If you are just starting to learn about bookbinding, all of the different techniques, materials, and stitches may seem confusing to you. You should know that many people – including experienced bookbinders – can feel confused at times, especially when the stitches appear so similar.
So, what’s the difference between a kettle stitch and a Coptic stitch? The kettle stitch is a bookbinding stitch designed to bind the signatures together using one continuous thread. The Coptic stitch is also done using one long thread, but is more complex and used to bind the signatures as well as the cover together for an open-spine book.
In this article, we will walk you through the differences between the two stitches that get jumbled together most often – the kettle stitch and the Coptic stitch.
Kettle Stitch & Coptic Stitch – Similarities
Before we get into the differences, let’s first talk about the similarities between the kettle stitch and the Coptic stitch and why they are often mistaken for one another.
Both of these stitches are designed to bind together multiple signatures seamlessly using one continuous thread. A signature is a small section of 4 or 5 sheets of paper, folded in half in the middle to create 8 or 10 pages in a book.
These stitches are designed to bind several signatures together to create a flat, rectangular spine. With both the kettle stitch and the Coptic stitch, you can bind as many signatures as you’d like, and both of these stitches are quite secure.
On the spine, you will see that both the kettle stitch and the Coptic stitch create several connecting lines across the width of the spine, connecting the signatures together.
These stitches can bind the signatures together without eating into the paper since the bind is quite subtle and doesn’t take up space. When you open your notebook, you will find that the spine can fold seamlessly, and your book will be able to lay flat without any issues.
This characteristic is quite superior compared to other binding methods, which is why both of these stitches are quite popular when it comes to bookbinding. Now that you know the similarities between these stitches, let’s talk about the differences between the kettle stitch and the Coptic stitch.
The kettle stitch is created by sewing the signatures and, at the same time, attaching one signature to the last one at the spine.
To accomplish this, you will need to poke an even number of holes at the spine of the signatures before you sew.
To start sewing the kettle stitch, you can start sewing one signature using the saddle stitch, going from the outside of the signature to the inside and from one end to the other.
When you are done sewing one signature, you can start sewing the next signature using the same thread, but this time, every time your needle goes to the outside of the signature, make a loop around the corresponding loop on the last signature to establish a link between the two.
Then, you can repeat this process for as many signatures as you have. When you are done sewing, bring the end of the thread to the outside of the spine and secure it with a knot.
The kettle stitch will only be able to bind together the signatures, not the cover. When you use the kettle stitch, you will need to use high-quality bookbinding glue and a bookbinding cloth, and a cover to finish the entire book.
Compared to the kettle stitch, the Coptic stitch is more advanced in that it is designed to combine both the cover and the signature. The result will be an open-spine notebook that allows you to clearly see the craftsmanship that goes into the bookbinding.
To work a Coptic stitch, you will need to punch two sets of evenly spaced holes on each end of your signatures’ spines. On your covers, you will need to punch holes in corresponding spots, but they will need to be placed 1 inch from the edge of the spine.
The spine will look very similar to the kettle stitch and is worked similarly to how you would work a kettle stitch. However, on the first and the last signature, you will also need to attach the cover to the signatures. The covers will be attached with a loop of thread wrapped around the edge.
Because of the exposed spine design, Coptic stitch binding has many different variations that allow you to manipulate the look of the stitches to create different shapes and patterns. This stitch allows you to be as creative as you’d like with the design and show off your bookbinding skills.
However, because this is an open-spine technique, your stitches will need to be extra neat and clean, so this technique is not beginner-friendly.
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