Post by Larry Campbell.
You can make your very own impressive mini soft cover book. All you need is some paper, half an hour of your time, and opposable thumbs. This type of bookbinding requires no glue, no special tools, and no unusual skills. Honest.
These little books are great for carrying in your pocket or bag for jotting down addresses, phone numbers, or thoughts that you don’t want to escape. They make great little journals. And who wouldn’t want to receive a gift of a handmade book? Give it a try.
Things You Will Need
Paper for pages
Paper for cover
Paper cutter or sharp utility knife and metal straightedge
Embroidery thread or waxed dental floss
Four wooden, spring-type clothespins
Choosing paper: You can use ordinary printer paper, but that can be rather bland. I like to use 64# drawing paper because it is a bit thicker and has a nice texture. Be creative. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different kinds of paper. But shy away from anything too thin – it will tear when you try to stitch it. Or too thick – it will be bulky and won’t fold well.
Choosing the cover: I like to use the kind of paper that scrapbookers use. It is decorative on both sides, is generally the right thickness, and comes in an infinite variety of designs. Most craft stores carry it.
Thread: Bookbinding purists swear by waxed linen thread. I’m sure it’s good stuff, but it sounds hoity-toity to me. More ordinary kinds of thread will do quite nicely. My favorite is waxed dental floss. Really. It’s quite strong and the wax helps the knots stay tied.
If you want to add a bit of color, embroidery thread works great. Pick a color that goes well with the cover. Also, it’s a good idea to pull the thread across a chunk of bee’s wax to give it a bit of stickiness. It’s much easier to work with that way.
Large needle: Large is a relative term. You want one that will work well with the thread you are using, but not so big that it tears up the paper. I wish I could be more specific, but use your best judgment.
In addition to using the needle to stitch the pages, you can use it to punch holes in the paper before sewing.
Paper cutter: If you have access to a paper cutter, great. If not, a metal straightedge and a sharp utility knife will do just fine. A dull blade will tear the paper, so be sure to start with a fresh blade. You could also use a rotary cutter and a cutting mat if you have them.
After you have picked out the kind of paper you like, you need to decide on the size of the book. How you plan to use the book will help you determine the size. I have made books as small as 2X2, and as big as 6X8. For soft cover books, 4X5 seems like a good place to start. Also, decide how many pages you want in your book. For your first book, 6 sheets should work just fine. That will give you a finished book with 24 pages.
Carefully cut the paper to size. If you are making a 4X5 book, cut the sheets to 8X5 because they will be folded in half.
Don’t try to cut all the sheets at once. You can cut them individually or a couple at a time. Just be sure to do your best to make them all exactly the same size.
Cut the cover to the same size as the sheets for the pages.
Fold each sheet in half, crisply creasing the folded edge with your fingernail. Do the same for the cover.
Tuck all the folded pages inside one another and then inside the cover.
Tap the edge of the pages to make sure they are lined up with each other.
Secure the pages and cover with 4 clothespins.
Now you are ready to start stitching the pages (and cover) together.
When you sew the pages, you will want the stitches to be about ½ inch or less. The important thing to know is that you should have an odd number of holes for stitching. That way, you will be able to tie the beginning and end of the thread together after you have finished stitching.
Measure the height of your book. Determine how many half-inch (or slightly less) stitches will fit. With a pencil and ruler, lightly mark where you will be punching the hole for each stitch in the fold of the middle page.
Using the large needle (or you can use anything sharp that is easy to work with, like a large safety pin), push all the way through the pages and the cover. Do this for each pencil mark you have made.
Cut a piece of embroidery thread or dental floss that is about 4 times the height of the book.
If you are using embroidery thread, it really helps to firmly drag it across a chunk of bee’s wax until it feels a bit sticky. Be sure to wax the thread all the way to the ends.
Thread the needle.
With the first stitch, begin on the inside fold of the book and push the needle through to the outside. With the next hole, bring the needle from the outside to the inside. Continue stitching until you go out through the last hole. At this point, you want to start sewing back to the beginning, by going back through the holes in the opposite direction.
I know this might sound a bit complicated, but take your time and visualize how you think it should look. If you make a mess out of it, you can always carefully pull the thread out and start over.
When you get to the end (actually where you started the first stitch), you are ready to tie off the ends of the thread. Tie a square knot and a half that is tight against the fold.
Trim with a pair of scissors.
You will notice that the open edge of the book – opposite from the folded edge – is uneven. If you wish, you can trim this side so it is even.
With a straightedge and a sharp utility knife, carefully cut through one or two pages at a time until you have cut all the way through the book. Don’t try to cut it all at once. Be careful to not move the book or the straightedge as you do this. Otherwise you will end up with a jagged edge.
That’s it. You’re done. You’ve made a book.
Now, post a picture of your completed book to the Homemade Frontier Flickr group!
Larry Campbell is a retired social worker who once described himself as “just a guy from the midwest who likes to think he knows a thing or two about tomato paste.” He spends his time taking photographs, riding his bike, staring at pictures of his grand-daughter and meticulously folding laundry. Follow him on twitter to read his rants about proper punctuation.
And, yes, he is Editor Sue’s father-in-law.