Home Made Sketchbooks, (step by step) with coptic binding.

Being my first attempt at this, please don’t laugh or poke fun! Just thought it might be helpful for reference if anyone is interested. Not only was it great fun to do, but I found myself being more creative on the pages as well as making the book. There was something about the personalised colours and textures of the random sized pages that got my energy going, rather than opening up a pristine store bought pad with lovely brilliant white cartridge paper. There’s something just so…..uninspiring about that. Plus to can turn your book into it’s very own art compilation, something individual,…and your own.

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The kit I used was simply:

 

  • The chosen paper
  • Ruler
  • Scissors or art knife
  • Something sharp and pointed to punch the holes
  • String
  • Two larger pieces of card to form the front and back
  • Needle with a large eye
  • A surface suitable to cut on!

 

 

 

Step 1: Fold your signatures

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Each booklet contains 4 pieces of paper, 8 leaves, and 16 drawing surfaces

I chose 42 pages of mixed colour/weight/textured/tracing) paper that I folded into a total of 84 10″x 10″ pages. First of all the paper was folded into 7 separate booklets called signatures, each containing 4 sheets, or 16 individual pages, and mixed up the order of the different papers to maximise the scope and add to the fun!

The amount type and size of the paper is entirely down to your imagination, I used various sizes and went for quite a lot of pages making the book around 3/4″ thick. This is no problem because of the nature of the binding, it’s structure knotted to accommodate large amounts of pages, but it is entirely up to the individual.

 

 

Step 2: Measure and punch the holes

Measuring out 6 holes, 3 on one side, three on the other with a 1″ gap between them, they sat 1″ from each end of the signature. I then piled them all up and carefully aligned them in a stack running a straight line down the spine with the pencil and a ruler to mark the rest of the booklets to ensure they all lined up.

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If you want a straight book (not everyone does!) then it is important to take special care of this stage. Make sure everything is aligned, the creases are flattened and the pages are pushed tightly together when you punch the holes.

When everything is aligned take each signature separately and unfold the centre, and keeping the pages secure, punch in the holes with and suitable sharp(ish) instrument, (I used one of those mini watch screwdrivers!), and do the same with the two covers. I marked the holes on the covers about 3/4″ from the edge as to give the pages a little play.

 

Binding the signatures.

These steps are probably the most difficult, but most important to get right, as the sketchbook is relying on the craftsmanship to be able to live up to the bumps, bruises, scratches and scrapes it’s going to go through on its travels.

Deciding to try out the coptic stitch as it lends well to thick pages and its braided weave creates a nice strong bind that will lie flat when opened. I thought it best to just go with the basic one before I got fancy!

Step 3: Thread and weave

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(1)
Set your needle up with the thread and tie a knot in the end. Start by passing the needle through the first outside hole (left or right) from the inside of the signature and up, underneath the cover, through the first cover hole (1).

Pull the thread through so that it is on the underside of the cover and pass it round to the front, loop it under the first stitch (2) and back up through the first hole in the signature (3).

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By now the thread should be coming through the inside of the signature and you can pass the thread through the next hole and repeat the process for all the other holes (4).

Things I learnt.

Don’t use too much thread. About 8 foot of thread, halved to 4 foot is around adequate. Otherwise it takes forever to thread through and ends up getting all tangled up.

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Too much maybe!!!!
Don’t worry too much it the thread runs out, just tie and cut it off. Then set up another thread, pass it through the same hole with a knot in the end and continue as before.

Waxed thread is easier to work with and loops much easier and smoother.

 

Step 4: Adding the next signature.

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(5)
Once reaching the end of the 6th hole, lay the next signature over the top of the first once closed and flat, and pass the needle through the first hole in the second signature from the outside and up through the middle (5). You can then pass the needle to the next hole and continue the stitch, always making sure to pass the thread around the previous stitch above the previous knot (6) This will create a weave like pattern as you add more and more signatures.

Once the desired signatures have been stitched it’s time for the cover. Place it over the last signature and pass the needle and thread from the last signature, over the top of the cover and down into the first hole from top to bottom, then wrap it round the previous knot as before (7),

continuing the weave done for the previous pages all the way down to the end hole. Once completed, cut, tie and seal off the left over thread, and (hopefully) you should have a sturdy, homemade sketch book (8).

 

I was excited to use my sketchbook straight away. There is something about making it yourself, decorating it as you like, and working on different styles, sizes of paper that really gets my creativity going, I found that it was much more of a joy to work this way than to open an uninspiring pad of bleached white cartridge paper. For my next one I’ll be making my own handmade paper and exploring the different textures possible with different weights, thicknesses and embedding things.

Enjoy!

 

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