Introduction: Map Hardcovers for Coptic Books

About: I like to make things. Art, inventions, tools, ukuleles, etc...

I like making books, journals, sketchbooks, notebooks, etc… As an alternative to book cloth, vintage maps make a fun cover material. I have also made some viewing tools to help choose the best area of the map before I cut it out. Coptic bound books are tricky to sew, but they have the advantage of being able to lay flat when open to any page.


paper for pages

color paper for inside covers

book board or mat board

thread (heavy and waxed is best)

PVA glue


straight edge

sharp knife

glue brush

bone folder

curved needle




Step 1: Size the Book

Decide what size the book will be. I usually try to make this an even fraction of the paper I have available. A full sheet of letter size paper folded in half measures 8½”x 5½”. Half of that size is 5½”x 4¼”, etc. Using measurements close to these means less waste.

Step 2: Pick a Map

Decide what map to use. You’ll need two good areas to make the front and back covers. This is where the viewing tools are handy. You can see exactly what the cover will look like, and how much extra you need to cut around it. Make these from paper, cardboard, mat board, etc… I made mine from wood because I use them a lot. Make the inside opening the size of your cover boards and the outside ¾” bigger. My openings are sized for using full letter size paper, half sheet, quarter sheet, etc. This allows less waste when making books.

Step 3: Cut the Boards.

Add ¼” to each dimension of the signature size. Our signature is 5 ½” x 4 ¼” so our cover boards will measure

5¾”x 4½”. Use a straight edge and sharp knife to go over the cut line until it cuts through.

Step 4: Cut Out the Map Pieces

Add 1 ½” to each board dimension. So 7 ¼” x 6” is the size of each map piece. Use a straight edge to cut it out. Repeat for the other cover piece.

Step 5: Glue the Maps to the Boards

Use waste paper under a cover board and apply PVA glue to one side. Brush it out evenly and then place it on the map paper right in the center. Leave ¾” all the way around. Press it firmly. Then put some weight on it while it dries. A board with something heavy on it works well. A stack of books works well too. Repeat on the other cover board.

Step 6: Cut the Corners

Cut the corners of the paper off, leaving ⅛” or so between the cut and the corner of the board. This is to cover the thickness of the board so that the corner of the board won’t show through.

Step 7: Glue the Edges

On some waste paper, apply glue to one of the overhanging edge papers. Then wrap it around to the back side of the board. Repeat on all the other edges.

Step 8: Add Color Paper

Add color paper to the inside cover. Cut the pieces ¼” smaller on each dimension, so 5 ½”x 4 ¼” (the same as the signatures.) Brush glue on the back and center the piece on the back of the board. It will leave about ⅛” of the map showing all around. Put the boards under some weight until the glue fully dries.

Step 9: Decide How Many Pages You Want

For this demo I’m using 5 signatures of 5 sheets each of ordinary printer paper. This will make 50 pages, or 100 sides of a page.

Step 10: Prepare the Signatures

We need 25 half sheets of letter size paper. So using a straightedge and knife or other paper cutter, cut 13 sheets of letter size paper in half. Then take the half sheets and fold them in half and crease with the bone folder. Make 5 groups of 5 sheets each. These are the signatures.

Step 11: Poke the Holes

Decide how many rows of stitching you want. These form the spine of the book and hold the pages in. 4 is a good number for this little sketchbook. It could be 5 or 6 or 3 if you like. More rows will make the stitching take longer, but the spine will be a little more sturdy. Use a folded scrap of paper to make a template for poking the holes. The location can be anywhere you want but they have to be the same on each signature. The template makes this possible. Poke the holes. Using the template inside the signatures poke with the awl from the inside to the outside on the fold. It helps to have something under the signature fold for the awl to sink into. A piece of corrugated cardboard works well.

Step 12: Make the Holes on the Covers

These need to be set in from the edge a little bit. How far is an aesthetic choice. ¼” to ½” is good.

Center the template on the cover board at the distance you want it in from the edge. Use the awl to mark where the holes will go. It’s hard to push the awl through the board. So a hammer helps. Drilling a 1/16” hole is another good way. Once the holes are in the front cover, put the two covers together the way they will be on the book, and use the awl to mark the location for the holes on the back cover.

Step 13: Cut a Piece of Thread About 5 Feet Long

Cut a piece of thread about 5 feet long and thread the needle. I’m using waxed linen thread and a curved needle. Lock the thread to the needle by poking the needle through the fibers of the thread about 3 inches from the end and gently pull the end over the eye of the needle. Then put a knot in the other end of the thread about 2 inches from the end.

Step 14: Begin Sewing

To begin sewing, assemble the signatures and covers in a stack the way they will be when finished with the spine facing away from you. Then open the cover and set in down on the table. Then take the first signature and do the same. Now go inside the signature and push the needle through the first hole on the left. Pull the thread all the way until the knot reaches the hole.

Step 15: Lift the Cover

Now lift the cover and push the needle through the first hole from the outside to the inside. Then bring the needle back out to the edge and go once around the thread before going back into the same hole in the signature to end up on the inside. Snug everything up and proceed to the second hole. Go out the signature, around the cover to the outside, then in the cover hole, around the thread and back into the second hole. Repeat this until the last hole. On the last hole you don’t go back into the last hole.

Step 16: Flip a New Signature Into Position

Flip a new signature into position and go into the first hole on the right. Snug it into position and push the needle out through the second hole. Now on the outside run the needle around the stitch between the first signature and the cover and return back through the second hole. Then move on to the third hole and repeat. Out the hole, around the stitch below then back into the hole.

Step 17: When You Reach the Last Hole

When you reach the last hole, don’t go back in. Flip a new signature and go in the first hole on the left. Repeat until all but one of the signatures are sewn in.

Step 18: Flip the Last Signature and the Back Cover Over Together

Flip the last signature and the back cover over together. Before going into the first hole of the last signature you have to go around the edge of the cover and through the cover hole from outside to inside. Then go around the stitch and into the signature hole. Repeat all the way across. And on the last hole, go back inside to end up inside the book.

Step 19: Tie Off the Thread

Tie off the thread with a simple knot and cut off the extra leaving an inch or two. Go back to the front of the book and tie off the starting thread in the same way.

Step 20: Done!

It’s tricky I know. But it gets easier with practice.

Maps Challenge

Participated in the
Maps Challenge