Introduction: Long Stitch Binding a Softcover A5 Notebook
Recently I have found great joy in binding books of various sorts myself as there are tons of useful tutorials and a lot of inspirational and skilled bookbinders online as well as on Instructables. Since this has to do with paper and self-made books always make a great gift for your loved ones (or yourself)
I will try to do a basic tutorial on one of the most comon binding technique, called Long Stitch Binding. It is a very easy but "eye-pleasing" binding, the result will be a self-made notebook to hold your sketches, notes, shopping lists or anything other you need to write down. It features a visible thread binding on the spine and the size and page number can be adjusted to your desired use.
Step 1: Gathering the Materials/tools
- A4 paper for the inside: Every paper will do, but keep in mind that some paper is better to write/sketch on. I did this notebook with 160 gsm paper, but 90-100 gsm paper will do just as good as heavier one. Just don't take 80 gsm or less paper, as the binding is done with thread, so the thread might wear through thin/cheap paper.
- A4 paper for the outside: The cover that will wrap your notes. You can either take thicker cardboard or print fancy patterns of your desire on any strong A4 paper. I took a black 300 gsm cardboard which has a soft touch coating, giving it a nice satin-like surface feel.
- Linen tape (Filmoplast T): This self-adhesive linen cloth will be used to cover and protect the spine of your finished notebook. If you can't get Filmoplast T, you can either substitute it with other tape of your choice or leave it away. The tape is mainly used for further protection and durability of the spine/the thread binding.
- Linen thread (waxed): The thread will be used to sew everything together (no glue needed!). To make handling easier, the bookbinding thread is waxed to keep the individual fibers of the thread attached when repeatedly pulled through the holes. If you can't get bookbinding thread, every other thin thread strong enough to sew will do just fine. Plus, you can also wax the thread yourself with a regular candle.
- Sharp cutter
- Awl (or a large sewing needle)
- Sewing needle (small)
Step 2: Preparing the Pages
The notebook will consist of a number of signatures (see picture), which each consists of a number of A4 pages folded in half. Before folding, make stacks with the same number of pages. Then take each stack and fold the papers of this stack together in half, not one by one!
The signatures are folded as one so the fold will get more round and the sheets can wrap around each other. If you fold each sheet by itself, the fold will be sharp and this will result in problems with the further process (see this homepage for a detailled explanation about the folding of signatures: ibookbinding.com/sheet-folding/)
For guidance: I made 4 signatures, each with 5 pages of 160 gsm paper. This will result in a notebook with a total of 40 pages (4 x (5 x 2)). If you use thinner paper, you can take up to 10 pages per signature. If in doubt, it's better to divide the paper into more signatures than forcing too much sheets into a low number of signatures.
Step 3: Preparing the Cover
First, stack all your signatures onto each other, gently push them down so they lay close but not forced together and measure the height of the stack. This will be the total width of your spine.
With this width in mind, take the cardboard sheet for your cover horizontally and mark the middle. From there, score two folds which form a gap the size you measured before in the middle of the page. Flip the page over and cover your soon-to-be spine from the outside with the Filmoplast T tape. When finished, finally fold the cover into its final form (see picture).
Step 4: Push Holes Into the Cover for the Thread
It is time to determine the way the sewing will work. In the first picture you can see how I made 4 holes vertically evenly distributed across the width of the spine, these are for my 4 signatures.
You have 7 signatures? Make 7 holes vertically! Easy!
For making the holes I used a bookbinders awl as you can see in the picture, if you don't have one, don't worry, a large sewing needle will do just fine!
(Remember how I told you not to push with force when measuring the height of the signatures for the spine? This was so the holes are not too close to each other.)
Now you may ask yourself why there are so many holes with different gaps horizontally over the length of the spine. The gaps decide how much thread will be visible on the outside and how much hidden inside the notebook. See the sketch in the second picture to understand the way the thread is sewn through cover and signatures. All you have to remember is: The number of these horizontal holes has to be even!
Step 5: Push Holes Into the Signatures
Now that you have the holes in your cover, you will need to make the same holes into the signatures. Mark the corresponding holes from the cover onto the signatures.
Then follow this process for each hole:
- Cut from the outside a straight cut into the signature where your hole mark is
- Widen the cuts from the inside with an awl (or a large sewing needle)
With these steps you make sure the paper is pushed "aside" or squeezed together. Most other techniques will result in paper being pushed inside or outside the signature so it will later damage the thread or make the sewing more difficult.
Step 6: Sewing!
Now it's time to finally bring the signatures and your cover together. The sewing technique is quite easy once you get the concept.
I made a sketch illustrating how the thread is sewn through the holes with a doube threaded needle, from the inside to the outside and back to the inside with the next hole.
The thread basically works it's way through all signatures, from the bottom up making loops around already sewn signatures. The dotted lines indicate the thread is inside the signature, all the other time it is on the outside.
Since sewing for the first time can be quite confusing and I'm lacking the tools to do a detailed video on this, I suggest this very helpful video by Youtuber Sea Lemon, who does a really good job in doing close-up shots, so you can see in motion how the thread has to be sewn (plus her channel is full of more bookbinding techniques, if you find joy in this craft you should definetly check her out!)
Step 7: Final Steps
Now that your notebook is finally sewn together, you might notice that the signatures stick out of the cover. This is because we took A4 paper and A4 cardboard for both the signatures and the cover, while the cover gets a little bit shorter because of the width of the spine.
But behold, there's an easy fix: Take too strong boards and clamp down your notebook between it, so the cover is protected by the board but the signatures stick out. Now you can take a sharp cutter and cut along the edge of the board to cut down the signatures. I suggest you cut careful and only a few pages with each cut, so you get a nice and flat edge.
So, that's all folks! I hope you made you first hand-sewn notebook with ease, if you have any problems feel free to comment and I will do my best to help you bind your first book!
If you have finished your own notebook, show us what you did, I'm really curious about your results!
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