Introduction: Miniature Hand-bound Book Earrings
There are lots of ways to bind a book. In this project, I hand-bound two fully-functional little notebooks and attached them to earhooks so they'd get regular use as wearable art. I tried to follow traditional bookbinding techniques as much as possible given the supplies I had on hand, which should make it easy to follow along! I also got carried away and added a bunch of decorative elements that aren't strictly necessary to get a functioning book. I'm including instructions for all of it, but I'll make note of the bits you can skip if you want to keep things simpler.
If you enjoyed this instructable, I'd appreciate your vote in the Tiny Speed Challenge!
For the textblock (the pages!):
- thin, blank paper - I ripped 2 sheets out of an old notebook (13.5cm x 8.5cm)
- white thread to sew the textblock
- gauze/cheese cloth (optional)
Optional things for the textblock (head and tail bands, ribbon marker, endsheets):
Head and tail bands:
- a small piece of tissue paper (about 2cm x 2cm is lots)
- a piece of embroidery floss (2cm)
- two different colors of thread (arm's length)
- embroidery floss or other thin ribbon (6cm)
- patterned paper (6cm x 6cm)
For the cover!
- heavier paper (10cm x 7.5cm) (slightly thicker than normal writing paper, but nowhere near as thick as card stock)
- card-stock (10cm x 6cm)
- thin leather or ribbon for the spine
Optional things for the cover (supplies for marbling paper):
- foam shaving cream
- acrylic paint or food coloring
- a shallow container at least 12 cm x 10 cm
If you want to make them earrings!
- 2 ear hooks
- beads (optional)
- 2 sewing needles
- a ruler (in cm!)
- popsicle sticks (at least 1)
- pva/polymer glue*
- a pencil
- a small container for glue
- 2 small binder clips
Step 1: Measure and Cut Out Your Pages
Measure and cut out 16 rectangles, 3cm wide by 2 cm tall. Try to be as precise as possible!
Step 2: Fold Your Pages in Half and Gather Them Into Signatures
Fold each rectangle gently in half. Don't crease too hard! Sharp creases prevent the pages from nesting nicely when they're gathered together.
Once they're all folded, gather them into groups of 4 (these are called signatures). Once they're all in groups, you can hold them securely and crease the edge. I use the top of a ruler for this (a sharp-edged object might tear the paper!)
Step 3: Mark Your Signatures for Sewing
It's helpful to make a template for this next part, since you'll be making 2 little books (1 for each ear!), and you don't want to measure twice. Cut out a piece of paper, 2cm x 0.5cm, and measure and mark these distances, starting at one end: 2.5mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 3mm, 2.5mm, 2.5mm.
Once you have your template, stack your signatures on top of each other, hold them next to the template (folded side towards you), and mark out the lines. I find it easiest to do this by holding the signatures together with a mini binder clip. Make sure the pencil lines are clear on the folded edges of the signatures; these marks are where you'll be sewing.
Step 4: Start Sewing!
Time to thread your needle! I used 1 arm's length of white thread to sew each book (about 22").
Undo the binder clip and grab your first signature. Hold the pages of the signature together with one hand, and poke the threaded needle from the outside (the folded side with the mark) to the inside of all 4 sheets of paper. Continue along the marks on your signature, poking the needle back out to the folded side where the next mark is, then back in, then back out, etc., until you've wound up at the opposite end of the signature from where you started.
Step 5: Adding Another Signature
Your needle and thread should be on the folded side of your first signature. To add another signature, stack it on top of the first signature, and simply stick the needle in the first mark on the second signature, directly on top of the hole it just came out of in the first signature. Continue down the line until your needle sticks out the folded side at the other end. To finish off these two signatures, tie a square knot.
*Note in the picture here, I've flipped the signatures around in order to tie the square knot, in case you're wondering why the knot's on the wrong end.
Step 6: 3rd Signature
Add the third signature in the same way: stack it on top, stick the needle into the first hole, above where it came out of the second signature, and continue down the line. When you get to the end of the third signature, you have to attach it to the second signature using a special knot. First, make sure you've pulled your stitches tight. To tie the end knot, poke your needle into the stitch holding the first and second signatures together, from the middle pointing outwards. Pull the thread through until there's a little loop. Stick your needle up through this loop, pulling the thread upwards until a knot forms.
Step 7: Last Signature!
One more to go! Add the fourth signature in the same way: stack, poke, sew. To finish off the text block, we need to do 2 of those end stitches: first between the second and third signature, then between the third and fourth signature. Poke the needle from the middle to the outside, then up through the loop that forms when you pull the thread through. It's tricky to get these knots tight. Make sure you're pulling your thread tightly as you come to the end of a row of stitching before you try to tie the end knot. Once you've tied the two last end knots, the stitching should be tight and stable, so you don't have to worry about it unravelling.
Step 8: Glue Your Stitching
Put your textblock back in a binder clip and spread a light layer of glue along the edge. Careful not to get any on the sides/pages! Lay the ends of the thread along the creases between signatures and trim off the ends.
Step 9: Cut Out Your Endsheets (optional)
Cut 4 rectangles from your patterned paper, 3cmx2cm, and fold each in half.
Step 10: Glue on Your Endsheets
Put a thin ribbon of glue along the edge of your textblock, line up an endsheet, and glue it on. Repeat for each side of the textblock, making an endsheet-textblock-endsheet sandwich.
Step 11: Head and Tail Bands and Ribbon Marker! (optional)
If you want to sew on head and tail bands, cut out little strips of tissue paper and glue on each end of the textblock spine. Add a small piece of embroidery floss, fold the tissue paper over, and glue it down.
If you want to add a ribbon marker and head and tail bands, now's a good time to add the ribbon marker. Thread it through your needle, find the centre of the textblock, and poke it through the tissue paper, under the embroidery floss. Glue the end of the ribbon marker to the textblock spine.
If you only want a ribbon marker, no head/tail bands, just glue one end of the ribbon to the textblock spine and stick the rest into the textblock for safekeeping.
Step 12: Sewing a Headband
Showing how to sew a headband through pictures is very difficult, and might be frustrating to follow as a reader, but let's give it a shot (feel free to quickly look up a video on how to sew a book headband - I won't be offended).
Begin by taking a length of two different color threads (about 10" is lots) and knotting them on one end. Thread each of the other ends with your two needles. I'm going to refer to these needles by the colors of thread I chose (blue & green), so you can reference the pictures.
To start the headband, poke the blue needle from the spine of the textblock out through the top hole in the middle of your first signature, where you sewed it together. Pull the blue thread through, close the textblock, and lay the blue thread on the front cover of the textblock.
With the green needle, poke it under the embroidery floss through the tissue paper, on the far right side of the spine. The green thread should make a loop around the embroidery floss.
Hold the green thread along the top of the textblock. Take the blue needle, cross over the green thread, and stick it under the embroidery floss, next to where the green thread makes a loop. This should make a small blue stitch, holding the green thread in place.
Place the blue thread over the top of the embroidery floss, holding it along the top of the textblock. Cross the green needle over the blue thread, sticking it through the tissue paper under the embroidery floss, next to the blue thread, holding the blue thread in place.
When your stitches are in line with the middle of a signature in the textblock, we make an anchoring stitch. Instead of laying the thread across the top of the textblock to be stitched in place, poke it from the middle of the signature through the topmost signature-sewn hole, out the back of the spine. Then place the thread along the top of the textblock as normal, taking care to overlap the anchor stitch so the width of that color on the headband isn't twice as wide as normal. Repeat this process until you come to the end of the headband/embroidery floss.
Tie a knot at the end of the row by looping the threads through the stitches on the spine.
The process is identical for the tailband. Once both the head and tail bands are complete, knot off, glue down, and trim the thread ends.
Step 13: Add Liner/mull (optional)
If you have gauze or cheese cloth or some kind of lightweight webbed fabric handy (I used a sample of tulle), cut out rectangles to fit along the spine of the textblock, extending 1/3 of the way along the sides (2cm x 2cm). Glue this to the spine, being very careful not to get glue on the front or back of the textblock - do not attach the gauze to the front/back yet!
This step is useful for sturdiness/stability of the book. These books are tiny though, and probably don't need much extra structural integrity at the cost of added bulk. Up to you!
Step 14: Cut Out Your Cover Boards, Add Padding to the Spine
Cut out two strips of regular paper (that you used for the textblock) and glue to the spine. In archival bookbinding, this is where you'd use something like kozo/mulberry paper, but for our purposes regular paper will be okay. The point is just to prevent all the bumps from stitching to show through your cover.
You'll also need to cut your boards and spine out of card stock. Cut four boards (1.6cm x 2.1cm) and 2 spines (2cm x 0.4cm)
Step 15: Marbling Paper for the Cover (optional)
Marbling paper is fun and beautiful. The traditional or "proper" way to do it is with thickened water (using starch or seaweed) and alum. I lost my alum though, so I used shaving cream instead!
Grab some foamy shaving cream (not the gel kind!) and squirt it in a container that's big enough to fit your cover papers lying down. Spread it smooth. Add paint! Swirl paint! Place sheet face down and gently press it into the foam. I recommend using as big a piece of paper as will fit in your container and making sure you've swirled enough paint to take up the whole area. This way, when you go to cut out your paper covers, you can orient your rectangles wherever and however you wish because you'll have more decorated room on the page to find covers from. If you cut out your covers first, you're stuck with however the pattern appears on that little sheet.
Don't be too finicky here. The first time I tried this I painstakingly placed little dots of paint and swirled them carefully to make a fancy pattern. By the time I placed my paper, the shaving cream had turned to big foamy bubbles and the pattern smeared. You need to act quickly if you want the pattern to stay crisp!
Pull the sheet out of the container, flip it over, and quickly but gently scrape the foam off (I used a ruler).
Marvel at your beautiful creation.
Step 16: Making Your Paper-covered Boards!
Now that you have your marbled paper (or some other paper you want to cover your book with), cut out the covers: 4.5cm x 2.7cm.
Place your spines and boards in the middle of the paper. Leave a 1mm gap on either side of the spine between the boards, so the book can close.
Cut the corners off the cover at ~45 degree angles, but not too close to the board! If you cut these too close the corners will poke out and it won't look tidy.
Glue and fold down first the long sides, then the short sides. Boards complete!
Step 17: Add a Leather/ribbon/cloth Spine (optional)
Now that your boards are done, you could skip this step - you don't need to add a contrasting spine. If you want one though, cut out strips of thin leather 1.2cm x 3.3cm. Glue the underside carefully, making sure you don't get it on the right side and taking care to spread out to the edges. Center this over the paper cover and press down on either side.
Now is the time to decide if you want to turn these little books into earrings. If you do, thread a needle and poke out from inside the spine of the cover to the outside, through the leather, and then back in, making a loop. Tie this loop off and glue it down inside the spine. This will be what you attach your earhooks to once the book's complete.
Step 18: Attach Your Cover!
Your cover and textblock are finished. To attach them, start by placing a scrap of paper under the first page of the textblock (the endsheet). This will keep glue from seeping through. Glue the cover carefully, taking care not to get it over the edges. Position the textblock inside the cover, lining up the spines. Position the front cover of the textblock against the inside cover of the paper boards and press. You can also just position the spine and close the book - the glue will stick to the front inside cover. Do the same with the back cover.
I recommend putting the book under weight while it dries. I put two popsicle sticks on either side of the leather spine (to protect it from the binder clip), and then attached the binder clip on top.
Step 19: Adding Ear Hooks
Add beads to the thread loop, putting the whole loop through the beads, then slip the loop over the opening in the earhook. You might need pliers to make the earhook closure bigger to get the loop on, but thread's pretty thin and there's usually a gap.
First Prize in the
Tiny Speed Challenge
2 years ago
I’ve made mini books before, but not with this method! If the sewing seems too hard, you can get a notepad with a gum spine (Not sticky notes but also not spiral bound) and cut it into a mini book sized rectangle. The gum spine becomes the spine of your book. Then add covers.
2 years ago on Step 19
Great tutorial. Very detailed. I love that you included headbands and marbled paper!
Reply 2 years ago
Thanks so much! I think next time I'd cut the pages down so they're a bit cleaner looking. It was a fun process though!
Reply 2 years ago
Congrats on the win! Much deserved. I like your pages. It's like fancy books with deckled edges.
2 years ago
Thank you! Hopefully it's easy for folks to follow :)
2 years ago
Great work, they look super nice!
Reply 2 years ago
Thanks! Much appreciated! I'm happy they turned out!
2 years ago
Whoa, you went above and beyond - these are so detailed and awesome, well done!
Reply 2 years ago
thank you, i had a blast making them :)
2 years ago
My friend gave me book earrings for Xmas. They were made by a professional bookbinder and I loved them so much I made some, too. The first three were beyond crappy because I didn't know what I was doing. I just folded two layers of cardstock around a bunch of blank pages I'd glued together. I used the same paper as endpapers as I used for the outside. I did get better. The good, professional earrings are the red ones on the left. I like how she splattered some ink on the edges. Mine are the two on the right.
I appreciate all the pictures and details you've provided!! VERY USEFUL! I think I'll try your method and see how it works and if it's faster. I was planning to make a bunch during this disaster for my library bookstore to raise money.
Reply 2 years ago
these are so great, thanks for sharing! love the 1/2 bound design with the corners added!