Book Binding By Hand

Simple bindings for your hand-crafted books are easy to do.  They provide a more elegant and longer-lasting solution than staples or binder clips. 

You can use a variety of materials for the cover.  The cover can be made from card stock, file folders, heavy-weight papers, fabric, vinyl, or leather.  Match the binding materials to the content of your book to reinforce the theme and protect it.  Be careful about using wood since it contains chemicals which will degrade the interior pages.  Use it only for a short-term decorative item.  You can make a soft cover by using your choice of material without applying stiff cardboard backing.  Make a hard cover by applying the material over cardboard cut to size.  Cut two matching pieces of cardboard to form the front and back cover.  Make them 1/16 of an inch larger in both height and width than the text pages.  There is no overhang in this binding. 

Any type of cord or string can be used for the stitching including yarns, raffia, leather thongs, jute string, twine, gimp, soft wire, thin ribbons, and fine braids.  These are some of the more unusual choices for thread.  On a traditional project you might use linen, embroidery, or carpet thread, strong nylon thread, or waxed dental floss. 

In your initial book layout, be sure to allow space on each page for the spine.  Spine depths will vary with the number of pages and the thickness of the paper.  As a general rule allow ½” to ¾” of blank space on the side of the page which will be attached to the spine in addition to the margin around the writing.

Equipment.  You will need an awl or a small nail and hammer, cardboard for a hard cover, material for the cover, cording or thread (eight times as long as the book’s height), binder clips, a needle, pencil, ruler, phone book or scrap wood to protect your work surface.

How to do it.  These instructions follow Japanese book binding techniques to create a binding that will last.

Step 1.  Measure ½” from the spine of the front cover and use your ruler to draw a line from the top to the bottom.  On the line you have just drawn, make a mark ½” down from the top and ½” up from the bottom.  Divide the distance between those two marks into thirds and mark two middle points.  You should have four marks.

Step 2.  Even up the pages of the book and place them between the front and back covers.  Clamp with binder clips.  Place on your protected work surface.  If needed, weight down the pages to keep them from moving.  Punch holes through the marks using the awl or a small nail and hammer.  Do this in batches of 20 pages or less; otherwise pages and holes slip out of alignment.  Once all pages are punched, stack them with holes aligned on the left hand side.

Step 3.  Thread the needle with the thread. Tie the ends together in a knot.  You now have a continuous loop of thread, the needle at one end, the knot at the other.  Anchor the thread by opening the book about 20 pages and pushing the needle through the lower middle hole.  Pull the thread until the knot is snugly fitted against the pages.  Wrap the thread around the spine and push the needle through the lower middle hole again.  Pull taut. 

Step 4.  Take the thread across the top cover to the upper middle hole.  Push the needle down through that hole, around the spine and back down through the same hole.  Pull the thread tight after each hole.

Step 5.  Take the thread across the bottom cover and come up through the top hole.  Go around the spine and up through the top hole again. 

Step 6.  Take the thread across the top of the cover so it crosses the top edge of the book (as opposed to the spine).  Wrap the thread around this top edge and bring the thread up through the top hole.

Step 7.  Take the thread across the top cover and down through the upper middle hole. 

Step 8.  Take the thread across the back cover and up through the lower middle hole.

Step 9.  Take the thread across the top cover and down through the bottom hole.  Wrap the thread around the spine.  Take the thread down through the bottom hole again.

Step 10.  Take the thread across the bottom cover so it crosses the bottom edge of the book.  Wrap the thread around this bottom edge and bring the thread down through the bottom hole. 

Step 11.  Take the thread across the back cover to the starting hole.  Bring the needle up through the starting hole.  Tie off the thread tightly by slipping the needle under the two top threads coming out of the starting hole and back through the loop.

Step 12.  Run the needle down through the starting hole and cut off the thread flush with the back of the book. 

You can vary this basic binding by using different spacing of the holes and patterns of sewing.  As a decorative feature, you can sew a stick, ribbon, or beads into the binding.  Add the decoration along the spine if it is thick enough or on the front cover.  Do remember to consider function first though.  If the decoration will interfere with reading the book, do not use it.

Celia Webb, President of Pilinut Press, Inc., publishers of advanced readers for children and ESL students.

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Basic Cross Stitch Tips for Beginners

The art or craft of cross stitch is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. Easy to learn and do, ‘cross stitch’ is simply embroidery stitched with lots of little ‘X’ stitches to create a lovely design. This fun craft is sometimes referred to as ‘counted cross-stitch’ because the pattern and fabric require the crafter to count the number spaces to know where to place the stitches.

Most often, cross stitch patterns are done using a woven fabric called Aida cloth. Some advanced stitchers create designs on other types of fabrics using a special backing to help keep the stitching uniform. The kind of fabric you use depends on your skill level and the type of design you’re creating. I’ve cross stitched designs on my children’s clothing, bedding and other items for my home and as gifts.

Skilled cross stitch crafters create beautiful projects by stitching on plastic and various different papers as well. Gift cards and scrapbook designs may be made by stitching on paper of varying thickness and fiber.

Of course you can’t cross stitch without the proper thread. The threads used in counted cross stitch range from basic cotton, to wool or silk threads. Usually very colorful, embroidery floss as it’s called, comes in all kinds of colors and textures for you to play with.

If you’re just beginning to consider learning to cross stitch, your best bet is to learn about the craft itself before you start buying supplies. Your local craft store, bookstore, or library will most likely have several books available that will teach you and provide easy patterns to start with.

Once you know what’s expected of you in the craft of cross stitching, you’ll want to find some easy projects to begin with that will allow you to learn as you go. You’ll want to start with a project that requires only a few colors of thread and a larger weave Aida cloth. By doing so, you’ll prevent a lot of unnecessary learner’s frustration.

When you sit down to start your first cross stitch project, you’ll want to have all of your materials available and easy to get to. Start out by reading through the project instructions. You’ll want to look over your pattern and make sure that you understand all of the jargon and markings that you may find on the pattern. There will be a color key that you’ll need to understand so that you use the correct thread color. Make sure to have a pencil handy to make notes or your own marks on the pattern for later reference.

Cross stitching requires you to use a six strand of floss or thread and separate it into individual threads. Your pattern will tell you how many threads you’ll use at a time. Most often, the larger the weave of your fabric, the more strands of embroidery floss you’ll need at a time. Don’t rewind your floss and by all means don’t let it get tangled or bunched up. Your end project will look flat and even if you take care of your floss.

One key factor in learning to cross stitch is remembering not to knot your thread. Knotting threads in a cross stitch project will make your end result look lumpy and uneven; not a good thing. Just pull your thread through your Aida cloth and make sure to leave a length of thread on the end in the back. You can keep the bit of tail from going completely through the fabric by holding onto it on the back of your fabric as you make your first couple of stitches; they will overlap and hold the thread in place. You may have to practice this easy technique a few times, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

Another handy cross stitching tip is when you’re ready to change thread colors, just simply pull your needle through the stitches on the back of your fabric to hold your thread before you snip it off with scissors. Make sure to leave a little bit of thread so that it does not come loose and unstitched. Change your thread color and start on the next area of your project as you did before. And during the stitching process, remember to drop your needle every few stitches, meaning, just hold your project in one hand and let the attached needle and thread dangle from the fabric so that the thread unwinds and your next few stitches will be flat.

I can remember learning to cross stitch from a school librarian when I was a young girl. She eased my newbie anxiety with this phrase: ‘If you have one eye and half a brain you can cross stitch.’ Now, perhaps that may offend some avid cross stitchers, but she didn’t mean it in derogatory way. Only that cross stitching is an easy to learn and do craft that just about anyone can master. I mastered it in the 1980’s and stitched on anything I could get a needle through and even taught classes to school kids myself as an adult. The biggest problem I and most other cross stitchers have is the addiction of the craft. One thing to keep in mind is to control the number of kits you buy or you’ll find yourself with drawers of unfinished projects. Have fun and keep on stitchin’!

Learn more about crafting and find free patterns for cross stitch and all sorts of craft projects at ‘Free Craft Ideas’ . Find all of the free clip art you need for scrapbooking and other craft projects at ‘Free Baby and Kids Clip Art’

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