There are several ways you can bind books, or make your own books, by hand. They involve different kinds of techniques and tools — some use glue, others use thread, and other still a combination of both — but you’ll have a lot of fun creating these unique, practical items to give as gifts, or to use at home.
This first method is known as Coptic Stitch Binding. It uses thread to sew folded pages together into a stack, and allows the book to open flat on every page. It’s great for sketchbooks, and larger display books.
1 sketchpad, any size
4 small paper clamps
Substitutes If you do not have an awl, here are some other options:
Utility knife — use the tip
Precision screwdriver (I used a flathead, and drilled the holes by manually rotating it)
Waxed thread, or embroidery thread, is preferably with this method, as it is smooth and does not tangle as easily. You can also use yarn (provided the holes you make in the board and paper are large enough) and twine, but be careful not to let them tangle — sew slowly.
Take your sketchpad, and tear out the pages individually. Remove the cover and all traces of glue from the backing board and set this aside too.
Fold each individual page in half (these are called folios). Group them into stacks of 4-6 folios, to make signatures.
Take your backing board, and cut it in half with your utility knife. These will be your book covers.
Using a ruler and pencil, mark out three points (2cm apart) on either end of the top signature. Then mark this spot on the signatures below, by lining up your ruler and running the tip of your pencil along the folds.
Mark the same points on the boards, about 2cm from the edge.
Using your awl (or substitute), create holes in all the marked spots on your boards and signatures.
When doing the same to the signatures, it’s best to secure the pages with the paper clamps, so they will not move and displace the pages while you’re making the hole.
Stack the covers and signatures in the correct order (the signatures should be in the same order as they were stacks when you marked the points) — this will ensure that your stitches are in line.
Double-thread your needle and tie a knot at the end. You will need a long piece of thread, but don’t worry if you run out — you can tie off and continue with a fresh piece very easily.
Using your board and the signature on the bottom, begin from the inside of the signature.
Thread through so that the knot at the end of your thread sits on the inside of your signature, and then loop under the board and through the corresponding hole.
Draw the thread through the stitch, and pull through.
Return the thread back into the same hole in the signature and pull through.
Start the next stitch by inserting the thread into the next hole inside the signature, and doing the same as before.
Repeat for the other holes, until you get to the end of the signature.
Once you’ve reached the last hole and drawn the thread through the stitch, return the thread into the first hole of the next signature.
Insert the thread through the next hole inside the signature, and pull through.
Draw the thread through the stitch below the one you’re working on.
Return the thread into the hole of the signature.
Continue stitching as before, remembering to draw the thread through the stitch below, until you reach the final signature.
Line up your final signature and cover on top of the stack.
When returning the thread, instead of inserting it into your final signature, draw it through the hole in the cover from the outside.
Draw the thread through the previous stitch below.
Return the thread through the hole of the final signature.
Insert the thread through the next hole inside the signature, and continue to the end.
Tie off the thread inside the signature, tuck the ends underneath, and cut.
Congratulations, you have made your very own sketchbook!
Notes If you run out of thread while working, simply tie off your remaining thread inside the signature, tuck the loose end underneath, and cut. Continue in the next hole as per usual.
Work better with a video? Here’s a handy YouTube tutorial that will run you through with step-by-step instructions: