This tutorial will show you how to make a good quality, archival book from beginning to end. Book binding requires a lot of patience and practice, but the result is a beautiful work of art that you can give as a gift, or fill with your own drawings, notes and photos. Let’s begin!
- 2 pieces of book board cut to 12 x 15cm, short grain (What is short grain?).
- Book cloth large enough to cover your book boards (Learn how to make your own here).
- 30 pieces of acid-free drawing paper cut to 11.5 x 29cm, short grain.
- Piece of 6.5 x 11.5cm scrap paper.
- 2 sheets of acid-free paper for the inside of the cover 11 x 14cm, short grain.
- At least 4 sheets of newsprint.
- pH-neutral glue.
- Clean brush for glue.
- Bone fold.
- X-acto knife.
- Set square or triangle tool.
- Cutting mat.
- Waxed linen thread.
- Book binding needle.
- Paper weight. You can fill a sock with beans, rice, or bean-bag filler.
Make sure your paper, book cloth and book board are acid-free if you want your book to be archival. You will need a clean, flat surface to work on like a desk or the kitchen table. Try to keep your hands clean and dry as much as possible to prevent glue or oil stains on your book. Always double-check your measurements before cutting!
What Is Short Grain?
A paper is labeled short grain when the grain moves parallel to its short side. It is 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.
Then turn it and try to bend it in the other direction.
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, you will want the grain moving in the direction of the shorter side of both your paper and book board. Always determine the grain of your materials before cutting.
Step 1: Cut Your Book Cloth
On your cutting mat, cut your book cloth to 2cm larger than your book board on all sides.
Cut the corners of the book cloth at a 45 degree angle. Make sure the edge of the paper is 3mm away from the corner of your book board. Use your triangle to line up the corner.
Step 2: Cover the Outside of the Book Boards
Grab your glue, brush, bone fold, book cloth and book board.
Lay your book board on a piece of newsprint and glue the entire side of book board with a thin layer of glue.
Place the board glue-side down onto the book cloth and press down firmly. Center it so that the fabric wraps around each corner.
Turn the book and cloth over. Moving from the center out, rub the cloth firmly with the bone fold. Push out any bumps.
Turn the book and cloth back around. Glue one of the longer flaps of book cloth.
Wrap the flap around the board and rub with a bone fold. Rub the side of the board as well, so you don’t get bumps on the edges of your cover.
Glue the other long flap onto the book board using the same technique. With the tip of your bone fold, push the book cloth around the corner of the board. This is to ensure that the corners of your book board are completely covered. Do this for all four corners of the book board.
Glue the two remaining flaps of book cloth to the book board. If glue is seeping out of the corners, lay a scrap piece of newsprint over it when you use the bone fold. It will pick up the extra glue.
Hold up your book board and, with the flat side of your bone fold, tap the corners down.
Step 3: Cover the Inside of Your Book Board
Take your cloth-covered book boards, the two sheets of 11 x 14 paper, some glue, and a brush. On a sheet of newsprint, cover one of the papers with a thin layer of glue.
Carefully center the paper glue-side down onto the inside of your cover and rub with a bone fold.
Repeat the same steps to complete the second book cover.
Step 4: Prepare Your Signatures
Take a sheet of the 11.5 x 29cm paper and fold the long side in half. A good way to make sure you have a straight fold is to push the center down first and then push out the sides.
Do this until all sheets of paper are folded.
Gather 5 folded pages in a stack. This makes one signature. Do this until all of your signatures are made. You should have 6.
Use your bone fold to flatten the fold for each signature.
Step 5: Make Your Hole Punch Guide
Take your piece of 6.5 x 11.5cm scrap paper and fold it in half lengthwise. This is where your holes will be punched. Then fold it width-wise. This will be your center fold.
On your cutting board, use the awl to punch two holes measuring 2.5cm above and below the center fold.
Punch another two holes measuring 4.5cm above and below the center fold.
This will be your hole punching guide for your signatures and cover.
Step 6: Punch Holes in the Signatures
Grab your signatures, awl, and hole punch guide. Place your punching guide inside one of the signatures. Keep it in the center.
On the cutting mat, use your awl to punch four holes through the guide and all pages of the signature.
Do this for the remaining signatures. Be careful to keep your guide and pages lined up while punching holes.
Step 7: Punch the Holes for Your Cover
On the cutting mat, lay a signature on top of one of your covers. Move the signature in 2cm from the edge and, using it as a guide, punch the holes into the cover. Using a signature as a guide will ensure that your binding will be straight.
Do the same for your second cover. It’s up to you which cover you want for the front and back of your book.
Step 8: Sew a Signature to the Back Cover
Now that you have all your holes punched, you’re ready to sew it all together. Grab your signatures, covers, paper weight, needle, and thread.
Cut just over an arm’s length of thread. This is a good length when sewing because not only is it the perfect length for this book, it’s also a more comfortable length to work with. If you make the thread longer, it will become unwieldy, and your sewing process will take longer. Place the back cover and last signature of your book on the table so that the holes hang over the edge.
Open to the middle of your signature and set the paperweight down. This is the best way to stitch your book so that you can keep everything as straight as possible. If you move your book around too much while sewing, it will end up crooked.
Thread your needle and, starting from the first hole on the right, sew from the inside out.
Leave a tail of a least 6cm of thread inside the book. You’ll make a knot with this later.
Sew through the first hole of the cover starting from the inside out.
Do this twice so that you get a loop around the cover. Sew back into the first hole of the signature.
Pull the thread tight and push the spine of the signature to the edge of the board so that they are flush with one another. Check to make sure everything is still centered and re-adjust your paperweight if you need to.
Sew the needle through the second hole, starting from the inside of the signature.
This time when you sew through the cover, start from the outside in. You’ll have to lift up the whole signature to move it out of the way.
Make a loop here by sliding the needle under the signature and coming back through the same hole.
Sew the needle back into the middle of the signature. Tighten your stitches and make sure the signature is still lined up with your cover.
Pull your stitches tight and tie a knot with your thread and its tail on the inside of the signature.
Now onto hole three. Stitch through from the inside out. Keep your stitches tight or your book will be wobbly.
Here is where the long stitch comes in. This time, instead of stitching onto the cover, stitch back through the last hole from the outside in.
Now, with your needle on the inside of the signature, you’re going to stitch back through hole three.
Make the loop around the cover like you did for the last two holes.
Now we’re on the fourth and last hole. Stitch through hole four from the inside out and make a loop around the cover. This time, don’t stitch back into the centre of the signature. You need to leave it out for the next signature.
To secure your last stitch, wrap your thread around the back and pull tightly.
Step 9: Sew the Remaining Signatures Using the Kettle Stitch
Centre the next signature on top of the last one you stitched and re-adjust your paperweight.
Stitch through the first hole on the left, and out the second.
Do a long stitch into hole three and out hole four.
Now you’ll need to fasten this signature to the first using a kettle, or chain stitch. Starting from the right side, insert the needle through the two loops attached to the cover and pull tightly.
Then move the needle under your stitch and pull once more.
Repeat these steps for the rest of your signatures. Make sure to keep your stitches tight and signatures flush with the cover for a flat, strong spine.
Step 10: Sew on the Front Cover
Now that your paper is all stitched in there, it’s time to top it off with the front cover. Starting from the right side of your book, insert the needle through the first hole of the cover.
Loop around the edge of the cover and stitch back into the signature. Tighten your stitch.
Do this for the remaining three holes. When you get to the last one, stitch into the middle of the signature and make a knot.
Trim the excess thread and rub the knot with your bone fold. The wax will keep the knot from coming undone.
Step 11: Tie Square Knots on the Long Stitches
I like to add a little something special to my binding called the square knot or reef knot. This knot is used for sailing and jewellery, but I think it looks great on a book. Here’s how you do it: Cut two pieces of thread about 15cm long. Slide the needle under all of the long stitches. This will make it easier to do your knotting.
Pull one piece of thread through until you have equal lengths of thread on each side. Tie a single knot.
Move the right end over so that it lays on top of the left end.
Lead the left end over the right end, under all the long stitches and over the right loop on the other side. Pull tightly.
For the next knot, do these same steps but switch it around so that the right end goes under the long stitches. Alternate left and right until you’ve made six knots. Tie a simple knot by sliding both ends under the long stitches. Trim the ends of the thread.
Reposition the needle under the last square knot you made. Repeat the whole process again to make a second row of square knots.
Pat yourself on the back!
Congratulations on making your own Coptic long-stitch combo book! Whew, look at that beauty!
Now that you know how to make this book, try a different stitching pattern. There are an infinite amount of inspiring examples all over the internet! My book binding Pinterest board is a great place to start.
Tips, tricks, questions, or comments? Don’t be a stranger, let us know in the comments below!