Making is always particularly satisfying when you are able to create something beautiful and creative, but also useful! One excellent example of this kind of practical and creative making is bookbinding. Designing your own notebook is an excellent, accessible activity that you can probably do with supplies you already have at home. Here is a quick tutorial to get you started with some simple bookbinding.

The first thing you’ll need to do is assemble your supplies. We use chipboard cut to size but any kind of sturdy cardboard will do. Think backs of notepads or cereal boxes, anything that’s sturdy, but not too thick. You want something thin enough to bend, but strong enough to support the paper inside your notebook. The backing should be slightly larger than the paper is when laid out flat. For this notebook, we use sheets of 8 ½ x 11-inch copy paper, and so we’ve left about a quarter inch margin of backing around the pages on each side. You’ll also need sheets of filler paper, (we used 10 sheets of copy paper), embroidery floss and an embroidery needle for the binding, binder clips, a large nail, a hammer, and some kind of board or foam that it’s safe to hammer into.

 

Materials:
  • Backing
  • 10 Sheets of paper
  • Embroidery floss
  • Embroidery needle
  • Binder clips
  • Large nail
  • Hammer
  • Scrap wood or foam block

Once you’ve gathered all your materials you need to line up your paper and backing. I like to start by folding all of my paper sheets in half, and separately folding my backing in half. This means I get a good sharp crease in all of my sheets as well as in my chipboard. It can be easier to fold the chipboard using a straight edge, so try inserting a ruler or using the edge of a table or counter to get that nice fold.

 
After you’ve folded your paper and backing, you’ll want to open them up again and clip them together with binder clips. Open up the paper and lay it flat on top of the opened up backing. It won’t reach the edges completely but should be close enough for you to clip it in place. Put a binder clip on each side to keep the pages in place while you punch the holes and sew the binding.

 
When you’ve got your pages all clipped up, lay your booklet open (paper side up) on your foam block or piece of scrap wood, making sure that the crease in the notebook is lined up with the center of the foam or wood (we’re about to hammer into it so you want to make sure they’re lined up).

 

Start your first hole at the top of the binding in the crease. Hammer the nail all the way down, through all of the pages and your backing. It’s alright if it goes into the foam/wood. That’s what it’s there for! You just want to make sure you don’t hammer it in so far you can’t wiggle it out. Pull out the nail and move down the seam about a quarter to a half an inch and add another hole. Continue in this manner until you’ve reached the bottom of the page. You’re now ready to sew your binding.

 

The appropriate length of thread to bind your notebook seems to always be about the length of your outstretched arms. So grab the end of the thread, and unroll slowly with the other hand until your arms are stretched wide, snip it off and you’re ready to thread your needle.

 

Embroidery needles have a slightly larger eye and are therefore a bit easier to thread, however, a needle threader can be helpful if you need some help getting your needle threaded. No matter how you do it, once you get that thread through the eye you want to pull it through until one end of the string meets the other. This is called double threading the needle. Once the two ends meet, tie them together (an overhand knot will do).

 

Once your needle is threaded and your knot is tied you can begin sewing the binding. Be sure to keep those binder clips on until you’re all done. Starting with the knot on the outside (meaning the back/chipboard) push your needle up through the paper. Make sure you’re going through all the layers here from the backing all the way up through all ten sheets and pull until the knot reaches the backing. Then go back down through the next hole in the paper and pull until taught again.

 

Continue in this fashion until you’ve reached the opposite end of the book then go back the other direction toward where you started. This time you want to sew in and out of every opposite hole thereby closing up the white space gaps between the binding. It will look like this:

 

When you get back to the top where you started you can tie off your thread and cut the remainder at whatever length you like (sometimes a longer thread is nice for a bookmark).

 

Now you can finally unclip your binder clips and close up your notebook. You’re done! Add embellishments, a clasp a pocket or anything you’d like. This little beauty is yours to fill with your thoughts, ideas, plans, designs, doodles, poems … whatever! What will you fill your brand new, handmade notebook with?

Share your creations and tag @nysci on Twitter or Instagram.