Beth Lancaster uses bookbindng to combat ME and now wants to share her skills with Lanarkians

Meeting like-minded people...Beth Lancaster set up stall at the Lanark Christmas market where great interest was shown in her home-made notebooks.
Meeting like-minded people...Beth Lancaster set up stall at the Lanark Christmas market where great interest was shown in her home-made notebooks.

Before Beth Lancaster moved to Carstairs in July 2017, she worked as a families and children’s social worker in Doncaster.

Working full-time while also studying for a PHD, the busy mum was then floored with a viral infection.

Hand-made books...make beautiful, unique gifts for family and friends and you can learn how to create them if you attend Beth Lancaster's course in Lanark's Tolbooth this Saturday.

Hand-made books...make beautiful, unique gifts for family and friends and you can learn how to create them if you attend Beth Lancaster's course in Lanark's Tolbooth this Saturday.

When her symptoms continued, she was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as ME.

It meant Beth had no option but to give up her job.

So she moved to Carstairs with her wife Anna and their daughter Jenny (18) to live a slower pace of life.

Beth (40) said: “We’d never been to the area before but we discovered Lanark Grammar was the only school in Scotland which gave pupils the option to study Latin and the classics, so it was perfect for Jenny.”

Beth’s illness means that she has good and bad days.

The main symptoms of ME – pain and chronic fatigue – are invisible so people often believe, wrongly, that she is in rude health.

But there are days when it is difficult for her to get out of bed, while others she is more than capable of doing normal, everyday tasks.

It was on those days that Beth started looking for something to do to focus her mind and occupy her time.

She hit on the idea of learning to bookbind and attended a night course in Edinburgh last year, which she very much enjoyed.

Initially, she made the notebooks as gifts for her family and friends.

However, she has since gone on to turn her hobby into a career, selling her hand-made notebooks at Christmas markets, including here in Lanark.

She said: “All my family and friends already had all the notebooks they needed.

“So I decided to try the markets at Christmas to see if there was any interest in them.

“They sold really well so I’m busy replenishing my stock just now, for sale on my Facebook page and for future craft shows and markets.”

But Beth is also keen to share her new-found bookbinding skills.

Last weekend, she travelled up to Oban in her trusted VW T25, stacked with supplies, to run a course teaching people the art of bookbinding.

This Saturday, January 26, she will be running a similar course in the Tolbooth in Lanark.

Priced £20, places are limited but spaces are still available. Beth hopes it will appeal to those with an eye for crafts.

She explained: “People who love sewing or quilting can use those skills in bookbinding.

“Indeed, most crafters will discover that their skills are transferable and can be used to create beautiful, hand-made notebooks.

“I had great fun meeting people at the Lanark Christmas market and the Tolbooth Christmas fayre.

“Lots of people seemed to be interested in learning more about how to make their own notebooks.

“So, having run training workshops before, I’ve organised this one off event at the Tolbooth.

“I will be teaching people how to make a set of beautiful notebooks using Japanese Stab binding techniques.

“This style of binding is a great way to try out book making. It involves using traditional bookbinding tools to stitch together simple A6 notebooks.

“I use these notebooks all the time – for shopping lists, for ‘to do’ lists and also to give to close family and friends as special gifts.

“Once you have mastered the technique you can make them at home really easily.

“In fact, last time I visited my family we sat together and made some out of cereal packaging and postcards!”

Following her Oban trip last weekend, Beth is conserving all her energy this week to ensure she is on top form this Saturday.

She explained: “I save up all my spoons of energy so that I can run workshops and attend craft shows with my own hand-bound books.

“I love doing them because it means I can get out and meet creative, like-minded people.”

Even on days when Beth is laid low, you’ll still find her in her Carstairs studio.

She said: “The myalgic encephalomyelitis means I have chronic ill health and can’t work consistently.

“But even when I’m not very well, I can sit in my studio and fold paper to make pages of books.

“It gives me something to focus on, even on bad days.

“I find it encouraging to read about others with ME and I hope my story will inspire others too.”

As for living in Scotland, the Lancasters love it.

Beth added: “The village is lovely and it’s a complete change of pace – just what I needed. We love it.”

To book a place on the Tolbooth course, visit Beth’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/BeyondBlueStudios.