Blog Hop: Bookbinding Tutorial

What is a blog hop you ask?  Essentially, it is a collection of blogs that link to one another in a sequential order.  The first blog links to the next one and so forth.  Each blog links to not only the next one but also the one before it.  Thus, a group of bloggers from the Design Surface Patterns From Scratch class have chosen a topic to share a variety of topics on their own blogs while linking to each other, ideally allowing readers to "hop" from blog to blog.  

For my blog post, I really wanted to share a skill that will help us all move one step closer to becoming surface pattern designers.  Our instructor, Bonnie, described the importance of sharing our work and making it special.  Now that we have our patterns made, we are going to be thinking about constructing a portfolio and filling up multiple sketchbooks.  Binding your own books will add an extra personal touch to your work. 

While there are a myriad of book binding techniques, I'll be sharing my personal favorite:  the coptic stitch.  I prefer this method because it allows the book to lay flat when open.  This is ideal for sketching images and easily viewing one's portfolio.  

Where exactly did the coptic stitch come from?  It was originally developed by the Copts--Christians living in Egypt.  They folded sheets of papyrus together into sections (called signatures). Then, they adapted their technique of interlacing threads in carpet weaving to create a chain stitch to bind the "signatures" between wooden covers.  

Materials Needed:

  • Cover boards cut to desired book size (2)

  • Needles (curved)

  • Wax thread

  • Scissors

  • PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue and junk paint brush

  • Paper for inside and decorative paper for the front and back cover.

  • Pencil

  • Awl

  • Ruler

  • Bone folder 



Design Choices

The very first thing we need to do is decide if we want to make a portfolio or sketchbook.  This will determine the size of the book and the type of paper to use.  The paper will need to be double the desired length of the book since we will be folding the paper in half (valley fold). If you are going to decorate your cover with paper or fabric, you will want to attach that prior to punching the holes. 

You also need to decide how you wish to close your book. Do you want to use a button and wrap a ribbon around it? Or do you want two ribbons that you can simply tie together. You can also adjust your book so that the use of magnets is possible!  You can also add additional features such as an extra ribbon for the use of a bookmark or even a pocket on the inside. The options are limitless!

This is also the time to pick the type of paper you want to use. Do you want colored paper?  Or do you prefer an aged look? Deckled (ripped) edges anyone?

Preparing the Covers

Next, we will need two pieces of cover board for the front and back cover. Mat board, illustration board, or anything sturdy enough can be used.

The cover paper must be cut to provide a 1/2" margin on all sides of the cover board.  For example, the cover paper will need to be 6" x 8" for a 5" x 7" book.  For the sake of this project, 5" refers to the width and 7" refers to the height.  Next, we'll cut the paper for the end pages (Leaves) to be 1/2" smaller on all sides than the cover board. For a 5" x 7" book, the end page will need to be cut to 4.5" x 6.5" to provide the correct margin.

Now we have to glue to the paper to the cover boards.   I use PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue, but it has its advantages and disadvantages.  It is acid free (preferred), but it dries a bit too quickly so I add 1 part water to 2 parts glue to keep it viscous.

Using your junk brush, apply an even coat of your glue to outside surface of the cover boards.

Place the decorative (cover) paper face down.  Then place the cover board (glue side down) in the center of the decorative paper.  Proceed by cutting out squares on all of the corners as noted in the image above (right).  Now fold and glue the excess 1/2" margins over the cover board like you're wrapping a gift.  Lastly, apply glue and layer the end pages in the center of the cover board.

Preparing the Signatures

Cut the paper (used for the inside) to size.  The short edge of the paper needs to be double the length of the inside allowing for a 1/4" in margin on all sides.  For a 5" x 7" book, you will need to cut the sheets to be 9 x 6.5 inches.  After cutting, fold the sheets in half using your bone folder.  The folded sheets should now appear to be 4.5 x 6.5 inches.

Now that you have all of your paper folded in half, you will be combining multiple pages together into “signatures.” The number of pages that go into each signature really depend on the thickness of the paper being used. If you are using a normal weight paper, your signature will consist of 6-8 pages; whereas, a heavier weight paper will likely only fit 4-6 pages. You'll likely average about 5-6 signatures per book.  Obviously, the more signatures you use, the thicker the book will be.

Preparing Covers and Signatures for Binding

We are going to mark the places where we will be making holes for threading. Using a ruler, we will be making landmarks along the center fold starting from each edge.  The number of holes is really up to you, however, the first set of marks should be 1/2" from each edge to maintain the structural integrity of the bindings.  I personally like to place a pair of marks (1/2" apart) every inch as shown above.  

Using your awe, create holes at the previously marked locations.  Now place your signature against the covers and punch holes through the cover using your signature holes as a guide.

Binding your Book

For this portion, I've created a brief instructional video embedded below.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial, and thanks for following along.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below or send me an email.

To blog hop backwards, you can see Nerissa Alford's post about her experience with the Design Surface Patterns From Scratch class here:

Nerissa Alford |

instagram: nerissaalford



Stay tuned tomorrow and check out Allison Sews!

Allison Sews |

instagram: allisonsews

flickr: allison sews


To see all of the posts in the blog tour: 

If you are interested in taking the Design Surface Patterns From Scratch course, you can check it out here.

For a free month subscription to Bonnie's Roost Tribe, follow the link:


All the best,