Sunday, May 02, 2010

Bookbinding = Joy

A couple of weeks ago I attended a 2-hour bookbinding class. It was rushed, slightly stressful, and showed a very quick-n-dirty approach. No written instructions, no precise cutting or time to take care, just 18 people frantically trying to keep up with a harried instructor who had a plane to catch. At the end of it, though, I had an intriguing little book, and had learnt (more or less) how to do a multiple-needle coptic bookbinding stitch.

I went home with another bookbinding kit in my bag, and googled around for some instructions I could work along to (the multiple-needle coptic / chain stitch *is* complicated at first). This time I carefully cut everything with unerring accuracy, worked at my own pace, and found the whole process throughly enjoyable.

I made some mistakes, and will be re-stitching the book with different thread, but for my second attempt at making a book from scratch, I was very pleased. I had decided to make a fabric-covered book, as I have some taupe suede which makes very pretty fountain pen cases, so I figured a matching book would be nice. I also stitched on some little floral motifs using contrasting thread for some added interest.

The cover:

The back:

The spine:

Detail of the spine, showing the braid formed by the coptic stitch:

In the class, we used a heavy black 5-ply Barbour waxed thread and darning needles. It is incredibly strong thread, but very thick and a bit unwieldy. I won't be using it again for any projects, as I have found nicer 3-ply and 4-ply threads in a bigger colour range that are better suited to the finer finish I like for my books. I have also invested in proper bookbinding needles.

Some other books I have recently made appear below.

My first book made in the class. The coptic stitch allows books to lie open flat:

Trying different thread and cover designs:

A book for my plein air pen and ink work:

A new book with A/S Colourfix coloured pastel paper sheets separated by glassine paper for plein air pastel sketches:

Some helpful links:
Instructions vary, but I prefer to start with the front cover first. This way, your final tie-off knots end up inside the back folio or section, rather than in the front.


  1. Yet another hobby! Your books are lovely. Thanks for explaining how you put them together. :)

  2. This is very beautiful- and practical, I would guess. Congratulations! Looking forward to more!

  3. These are so great to make. The method the teacher showed us demonstrated how to get two books from one store bought A4 12-sheet watercolour sketch pad: slice the back cardboard up into four pieces to form the covers, and then fold 6 sheets of paper in half for each book. In the case of my landscape pen and ink book, I sliced the back cover into two long pieces.
    I have added different papers to some books, e.g. some have several folded pages of 220gsm drawing cartridge, followed by nice 300gsm watercolour paper.
    Good, clean fun!

  4. Pardon my ignorance, but where do you find the bookbinding supplies (the thread and needles).
    I have had a hardcover from a book, sitting on my shelf for months waiting to be remade into a
    notebook. Very nice work too.

  5. Hi f3lix - in regard to supplies, that will depend greatly upon your location! Here in Australia, I can only access a fraction of the great supplies available in the US and UK.

    I use straight bookbinding needles, not the curved ones, because I do the multiple needle stitch. I much prefer waxed threads over unwaxed threads like Klippans linen thread. Also, don't use anything less than 3-4ply for coptic stitch, as fine thread just doesn't show the braid well enough - and the braid is the prettiest part. :)

  6. I cant believe I totally missed that link, sorry

  7. Good luck - I'd love to see what you make. Bookbinding really brings out one's creative side, and it's so interesting to see what other folk get up to! :)

  8. Awesome! Beautiful! :D

  9. I can see you haven't posted in this blog for some time, but I have to say that your work is fabulous!! I have very much enjoyed seeing it, having come here from Jessica's blog (stapeliad).