Endangered & Traditional Crafts: How To Do a Bookbinding DIY

Endangered & Traditional Crafts: How To Do a Bookbinding DIY

Today we have brought you a post dedicated to the art of bookbinding along with three separate tutorials sharing bookbinding DIY techniques to try to help show how easy these traditional techniques are while giving it our own Design Bundles twist and adding in some modern additions to the designs.

I don't know about you, but I LOVE a good notebook or sketchbook. I've always got at least 1 in my bag and two on my desk; I use them for so much - shopping lists, household To-Do lists (we have a big book for those, the jobs are never-ending!), drawing down craft ideas or working out sewing patterns, so many things.

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The craft of creating books has been around for centuries, and even though we've had many technological advances, the general methods of making books have stayed the same.

There is one issue though, thanks to mass manufacturing and lack of practitioners to pass these skills down to even fewer trainees, these traditional skills are slowly being lost. According to the Heritage Crafts Association, traditional bookbinding has been highlighted as having the potential to become an endangered craft without intervention.

Why Bookbinding Could Become an Endangered Craft

Bookbinding, like most traditional crafts, has become a victim of the modern age. With all the advances in technology, automated machines have made the process far cheaper and quicker than human hands could ever manage.

It used to be a skill taught by universities, usually included in printmaking courses, but the lack of proper skills and knowledge in the craft led to generally poor results. The main concern with bookbinding is the lack of training and education facilities for people to learn in person with a well-trained teacher. There are short, in-person courses available around the country, but none offer the in-depth training and opportunities that an 'old-fashioned' apprenticeship would have done.

When you pair those factors with the fact that electronic book readers such as the kindle and ebooks are becoming ever more popular, it's easy, albeit still frustrating, to see why this beautiful and skilled traditional craft is dying out.

Different Methods of Bookbinding

We've put together some tutorials to show you some of the most popular bookbinding methods that you can learn a home.

To help better understand the following tutorials, we have put together a bookbinding glossary to explain some of the most used terms.

Bookbinding Glossary - The Anatomy Of A Book

Signatures - Stacks of 2 or more pieces of paper that have been folded in half and then stacked together ready for sewing.

Text Block - Collection of signatures that have been bound together to make the complete set of internal pages for your book

Folio - A folio is a piece of paper that makes up a signature. It is one sheet that is folded once to create two 'leaves' or four pages.

End Papers - Endpapers are the first and last sheets of a book. They are double leaves (meaning it's one sheet folded in half to create two pages), one side of which is fully glued to the cover boards, and the other is left to turn freely like a page. Some books will have ornately decorated end pages.

End Boards or Cover Boards - These are what we use to make the covers of a hardback book. Historically made of wood, nowadays we use stiff card.

Headband - A headband is a decorative band initially created to protect a book's spine's top and bottom edges. In modern bookmaking, these are purely decorative.

How To Make a Saddle Stitch Book

Saddle Stitch Binding is a great technique to use if you are creating a book with a smaller page count; from a crafters perspective, this makes it perfect for creating mini notebooks! Commercially, saddle stitch binding is done with staples as it's a cheap and quick way to mass-produce thin books; it's often used on magazines or school exercise books.

Traditionally Saddle Stitch is done with thread, and it's a lovely, easy way to create a handmade book in a relatively short time. This bookbinding tutorial will show you the step-by-step method to make your own saddle-stitched notebook.

What You'll Need To Make a Saddle Stitch Book

To make a simple saddle stitch book, you will need:

BookBinding 1

Step 1. Align The Pages

Gather all of your pages together along with your cover, make sure they are lined up accurately and clip them in placeBookBinding 2

Step 2. Mark The Binding Holes

Flip your paper stack over so that the cover is on the bottom. Use a ruler to find the middle of your paper, draw a line down the center; this will be the spine of your book.BookBinding 3

Measure that center spine line and mark the middle point, then add marks in 2.5cm increments from that center.

Step 3. Make The Binding Holes

Using an awl, carefully make your binding holes on those pencil marks down the centerline.

BookBinding 4

We will be using reasonably thick waxed thread, so make sure that the hole will be big enough.

Step 4. Cut The Thread

Cut a length of thread just over three times the length of the book spine.BookBinding 5

Thread it through the needle so that you have a short tail (we are using a single thread, not a double thread)

Step 5. Start Stitching

Working from the inside to the outside, begin your stitch at the center hole and leave a small tail. Next, move to the hole on the right and bring your needle back through - your first 'stitch' will be on the cover side of your book.BookBinding 6

Continue to the next hole and then the others; make your way in and out of the holes until you get back to the center hole.

BookBinding 7

You will end up with your thread on the outside (cover side) of your book with no more holes to go back through.BookBinding 8

Step 6. Tieing Off The Bind

Create a knot on the outside of your book by going through a previous stitch and then looping the thread through. Pull tight to form a knot, and then pull that knot to the inside of the book by stitching back through the center hole and pulling the thread and knot through.

BookBinding 9

Tie off your thread on the inside by creating a knot from both loose ends of thread (the one on your needle and the tail from the start)

BookBinding 10

Step 7. Fold The Pages

Trim the tails on the waxed thread and then carefully fold the book at the spine. Go through each page and run the bone folder across it to make the fold sharp and so it sits nice and flat.BookBinding 11

How To Coptic Bind a Book

Coptic Binding is a method of creating a book with an open spine that can be traced back as early as the 2nd century AD. It is characterized by the signatures being sewn through the folds and attached to one another (and the book covers) with a form of chain stitches running across the spine. Coptic Binding is an ideal method to use to create sketchbooks as it allows the spine to open fully and the pages to lay completely flat.

What You'll Need To Make a Coptic Bound Book

To make a simple Coptic Bound book, you will need:

  • Ruler
  • Awl
  • Pencil
  • Craft Knife
  • Bone folder
  • Waxed thread
  • Needle
  • Clips
  • 20 pieces of A4 paper
  • Two pieces of sturdy card for the cover boards - I used a 1mm thick chipboard.

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Step 1. Preparing The Signatures and Coverboards

Take each sheet of A4 paper and fold it in half to create a folio to form your signatures, run a bone folder down the crease to make it nice and sharp, and then stack them into four sets of 5 pages.

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Cut pieces of card of chipboard so that they are big enough to act as your cover boards for your book; I cut mine so that they were a few millimeters bigger than my signatures.

Step 2. Mark The Signatures

Stack your signatures together so that they are even on all sides. Line a ruler up with the folded edge and place three marks 2.5cm (1inch) increments from the top and bottom of the signatures - creating six marks in total

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Apply pressure with the ruler to keep the signatures together and draw a line down all the spines.

Step 3. Mark and Puncture The Coverboards

Place one of your marked signatures onto one of your cover boards, move it so it is around 1.2cm or half an inch away from the edge of the cover board (we need this space to allow our book to open flat)Endangered & Traditional Crafts: How To Do a Bookbinding DIY 15

Use an awl to make holes on the cover boards in line with the marks on your signatures. You will be going through the holes a few times with the thread, so make sure they are wide enough.

Unfold your signatures and create your thread holes using the awl on the marks you made earlier. Then, fold them back together and place them back in a stack.

Step 4. Start The Stitching

Take one of your cover boards, position a signature on top of it and open it so that you can access the awl holes from the middle pages. Next, double thread your needle with waxed cord and, starting on the lowest hole on the bottom of the signature, stitch through the inside of the signature. Endangered & Traditional Crafts: How To Do a Bookbinding DIY 16

Loop your thread over the outside of the cover board and come up through the lowest hole on the cover board.

Step 5. Finish The First Stitch

Pull your thread tight to pull the signature and cover together, and the holes line up over each other. Next, loop your needle around the thread and pass it back through the first signature hole so that we end up back on the inside of the pages.

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You can now see one complete stitch on the outside of your signature, and you are ready to stitch back through the next hole up inside your signature.

Step 6. Continue The Stitches

Continue into the next hole in the signature, do the same process as before and then carry on working your way through all the holes in this first signature until you reach the last one.

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When you reach the last hole on your signature, do the regular stitch and loop but don't go back through the signature hole to the inside of the page - instead, add the next signature on top and go into the first hole there to complete the stitch and bind the two signature together.

Step 7. Continue Adding Signatures

Repeat the stitches on the new signature with the only difference being that you are now looping through the previous signatures' outer stitch rather than looping through the cover board stitch before pushing the needle back through to the middle of the pages.Endangered & Traditional Crafts: How To Do a Bookbinding DIY 19

When you reach the last signature, you want to also add the other cover board to your stack before stitching, as you will be sewing them on at the same time.

We need to secure the cover board to our stack before we attach the last signature, so we are going to go through the hole in the cover board first, loop through the previous stitch on the lower signature, and then through the new signature hole. The cover board is now secure, and we can make sure to include the cover board in our next stitches.

Stitch into the next signature hole, loop through the previous lower stitch, then through the cover, and create a loop around the last stitch on the top signature and back through the signature hole. Essentially we are creating two separate loops and securing stitches in this final pass rather than our regular one loop and stitch on all the prior signatures.

Step 8. Tieing Off The Bind

To finish your bind, once you have passed the needle back to the interior on the last signature hole, create a knot by passing your needle through one of the internal straight stitches, pull tight, and then trim the thread.Endangered & Traditional Crafts: How To Do a Bookbinding DIY 20

How To Make a Hardcover Book

A hardcover book is made up of several components that we will walk you through in this step-by-step hardcover bookbinding DIY

To make a hardcover book, you will need:

  • 40 sheets of A4 paper
  • Ruler
  • Awl
  • Pencil
  • Craft knife
  • Bone folder
  • Sewing cotton and needle
  • Beeswax
  • Endpapers - We created ours using this beautiful marble digital paper from Design Bundles
  • PVA Glue
  • Clamps
  • Book Cloth, or, if you want to make your own - Cotton fabric, iron-on adhesive(Thermoweb Heat n Bond), and tissue paper
  • Chip Board or heavy GSM card

Firstly we need a Text Block

Making a Text Block

To make our text block, we will need the A4 paper, end cover pages, ruler, pencil, awl, cotton thread, needle, and beeswax.

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The 40 sheets of A4 paper will need to be folded in half (using a bone folder to sharpen the crease) and then stacked into ten sets of 4 pages to make our signatures.

Step 1. Measure Out The Binding Holes

To measure out the holes for the binding, take one signature and measure to find the middle of the spine. Then, starting in the middle, add a mark in 1-inch increments down the length of the spine on either side of the middle point.

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Take your marked signature and line it up with the stack of the others; using a straight edge, draw a line down all the spines to mark where your awl holes will be.

Step 2. Make The Awl Holes

Make your awl hotels in all the signatures taking care to stack them back in the same order (this helps to keep everything square/even)

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Step 3. Start Stitching

To stitch this book, we are using sewing cotton instead of waxed binding thread as we want the signatures to sit flat with a nice low profile; the waxed binding can be too thick and make the pages too bulky. Wax your cotton thread and thread through a needle, and double over with a knot in the end.

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Starting from the left-most hole in your first signature, pass the needle through from the spine side to the inside and then out through the next hole.

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Weave through the rest of the awl holes in this fashion until you get to the last hole, turn back on yourself, and carry on until you get back to the first hole. Next, tie a knot on the inside and then thread the needle back through to pull the knot to the spine side.

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Step 4. Adding More Signatures

Take your following signature and enter the first hole on the left, weave through to the next hole and then pass your needle through the right loop and left loop below it to form an anchoring loop before then passing back through the signature hole.

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When you get to the last hole on the second signature, loop around the left loop on the signature below and then add the third signature to the top, pass the needle through the hole in the third signature. Stitch through to the next hole and then pass the needle between the bottom signatures, loop around the stitch, and then back into the hole to create your next 'chain' of anchor stitches for that layer.

Continue on with the remaining signature in the same fashion, always looping around the previous signature stitch below. Finally, on the last hole of the previous signature, create a knot on the inside and then pull it through to the outside.

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Your bound signatures should end up looking like this.

Step 5. Gluing The Spine

Our next step is to glue the spine of the book. Adjust the signature so that they are straight and even and clamp them in place.

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Apply a coat of PVA glue to the spine, allow to dry, and then apply another layer.

Step 6. Adding End Papers

Our endpapers for this book are made using a 220gsm white card that has been printed with a stunning marble digital paper from Design Bundles. Fold your card in half and sharpen the crease with a bone folder, run a line of glue around 1.5cm wide next to the spine of your text block and attach the end pages. Repeat and do the same for the back of the book, clamp and leave to dry.

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While the endpapers are drying to the text block, take another piece of paper (it doesn't need to be anything special, it'll be hidden in the final steps) around 12 x 20 cm and fold it so that it will cover the spine and an equal portion of the endpapers. This piece is added to give some extra strength to the spine. Once the endpapers are dry and securely attached to the text block, glue this piece of paper to the spine first and then glue down either side to the end pages. Set aside to fully dry either in clamps or under a heavy book.

Finishing Touches - After the text block is dry, you can add some finishing touches such as 'head bands'. These aren't required for the structure of the book but help to add a nice decorative finish. This video gives a few quick examples of how to make headbands.

Making Book Cloth

The next thing we need to do is make our book cloth. You can buy book cloth online, but I decided to give making my own a try - it's a really straightforward process! To make book cloth you will need fabric such as cotton, iron-on adhesive (I used Thermoweb Heat-n-Bond), tissue paper, and an iron.

Step 7. Laminating The Fabric

We're going to make the book cloth by layering or laminating our fabric with an adhesive layer and then tissue paper as a backing.

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Lay your iron-on adhesive shiny side down onto the back of your fabric, run an iron over it on medium heat until you can see that it has adhered.

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Peel the backing paper off to reveal a second shiny side.

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Lay your tissue paper over this and run the iron over again until you see the outline of the adhesive interfacing show through (this is how you know the tissue paper has adhered to it). Once it has cooled, you can cut down the excess tissue paper and square up the edges.

Step 8. Preparing The Hard Cover

It's now time to take the measurements of the text block so that we can cut our card for our hardcover. Measure the width of your text block and then add 1cm (0.25 inch), measure the length of your book, and add 1cm. Mark the measurements out on your board twice to create your two cover boards. For the spine, accurately measure the width of your text block and draw it out on the board to match the height of the covers.

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Carefully cut out your cover pieces; if using a thick card or chipboard like I am, you may need to make a few passes at the cut.

Assembling The Book

Now that we've created all of our separate components to create our book, we're ready to put it all together! These next steps involve a lot of gluing, so you might want to find something to protect your work surfaces before continuing.

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Step 9. Applying The Boards to the Book Cloth

Our next step is to stick our cover boards to our book cloth. Start by applying a good coat of PVA glue to the front cover board, then measure a gap that is 6mm plus the thickness of our board (so in our case the board is 1mm thick chipboard so we need a 7mm gap) and mark a line. Paste PVA onto the spine piece of your cover board and line it up with the line you have just drawn. Measure another gap the same width as before, and then paste down your back cover board. Endangered & Traditional Crafts: How To Do a Bookbinding DIY 36

These gaps give us the room for the book cover to wrap around our text block and still leave an overhang without it being too tight and still allowing movement on the spine when opening and closing the book. Place your cover boards under something heavy while it dries to ensure it all stays flat. Once dry, trim the excess cover cloth off leaving yourself with around a 2.5cm board around your cover boards.

Step 10. Cutting The Corners

When it comes to fully 'wrapping' your book covers with the cloth, it's essential to make sure that you cut your corners correctly. You need to cut them at a 45-degree angle, but you don't want to cut them right to the corner of the board.

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Leave a few millimeters space between your cut corner and the edge of the cover board; this means we can form a nice tight corner without any fraying or the board showing through.

Step 11. Gluing the Book Cloth in Place

To finish the gluing of the book cloth, you want to work on opposite sides together (this stops the cloth from pulling and stretching in ways that could cause creases or wrinkles). Smooth glue along the top cloth edge and then fold it down to meet the board, make sure that it is tight to the edge, and then clamp in place. Do the same for the bottom edge and then the side edges.

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Leave the glue to dry enough so that it holds the fabric in place before removing the clamps and then placing the bound cover board beneath a heavy object to finish drying completely flat.

Step 12. Adding The Text Block

Our next step is to glue the endpapers to our inside cover. Coat the end pages in PVA glue position the text block so that it will have a 3mm border of the cover around it. Smooth the page down with the bone folder to make sure there are no air bubbles. Endangered & Traditional Crafts: How To Do a Bookbinding DIY 39

Do the same with the other end page, ensuring the same border is given. Finally, place a sheet of scrap paper between the end pages and other pages of the book (to prevent any glue leaking) and then put it under something heavy to completely dry.

Step 13. Added Personalisation

Depending on who you are making the book for, you might want to add some personalization to the front. This can easily be done by adding a design to the front using HTV. I searched Design Bundles for writing quotes for my book and found this Quotes By Writers bundle from Tara Reed Designs. I chose the SVG file I wanted, had my Cricut machine cut it out from the HTV, and applied it with my mini heat press.

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And there we have it, a handmade hardcover book perfect for using as a diary, notebook, guest book - anything you can think of! These are great to give as gifts or to make and sell; once you have the main components made (the text block, book cloth, and cover boards), they are easy to assemble in an almost production line like manner - while you are waiting for the glue to dry on one you can move on to another.

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Happy Bookbinding!

We'd love to see your books if you decide to give any of these tutorials a go - be sure to share some pictures of them with us over in our Facebook Group, The Design Bundles Customer Community.


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