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Crafts

Bookbinding Fundamentals: Basic Stab Binding

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:

The traditional Japanese four-hole stab bookbinding technique has a simple, contemporary appeal and it’s excellent for beginners. There’s no gluing or folding involved, so you can get a beautiful hand-crafted result with very little effort. Let’s get started.

Supplies

What youll need

1. Determine Paper Grain

Step 1

Before we start, you’ll need to learn about the grain direction of your paper. Machine-made papers have grain that runs in a certain direction based on how it was cut and dried. A paper is termed ’short grain’ when the grain moves parallel to its short side. Similarly, ’long-grain’ paper has a grain that moves parallel to the long side. It’s very important to have the paper grain move parallel to the spine of the book so that it opens flat. To test the grain direction, take a piece of paper and gently begin to bend it one way.

take a piece of paper and gently begin to bend it one way

Step 2

Then turn it and try to bend it in the other direction.

Then turn it and try to bend it in the other direction

Step 3

When you fold parallel to the grain, it will be easier. When you fold against the grain, you will feel more resistance. For this tutorial, the paper will be cut long-grain so that the direction of the grain is parallel to the longest edge of the paper. For example, if a sheet of paper is cut to 13cm x 15cm long-grain, the grain should be parallel to the 15cm side and should be easier to fold length-wise. Always determine the grain of your materials before cutting.

2. Prepare Your Materials

Step 1

Cut the three sheets of drawing paper into 5in x 6in (approx 13cm x 15cm) long-grain sheets. These will make your text block. Cut an extra sheet and set it aside.

Cut the 3 sheets of drawing paper into 127x1524cm long-grain pages
cut the drawing paper into 127cm long strips
Cut the strips into 1524cm sheets
Cut the strips into 1524cm sheets
Text block

Step 2

Cut the sheet of handmade paper into two 5in x 6in (approx 13cm x 15cm) long-grain sheets. These sheets will make the book cover.

Cut the sheet of handmade paper into two 127x1524cm 5x6in long-grain sheets
Cut the sheet of handmade paper into two 127x1524cm 5x6in long-grain sheets
Cut the sheet of handmade paper into two 127x1524cm 5x6in long-grain sheets
Cut the sheet of handmade paper into two 127x1524cm 5x6in long-grain sheets
Cut the sheet of handmade paper into two 127x1524cm 5x6in long-grain sheets

3. Make Your Punch Guide

A punch guide will help make your binding look clean and professional. Without a guide, your stitches might turn out crooked or uneven.

Step 1

Take the extra sheet of drawing paper and place the ruler 1/2in (approx 1cm) away from one of the long sides.

Place the ruler 1cm away from one of the long sides
Place the ruler 1cm away from one of the long sides
Place the ruler 1cm away from one of the long sides

Step 2

Punch four holes against the ruler at 3/4in, 2 1/4in, 3 3/4in, and 5 1/4in (approx 1.5cm, 5.5cm, 9.5cm, and 13.5cm).

Punch one hole at 14cm
Punch one hole at 56cm
Punch one hole at 97cm
Punch one hole at 138cm

4. Punch Holes in the Cover and Text Block

Step 1

Take your guide and line it up flush with a sheet from your text block. Punch through the four holes using your awl.

Using your guide punch four holes in a sheet from your text block

Repeat this step with all pages of the text block and the two cover sheets. You can try to punch two or three sheets together to speed things up, but you’ll have to be very careful to keep the pages lined up. If your punches are not identical on each page, it will show.

Step 2

As they are, the holes you punched will not be wide enough for the needle and thread to sew through. So take each page in the book and push the awl through each hole.

Push the awl through each hole in all of your book pages
Push the awl through each hole in all of your book pages

5. Bind the Book

Step 1

Cut an arm’s length of linen thread. Hold the book up with the spine facing you. For the purpose of this tutorial, the four holes will be numbered 1 to 4, starting from the left. Sew the thread up through hole number 3.

Sew up through hole 3

Leave a tail of at least 5cm sticking out.

Leave a tail of at least 5cm sticking out

Step 2

Sew up through hole number 3 once more to make a loop around the spine.

Sew up through hole 3 once more to make a loop around the spine

Pull the stitch tight.

Pull the stitch tight

Step 3

Stitch down through hole number 2.

Stitch down through hole 2
Stitch down through hole 2

Step 4

Stitch down through hole number 2 a second time to make a loop.

Stitch down through hole 2 a second time to make a loop

Step 5

Sew up through hole number 1.

Sew up through hole 1

Step 6

Make that loop by stitching up through hole number 1 again.

Stitch up through hole 1 again
Stitch up through hole 1 again

Step 7

At the end of the binding, you will want to make a second loop to secure the pages. Sew up through hole number 1 one last time and position the loop so that it lines up with the four holes.

Sew up through hole 1 one last time

Step 8

Sew down through hole number 2.

Sew down through hole 2

Step 9

Then sew up through hole number 3.

then sew up through hole 3

Step 10

Sew down through hole number 4 and make a loop by sewing down again through the same hole.

Sew down through hole 4
Sew down through hole 4 again to make a loop

Step 11

Make that second loop at the end of the binding by sewing down through hole number 4 one last time.

Sew down through hole 4 one last time

Step 12

Now take a look at the back of the book where the tail end of your thread is sticking out.

make a knot with the tail

Sew around the tail, moving the needle underneath the two surrounding stitches.

Sew around the tail moving the needle underneath the two surrounding stitches
Sew around the tail moving the needle underneath the two surrounding stitches

Step 13

Tie a knot with the two ends of your thread.

Tie a knot with the two ends of your thread

Step 14

Cut the excess thread and burnish the knot with your bone folder. This will help keep the knot from untying.

Cut the excess thread
burnish the knot with your bone fold

Pat Yourself on the Back!

Great job on your stab binding! Now that you’ve learned this basic technique, you can go on to learn more advanced bindings or even invent your own.

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Is this your first time binding a book? Are you a seasoned book binder with tips to share? We would love to read your questions or comments in the section below!

You can find more bookbinding tutorials here.

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