Introduction: Bookbinding for Beginners

About: The Maker Studio is a museum makerspace at Science City in Kansas City, MO. To see more of our creations follow us on Instagram @The_Maker_Studio or @ScienceCityKC

Brief History of Books:

Before books were made the human race used clay tablets to keep their history remembered, they were used in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC. As creating on tablets is difficult and take up a lot of space other means of writing down information were created. Things like leaves dried out were the next step until eventually papyrus was developed as early as the First Dynasty in 3100 BC. The oldest example that still exists is from the Fifth Dynasty in 2400 BC.

Some of the first bound books began in India using large leafs that were dried, bound, and then documented on. In Egypt they were using papyrus to created scrolls and other early books. Most civilizations were developing writing material at the same time and would learn from each other passing techniques between countries through barter and trade.

The history of who created the first printing press and when is lost to us. During the first millennium AD in China they created what is believed to be the oldest known printed text.
The oldest known printed book was "The Diamond Sutra", a Buddhist book from Dunhuang China around 868 AD.
Not all of us are book writers though, so how can books help us?

Why should I keep track of my ideas, thoughts, and emotions?

We should all try to keep our ideas written down. It's easy to think you will remember our brilliant idea later but more often than not we have forgotten it when we sit down to start our projects.

It's also a great benefit when life is tough to write out our day, say how we feel, and express ourselves in written form. It helps us look back at those times and not forget but grow from our experiences.

In this project you will be shown how to make a small sketch book or journal using basic tools and what you might already have around the house.


Thread - Embroidery/craft thread is suggested, but there are many types of thread you can try if you have it on hand instead.

Needle - A needle is needed to pull your thread through the pages, you not be able to thread it like a button. A needle with a large enough hole for your thread is what you are looking for.

Cardstock - Paper that is more stiff work great for the outer sheet which makes up the front and back of your book.

Paper - Basic printer paper is used for our example, but you can dive into using watercolor paper, sketch paper, and more when you start to get the hang of making your own books.

Ruler - You will need a ruler that is at least 9 inches long so that you can mark where you plan to punch the holes into your paper for threading.

Tac - A simple tac that you use for a corkboard is needed to punch holes into each of your sheets of paper and the cardstock cover.


Science City - Maker Studio Max Cover - Check the PDF files on the first step if you would like to use our cover featuring the Maker Studio mascot robot, Max.

Lined Paper PDF - We have provided a lined sheet as a PDF that you can print off double-sided and make a journal.

Beads - For decoration on the outside of your book spine beads can be used. Be sure to find beads that are a large enough hole for your thread to go through.

Charms - Small charms used for jewelry and crafting can be added to the threaded spine.

Markers - If you are using our Max the robot print out sheet for your outer cardstock over you can color him in when you are done.

Step 1: Fold All Paper

Fold a plain or colored sheet of cardstock for the cover and 5 sheets of plain printer paper.

If you are wanting to use our Max cover download the attached PDF and print it on cardstock paper.

Fold it in half just like your other 5 sheets of plain printer paper.

If you would like to make a journal download and print double sided the PDF of lined paper.

Step 2: Measure Binding Holes

For this step the actual measurements do not have to be the same as we used but you must use the same measurement for each of your sheets of paper. As you create more and more books you can change the placement of your binding threads as you like.

For our example we have marked with a pencil on the cover as 1 inch, 2.5 inches, 3 inches, 5.5 inches, 6 inches, and lastly 7.5 inches. This will give us three sections on the outside of the book that are visible.

We'll be showing you both a sketchbook with Max printed on it and a lined journal with blue cardstock at the same time.

Step 3: Punch Binding Holes

Using some old cardboard place your cover on top of it.

With your tac puncture each of your marked spots that you made in the previous step.

You will end up with a spine that has all the holes you punched ready to use to mark each of your sheets of paper.

Place one sheet of folded paper underneath your cover sheet so that it lines up perfectly. Push you tac through each hole you created to make holes into each of your 5 sheets of paper.

Complete all 5 sheets this way until each one has the same holes along the spine.

Step 4: Threading Pages Together

Thread the needle.

For a precaution you can add a knot to the end of the thread opposite the needle.

You need to leave approx half the length of the stack of your papers on the inside which would be approx 4" inches. You will be knotting the top and bottom together at the end as shown in step 6.

Step 5: Adding Flair (Optional)

If you are wanting to spice up the spine of the book you can add items to the threading as you bind your book. This step is not integral to make your book work so it is completely optional, but it should be done at the same time as you are threading the spine.

* You need to make sure your beads have large enough holes for the thickness of your thread. For embroidery thread you will need a larger bead as small seed beads are not wide enough. For most beads you may need to remove your need while you thread your beads. Some needles will be too thick for the beads to pass through. Just be sure to re-thread your needle when you go back through the spine again.

- Charms can be added at the end but you may need a jump ring if you didn't thread it on as you went. The last photos show a charm being added after it has been threaded completely.

Step 6: Threading the Spine

No matter if you are adding flair or simply threading the spine you will need to thread back and forth through your punched holes.

Just like sewing you will need to use your needle to go through each set of holes. You always need a set of holes so that one is going from the inside to the outside spine, and then going back through to the inside. Check all the photos to see the process.

When you have threaded and finished all three sections you should have both sets of the thread on the inside. Pull those together and make a simple knot as shown. This step secures your thread so it cannot be pulled out from the outside of inside of your book spine.

Step 7: What's Next?

Now that your books are done you can start your creativity!

Sketchbooks are great for practicing your drawing skills and drawing out your maker ideas for projects.

The lined book is great as a diary, a dream journal, and can also compliment your sketchbook to keep track of your ideas and future projects.

Other ideas:

- Great as gifts too and think of how you can personalize them for your friends and family!

- Color coding your life. Choose a color for each month and make a journal for each one. When you are done you'll have 12 journals showing the rainbow of your life.