Thursday, September 20, 2012


I really enjoy binding books. I started with sewing together travel ephemera that I had folded in half, moved on to blank paper folded in half with a harder cover -- usually some thin cardboard or perhaps a discarded contact sheet from my photography class. Soon I figured out how to create hardbound books, and soon after that I learned the proper way of binding them. Now I bind myself sketchbooks and planners as often as I need. I like that I can customize them to suit my needs and tastes, and I also like that they don't cost me a ton of money. I made this sketchbook yesterday afternoon:

I took a few pictures of the process to share with a friend, but not as many as is necessary to fully explain binding the pages. I'm going to give a brief synopsis of that part, and I would encourage you to find a "kettle stitch" tutorial. 

Hard bound books are created with signatures. A signature is a collection of pages grouped and folded in half. Many moleskine notebooks are a single signature with rounded corners and an oilcloth cover. In thicker hardcover books, several signatures are sewn together. I'm sure they sell extra strong binding thread, but I just use regular thread that I triple or quadruple. 

You can make a cover that fits your pages, cutting down dense cardboard to a suitable size. For this sketchbook, I was reusing the covers of an old book, so I cut the paper to fit. The covers are 7.5 x 5 inches, so I cut pieces of paper 7.5x 10 inches and folded them into signatures 6 sheets (12 pages) thick. 

If I was using blank dense cardboard (chip board) for the covers, I'd cut a piece of book cloth (paper backed fabric) large enough to cover the entire thing, but as I wanted the covers to show, I only cut a narrow strip. 
Here are my bound pages, covers, extra dense cardboard (for the spine) and flowery golden strip of book cloth:

Then I cut a piece of cardboard for the spine as tall as the book and as wide as the thickness of the pages. 
I glued the spine and the covers to the book cloth:

I left a small amount of space (around 1/4") between them so that the covers can bend.

Then folded the bottom of the book cloth up and glued it to the inside. I folded the top down and glued it to the inside as well. 

I sew small strips of fabric to the spine of my book (this time I used some wrinkly bits of book cloth) and use those to glue the spine area of my pages to the cardboard spine of my book. This is probably the most important part in terms of your book not falling apart:

This is just a shot of the spine drying, there was still more to be done:

Finally I glue the end pages of my block of signatures (I usually use special or heavier paper for the outside signatures) to the covers. 

And a shot of using my sign painting supplies to hold everything in place while it dries.

And voila.