Introduction: Resourceful Bookbinding

Bookbinding is a rewarding effort whether you make them for personal use or for others. End products such as journals/diaries, sketch books, scratch pads and more can be simple or customized depending on the intended final product. Since I enjoy upcycling and using mixed media this project is perfect for those who like practical goods that are nice to look at and to help keep waste down in our world. Use your imagination and look for out for objects and things that catch your fancy! Collage materials can range from old books/magazines to wrappers and labels from purchased goods... the possibilities are endless!

This tutorial focuses on the traditional Asian bookbinding technique for its ease and simplicity, along with collaged materials to add personal flair. As shown in the 2nd and 3rd images these materials are only limited to your imagination and sense of resourcefulness. Most of the activity involves prep and decoration before getting into the actual stitching which is fairly straightforward and simple enough for beginning crafters. The last image shows the final product that is personal and more compelling than store bought examples.


  • Thread (heavier duty such as waxed/unwaxed cotton thread)
  • Wax (Bees wax or used candle)
  • Pencil & Eraser
  • Ruler
  • Tape
  • Needle: Larger than traditional sewing needles, big enough to go through punched holes and hold thicker thread
  • Scissors
  • Punch or Awl for making holes (The needle tool used by ceramic artists works well!) Side note: Could replace with a traditional paper hole punch with yarn thread and needles. (Just a thought, haven't tried!)
  • Rubber Bands
  • Paper: For a standard book I would use traditional 8.5 X 11 copy paper as the page material Side note: Any other types of paper can be used, for a book of custom size I would buy a big sketchpad of paper around 18" X 24" inch and cut/tear the sheets to fit the covers.


  • Binder clip
  • Cutting mat/cutting surface
  • Bookbinding rig

Step 1: Step 1: Covers and Collage

Setup of cover sleeves

  1. Covers: Use paper that is somewhat flexible but strong enough to be used as a cover for the paper held inside. For the example made here I used on old sketchbook cover that was made up of a canvas-like paper material that proved durable. In order to compensate for its semi-rigid structure I folded a section 1/2 an inch at the end of the covers for a moveable cover and solid spine.
  2. Collage: I used a couple of different scraps of material with the common theme of China for my composition. I arranged the cutouts in different ways until I was satisfied and glued them to my front cover. I used a bone folder to crease and smooth out the surfaces of my collage materials for a better hold and smoother appearance.
  3. Place the finished cover underneath a hefty surface such as a big book to make the collage material hold and cure. Let the cover sit under pressure (the longer the better, overnight is optimal).

Step 2: Step 2: Paper and Cover Setup

  1. Paper Setup: As was mentioned on the supplies page depending on your situation I would do one of two options. The first and easiest option is to use regular copy paper (typically 8.5 X 11 inches) as the page material. The second option is for those who want a smaller/bigger book to use larger paper that is cut/torn down into the desired size. The first two images show me placing a cover to use as a template as I make deckled paper (optional, see stage 4 for tutorial). For clean edges I would use a paper cutting trimmer.
  2. Make a punching template: Use card stock/ heavier paper to use as a template for aligning and punching holes into the cover and pages.
    • Make a template that is the width of your books spine.
    • Mark a spot for 4 holes to be punched, allow room so the holes that are punched about 1/2 inch away from the edge of the spine and the end of the pages.

    • Line up the template on the cover edge and hold with a paper/binder clip.

    • Punch holes into the cover and do the same methods before to the pages and back cover. I would recommend punching holes in a series of 3 pages at a time.

      Punching holes: It would be beneficial to have a bookbinding rig for this task as poking holes into something without safety for your hand is foolish and painful. However, you can make do by lining up the pointed end of the punch/awl on the hole mark and pulling the paper upwards so that the pointed end stays pressed to a surface.

      Deckled Edges: *(optional) The ruler is lined up at the edge of the cover placed on paper, the edge of the template is square against on top of the paper.The template is removed and the paper is torn as the hand places pressure on the ruler and paper to make a deckled edge.The template and ruler are used again to remove the remaining paper to make matching pages (also know as signature).

    Step 3: Step 3: Stitching

    After punching the holes in your covers and pages, line up the spine ends so the holes are on top of each other. A rubber band placed around the covers and pages keeps things together but also allows for small adjustments. Once they are lined up go back through the holes with the awl again as this will open up and align the holes for easier stitching.

    Thread: It's better to have more than not enough in this case, measure thread by placing it over the length of the spine of your book. Multiply this by about 5 times with about 5 inches extra for tying off your stitch later in the process. If your thread isn't pre-waxed you can use an old candle to wax your thread, press your thread with your thumb on the surface of a candle and pull the it through the held space between the candle and your thumb.

    (Tip: Waxed thread really helps! You can also double up on the thread for a thicker binding if your thread isn't thick enough.)

    Starting: At the 2nd hole of your spine start by threading through the pages and front cover leaving some excess thread to be pulled through and temporarily taped to the inside of the back cover. (Images 3 and 4)

    Stitching the Spine: The 6th image shows a visual layout of the steps involved, the process uses stitches that I refer to as side stitches as top stitches. The side stitch runs on the side of the spine over the covers and pages while the top stitch runs over the top of the spine on the covers. You start by making a side stitch that goes to the next hole by a top stitch and so on and so forth. You turn back around once you get to the last hole and make a top stitch that goes over the side of the end of the spine. The stitching process continues until both sides of the covers are stitched with top stitches.

    Ending the last stitch and tying the knot: The last three images show how to end the final stitch that goes back to the spot where your excess string is. The needle goes through the back cover hole and into the spot where the excess string is held by tape. After tying them together trim the excess and enjoy your creation!!!

    Additional Resources:

    This video is excellent visual source. (I do not own and am in no way affiliated with it's maker)


    I took a great class with Naomi Velasquez who showed me many different techniques regarding bookmaking. Look her up for inspiration and her awesome works!!!