Have you always wanted an easy way to make your own books? I'll show you how step by step in this basic bookbinding tutorial using my own design peel-and-stick wallpaper...
I first learnt how to make books very many years ago during art class at school, when a visiting art student came in to give us a series of practical lessons on the subject. I loved it immediately, and went on to make more on my own, before using some of the skills I learnt, years later, for my job creating large scale maps and plans, and sewing up documents.
When I first started designing my own patterns, I so wanted to see them made into a book, so when I discovered Spoonflower made a fab woven, peel & stick wallpaper (re-positionable!) available, I knew it was a project I would have to try out, and share with you...
Bookbinding (or 'making books') looks like a mysterious art, but it's actually quite simple once you know how - and I'm going to show you.
We're going to make an easy book, which opens sideways, with the spine on the left, and with blank pages inside - so that it can be used for a journal, or sketch book (they also make great gifts, and are very special, being hand-made.)
Equipment and materials you will need
Before you start, it's worth gathering together all the equipment & materials you will need. I will share exactly what I used at the end of the post, but you can follow this basic bookbinding tutorial, and use the same techniques with your own choice of board, papers etc, and make different sizes, if you wish.
Basic Bookbinding Tutorial
OK, so, first we will get together our materials and make sure we have everything we need and have enough paper to cover the boards for the front and back covers, and the inserts for both covers too (you can see what I used in the materials list at the bottom of the page).
Please read through all the instructions before you start, so that you are clear on everything you will be doing, and how the finished project will come together
1) Lay out the A5 boards (front and back covers) on your cutting mat
- The front cover will bend back and form the spine, so we need to cut this, as below (on the right)
- Leave the bottom piece to be about an inch wide (or more depending on the size of book you make), and the smallest piece should be around twice the thickness of the card, or a little more, as this is where the 'hinge' will be
- Do not throw away any of the bits, you will be using them all again later
2) Get the paper you want to use on the outside of the back covers, and lay the boards on it
- Position your boards so that there is a decent space around each edge, this paper will be used to fold back over the board so make sure you leave plenty
- Trim the paper so it's roughly the right size (no need to be precise)... (see below)
- This is what you should have...
We will, of course, be sticking the board to the back of the patterned paper (the plain side), I'm just showing you this so you know what we're using
3) Prepare to stick and cut the back cover
- Lay your back cover board (the single piece) onto the reverse side (plain side) of your patterned paper. If you are using the same peel-and-stick paper as me, you will need to peel off the backing, so that it is sticky
- Make sure you lay it down cleanly, and check there are no air-bubbles (if your card is sturdy enough there shouldn't be). Lay down the patterned paper first - peel off the backing, lay the cardboard on top. As the paper is repositionable, you should be able to unpeel it and correct any mistakes before you go any further
- Cut angles at each corner to make folding easier - don't go too close to the corner or the cardboard will show through
4) Fold over the edges firmly and make sure it's stuck down well
- Use your bone folder to make the edges of the fold sharp and neat (run along beneath the paper (patterned side) as you fold the edges up)
This is what it should look like - the image below will be the outside of the back cover
5) Now we will make the front cover
- Lay out the cover on your patterned paper (pattern-side down - sticky side up)
- Fit together all of the strips of cardboard, as if it's one whole piece...
- Carefully remove the smallest strip - this will form the hinge of the book. Try not to knock the other pieces out of place, as it is important that the front cover, over all, is the same size as the back cover
- Make sure you have left enough space so that when you fold over the right hand side (as seen in the photo below) it will completely cover the gap with some to spare
- Cut the corners to be able to fold the paper over - see the back cover instructions above for how to do this
- Continue folding the edges over, as you did for the back cover
- Here's how your two covers will look - if you look carefully at the photo, (left hand side), you will see the hinge created on the front cover, where the cover will bend back
6) Making the back cover 'insert'
- Of course, at the moment, while these look pretty from the front, at the back (inside the covers) they're not so attractive, so we're going to make some matching 'inserts' to cover where we folded over the papers
- I'm using the same design in a smaller scale and complementary color so they work really well together
- Use a piece of card-making card, to stick the patterned paper onto, and trim so that it is just slightly smaller than the size of the back cover
- Once again you will want to measure your patterned paper so you will have a generous amount to fold over
- Lay out the card onto your patterned paper, as previously, and trim corners
- Fold over the edges neatly
- Put your insert in position against your back cover (it should look like this - below) and put to one side (we will glue it in a bit). Make sure you have put scruffy sides together, and nice sides facing out.
7) Making the front cover 'insert'
- Making the front cover insert is essentially the same, but we need to take account of the opening hinge
- Measure your piece of card carefully against your hinged front cover so that the hinge is clear (will work) and the edges will appear even all around - then trim
- Continue trimming, folding and sticking as for the back cover. At this point the only difference is the size
- This (below) is how the two pieces will fit together - note the hinge to the left of the photo. This will be the inside of the front cover - so once again note that we have scruffy sides together, and nice sides facing out
8) Glue inserts to the covers
- Lay your cover inserts (one at a time) onto a piece of scrap paper - and cover with a thin layer of craft glue. Pay special attention to the edges - they must stick well, but you don't want the glue seeping out to spoil your book
- Stick the inserts down onto the covers (scruffy sides together, remember!)...
- Watch for glue seeping out the edges and wipe any quickly
9) Wait for the glue to dry
10) Assemble the book with the pages inside
- Line up the pages and covers carefully, as it will be when it's a completed book
11) Measure for the holes in the 'spine'
- Measure carefully to mark positions for two holes in the spine portion of the front cover of your book. It doesn't really matter on the exact position, but these should be central, and evenly positioned. Make sure they aren't too close to the edges (or too far away!)
12) Make the holes
- Making sure that your book covers and pages remain properly aligned, make holes with your awl or hole punch
- The holes will need to go right through both covers and all the pages - take care the work surface is protected from sharp objects!
- You may need to move the covers or pages about and apply strength to push the awl through. Keep checking it's all still properly aligned and that you're putting the holes in the right place
13) Sew together the book
This is the point when people normally panic! There's no need... I'll share instructions below, and also the hole punch and ribbon alternative, which you might prefer
- Follow the sequence below to get the book sewn together quite quickly using your bookbinding thread and needle - it can be quite hard to push the needle through, but persevere, or come back and make the hole a little bigger with your awl if you need to
- Look at the front of your book at all times
- Your first sewing action is from back to front in the top hole - leave about 4-6 inches of thread loose at the back to tie up at the end (or more if you are making a bigger book - it must stretch between the two holes, plus give you some length to play with for actually tying the knot)
- Then (2) - from the front, over the top of the book, to the back, and back up through the hole again to the front
- Then (3) out to the side and back through the hole from back to front
- Next (4) take the thread down the front of the book to the other hole, and push the needle through from front to back
- Then (5) go out to the side and bring the needle round to the front, and go back into the hole from front to back
- Lastly (6) take the thread around the bottom of the book and once again through the hole from front to back
- Now you should have two loose ends at the back. Tighten all parts of your book thread and make sure the book is all properly aligned.
- Then tie the ends together tightly, and neatly, near the bottom hole (this should be at the back of the book)
- To keep it looking tidy, trim the ends with sharp scissors
- Turn over your book - well done - it's finished :)
And here's what it looks like inside...
Alternative to sewing - the ribbon and hole punch method of fastening your book together
If you still don't fancy sewing your book up, you can simply hole punch two holes through your covers and pages (use a template so you get them in the correct positions) and fasten your book through with a pretty ribbon
Here's one I did earlier....
Whichever method you choose of making your book, you will have a special hand-made and treasured item to keep for years, or to make a thoughtful present of to someone you love...
If you would like to make your own handmade book, take a look at what you will need right below...
If you make a book, please do pop back and let me know how it went and if the tips were useful, and if there's anything you would like to add - or send me a piccie of your lovely book to share.
Equipment and materials you will need
These are the equipment and materials I used to create the books above. Feel free to follow the tutorial, using your own materials, should you wish, and experiment and make different sizes.
- Boards to make the front and back covers - you will need fairly sturdy card so it doesn't bend --- I used this A5 size board
- Paper for the inside of your book - choose nice quality so that it fits with the hand-made book, and go for lined/unlined depending on if you want to use your book to write or draw in -- I used this A5 paper which fitted perfectly with the board size for minimum trimming - I used about 20 sheets in mine, but you can make your book with as many pages as you want
- Something to make the decorative cover for front and back covers (outside and inside) - I chose to make mine with my own design woven peel-and-stick wallpaper in two complementary designs I created especially for the book. The woven fabric paper is flexible enough to bend nicely over the corners of your book, and makes a good hinge, too, it sticks nicely (minimum need for messy glue) and is also re-positionable (less chance of messing it up!). I used two wallpaper swatches to make this book - one of each color (and I had a little left over that I will be able to use for another project).
For the covers
For the inside of the covers
- Bookbinding tools - relatively inexpensive and worth getting as you can use them over again - awl, needles, linen thread, bone folder - this is the most similar to the one I bought
You will also need:
- cutting mat
- craft knife
- craft glue and glue spreader
- some thin card-making card (same size as your book)
- metal rule (or other hard, straight surface to cut against) or craft guillotine
- tape measure/ruler
If you want to use the items I talk about above for your project, please come back and use the links on this page to buy.
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