Create a unique sketchbook or journal to take on travels or give as a gift
Using artist-grade materials and equipment, bookbinders will explore one bookbinding method in each of the 4-part series workshops, and leave with a new book each time. Learn decorative stitches, how to convert an old hardcover into a journal, how to add small touches of personality and flair to any bookbinding project, plus learn the history of bookbinding techniques.
Students will receive live instruction, printed handouts and access to video tutorials to keep practicing at home.
2 sheets decorative scrapbook paper, cut to exactly the size of the pages
Sheets of paper for pages – can be folded into signatures or loose leaf
Awl or push drill (example uses a 2mm push drill)
Tapestry needle or curved bookbinder’s needle (recommended)
Prep – Stab binding
Prep is simple for this one; cut your sheets for pages and your covers to the exact size of the closed book that you want. You can use folded signatures for pages, if desired, just make sure that when folded, the signatures are exactly the same size as the cover. A paper jig will also be helpful for punching binding holes.
For a Book that is 6″ tall by 5″ wide when closed:
2 sheets decorative paper for covers, 6″ x 5″
For a double cover book: 2 sheets decorative paper, 6″ x 10″, folded in half
20 – 40 sheets paper for pages, 6″ x 5″
To use signatures, 10 – 20 sheets paper, 6″ x 10″, folded in half, 4 sheets stacked together
Can use as many sheets as desired for book, books that are more than 3/4 thick tend to be more difficult to bind
Paper jig with binding holes punched 1″ in from the spine side, 4 holes along the height of the spine
The jig I made for this simple stab binding has hole marks measured from the bottom: 1″, 2.25″, 3.75″, 5″
Arrange the pages and covers as you want the book to be when finished (covers with correct side out, pages within).
Align the jig along the spine side of the book and stab through all layers of covers and pages along the binding hole marks on the jig. For thicker books, it will be helpful to split the book in half and stab binding holes on each half separately. Make sure the jig is appropriately aligned on both halves and flush with the spine edge of the book.
Select, trim and wax thread for binding. For this book, bound the book twice and used 6 times the spine height for the length of thread. Thread a binding needle, leaving a short tail. Alternately, you can double the thread. Make sure your binding holes are wide enough for the thread and needle to pass through three times each hole. Widen the holes with the awl, if needed. We’ll make three stitches at each binding hole, one passing between each hole and the other next to it or the edge of the book, and one up from the binding hole around the spine.
Open the book to a middle page. Pass the needle and thread through one of the middle holes from the inside of the book to the outside front cover. Leave a tail that is long enough to tie off on (in this example, about 3 inches.
Close the book on the tail. Use a binder clip to clip all the pages and covers together on the opposite side of the spine.
Now the fun starts 🙂
Pull the thread up over the spine on the outside front of the book toward the outside back cover. Insert the needle into the same binding hole, this time from the back cover, through to the front cover. You’ll have a loop going up around the spine at this binding hole.
Pull the thread to the next binding hole, closest to the edge of the book. Pass through the hole from the front cover all the way through to the back cover. Now there is a straight line of thread from one hole to the next on the front cover.
From the back cover, bring the thread over the spine and pass the needle through the same binding hole from the front cover through to the back cover.
From the back, bring the thread around the bottom edge of the book, back into the same binding hole, from the front to the back. This will make a straight line of thread from the last binding hole to the bottom edge of the book.
At the back of the book, bring the thread to the next hole (the first binding hole we bound). Pass the needle through this whole from back to front, connecting these two binding holes on the back of the book.
Next, pass the needle through the next binding hole (this other middle hole) from front to back. From the back, bring the thread and needle over the spine back to the front.
Insert the needle into the same binding hole, from front to back, creating the loop around the spine at this binding hole.
At the back of the book, pass the needle through the next binding hole, this one closest to the edge of the book. At this last hole, at the front of the book, wrap the thread around the edge of the book.
At the back of the book, pass the needle through the same binding hole from the back to the front. The needle will come out the front of the book. From the front of the book, pull the thread up over the spine from this binding hole to the back of the book.
At the back of the book, pass the needle through the same binding hole from the back to the front, completing the loop around the spine at this hole.
At the front of the book, pass the needle through the next binding hole, completing the connection between all the binding holes on the front of the book.
Remove the binder clip, and open the book at the page where the tail of the thread is. Clip the book again to keep these pages separate.
Pass the needle into the binding hole you started with, but instead of passing the needle all the way to the front, pass it into the book where the starting tail is. Tie off the working thread with the tail thread, tightening the knot into the middle of the book.
Clip off the ends of the thread and tuck them into the binding of the book.
The Secret Belgian Stitch is a hard cover, closed spine binding method with a unique cover that can fold all the way back. The stitch is pretty simple and I like to use watercolor paper for signatures since the cover gives a lot of sturdiness to the book.
Prepare the materials
For this binding we’ll need materials for a hard cover, stitched binding and signatures. The example images below are for a finished book that is 6″ tall, 1″ thick spine and 8″ long (from spine edge to open edge of the book).
Book board – 2 pieces for the covers (size in example: 6″ x 8″)
Book board – 1 piece for the spine (size in example: 1″ x 6″)
Decorative paper for the outer covers; 1″ longer and wider than the covers and spine boards (in the example: 2 sheets that are 7″ x 9″ for the covers and one sheet 2″ x 7″ for the spine)
Decorative paper for the interior covers and spine
PVA glue and brush
Watercolor sheets – 20 sheets for 5 signatures of 4 sheets, cut to the same height and twice the width of the covers (in the example, 16″ x 6″)
Waxed linen or binding thread– the number of signatures times the height of the book/ spine (in example, 5 signatures x 6″)
*Note: these prep instructions are for a book that is 6″ tall by 8″ long when closed, with a 1″ thick spine and 40 pages of watercolor paper. This book can be made in different sizes, with attention to changing the dimensions of paper and board when needed.
Use this chart to plan out your own dimensions for materials:
Your book dimensions
Height = ____ inches Length = ____inches
(height + 1 inch) = ____ inches x (length + 1 inch) = ____ inches Make 2
(height – 0.25 inch) = ____ inches x (length + 0.25 inch) = ____ inches Make 2
Spine Width = ____inches Height = ____ inches
(height + 1 inch) = ____ inches x (width + 1 inch) = ____ inches Make 1
(height – 0.25 inch) = ____ inches x (width – 0.25 inch) = ____ inches Make 1
This book is great to make with watercolor paper. I start with a 12″ x 18″ watercolor pad with a cardboard back.
Remove the cardboard from the back and cut in half lengthwise to have two 6″ x 18″ strips. We’ll only use one in this book, put the other aside.
Cut the 6″ x 18″ strip of cardboard into four pieces:
One 6″ x 1″ strip for the spine
One 6″ x 1″ strip for a closure or set aside
Two pieces 6″ x 8″, one for each front and back cover
Remove ten sheets of watercolor paper from the pad. Cut each sheet in half length-wise to have 20 sheets that are 6″ x 18″; cut 2″ off the end of each sheet to have 6″ x 16″ sheets.
Fold each sheet in half and stack 4 together to make signatures.
Cut decorative paper for the outside of the covers, spine and closure. Each piece should be 1″ longer and 1″ wider than the cardboard pieces:
One 7″ x 2″ strips for the spine
One 7″ x 2″ strip for the closure
Two 7″ x 9″ pieces for the covers
Cut decorative paper for the interior covers and spine/ closure. Each piece should be 1/4 shorter and narrower than the cardboard:
One 5.75″ x 0.75″ strips for the spine
One 5.75″ x 0.75″ strip for the closure
Two 5.75″ x 7.75″ pieces for the covers
Prepare your work area for gluing by putting down parchment or scrap paper.
More bookbinding for beginners! We’ll practice 4 more bookbinding techniques including binding with old book covers, star books, long stitch, and decorative spines bookbinding. No previous experience needed (no need to have taken Bespoke Bookbinding I).
Class Schedule and Registration:
October 20 – November 10 Thursdays, 1:00 – 2:30 pm
Bookbinding for beginners: In this class we’ll practice 4 different bookbinding methods from around the world to create our own unique sketchbooks and journals. Each class will include step-by-step instructions for each method, and live demonstration by the instructor. Create a travel watercolor journal, a sketchbook with pockets, a personalized diary, plus gorgeous decorative binding.
Plus, extra tips and instructions for single-page books and zines on the exclusive class website.
1 cardboard backed sketch paper pad, 9″ x 12″ (see prep notes above)
3 sheets decorative scrapbook paper
50% glue/water solution
Tapestry needle or curved bookbinder’s needle (recommended)
Ribbon or cordage for closure (optional)
Preparing the cover
You can make a cover for a sketchbook or journal from a basic sketchpad.
Step 1: Remove the binding from the paper pad. You can use a spiral bound pad or a glued pad. Hang on to everything, you can use all these pieces for the finished sketchbook.
Step 2: Use the cardboard back as the cover. Trim it down to the dimensions you want your final sketchbook to be. For this example, I’ll make a sketchbook that is 6″ wide by 9″ tall when closed. I trim down the cardboard back to two rectangles that are 6″x9″ (one for the front cover and one for the back).
Step 3: Next, trim down the sheets of paper. For a 6″x9″ book, I trim the paper to 12″x 9″. Fold four sheets of paper together to make signatures that are 6″x9″. Use a bonefolder to crease the signatures.
Step 4: To create a decorative cover with scrapbook paper, trim the paper to 2 pieces 1″ wider and 1″ longer than the final size of the book and 2 pieces the same dimensions as the final size of the book.
For this example, I cut two pieces of paper to 7″x10″ for the outer covers, and two pieces to 6″x9″ for the endpaper/ inner cover.
Steps for Coptic Stitch
As you bind the coptic stitch, it might be helpful to always keep in mind going around the previous stitch. That going around anchors each stitch, and holds each signature or cover to the rest of the text block. Here are step-by-step photos to follow along with (click images to open them and see the captions).
Hold the cover and the first signature together, making sure the binding holes in each line up.
I like to hold the signature and cover with the spine edge toward me so I can flip the signature open easily as I bind.
Insert the needle into one of the binding holes at the ends, starting on the inside of the signature.
Leave a 5″ tail inside the signature to help tie off the thread later.
Pull the thread to the outside of the signature.
Pull the thread around to the outside of the cover and pass the needle through the hole from the outside.
Bring the needle between the cover and the signature.
The signature and the cover are both threaded, but still really loose.
Pass the needle around the thread that’s going between the signature and the cover.
Pass the needle back between the signature and the cover, and back out again, around the thread.
Insert the needle back into the binding hole it came out of.
Pull the thread tight (but not too tight to rip the paper!)
Use a knot to tie off the thread with the tail you left inside the signature.
Move on to the next binding hole, passing the thread out from inside the signature.
All of the binding holes in this first signature and cover are worked the same as the first.
Pull the thread through the signature to the outside of the book.
Insert the needle into the binding hole on the outside of the cover to pull the thread into the cover, between the cover and the signature.
Pass the thread around the thread connecting the signature to the cover, toward the left.
Hook the needle under that thread from the right and pull tightly.
Insert the needle back into the same binding hole on the signature.
Repeat these steps for all of the binding holes on the first signature/ cover
For the last binding hols in the signature, begin the same as the other holes, inserting the needle in the hole from the inside of the signature.
Thread through the outside of the cover and wrap the thread around the stitch you’ve made to attach the cover and signature.
Instead of inserting the thread back into the same binding hole, insert the needle into the first binding hole of the next signature.
Binding the rest of the signatures
For binding the rest of the signatures, you’ll continue to go around the previous stitch to hold the signatures together.
After inserting your needle into the first hole in the signature, go immediately to the next binding hole.
Pull the htread through the binding hole and to the outside of the signature.
Insert the needle under the previous signature stitch (in this case, the stitch holding the first signature to the cover).
Insert the needle back into the same binding hole it came out of.
To keep stitches neat like little knitted V’s, pass your needle under the stitch starting from the side of the stitch closest to the end you started from and insert the needl back into the same binding hole.
Adding the Back Cover and finishing
When you reach the last hole on the last signature, tie a knot to bind off the thread.
Pass the needle with the thread through the binding hole to the outside of the text block.
Pull tightly to keep the thread straight.
Place the unbound cover over the text block, lining up the binding holes. Pass the needle through the cover from the outside.
Bring the needle and thread out between the signature and the cover to the outside of the spine.
Hook the needle under the thread holding the cover to the signature.
Insert the needle back into the same hole in the signature it originally came out of.
Bind the nest of the cover in the same way.
From the inside of the signature, insert the needle into the next hole and thread through the signature to the outside of the text block.
Insert the needle into the next binding hole on the cover.
Bring the thread between the cover and the signature to the outside of the binding.
Pass the needle under the theread connecting the cover and the signature.
Insert the needle back into the same binding hole.
When you get to the last binding hole, tie off the thread and tuck away any extra ends!