learning new things


Here at handsome and pretty we are always wondering how things are made and how we can recreate things ourselves. We also love love love to read so when we stumbled upon this tutorial on book binding over at cook, quilt, make and bake blog we had to share it:

 Nigella Lawson’s library


Book Binding: Sketch Book

Step 1 – Cut and Fold Your Paper

Books are, of course, made out of pages. The sketch book we made in class had 48 pages, made by taking 24 double sized pieces of paper, folding them in half and collating them into 12 packets of 2 pages each.

Thankfully the paper was already cut to size for us, so we just had to fold the 24 pieces of paper in half, using a bone folder to smooth the crease  so that you get a nice crisp edge.

Step 2 – Make a template for sewing

The next step is to make holes in all your pieces of paper as a guide for sewing.

In order to make sure that the holes (and thus your sewing) are nicely lined up, without having to measure and mark each piece of paper individually, we made a template.

Take a piece of scrap paper the same length as your page, and fold it in half. Then mark along the crease 6 holes (you made need more if you are making a very tall book). The top and bottom hole should be around an inch from the top and bottom of the page. The others should be roughly evenly spaced in between.

Step 3 – Make holes for sewing

Taking each of your bundles of 2 sheets, line the template up inside their center crease. Using an awl, make a hole through the marked template hole into the 2 sheets. This hole is used as a guide hole for your sewing.

Step 4 – Sew the books together

The books are sewn together, one set of pages at a time. In class we used a special book binding needle (which is very thick and long) and a waxed linen thread. The sewing stitch we used is known as ‘kettle’ stitch, although there are lots and lots of different stitches and techniques used for sewing together pages in book binding.

Step 5 – Cover papers

Each hard backed book has 2 cover papers, one for the front and one for the back, which attaches to the front page of the book pages, and the hard back cover.

Cover pages are often made with special papers and traditionally may be marbled. They are cut to be exactly the same size as your booklet pages.

You attach your cover paper to the front and back of your booklet bundle, using specialist book binding glue. There are a whole world of specialist glues used in book binding, but the one we used in class was a wheat starch paste.

Just run a thin swipe of glue down the spine edge front and back and stick your cover page to the thin glue line.

Step 6 – Rounding and Gluing the spine

The next step is to shape your pages to give your spine a nice curve. We rolled our booklet around a dowel and then clamped it between grey board to hold the pages in shape. The next stage is to run glue along the edge of the spine.

Using a soft bristled brush, apply the glue all along the spine in generous quantities, making sure to get in and around all the of stitching. Then using a finger scrape off as much of the paste as you can so that there is no excess left of the spine.

Leave to book clamped or under a light weight to dry

Step 7 – Apply the head bands

Bookbinding head bands are one of those things you barely notice about a hard back book but help to tie it all together and look finished. They are a cotton tape with two colours of silk thread sewn along the top.

Each book needs two headbands cut, one for the top and one for the bottom of the spine. Measure just a much as you need based on how wide your spine is and glue it to the spine using PVA.

Step 7 – Making your cover

Hardback covers are made of two thick pieces of grey board for the front and back and one thinner piece of grey card for the spine, glued to a piece of fabric (usually a specialist book binding cloth or buckram).

The grey board is cut to be around 1/8th inch bigger all the way around than the booklet which sits between it. The spine piece of card is cut to be exactly the same size as the width of the spine and the same length as the pieces of grey board.

You want to lay the pieces out side by side (as if looking at the open book) with around a 1/4 inch gap between each piece. Then cut a piece of bookbinding cloth big enough to give you a 1.5″ seam all the way around the edge.

The next step is to paste the wheat starch paste in a thin layer across the whole of the piece of fabric, and then carefully lay your pieces of board on the fabric in position. Carefully, without getting too many bubbles between the gluey cloth and the board fold the edges of your cloth round and over the board around the edges. A tip we were taught is that smoothing it with the bone folder as you go helps to keep the edges nice and crisp.

This board/fabric cover now needs to go somewhere flat to dry for a few hours.

Step 8 – Make it into a book

The last step is to attach your two bits together. Both the book of pages and the cover should be mostly dry from glue.

To attach them you want to spread a thin and even layer of glue onto the top page of the booklet and to the back page of the booklet. Now carefully place your book inside the cover and press with a heavy weight so that the booklet dries in place inside the cover.  You don’t need to glue the spine.

And there you have it – TAHDAHHH! A finished hard backed book. Phew.

Pretty impressive no?

Happy Crafting

handsome and pretty



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