’t go to readings anymore so can’t get one but know they will be so well sought after. Wonderful! Ann

    • Robin Houghton

      Ha ha! Thanks Ann. If you’d like one let me know. Only £4 🙂

  • Deborah Sloan

    Fab post and the end product looks wonderful too.
    Well done.
    What a great idea. I’ll look out for them at the next reading.

    • Robin Houghton

      Hi Deborah, many thanks!

  • Jayne Stanton

    How exciting! And rewarding, despite those minor hitches, I’ll bet 🙂
    Wishing your publishing project, and your poems, success.

    • Robin Houghton

      Hi Jayne, yes, a lot of fun to make, despite the paper misfeeds 🙂 Thanks very much for your support. Rx

  • elly

    What a great project! Love how you shared the process with us. Love the result 🙂

    • Robin Houghton

      Thank you Elly – and for sharing on Twitter as always, I really appreciate it!

  • Marina Sofia

    That must have taken some patience and skill (says one who struggles with wrapping Christmas presents).

    • Robin Houghton

      Ha ha! Not sure about the skill but I’m working on it! Thanks so much – and for your RTs also!

  • Hilaire

    Fascinating! I’d love to buy one too.

    • Robin Houghton

      Thank you – I will reserve you one for when we next meet!

  • Ben Banyard

    I work in the print trade and am often struck by how soulless the end product often feels. What a brilliant idea, especially for pamphlets, which always feel so personal compared to the breadth of a full collection. Cap doffed!

    • Robin Houghton

      Thank you Ben for your kind words!

  • Judith Shaw

    Hi Robin sounds great! Congratulations on doing this. Can you keep one for me, please?

    • Robin Houghton

      Thank you Judith, yes of course I will 🙂

  • Pam Yhompson

    These look lovely Robin. I’d like one.x

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