Thursday, June 25, 2009

Beginner Bookmaking

Want to try something new? Here are the instructions for hand making your own books. They are easy, fun and fast. Once you've finished your first one, you will be amazed at how many of them you can knock off during one episode of NCIS. They make inexpensive, yet personal gifts and can be designed to fit any occasion, personality, or size requirement. Are you sold yet? Then lets get started! Here are the basic things that you will need:
  • Cover material, cut to size~Card stock is an obvious choice, but really, the cover of your book can be any number of things. The only requirements are that you can punch holes in it and it needs to be a little flexible. Leather, fabric, cereal or gift boxes, felt, etc. For illustration purposes, I am using 65lb card stock cut 5 1/2 x 4 1/4 (a half sheet of paper).
  • Paper for pages, cut to same size as cover~again, you have options, but I'm using boring printer paper here. The number of pages is up to you also. For LB logbooks, I usually make about 45-60 pages. Journals or more personal books are usually about right with 75-100 pages.
  • Paper cutter
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Hole Punch*~Options again! My punch of choice is usually a 1/8" hand punch, but you can also use shaped punches. Go crazy. Just remember that much of the hole detail will be hidden.
  • Binding fibers, cut 4x as long as the height of your book~By now it should be redundantly apparent that your choices in the bookmaking department are unhindered by limitations. That's Fancy Nancy speak for "options" again. You can use just about any kind of fiber to bind your book: yarn, DMC thread, leather laces, high test fishing line, flavored dental long as it doesn't snap with a little tugging, will fit through the holes you punched (up to three times) and can be tied into a secure knot, it's good.
  • Needle~I favor the chenille needles because they have a bigger eye and a blunter point (less chance of drawing blood). As long as the eye is big enough for your fiber choice, and the needle can pass through the holes you punch, it will work. Just keep in mind that in several of the holes, there will be as many as three layers of fiber and your needle still needs to fit. Another method is to cut a length of wire about 6 inches long and fold it in half to use as your needle.
Now it is time to make your book template (If the picture is not clear enough, click on it to go to the larger version).
  • Take one of the sheets that you have cut for your cover and draw a line from top to bottom 3/8 " from the spine edge.
  • Next punch the end holes. Each one should be on your line and 3/8 " from the top or bottom of the book. These would be holes A and E in the picture.
  • Next punch a hole in the very center of the line, or hole C.
  • For holes B and D, you need to find the point that is equidistant from the center hole and either hole A (for B) or E (for D). I'm trying my hardest to make this really confusing. If I've succeeded, stare blankly at the screen. Good. Moving on.
Once you have your template made, you can use it to punch the holes in the rest of your paper, multiple sheets at a time, if you like. When you are finished, stack your book pages in the order you want them bound. If you flip your template over and use it as the back cover, all of your pencil marks will be hidden inside.

Remember the sewing cards we used to do as children? Then, thread your needle and get ready!
Starting with your needle on the back side of the book, come up through the center hole (C), leaving a 4-5 inch tail behind.
Down through hole D, then wrap the thread around the binding and go down through hole D a second time.

Up through hole E, wrap the thread around the binding and come up through hole E a second time, then wrap the thread around the top edge of the book and come up through hole E a third time. Down through hole D for the last time and one end is finished!

Take your thread across the back of the book, skipping hole C for now and come up through hole B.
(This part will mirror what you did with holes D and E) Wrap the thread around the binding and come up through B a second time. Down through A, around the binding and down through A a second time. Around the bottom edge of the book and down through A for the third and last time. Your thread should be on the back side of the book now.

Now for the big finish...bring your thread up through hole B and then down through hole C, making sure that you are on the opposite side of the binding thread from the tail that you left in the beginning. Wrap around the binding and go down through hole C one last time, again on the opposite side of the tail (see photo above).

Tie a secure knot around the binding thread and trim the excess off. You can glue the knot for added security.
You are now officially done with your hand made book! I hereby send you forth to wreak havoc on the the unsuspecting literary world.

Once you have become familiar with this technique, you can make any sized book that you want. You can also modify the number of holes that you punch, as long as it remains an odd number. In the photo above are a couple of books made with 3 and 7 holes.

Another modification that you can make is to cut your cover material 1/4-1/2" wider than your pages and trim the open (non-spine) edge with decorative shaped scissors. Or trim all of the inside pages with a deckle cutter or scissors (or hand tear them) for a nice effect.

*It is also possible to use an awl or Dremel tool to bore the holes for your book. However, it is messier, more difficult to be accurate with your hole placement, and only pushes the paper out of the way instead of removing it; which makes the spine lumpy. Obviously, it is not my preferred method. However, if you choose to try it that way, make sure that you secure your paper in a vice between layers of wood to prevent ripping or creasing the paper.


  1. Beautiful! Great job on the tutorial...gosh, that's a lot of work to put together!

    I just love making these little books.


  2. Wow, are we twins separated at birth? I have the same paper cutter, same hole punch and spend many an hour doing crafts while watching NCIS ;-)) Great job on the tutorial - I'll be using it soon!!


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