Sunday, June 28, 2009

Four Needle Coptic Bound Journal

Coptic Journal bound with canvas paper
Matte Board covers

I wanted to share with you how I make my hand made Coptic bound journals. I bind books out of necessity, not necessarily a love of book binding. Some of my techniques are a bit unorthodox but the resulting books are sturdy work horses.


4 needles - if you have curved sewing needles these will work best but you can use straight needles. Just make sure the eye is big enough to accommodate your chosen binding thread.

Bone folder or back of a wooden spoon. Helps to really crease the pages and reduce swell in the book.

Waxed linen or other sturdy thread. I tried using crochet cotton on a bunch of journals and it just does not hold up. The waxed linen thread is really best

Paper torn down to the spread you want. I'm making a landscape book so my spread is 8" high x 20.5" wide and I folded the pages in half. Nesting several pages together makes a "signature". The signatures will be sewn together later.

2 Covers cut 1/4" higher and 1/8" longer than your folded signatures

An awl is hand, but you can use a nail too

A mallet is optional. A regular hammer will do too.

I'm making a book that will be an oil painting sketchbook so I cut down paper in a canvas pad for my signatures. You can use ANY paper and even mix and match the papers so you can have drawing papers, printing papers and watercolor papers. You can use the book to test drive lots of new papers too.

Cut your pages. Use the bone folder or the back of a wooden spoon to crease your paper. If you use heavy paper, nest 3 sheets to make your signature. Lighter paper can accommodate more pages in the signature.

This flimsy piece of paper is called a jig. Omit this step at you own peril. What you are making is a tool to help you mark consistent stitching holes in your signature and your covers. Make this paper as tall as the spine and 2" wide. Fold it in half. Then mark your sewing holes. You want the top and bottom holes to be about 5/8" of an inch in from edge. Place the other two holes where you want them.(Four holes in total...hence the name "Four Needle Coptic"). Use you awl to poke gentle holes in the jig.

Now you are ready to use the jig to transfer holes to the spines of the signatures. Mark them on the inside fold. Then use the awl to poke holes in the signature.

Using your jig again, mark the holes on the 2 covers. Leave about 3/8" distance between the holes and the spine.If you like you can stack the covers on on top of the other to make sure the holes are in the right place. Use the nail or awl and a hammer or mallet to punch the holes.

Now you are ready to prepare the needles and threads for sewing. Count the number of signatures and 2 covers. Measure using the thread, the length of spine. Multiply this amount of thread times the number of signatures plus 2 covers. Add 4 more cover lengths.(Just in case! You don't want to run out of thread at the end!) Fold (do not cut) the length of thread in half and make a book binders not on the end of the thread. Repeat this so you have 2 long threads with a total of 4 needles, one on each end.

OK, now you a ready to sew your book together. Stack you signatures and covers near by. Set up the first signature (not starting with the cover yet) by threading one of your double needle threads from the inside of the signature.Do the other thread too. Four needles should be dangling on equal lengths of thread from the outside of the first signature. Now grab the cover and stitch each needle into the outside hole of the cover.

Sew back though the first section and crisscross the threads inside the signature fold and bring the needles outside again.
Kettle stitch all four threads.


Continue crisscrossing and kettle stitching for each signature. Use the wooden spoon or bone folder to crease the spines of all signatures. This reduces swell.

Stitch through the inside hole of the remaining cover piece. Kettle stitch through the last section and sew back with the last signature. Tie off with a square knot.

And there you have a Coptic book bound with your own paper. If you make one, please leave me your link and I'll post everyone's book.


Jeanette said...

Thank you for sharing this technique Lindsay. I've been toying with creating my own sketchbooks for ages. This may be the push to actually do so!

parisa mahmoudi said...

Hi Lindsay!
So thanks of your nice wish on your comment,you are so kind!
And thanks about this post.I must try it on my own sketchbook!

Cynthia said...

This is a lovely book you have made. Great explanation on the sewing too. Thanks

Lindsay said...

Thanks people.I really recommend you try it because it's fun to make if you don't worry about perfection and having your own paper is such a luxury. Please send me your link if you make one.I'll post them!

vivien said...

thanks for these lovely clear instructions - I'm definitely going to have a go

... only not immediately as I'm up to my eyes in paperwork for teaching again :>(

I really enjoyed making the sketchbooks you previously gave the instructions for in the Flying Pictures project :>) so did my students

Lindsay said...

Vivien, it made me very happy that you used my accordion instructions so throughly! That fact that you shared them with students made my teacher heart sing!

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Thanks, Lindsay for the instructions. I especially like your use of canvas paper :) I'll be trying my hand at it soon.