Book-Binding Tutorial - For Deb!

this tutorial is regarding creating the book block 
{sewing your pages together}

it is exceptionally long!!

once i have decided how big i want my book to be, i cut the two cover pieces that size

-they're my visual reference for creating the pages, which are then combined into signatures

if you've never made a book before, i suggest strongly you prepare a few signatures of plain, inexpensive paper and practice with them - once you start using card-stock and other heavy, decorative papers, it gets more difficult to sew a nice tight book block

having said that, this book was made with various papers of many sizes

the signatures are made up of folded papers, nested inside each other

the papers can be all different sizes, but the outer one should always be the same size in each signature, and should be a full-size one
{full-size being about 1/2" shorter than the cover, and between 1/2" and 1/4" smaller in width}

once you have nested your papers into the individual signatures, push the smaller ones where you want them to be {to the top, or to the bottom} and paper clip in place, as below

if i've decided to place it neither at the top, nor the bottom, i add paper clips to the sides as well!

repeat this for each signature, and stack them in order as you want them to appear in the book

to punch the holes for the sewing you can use an awl or a large needle - i prefer a chenille needle in a size 22, or a sewing awl if it has a fine point

each book is unique, and so each book needs it's own measure for marking the holes so after you mark all of them it's a good idea to throw the template away

from heavy paper, cut a strip as long as your signatures, and about 1/2" wide

place a small mark at the half-way point on one side

make a small mark 1/2" up from the bottom and 1/2" down from the top

place an "h" at the top
{the top of the book is called the "head" and each signature must be punched in the same manner - regardless of how carefully you measure, there is always a slight variation in measurements from the top to the bottom, and if you reverse either the punch-guide, or the signature during the sewing, the holes may not line up - you must always mark your signatures the same way, and always stack them with the "head" to the left!}

 for most of my books i prefer three tapes along the spine and so you will need to make three groups of two marks that are spaced slightly farther apart than the width of the ribbon you intend to use

i prefer a 3/8" wide ribbon and so my marks are 1/2" apart and are evenly spaced in the area between the first marks you made - see above

i always, always, always stack my signatures in the same manner for both marking, and for sewing

always doing the same thing helps you to keep from getting mixed up!

once you have arranged all the signatures in front of you, stacked up as they would appear in the book, pick up the whole thing and turn it over and place it upside down, with the folded edges away from you

pick up the top signature, keeping the head end to your left and the fold away from you

place your paper template right up against the fold
{you can paper clip it in place if you like - i usually just hold it with my hands}

use your awl, or needle and carefully poke a hold at each mark, ensuring you go through all the papers, and keeping the hole in the fold - practice this first on folded paper!

you can also open a large phone book to the centre and place your signature in the groove and punch your holes that way - some people have wooden book-making "cradles" for doing this, but a phone book works well - i don't use either but i do have to be very careful to poke through the fold

this is how the signature looks after the holes have been poked

now pick that signature up, turn it over, and place it beside you with the fold on the left, and the head at the top
{placed so the last page of the signature is the last page you want in your book}

 i usually sew my signatures with waxed linen twine - i usually buy it pre-waxed but have used bees-wax on regular linen thread with good success

for sewing the signatures i like a tapestry needle in a size #22 but if i can't find one i use a chenille needle

the length of thread is determined by the number of signatures... one length for each signature, plus two extra for knotting etc. 
measure the thread along the spine, and if you have six signatures, you need your thread to be as long as your spine times six plus two extra lengths, for eight

thread one end through your needle, and don't tie a knot in the other end, just leave it loose

the ribbon tapes should be a sturdy ribbon - satin works, as does linen, or a cotton

depending on how thick your book will be, cut them about 4" long - if they seem too long when you're finished you can always trim them

the ribbon should be strong but not too thick

 place your signature stack back in the same position as for marking the holes, fold away from you with the last signature on top, and the head to your left

pick up the first one, and this time, turn it over and place it down in front of you, with the fold facing you and the head at the left
{i usually like to have it fairly close to the edge of the table i'm working on... usually...}

push your needle into the first hole on the right, from the outside, to the inside, and pull all the way through, leaving a 4" tail on the outside of the signature

now bring the thread through the next hole, from the inside to the outside

place a ribbon in between that hole and the next one and then take your needle through the next hole to the inside of the signature
(you might want to use a low-tack masking tape to tack the ribbon ends in place but you will be constantly having to remove it as you do each signature - the ribbons flip, and flop around but are easily adjusted)

continue in this manner through the next two sets of holes, adding the ribbons, and then coming out the last hole at the head end

in the photo below, the 4" tail is to the right, the needle end, to the left

 at this point, you can remove the paper clips

pick up the next signature, turn it over and place it on top of the first one

take your needle and push it through the first hole, from the outside in

 below is a photo of what the inside should be looking like!

 continue along, going in and out, making sure you sew around the ribbons as you come to them, but don't come out at the last hole - stop, and remove the needle from the thread

take the 4" tail on the outside, thread it onto your needle and bring it through the last hole of the second signature - remove the needle and tie the two ends together in a square knot

***before you pull this tight, make sure your signatures are nice and tight together - you can do this by pulling on the long thread but always, always, always, pull along your spine, or fold, not perpendicular to it - pulling lengthwise will tighten without ripping your paper!***

 after you tie the square knot, clip the short end and re-thread the long end in your needle and come out the last hole of the second signature

below is the inside view of where you stop at the end of the second signature, in order to tie the square knot

 short end re-threaded

 going in through the last hole of the second signature

tying the square knot

 short end clipped and now coming out the last hole

 remove the paper clips from the second signature, and pull the thread tight, pulling along keeping the thread going along to the right, and not pulling perpendicular to the fold

 below, you can see the third signature now placed on top ready to sew and the thread trailing to the right - that's the direction you pull in, not toward you - pulling toward you will tear your pages

 sew the third signature as you did the previous two, making sure you go over the ribbons, and adjusting them as you go - they're fiddly!

 when you come out of the last hole of the third signature, you need to make what's called a "kettle" stitch
kettle stitches lock the stitching in place, keeping your book pages together
*always tighten your sewing before doing a kettle stitch 
{pulling lengthwise at the end as explained above!}

the diagram below shows how to do a kettle stitch at each end - in the photo above, we're at the head end so you would follow the diagram to the left

the kettle stitch is done at each end from now on in the signature sewing process

when you come to the end of the last signature, do the kettle stitch and come back inside the last hole

do a couple of slip knots, pulling firmly

 needle and thread brought back to the inside

 making the slip knots

clip the thread and your book block is finished

this is a pretty basic method of sewing your signatures together - there are many, many ways of doing decorative binding techniques etc.
there are wonderful videos on you tube that will demonstrate those very well, as well as tutorials on rounding your spine, gluing them, adding head bands and so on

my books are pretty simple, but this should get you started!


deanna7trees said...

excellent tutorial. wonderful images. i will be trying this soon. thank you.

Karen B. said...

Dear Jillayne,
amazing tutorial! Thank you so much for being so kind and putting this together for all of us!
I hug you!

Karen B. ~ Todolwen

FredaB said...


This is a great tutorial. Very clear and easy to understand. I will refer to it often.


ps - I think this is how you did my Christmas book. Lovely.

Createology said...

Thank you for such an in depth description with photos. I am fortunate you did my signatures and I have not tried since then...all good intentions I know! This will allow me to feel confident while I actually make my book this year. Thank you so much Jillayne Dear...

Mosaic Magpie said...

Oh my friend, thank you so much for the time and effort you have put into writing and photographing this tutorial. The tutorial is very well written and easy to follow....I think even I can do it! Where did I put those Christmas cards...Thank you again!!!

BumbleVee said...

Thanks Jillayne!! Perfect. Just what I need to begin a trial run with one of my own. Now to figure out what I want to do for a cover.

Rae Lynn said...

Great tutorial and what a lot of work! Thank you!