DIY Journals & Book Binding

Introduction: DIY Journals & Book Binding

Recently I decided to start using hand-made journals/notebooks for a specific novel study activity and then I started expanding the idea to match the needs and interests of all my students.

I decided having the kids made their books, rather than me making them all, would be fun and they'd learn a new skill. I also thought that maybe the pride of making their own materials would encourage the kids to take more care with them.

I wasn't sure how some of my students would like it, but after 2 weeks of researching and learning to bind their own books, they are all still very motivated to keep going.

Now my students are making and using their own books for drawing, formal art journals, means for self-expression, writing, math, grammar and study guides. You can also sew together old holiday cards, postcards, photos and more! Some of my kids have even gone so far as to research alternative way of stitching their books and adding covers.

The style of book binding we are using is called Coptic Book Binding or Coptic Stitch (more than 1 section of paper is sewn together through their folds, attached together with chain stitch linkings across the spine). This type of book binding is often used by artisans and crafters.

Once you get the hang of the stitching pattern, it is so easy to make books of any size. Fast too!

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Step 1: Materials

-Embroidery thread

-Embroidery needles

-Paper of your choice (I like card stock and other hard papers, repurposing brown paper bags is also fun. I use regular copy paper for practicing before handing out the fancy stuff.)



-Binder clips (small)

I usually wait until Michaels or A.C. Moore have a sale on paper and then stock up. They frequently sell their 50-packs of card stock papers for 4/$10 instead of $4.99 each.

Step 2: Prepping Thread

I use embroidery thread for book binding, it's cheap and I happened to have a ton on hand. I typically split the thread in half, as seen in photo 1. This makes the thread a little thinner and gives me more to work with. I typically quadruple-knot (depending on how thick the needle I'm using is) one end about 3-5" in (photo 2).

Step 3: Prepping Pages

When I initially started teaching my students how to do this, I started with a bunch of pre-marked white signatures that were labeled A1-A5, B1-B5, C1-C5, D1-D5, and E1-E5 at each hole. We realized quickly that this wasn't the most clear method and so I grabbed a bunch of copy paper in different colors and we started a little assembly line.

The "assembly line" was a great teaching tool, as not only were they all very focused on making sure the papers were folded right, the measurements for each of the holes were correct, and the pages were placed in order, but they were working cooperatively together to get things done quickly and accurately.

So for prepping the pages, we folded each in half and marked off 5 places for sewing our books together. 2 spots at both ends and 1 in the middle (this is for a regular chain stitch, your marks might change depending on the style you are doing).

We labeled the outside and inside of each page with letters, numbers at each hole (inside and outside the paper) and poked holes so no one would have to struggle making new holes while holding onto other pages.

B=Pink C=Green D=Blue E=Yellow

Step 4: Page 1 (A)

The first page, for our purposes, is A.

Insert your needle into A1 (A1=first hole on the first page) and pull until you hit your knot.

Your needle and thread is now inside your page, so you are going to push out A2.

You want to make sure to keep the thread taut without ripping paper---this is extremely easy to do when working with regular copy paper.

I find that after getting the first two pages attached, using binder clips to hold page A & B while attaching page C (and additional pages).

Step 5: Attaching Page 2 (B)

Page 2 will be referred to as B, and the holes on B are labeled B1, B2, B3, B4, and B5. B is the pink page.

1. From A2 your needle goes into B2 (photo 2)

2. From B2 you are going to go out B3 (photo 3)

3. B3 into A3 (photo 4 & 5)

4. A3 out A4 (photo 6)

5. A4 into B4 (photo 7)

6. B4 out B5 (photo 8)

7. B5 into A5 (photos 9-11)

Step 6: Attaching Page 2: Part 2

Now, working backwards...

1. A5 out A4 (photos 1-3)

2. A4 into B4 (photo 4-6)

3. B4 out B3 (photo 7)

4. B3 into A3 (photo 8)

5. A3 out A2 (photo 9)

6. A2 into B2 (photo 10)

7. B2 out B1 (photo 11)

8. Tie the threat from B1 and the tail of your thread that is knotted at A1 together (photos 12-13)

Step 7: Attaching Page 3 (C)

1. Sew into C1 (photo 1 & 2)

2. C1 out C2 (photo 3)

3. Right-to-left, sewunder the thread connecting A2 & B2 (photo 4 & 5)

4. Sew back into C2 (photo 6)

5. C2 out C3 (photo 7)

6. Right-to-left, sew under the thread connecting A3 & B3 (photo 8 & 9)

7. Sew back into C3 (photo 10 & 11)

8. C3 out C4 (photo 12)

9. Right-to-left, sew under the thread connecting A4 & B4 (photo 13 & 14)

10. Sew back into C4 (photo 14)

11. C4 out C5 (photo 15)

12. Right-to-left, sew under the thread connecting A5 & B5 (photo 16)

Step 8: Attaching Page 4 (D) and Beyond

Just like with the last page, we are doing to...

1. C5 into D5 (photo 1 & 2)

2. D5 out D4 (photo 3)

3. Sewunderthe thread connecting B4 & C4, sew back into D4

4. D4 out D3, sew under thread connecting B3 & C3 and then sew back into D3

5. D3 out D2, sew under thread connecting B2 & C2 and then sew back into D2

6. D2 out D1, sew under thread connecting B1 & C2....

Now, you can either tie off your thread with the tail here or continue adding pages following steps 2 and 3.

Step 9: Ta Da!

I have yet to work on making/attaching covers with my kids, without a cover these books will lay flat and I personally like that. A cover isn't necessary but it does hide any errors you make in sewing the spine. I don't worry too much about things being 100% perfect because life isn't perfect. I think its good for my students to see that even if something isn't perfect or doesn't look the way they think it should, it can still do what you need.

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    Just what I was looking for! Thanks!

    I saw a journal like yours in a store once, but that one was made from recycled books. The original hard cover was used as the cover for the journal. Pretty detail: some original text pages were also inserted among the white pages of the journal, just for fun. It looked so beautiful! Happy I can make my own now.

    Thans for sharing!