How I Do Book Binding




Introduction: How I Do Book Binding

About: Crafter and SCA enthusiast. I sell crafts and handmade reenactment stuff on etsy as LilacKraken.

I've been making a lot of my own sketchbooks for several years, and this is how I do it currently. It works pretty well without big, expensive equipment so I thought I'd share how I do it for people who want to try book binding without a big investment. I'm not a professional, so this probably isn't the "right" way to make a book, but I've been happy with my results and I think you will be too.

You will need:


Paper - I like to use watercolor paper because I do watercolor, but anything will do as long as it makes you happy. My first books were made with copy paper. This example is 9"x12" 140 lb cold press watercolor paper.

Thread - Something sturdy, like linen thread or upholstery thread. I'm using the synthetic sinew I use for leather, but waxed linen is ideal and traditional.

Glue - PVA glue is ideal, but for this example I'm using tacky glue because I'm out of PVA.

Cover Material - Back in the day this would be wood, but I'm using the back of my watercolor pad.

Material to Cover the Cover - Paper, leather, cloth, whatever floats your boat. I'm going to use paper for this one.

Cardstock - This is for the spine. I'm using the cover of my watercolor pad.

Book binding ribbon - You can use regular ribbon or strips of fabric too. I'm going to use some plain white ribbon.

Bookmark ribbon (optional) - Any ribbon.

Masking Tape - I'm using duct tape, but masking tape is better.

Thin fabric - I'm using a piece of muslin.


Awl - A push pin would also work.

X-acto Knife - or blade of preference.

Needle (Not pictured) - Something that your thread fits through

A surface you don't mind damaging - Like an old cutting board

Scissors - (though you could just use your knife)

Bone folder - Or another tool for creasing paper

Phone Book (Not Pictured) - This is how I improvise a book cradle.

Step 1: Prepare Your Signatures

A signature is a group of pages that get sewn together. My paper is thick, so I'm using two sheets of paper for a signature. If I was using copy paper I would probably use six sheets.

To make your signatures, fold all your sheets of paper in half and crease them. Then put one folded sheet of paper inside the other, and you have a signature. Bravo! Repeat for the remaining pages.

It's good to have an even number of signatures, though you can make an odd number work.

Step 2: Poke Holes in Your Signatures

First mark where your holes will go on one of your signatures. You will need a hole at the top, a hole at the bottom, and two holes for each ribbon you are using, one on each side of where the ribbon will be. I used two ribbons, for a total of six holes.

Then use your poking tool (Awl, push pin, etc) to poke those holes you marked. You now have your master signature, which you can use as a template to poke holes in the rest of your signatures. Make sure they're all identical.

Step 3: Sew the First Signature

Thread your needle, and arrange your ribbons to line up with the holes you poked in the signature. In the pictures about half the length of the ribbon is under the book, you want to have at least a few inches on each side of the book once all the signatures are sewn on.

I also find it helpful to tape the ribbons in place on the cover side of the first signature, but that's optional.

Sew in the first hole, leaving a tail of about six inches, then out the second hole, over the ribbon, in the third hole, out the fourth, over the second ribbon, in the fifth hole, and out the sixth.

Step 4: Sew the Second Signature

Put a second signature on top of the first one, being careful to properly align the holes.

Sew in the hole directly above the sixth hole of the first signature, and out the next. Now, instead of simply going over the ribbon I stitch up through the stitch here on the first signature. Then stitch into the next hole, out through the next, and repeat on the next ribbon. Stitch into the next hole, out through the last, and tie a square knot with your sewing thread and the tail you left before.

Step 5: Sew the Rest of the Signatures

Sew the rest of the signatures like the second, but when you come out the last hole of each signature stitch between the last two signatures, looping your thread around the stitch connecting them.

If you have an even number of signatures, you can tie off your sewing thread with a square knot to your original tail after you've sewn your last signature. Then trim the ends and remove the tape if you used it.

Step 6: Trim the Ribbons

You may not need to do this, just make sure your ribbons are shorter that the width of your cover.

Step 7: Glue on the Fabric and Bookmark

Apply glue liberally to the spine, then carefully apply your fabric, cut to the length of your book. If you're adding a bookmark add a bit of glue on top of the fabric and stick on your ribbon. Let it all dry.

Step 8: Cut the Cover

Cut your cover to size of a page of your book. My cover was the back of the pad of paper, so I just had to cut it in half.

Step 9: Make the Spine

Now cut a piece of card stock as tall as your book and a few times wider than the uncovered book is thick. Fold it in half and crease it. Then put it on your uncovered book with the crease at the back of the spine. Fold it over the spine and crease it so the width between the creases is the thickness of your book.

Step 10: Assemble the Cover

Glue the cover boards onto the spine, about an eighth of an inch outside the creases. Then glue on your paper or fabric or whatever you're using. Trim the corners at a 45 degree angle so you can fold them over and glue them down neatly. Smooth everything down carefully after gluing, and let dry.

Step 11: Assemble the Book

First, glue the book ribbons to the outside of the first and last signatures. Then glue down the fabric on top. Now you'll put glue on top of the fabric, covering the first and last page completely, but not the spine. Carefully put your book in its cover, and weight it closed so it will dry flat. I used some cutting boards and a phone book.

When your book is dry you're done. I hope you love your new book, and that this instructable was helpful. If you have any questions I'll do my best to help. Happy book binding!

First Time Author Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
First Time Author Contest 2016



  • Tiny Home Contest

    Tiny Home Contest
  • Metalworking Contest

    Metalworking Contest
  • Furniture Contest 2018

    Furniture Contest 2018

28 Discussions


10 months ago

I now feel I have the means to repair a number of childrens' books that I wanted to repair and leave in our apartment complex's library box. We are trying to get kids used to reading books.



1 year ago

This is a fantastic and well-detailed tutorial. I flipped back and forth a few times to make sure I was understanding. I think I do. We shall see when I make my attempt!

Thank y so much!!!


2 years ago

when I learnt to sew the signatures together as an apprentice I had to make a frame to hold my tapes in place and then I just placed my signatures against the frame and tapes and stitched them together :-) this does make the job easier to do and also allows you to make thicker books. As an apprentice I was taught old school bookbinding really not a fan of modern bookbinding :-/

For someone who's not a pro you have done a wonderful job :-) it's nice to see old style bookbinding still being used today, thanks for sharing :-)

Great teacher! I like how you give options and even use creative substitutes yourself. It makes it all seem so doable. Beautiful final product, too.

1 reply

Thank you so much, that's exactly what I was going for!


2 years ago

When folding over the case cover material, use a metal turn in tool. Mine is brass, but any piece of thin metal will do as long as it is just thick enough to not be flexible. Should be at least 6" long and about 3" deep. Finish the edges of the turn in tool with fine grit emery cloth so the edges aren't sharp, and round the corners. With the cover flat against your table, run the tool under the long edge of the cover material next to the board along the back side to prepare it for the fold. Hold the turn in tool at at 90° when sliding it along the cover material. That will press it tightly against the board and you won't have a loose edge. Then pull the edge toward you with the tool and go over the folded over cover material. Do the other long edge. Then use the tool to turn in (fold the material over) the other two edges. Before turning in those last two sides, use your index fingernails to pinch the corner material before turning in to make a smooth corner. (You can use your turn in tool to do that.) If your cover material is thick you can use scissors to clip the excess material after pinching. Then turn in the remaining two edges.

3 replies

That's good to know, thank you. I'll try that next time. It sounds like you're more of a pro than I am!

Well, you did say you weren't a pro! ;-) But, yes, hand book binder for the largest commercial printer in US, now retired. I made a lot of leather cases for books, and cased in a lot of books by hand. These were mostly samples for publishers in pre-production, but also made presentation books. Didn't have to sew anything myself since we had Smyth sewing machines to sew the sigs together for the dummy books and the presentation books already had printed and sewn sigs.

Before turning in the cover material over the boards I suggest using a stiff brush to spread the glue evenly. A thin layer of glue will dry faster and the turned in flaps won't pull away as readily. You want the part that turns in to be as tacky as possible, so let it air dry a bit first. If I were doing it your way I would compress the sigs in a vise, then leave about 1/8" sticking up to apply the glue to the backbone. Otherwise you could put it on the edge of your table and put weights on it to glue it and dry. Making your own books is fun, and congratulations to you for sharing your ideas.

Wow, that's so cool! Thank you for sharing your expertise.

I want to try this but with a story. So like a real book instead of a sketchbook. Thanks so much!!

2 replies

That'll totally work, MS Word makes it easy to print long documents in signatures so they can be bound this way. I did it once with a short story collection. I'm sure you can figure it out, but if you need any help let me know. Sounds like an awesome project.

Thanks! I want to be an author, so it will be cool to have a story look like it is published.

Nice work on your first instructable! Very well done

1 reply

Thank you! Just what I was looking for!

1 reply