How to Sew Your Own
This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to make a tiny book which is actually hand bound and perfectly useable; a mini version of a proper full-size book!
The bookbinding techniques will be explained below, underneath the 'How to Make a Book Block' section, but if you'd like more detailed instructions on this (and even watch a video demonstration), then please also check out my free Skillshare class here :) This class also shows you how to add a soft leather cover instead of a hardback one.
If you prefer to watch a tutorial rather than read one, then the video below summarises the whole process and shows the live making of the hardback cover too:
These are a few extra things you can add if you wish but are completely optional. I talk about them a bit in the tutorial below, as well as in the video above.
- Faux headbands
- Jewellery making tools & findings
You may decide to make your book into a keyring or necklace, and if you do then you'll need a few tools like pliers and extra materials like wire headpins, chains and clasps.
F i n d W h a t Y o u N e e d o n A m a z o n U . S . :
1. How To Make a Book Block
The first thing you need to make is the book block which is the block of paper pages that will go within the cover.
- Cut out 25 pieces of paper that measure 2" x 1.25" each.
The easiest way to do this is by making a paper template to use as a guide, and then using a guillotine, rotary cutter or scissors to cut around the template repeatedly to get the same rectangle shape over and over.
- Fold each of these pieces of paper in half (widthways) so that each ‘page’ is now 1.25” x 1”. Each of these pieces of paper is called a ‘folio’.
- Assemble these folios to make 5 piles; each pile consisting of 5 folios, one placed inside the other. Each of these piles is called a ‘signature’.
- Make 2 holes in the centre spine of each signature with scrap cardboard behind. Use a drawing pin and do the same for all signatures (making sure the holes are in the same positions in all pieces of paper.)
Be accurate, and mark where you want each hole with a pencil before you use the pin. I believe the holes I put in were 0.25" from each end.
- Attach all of the signatures together in a pile, one by one. Start by attaching 2 signatures together, then add the 3rd, then the 4th and finally the 5th...
- You do this with a needle and thread. Thread the needle and tie a knot at the end of the thread. You’ll need about 12” (as a minimum).
^ Each of the boxes in the diagram above are each of the 5 signatures.
- The order of threading is as follows:
In through hole 1, out through hole 2, in through hole 3, out through hole 4.
Tie the thread to the tail of thread sticking out of hole 1, with a double knot.
Go in through hole 5, out through hole 6. Tie a kettle stitch*
* To do a kettle stitch, take your needle under the thread which goes between the previous two signatures (in this case, running from hole 2 to hole 3), going from the centre outwards. Don’t pull the thread tight but instead take your needle back on itself and go through the loop of thread you have just formed. Then pull tight. You have now completed the kettle stitch!
Next, go in through hole 7, out through hole 8, and tie a kettle stitch using the thread running between holes 4 and 5.
Then take the thread in through hole 9, out through hole 10 and tie two kettle stitches using the thread between holes 6 and 7.
Now you can cut off the excess thread on both ends, leaving a short tail of approximately 2cm. Place this block of paper into a bulldog clip and spread a thin layer of PVA glue onto the spine, being careful not to go too close to either end.
Leave to dry.
Book block finished!
2. How To Make the Hardback Cover
When you have the book block, the only thing you then need to do is add the cover, however you can add a few optional extras now if you like:
^^ In the photo collage above, you can see that I have added a combination of faux headbands, cheesecloth, wire headpin and/or brass oval connector.
The faux headbands were created by cutting strips off a long band, and I bought mine off Etsy if you are looking to buy them yourself. They're quite hard to find - I had to get mine shipped from Greece!
The faux headbands are made to imitate the striped ends you get on expensive hand-bound books at either end of the spine.
The cheesecloth is not necessary but may add a little bit of durability to the spine of the book. It's mainly just for my own fun because, again, it imitates what bookbinders add to full-size books when they bind them.
The wire headpin has been added in order to allow the book to be turned into a charm to be hung from a keyring or necklace chain. The brass oval connector - which is just an oval piece of brass with a hole in it - does the same job, but has been glued within the pages rather than attached to the spine like the other additions.
Most of these were added with PVA glue, although the wire headpin needed superglue.
- To begin making the cover, you will need to cut out 3 rectangles of sturdy card. If you are using cereal box card or other thin card you will need to glue two layers of the card together in order to make it thick enough.
- One of the rectangles is the front cover, one is the back cover, and one is the spine of the cover:
- Both the front and back cover pieces need to be identical, and need to measure at least the size of the book block; preferably 1mm larger on all sides.
(I wouldn’t recommended cutting the pieces any larger than that because adding 2mm on all sides would make the cover look too big and out of proportion.)
Basically, you want your front and back covers to be very slightly bigger than your book block.
- The piece of cardboard which will be the spine of the book needs to be the same height as the front and back cover pieces, and the same width as the book block. It’s best to draw these rectangles onto the cardboard accurately before you cut them out.
- Once you have those 3 rectangles of card, you can place them onto the fabric or paper that you have chosen as your cover material.
You can then glue them in place, making sure that a) there is about 1cm (at least) of fabric or paper left around the outside edges of the card pieces, and b) there is a small gap between each rectangle that just allows the card pieces to be folded inwards freely (the width of these gaps will be equal to the thickness of card you’re using).
- I used minimal superglue to stick the card to the fabric …you don’t want to use excess glue in case it seeps through to the outside of the fabric or paper cover. Leave the glue to dry.
- Cut around the outside of the card pieces to leave an excess of fabric or paper on all sides. The excess should be between 0.5cm and 1cm wide.
- Cut the corners of the fabric or paper off at an angle of 45 degrees. The cut should be a short distance from the corners of the card. This distance should be equal to the thickness of the card you’re using.
- You then need to fold the flaps of fabric or paper over the edges of the card and glue them securely in place. Leave to dry.
- Now all that is left to do is to attach this cover to the book block. To do this, I simply used strong all-purpose glue (superglue); first gluing the spine of the book block to the cover, then gluing the front and back pages of the book block to the cover. Leave to dry.
- You can now embellish the book cover however you wish, attach a keyring or necklace chain, or leave it as it is.
- You can also experiment with other materials and fabrics.
Here are a couple more books I made; one with wide satin ribbon, and another with thick paper:
You’ve now finished making your book! I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial.