Tools of the Trade: Glue

As you may have guessed: glue is old. Like Neanderthal old. In fact, our Neanderthal ancestors mixed glues with their paint to ensure the longevity of their cave paintings in Lascaux, France. The earliest known glue used to hold two things together was a plant-based glue made with birch bark tar and dates back to 200,000 BC. So glue has been considered to be a pretty essential item for much of human history. And despite all our technological advances, we still seem to find plenty of uses for glue. So we asked some our Creativebug instructors to share their favorite glues. It’s certainly not comprehensive, but is a good place to start.  If you’d like to get more info. on the many types of glue that we use here, check out our Glue 101 video.  And don’t forget to share your favorite glue in the comments.


Book Binding Glues

Book artist Jody Alexander has a workbench filled with glues – each one for a different distinct book art purpose. One of her favorites is actually a PVA (which stands for polyvinyl acetate) and is a glue that many book artists use if they want something strong, not easily reversible, archival and flexible. Jody likes it because even though it is white glue that looks quite similar to Elmer’s glue, it won’t turn brown and brittle the way that Elmer’s glue does. Jody used PVA in her Accordion Photo album workshop and also in her Star Book workshop.

The other glue that plays a part in all of Jody’s book crafts is methyl cellulose (it comes in powder form and you mix it as you need it). It is a light glue and Jody only uses it on its own for very small and light gluing jobs – like tacking down a corner of paper that might be popping up. Jody says that her choice was to methyl cellulose is to mix with with the PVA to make a glue that is easier to spread (PVA can get rather thick and tacky) and that has a slower drying time. This is advantageous when doing tricky glue jobs where you may want more working time or to adjust something that needs to be placed with precision. So Jody usually has a tub of PVA, a tub of Methyl cellulose, and then a tub of PVA/Methyl cellulose 50/50 mix, all within easy reach. Jody uses a PVA/Methyl cellulose 50/50 mix in her Coptic Binding workshop

Image above: from Glue 101 video

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 8.28.55 AMMany book artists like to use wheat paste since it is archival and completely reversible – that means that it can come undone with dampness/water which helps if the book or item needs to be restored in the future. Jody use wheat paste to make her own book cloth and in her Custom Book Cloth workshop, she shares her favorite recipe for wheat paste.

Image above: from Jody’s Custom Book Cloth workshop


The power of a glue stick

Jody uses a glue stick when she wants to stick something in place temporarily. For instance, she says that she likes to machine and hand stitch paper-to-paper or fabric to paper and a dab of glue stick can hold materials in place while she stitches. (Tip: Just make sure it is dry before sending in through the sewing machine – it will gunk up your needle if it is still tacky.) In Jody’s Star Book workshop, she recommends using a glue stick to hold the pages down and get a sense of whether you like your work before making it permanent. Lisa Congdon also loves a glue stick for making the pages of your sketchbook a little thicker as she explains in her Sketchbook Explorations workshop.

Image above: DIY: Sugar Skill Lollipop Wrapper Covers


Classic Glues

Designer Liesl Gibson is a serious glue fan. Her favorites include good, old-fashioned rubber cement for paper, re-stickable glue sticks that turn anything into a Post-It note, and Scotch quick drying tacky glue for paper projects. She also says that she has to throw Krazy Glue into the mix because it repairs all sorts of breaks. Courtney Cerruti uses tacky glue in her Shadowbox workshop for tacking down three-dimensional objects.

Image above: tacky glue used in How to make Achievement Badges


Long lasting Elmer’s glue

Knitwear and stitchery designer Kristin Nicholas has a traditional take on glue. She sticks to Elmer’s for most craft projects, which she feels like is unrivaled for its longevity. Kristin remember a visit to a Bed & Breakfast in Northern Vermont where she admired the owner’s “macaroni pictures” hanging on the wall only to learn that they had been made in the 1960s. Kristin was told that they were all glued to together with Elmer’s and had been hanging perfectly for more than 50 years! If you want to make a lasting project, there are many here on Creativebug that rely on Elmer’s glue like this decoupage project or making crackle paint using glue.


Designer and modern quilter Heather Jones usually matches the glue to her specific project. She often uses Elmer’s glue during my binding process, to hold the fabric temporarily in place. It’s perfect for this task because will wash out of the cotton fabric when laundered. Heather’s other glue go-to is Fabri-tac, which she uses when she wants to permanently glue fabric to something. She’s even used it to line the back of a cabinet with fabric, and for adhering fabric yo-yos to a piece of stretched canvas for a decorative art piece for her daughter’s room. Here at Creativebug, we’ve use Fabri-tac to make a beaded leather tassel necklace.