Bookbinding and sewing have a lot of things in common in terms of tools, techniques, and the level of patience required.
If you are already familiar with some sewing techniques and stitches, the art of bookbinding may come naturally to you since some of the stitches are very similar.
What are the best book binding stitches? The pamphlet stitch, Japanese or stab binding, the kettle stitch, coptic binding, and the long stitch are the best book binding stitches. To determine which to use, consider factors such as your skill level, the desired final look, and if you want your book to be able to lay flat.
In this article, let us walk you through these common and effective varieties of stitches used in bookbinding and how to create these stitches.
1. Pamphlet Stitch
We are not sure where the name pamphlet stitch came from, but if we have to guess, it is probably because the look of the book after binding resembles a pamphlet or a newspaper.
As you probably have guessed, the pamphlet stitch allows you to create a single bind for a single signature (several sheets of paper folded in half and bound by a single bind is called a signature). The pamphlet stitch is also referred to as the saddle stitch.
A pamphlet stitch works best when you have a thin book with very few pages. Alternatively, a pamphlet stitch can be used to create individual signatures, which are then grouped together using a different binding technique to create a larger book.
A pamphlet stitch is very similar to the running stitch or backstitch in hand sewing, except you want the start and the end of your thread to be secured in the middle of the page.
This technique is very easy, so beginners are highly recommended to start with this stitch first before moving on to the more difficult stitches. This type of bind is also quite economical because it doesn’t eat into the pages, so your book will be able to open flat when you finish binding it.
To work a pamphlet stitch, you first need to poke 3 or 5 holes spread evenly on the spine of your book. Then, insert your needle through the hole in the middle, from the inside to the outside.
Then, you can work the needle through the other holes to create a secured spine, making sure that you have a line of thread across the spine of your book, both inside and outside.
Afterward, make sure that your thread is on the inside of your book and poked through the middle hole again, and secure the two ends of your thread with a knot.
With this type of bookbinding, the outermost page will serve as the cover of your book, so you won’t have to do any extra steps after sewing the spine of the book.
Although this stitch is very simple and accessible for beginners, it can be quite secure. This technique is a must-know for beginners, and its variations will be used in other types of stitches that are applicable if you want to sew thicker books.
3 and 5 Hole Pamplet Stitch Tutorial By Tracie Fox LoveJunk Journals On Youtube
2. Japanese Or Stab Binding
Stab binding is also known as Japanese binding, and it looks very similar to the blanket stitch in sewing. There are several variations of this binding technique, but the results are quite similar in terms of construction.
When you work a stab binding, you can sew single flat sheets of paper together to create a uniform, rectangular spine that eats into the pages.
Because of this technique, the book will not be able to lay flat on its own when it is open.
To work a stab binding, you first need to poke some holes, spread evenly on a straight line, on one edge of your sheets of paper. These holes will be where you need to guide your needles when you sew the binding.
Make sure to leave the spine space not too small but not so big that it eats up too much of your paper.
Then, you can sew the spine by wrapping your thread around the spine along the holes in the front and the back. The technique and result will look very similar to the blanket stitch in sewing.
This technique is relatively easy and friendly to beginners, and it is a great technique to help you learn about bookbinding. This technique is also beloved because it can help you bind a lot of individual sheets of paper together without having to first sew signatures.
DIY Japanese Bookbinding Tutorial By Sea Lemon On YouTube
3. Kettle Stitch
The kettle stitch is a variation of a saddle stitch, but you will be able to sew several signatures together in order to create a thicker book with a rectangular spine.
The kettle stitch is an improvement on the saddle stitch’s limitations since it can increase the thickness of your book while still maintaining the economical use of the spine, so the spine won’t eat into your pages.
After sewing the kettle stitch, your book will still be able to lay flat when it’s open.
There are several variations of the kettle stitch, but the easiest way to understand it would be if you use the saddle stitch to create several signatures using the same thread and needle.
After you are done sewing, you will have several signatures combined together with a rectangular spine.
Still confusing? Here’s how to do a kettle stitch spine.
You will need several signatures, each with 5 or 6 sheets of paper (folded in half to create 10 or 12 pages). At the spine of each signature, poke 3 or 5 holes, evenly spaced.
Make sure that the placement of the holes is the same on all of your signatures so that your spine will be neat after sewing.
Start sewing the saddle stitch to bind your first signature, but start on the outside of the signature and from the first hole (top or bottom is both okay).
Then, use the saddle stitch to bind the first signature, and when you are done, make sure that the thread is placed on the outside of the signature on the same hole as the beginning of the thread.
Add the second signature by inserting your thread (still attached to the first signature) from the outside of the second signature through the corresponding hole. Then, use the saddle stitch to bind the second signature.
As you sew the saddle stitch, every time you bring your needle to the outside of the spine, insert your needle through the thread below it (which belongs to the first signature) and bring it up through the thread next to it, then bring the thread back to the inside of the second signature.
This will effectively create a link between the first and the second signature across the spine of your book.
Repeat this process until you have combined all of the signatures you have. At the end of the process, bring the thread to the outside one more time, and tie a knot around the other end of the thread to secure the binding.
Don’t worry if you run out of thread while you sew – the kettle stitch requires a lot of thread that you won’t be able to estimate when you start binding. You can always add more thread by tying an invisible knot and hide the knot in between the holes as you sew.
When you sew the kettle stitch, make sure to maintain a consistent tension that is not too loose or not too tight. This even tension will make sure that you can open your book effortlessly and allow the spine to move as you open your book to any pages you want.
One minus point of the kettle stitch is that it leaves an exposed spine that may or may not look aesthetically pleasing, depending on your sewing skills.
Many people love to leave this bind open to show their craftsmanship, but you can always use glue to attach a book cover to hide this spine.
DIY Kettle Stitch Bookbinding Tutorial By Sea Lemon On YouTube
4. Coptic Binding
Often confused with the kettle stitch, Coptic stitch is a combination of the saddle stitch, the Japanese stab binding, and the kettle stitch. If you are already familiar with all the methods above, you should be able to grasp the Coptic stitch in no time.
With the Coptic stitch, you will be able to combine several signatures together to create a rectangular bind, linking the signatures together every time you guide the thread to the outside of the paper.
However, the Coptic stitch is superior because it allows you to also bind the signatures with the two covers of the book, creating a finished book with an exposed spine. On the outside, you will see that the cover is bound to the signatures by wrapping the stitches around the holes on the cover.
The Coptic stitch is quite advanced, but it’s superior to all of the other stitches. It creates an exposed spine that combines a lot of signatures together, as well as the covers, effectively creating an entire book, which ultimately saves you a lot of time.
It also helps you take advantage of the best characteristics of the saddle stitch because the spine won’t eat into the paper, and you will be able to open the book flat.
To prepare your materials for a Coptic binding, you will need several signatures (each with 4 or 5 sheets of paper folded in half) and two hardcovers.
Then, you can mark 3 holes from the top and 3 holes on the bottom of the spine of the signatures, 1 inch from the edges and 1 inch apart. The space in the middle should be left as a long, uninterrupted spine.
On the two covers, mark down the corresponding holes as the signatures, but punch the holes 1 inch from the edge of the bind.
First, you will bind the first signature and the back cover. With your thread and your needle, insert the needle from the inside of the signature through the bottom hole. Then bring it around to the outside cover and insert the needle through the corresponding hole on the cover, bringing it from the outside to the inside.
Then, loop your needle through the link in between the signature and the cover to secure the stitch and insert it back into the middle of the first signature through the same hole.
Then, you can insert your needle through the second hole on the signature and repeat the same steps to secure the first signature to the cover.
When you are done with the signature, your thread should be outside of the signature on the top hole. You can now start with the second signature, using similar steps as the kettle bind to secure the first signature and the second signature, and so on.
When you reach the last signature and the front cover, the process is a bit different.
Start with the thread outside of the signature and on the top hole, insert it through the corresponding hole on the cover from the outside to the inside, then bring the thread out to the spine and loop it around the link between the second-to-last signature and the cover.
Then, you can insert your needle from the outside to the inside of your last signature and sew. For the next hole, you can sew the last signature using the saddle stitch, then make a loop around the link between the last and second-to-last signatures, then bring the thread around to attach the cover, and so on.
When you reach the end of the book, bring the thread to the inside of the last signature and secure the end by knotting it around the last stitch. You should have a beautiful and secure Coptic binding for your book.
The Coptic binding is a great way to create a beautiful and functional book with two hardcovers and an exposed spine.
This is an advanced technique, and you will want to make sure that your stitches look neat and organized before experimenting with the Coptic stitch since the exposed spine will also expose any mistakes you may make while binding.
DIY Coptic Stitch Bookbinding Tutorial By Sea Lemon On YouTube
5. Long Stitch
The long stitch is another semi-exposed bind that allows you to sew your signatures to your cover in one go.
Compared to the Coptic binding method, the long stitch allows you to sew one continuous piece of cover to your signatures, with the stitches visible on the spine.
This method is beautiful if you want to create patterns with the stitches on the spine of your book. Softer covers such as leather would benefit from this type of binding since it’s easy to sew and allow you to show off the stitches and the cover material.
To create a long stitch, you will also need several signatures with pre-poked holes along the spine. Since the long stitch works best with soft fabric or leather covers, you won’t have to pre-poked holes on the spine of the cover before sewing.
There are so many different ways that you can sew the long stitch, allowing you to customize the stitch length and even the pattern on the back of the book’s spine, so we won’t go very much into details in this article.
The long stitch is similar to the Coptic stitch in that it allows you to combine several signatures together to create a single book while adding the cover at the same time. When open, the book will be able to lay flat since the spine won’t cut into the paper.
This stitch is recommended for advanced binders who already have the basic techniques down. Because of the exposed stitches on the spine of the cover, you want to make sure that your stitches look neat and aesthetically pleasing before experimenting with the patterns.
There are so many different patterns that you can create on your book’s spine with the long stitch, and this is a great way to show off your skills and craftsmanship when bookbinding.
DIY Long Stitch Bookbinding Tutorial By Sea Lemon On YouTube
Up Next: 5 Best Paper Cutters For Bookbinding