Things that make you go 'hmm'…
My books and how to make them
I thought as I haven’t been making so many books recently and yet I am still passing myself off as a bookbinding blog, I ought to at least show you some of the books I have made during the last year. Be warned, there are 130 of them! You can see them all together by clicking on ‘View All Images’.
I really must get my Etsy shop up and running….
Ribbon binding – a tutorial
I am often asked to explain how I make my books so I thought I would prepare a very basic tutorial. I know that once you see how easy it is, you will all rush off to make your own and not stay around to buy mine but that is a risk I shall have to take ☺
This is a tutorial to make a ribbon bound book. This example uses very simple materials for your first effort. I am assuming you don’t know anything about bookbinding (so excuse me if you are exerienced and I am stating the obvious but in that case, perhaps this tutorial isn’t for you!)
This method will make an A5 sized book. It looks like this.
40 sheets of paper
This can be from a shop bought sketch book, cut to size or even printer paper. Obviously the number of sheets can vary, to make a fatter or thinner book. For this book, it should be A4 sized (21 x 30cm approx)
I use linen thread. Ordinary sewing cotton is not strong enough.
An awl or sharp point to make holes
PVA glue and a glue brush
This will protect your table/work surface!
This is a tool used to flatten folded edges. You can use the back of a spoon if you don’t have one.
This can be a scalpel/Stanley knife/boxcutter capable of cutting through thick cardboard
A sheet of thick cardboard
This is for the covers and the spine so it needs to be 25 x 35cm at least. You can buy greyboard (also called bookboard) from craft shops but any sturdy cardboard will do the job. (The back cover of an A3 sized sketch pad will do)
2 contrasting sheets of decorative paper
This can be almost anything you like. I use Japanese paper (which is expensive) or gift wrap (which is less expensive)
50cm of ribbon
I like to use petersham ribbon (the ribbed kind, also called grosgrain) as it stays tied tightly – satin ribbons can slip. It should be approx 1.5cm wide. This should coordinate or contrast with the paper you are using for the outside of your book.
Large sheets to protect work surface.
So here we go.
• First fold all the paper sheets in half. Use the bone folder/spoon to make a very sharp crease. Place 4 sheets inside one another to make a section (also called a signature) – you will obviously end up with 10 sections.
• Take one of the sections, and starting at the right side, place a mark on the crease 0.5cm from the end, then 5cm from the end. Then make a mark 0.5cm and 5 cm from the other end. Then make two more marks a ribbon’s width from the 5cm marks (so approx 6.5cm from each end).
• Holding all ten sections together, repeat the markings on all sections.
• Using an awl or a needle, open out each section and holding them carefully in place, pierce a hole at each marking, making sure the pages don’t slip.
• Cut the piece of ribbon in half.
• Measure a length of thread which is 10 and a half times the length of the spine. Tie a knot at one end and then thread the needle.
• Let’s label the holes to make the next bit easier to explain.
• Let’s call each hole by its letter and the number of the section it is on, so hole B on the second section will be B2 for example.
• Take the first section, open it up slightly, holding each sheet tightly in place, push the needle in through hole A1 from the outside then come out again through hole B1.
• Take one of the pieces of ribbon and hold it in place between holes B1 and C1. Pass the thread over the ribbon and go in through hole C1. Come out through hole D1.
• Take second piece of ribbon, place between holes D1 and E1 and passing the thread over the ribbon, go into hole E1 and finally emerge again at hole F1. Make sure that the threads are pulled tight (but not so tight that they tear the holes).
• Now close the first section, take the second section and place it next to the first one. Open up the second section and go into hole F2 on the second section.
• Come out of hole E2. You are going to go over the ribbon into hole D2 but before you go into D2, pass the needle and thread UNDERNEATH the thread leading from E1 to D1.
• Next out of C2 – under the thread from C1 to B1 and then into B2 and emerge again at A2. Attach the third section and carry on. NOTE: every time you pass over the ribbon pass under the thread from the previous section (not the first thread every time). This will tie the sections together securely, with the added bonus of creating a pretty herringbone pattern which nobody can see in the finished book but I like to know it’s there!
• When you get to A3, tuck the needle under the stitch passing from A1 to A2 and pass the needle through the loop in the thread, forming a knot (called a kettle stitch) This will further strengthen the sections. From here, do this kettle stitch everytime you add a new section.
• You have just made a text block.
• You now need to cut three pieces of board. Two will be the covers of the book. Each one is 1cm longer than the text block length and 0.5cm longer than the text block width. ie. you want the covers to be 0.5cm bigger than the text block ON 3 SIDES.
• To measure the board for the spine of the book, hold the text block between the two cover boards and using a scrap of paper, measure the width of the text block and the two covers. This gives you the width of the spine piece. The length of the spine piece is the same as the length of the two book cover pieces.
• Use this piece of paper to mark the width and then cut out the third piece of board.
• Place the text block on to one of the covers as in the diagram below so that the block is lined up with one of the long sides and is centrally placed along it’s length. Mark the position of the ribbons with a pencil.
• Place several sheets of scrap paper onto your work surface, one on to top of the other.
• Lay the decorative cover paper face down on the scrap paper. Arrange the boards as shown leaving a 0.5cm gap between the spine board and each cover. Cut the decorative paper approximately 3cm bigger all round.
• Remove the boards and get ready to glue! This is the messiest bit of the whole process. I buy big pots of PVA glue as I get through rather a lot of it so I next decant some into a smaller pot. Hold the cover paper in place in the centre and start applying glue from the centre outwards onto the scrap paper. DO NOT LET THE PAPER MOVE as you then run the risk of getting glue on the front of the paper.
• Once you have covered the whole sheet, pick it up carefully and take the gluey scrap paper away from under it and throw it away. There should now be a nice clean sheet underneath and you can place the cover paper back down again (glue side up!)
• Replace the cover boards in position on the glued paper.
• Turn the cover over and smooth out any air bubbles carefully on the front. Leave to dry.
• When the glue is dry, make a slit very carefully across each notch as shown (don’t do this until glue is dry as the paper is more likely to tear.)
• Now we need to cut the paper for the lining of the cover. Measure a piece of your contrasting paper which is about 1cm smaller than the book cover on all sides.
• Now, using the same glueing procedure as before, glue the paper and carefully place it onto the cover, trying to place it evenly and smoothing out any air bubbles.
• Once the cover is dry, turn it over and very carefully, locate the slits you made earlier and then slit the lining paper THROUGH the existing ribbon slits so that they are the same size and in the same position.
• Once this is done, if the cover looks a little warped – not flat then place some heavy books on it and leave for a few hours or gently flex it to straighten it.
• Place the text block inside the cover and then feed the ribbons through the slits on to the outside.
Once you are confident with the method for making these books you can adapt this process to suit yourself. More or less pages, use the paper to suit your needs – sketch paper, cartridge paper, watercolour paper. Make it whatever size you want by cutting large sheets of paper down to size. The measurements are all comparative so you can usually adapt sizes by eye. If you use heavier weight paper, you might want less pages and fewer pages per section.
Just do whatever, looks and feels right.