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The Collation

Several people got the general purpose of the device pictured in the December Crocodile Mystery, but no one described precisely how it works or what it is called. Indeed, it is used in the creation of the “quick ties” that provide a temporary means of keeping loose boards together with their associated text blocks.

Pile of black cotton flat cord mixed with black plastic toggles.
A pile of "size small" quick-ties, used to hold books shut
Row of old books on a shelf. The bindings are different colors (mostly browns) and many of the books have a black cotton tie around the middle to hold the book together.
Quick-ties in use on several books awaiting cataloging.

The device pictured was invented by a Folger staff member and doesn’t have an official name, but it’s generally known as a “toggler.” Names such as “quick-tie thingie” and “whats-it” are also in use.

A toggler prepped for use but not yet "in action".

The toggler makes quick work of the fiddly task of slipping the looped twill tape through the spring-loaded toggle. Normally, you have to pinch the toggle open, then keep pinching while you try to stuff the loop of twill tape through the toggle’s hole.

With the toggler, you only need to pinch each toggle briefly: once when you slip it over the tapered hook-ended spike, and again when you slip it off over a loop of twill tape held in place by the hook. In addition, you can queue up a dozen or more toggles at a time, greatly speeding up production.

Although the toggler eliminates the awkwardness of trying to poke twill tape through a hole, it introduces another bit of awkwardness. Namely, you have to sit on it in order to use it. The wide flange at the bottom isn’t for stability when setting the toggler on a table for a photo top, it’s so that you can use your own body weight to provide resistance, as seen in this photograph.

Folger staff member adding toggles over loops of twill tape for use as quick-ties to keep books closed when not in use

My preferred technique involves holding the twill tape loop close to the toggler with my right index finger and thumb, pinching the toggle with my left thumb while making a fist, then zipping the toggle up over the twill tape and off the toggler in one smooth motion. It takes a bit of practice to settle into the right rhythm, but once you get going it’s surprisingly relaxing.

Holding twill tape and a toggle in preparation for zipping the toggle onto the twill tape and off the top of the toggler.

Using the toggler is, of course, the final step in the quick-tie making process. Before that, someone has to cut the twill tape into lengths (we use the arm of a broken camera stand as a spool holder), twist the loose ends together into a knot, and cinch the knot tight. [UPDATE: I totally forgot about the bent coat hanger in the photo! As explained by the staff member who came up with the brilliant idea, “One puts it between one’s legs like the toggler, slips the knot inside the acute angle at the top of the coat hanger, and pulls upwards by the rest of the quick-tie to cinch down the knot tightly.”]

Folger staff member cutting twill tape for use as quick-ties to keep books closed when not in use.

Ideally, the quick-ties would be exactly the right size for each book that needs help, but when you have thousands of fragile books that need to be packed away safely for storage during a renovation, there just isn’t time. Folger conservators determined the appropriate lengths for small, medium, and large quick-ties, and it was pure assembly-line construction from there on. Countless people on site pitched in to help.

That explains what a toggler is for, but not what it is.


It’s an extra-long crochet hook poked through a hole in a piece of mat board. Specifically, it’s a size G-6 (4 mm) Tunisian crochet hook. Tunisian crochet hooks (also known a Afghan crochet hooks) have a knob at one end, like a knitting needle, to keep the stitches from falling off the back.

a silver crochet hook lies next to a wooden ruler. both side on a wood tabletop.
Standard 14-inch long Tunisian crochet hook.
Crochet hook with a square of light yellow yarn crocheted below it. the ball of yarn sits to the left of the square.
Tunisian crochet cotton washcloth in progress (if you've ever done linked doubles or linked trebles in standard crochet, this pattern is just a series of... ummm... linked thirty-six-bles?).

Tunisian crochet is a bit like knitting except that instead of working each row from one stick to another to make the fabric, you work each row on and off a single hook.

I guess there’s a lesson in here somewhere about the value of having hobbies outside of work. Rather than figure out how to phrase it, though, I’m going to log off for the day and go back to the crochet project I started over the weekend.