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★ Bookbinding Techniques, Ideas & Inspiration | Creative Ways to Make a Journal ★

Updated on May 08, 2015
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Different Ways To Bind a Book | Lots of Fun Tutorials

Bookbinding is a great skill and is a craft that has been around for many, many years. There is not just the one type of binding method to learn, but many traditional and more contemporary techniques, with a massive variety of creative styles being showcased all over the world.

Book binding is a fun and practical hobby for people who love craft, and there is plenty of scope to invent and establish your own style of binding, as well as experimenting with all kinds of materials including natural materials like twigs or handspun colourful yarns, or perfecting your skills in using the traditional leather as part of your bound journals and books. A handmade personalized journal makes an excellent gift too, so you'll never be stuck with what to get people for their birthday!

This page of tutorials mainly focusses on the sewing aspects of hand binding which are the traditional methods, although I'll also share the best how-tos for modern and adhesive-based bindings. For absolute beginners, the pamphlet stitch is best to start with as it is extremely simple. You can then move on to long stitch binding, Coptic stitch and beyond.

I hope you find this page very interesting :)

Contrast Chain Stitch

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Bookbinding Introduction

What Materials & Tools Do You Need?

Bookbinding is a great skill to learn, especially if you also enjoy scrapbooking, art journaling, sketching, keeping a diary or writing. It doesn't require expensive tools or equipment (unless perhaps you take it to an advanced level), and most of the items only need to be bought once and can then be used over and over.

The main items you will need are: paper, a bone folder to give a crisp fold in the paper, an awl for punching holes in paper, strong thread for stitching the pages together, beeswax for coating the thread to make it smooth and easier to pull through the paper (or you can buy waxy thread), a ruler, a pencil, scissors and perhaps a guillotine to cut a straight line, 2 clamps/vices or large flower press to grip the paper pages together, 2 small sheets of thin wood or another sturdy flat material to sandwich the pages together with, glue, thin cheesecloth or other open weave fabric such as mull, thicker paper (often patterned) for the inside covers, any material you would like to use on the outside of the journal such as leather, a needle, board for stiff covers if required e.g. greyboard, and a craft knife could be handy too.

Books can be made with as little as paper and staples, and in this case you would hardly require any materials, but as this page is mainly concerned with sewing books together to create lasting products, then the list above is a good indicator of the type of items you will need.

- The paper used can be any type from regular copier paper (lined/graph/plain) to handmade or watercolour paper. However, if you use thick paper it is more difficult and you can fit far fewer pages in a journal. I would definitely stick with regular paper at least to start and if you experiment with others, check that the sheet folds adequately and isn't too stiff. I use paper around 100gsm (68lbs) because it folds cleanly but isn't too thin. If you want your book or journal to last a long time, best to go with acid-free paper so writing won't fade on the paper over time.

- The glue I use is 'Aleene's Tacky Glue', but there are also specific bookbinding glues available, or you can use regular PVA glue for most projects. The glue should be a bit flexible and not set rock solid. A flour and water paste can also be made to act as the adhesive; this is the traditional method and is good for binding books which you need to last for many years (i.e. important or high-value texts), as the paste allows the book to be more easily be repaired in the future.

- The needle I use is a darning needle but there are specialist bookbinding needles you can use. It must be strong, especially if it has to be pushed through thicker materials, but try to get a needle not much thicker than the thread you're using as a chunky needle will create unsightly, unnecessarily large holes in the spine.

- As for the cover materials, board like greyboard or stiff cardboard is used for hardbacks, but you can use cloth (book cloth is fabric on one side, paper on the other) or leather too, and this is where you can use your creativity to make all kinds of different designs. Ideas include patchwork fabric wrapped around the book, painted canvas covers, paper mache 3D art, lino printed patterns, padded and quilted covers, embroidered card, carved wood and embossed metal foil.

There are so many materials available to use, plus a variety of sewing (binding) techniques, book shapes and sizes, that there are endless variations for creating a unique journal. The best way to start is to follow a few tutorials for making books in classic styles, and then this will give you a good grounding in the basics...then you can start experimenting!

Handy Bookbinding Materials

A needle, some thread, an awl, cover materials and paper are the vital ingredients of a book, but there are so many more elements you can add too.

Books by Hand Waxed Linen Thread
Books by Hand Waxed Linen Thread

3 colors of quality linen thread that has been pre-waxed for bookbinding use.

 
Beeswax Thread Conditioner-
Beeswax Thread Conditioner-

Block of wax for waxing your binding thread if it's not pre-waxed.

 
Zutter Closure Set, Frame
Zutter Closure Set, Frame

A leather strap closure you can use to add a further professional touch to diaries and journals.

 
Book Binding Super Cloth 18x30 Sheet by Lineco-Book Making Supplies
Book Binding Super Cloth 18x30 Sheet by Lineco-Book Making Supplies

An open weave fabric sheet which is used to join the paper signatures together at the spine of the book.

 
Lineco Binder's Board 15 in. x 20 1/2 in. 0.079 pack of 4
Lineco Binder's Board 15 in. x 20 1/2 in. 0.079 pack of 4

Acid-free stiff board that is used to make hardback books, and these boards can also be covered with your own choice of material or decoration.

 

Easy Methods & Ways To Bind Using Adhesives

Here are some quick methods using either simple sewing stitches - which are a good introduction to bookbinding for beginners - or using glue rather than thread to bind pages together. These methods are ideal if you want a 'quick fix' or you are not concerned with the artistry or skill of bookbinding for a particular project (I think they're great techniques for attaching together school revision notes into a book for instance).

Stab Bound Journal

This lovely journal has been bound using the Japanese stab binding technique, and the covers are hand painted watercolour paper.
This lovely journal has been bound using the Japanese stab binding technique, and the covers are hand painted watercolour paper. | Source
book-binding-signatures
book-binding-signatures

The Parts Of A Bound Book

Plus Information About The Main Binding Methods

Bound books are created from folded sheets of paper. Each individual folded sheet of paper is a folio and a bunch of folios folded together forms a signature. When you turn a 'page' in a book, this is actually a leaf rather than a page; each leaf consists of 2 pages, one of either side of the paper. If you have a look at the photo (above right), the book consists of 5 signatures, with each signature containing about 10 folios. The book will therefore have 100 leaves and 200 pages.

There are a variety of bookbinding techniques; some relatively new and some that have traditionally been used for hundreds or thousands of years.

The main types are as follows:

- Saddle stitch: You'll see this a lot in store-bought exercise books and lined school books. The books are usually quite thin, consist of one signature and are either (machine) stitched or stapled along the centre.

- Pamphlet stitch: A very simple stitch used to hold together a thin booklet/pamphlet.

- Spiral bound: This is where holes are punched along the left hand edge of every page of the book, and then a plastic comb/spiral is inserted into the holes to bind the pages together. This technique is used commercially (my university dissertation was bound like this) and it allows very free turning of the pages.

- Thermal tape: This is a commercially available adhesive method where pages are secured together with a strip of tape (usually black) along one edge. The tape is fused onto the paper with heat, and is a method mainly used for office documents.

- Perfect binding: A purely adhesive method where the pages are glued directly to a flexible spine. This method is common in paperback books and magazines.

- Case binding: The signatures are sewn together, along with the end papers, into a single block, which is then glued into a hardback cover. Woven sections called headbands are often added at each end of the spine for a professional finish.

- Coptic/chain stitch: This is a popular hand binding technique where the pages lie flat and do not have to be bent in order to be turned over. The binding creates a braided effect on the spine of the book and so is often left exposed because of its attractive look.

- Long stitch binding: Signatures are individually stitched onto the spine of the outside cover using long stitches.

- Japanese stab binding: This method involves stitching the pages together through 4 holes parallel to the spine of the book, with the thread being stitched between each hole and around the spine. This means that the book has a border along the left hand side so that book can't lie open on a table.

- Screw post: Metal screws are fastened through holes which are drilled through all of the pages of the book, including the covers. There are usually only 2 or 3 screw posts required per book.

- Secret Belgian binding: A distinctive way of sewing through the covers and weaving around the spine.

- Islamic binding: An historical form of binding from the Middle East which has elaborate headbands and an overlapping flap cover.

- Ethiopian binding: Similar to coptic binding and bound books have wooden covers.

Other stitch techniques:

- French link stitches: Often used with case binding, French link stitches are sewn over tapes (strips of fabric placed across the spine) to give more structure, and the stitches resembles twisted 'X's. This technique can be integrated into different types of binding.

- Sewing frame binding: Professional or traditional bookbinders often use a wooden frame to sew a book together. The frame holds cords vertically across the spine and the books are bound by stitching through the signatures and around these cords. To position the cords correctly, the sewing positions in the signatures are marked with notches so that the cords held vertically slide into these notches and are flush with the spine.

For some brilliant beginner information to start you off, check out this link, this link and this link.

Photo and binding by Lisa Yarost.

Equipment & Supplies; Leather, Cutters & More

Paper cutters or guillotines are a great help for cutting out the pages for your journals They make the job so much quicker, and can achieve excellent accuracy.

Other products listed here include quality inner pages, leather scraps and a journal making kit.

Fantastic Collection Of Tutorials

Click here to see the remaining bookbinding videos from SeaLemonDIY.

Ornate Spine Braids

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A Variety Of Techniques

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Headbands & Paper Grain

A Couple Of Important Things To Know Of When You've Learned The Basics

Headbands: These are used at each end of the spine of a hardback book, mainly when case binding has been used. They are woven bands and provide a professional finish as well as adding strength to the spine and making it more durable when it is constantly pulled off the shelf to be read. You can buy ready-made headband strips which can be glued on, or they can be sewn on with thread. The sewn version is time consuming but is stronger because it is sewn into the signatures. Plus if you sew the headbands yourself you can create a custom design and match the colour to the colour of the book cover. Usually two alternating colours are used to form a striped headband. Click here, here and here for tutorials on making a woven headband.

Paper grain: Even though it sounds technical and fiddly, paying attention to the grain of the paper, board and/or fabric you are using for your book is important to produce the best looking book possible. The grain of these materials should always run parallel to the spine of the book so that the pages will not warp and bend over time.

The grain is basically the name given to how the paper (or cotton) fibres align within the material. As these materials have been manufactured with machines, every sheet is made the same and the fibres are always aligned in the same direction.

I personally would say that when you are first learning and practising your binding skills, this won't be a priority, but once you've learned the basics, start to pay attention to grain alignment, especially if any of your practice books have buckled or warped.

For more information about paper grain and how to find out which way the grain is aligned, click here, here and here for excellent information.

Top-Rated Bookbinding Books

I would recommend buying at least one comprehensive book on bookbinding if you wish to take this craft up as a hobby. The books below are highly rated on Amazon and give plenty of instruction plus helpful tips and inspiration:

More Useful Bookbinding How-Tos

Traditional Binding

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Traditional Binding Close-Up

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How To Marble Paper - Traditional Inside Decoration - Plus How To Make Other Patterned Endpapers & Paper Edges

Using marbled end papers is a tradition which goes back hundreds of years and modern bookmakers still use the technique. There are endless patterns and colour combinations you can create using marbling, although feathered marbling is the usual pattern and can be produced at home by running a skewer or cocktail stick through the suspended paint/ink at regular intervals.

Leather Embossed Cover

With coptic binding.
With coptic binding. | Source

Get Creative With The Cover

If you want to add imagination and creativity to your journal, the front cover is the place to do it!
If you want to add imagination and creativity to your journal, the front cover is the place to do it! | Source

Journal Covers Video Tutorials

Woven Book Spine

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Friendship Bracelet Binding

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Hand Bound Book

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Tools Of The Trade

These 5 products are very prominent items used in bookbinding techniques; especially the needles and awl which are essential. I've picked these ones because they are nice quality and have received very good reviews.

Have you ever made a book/journal from scratch before?

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