Bookbinding Guide: Coptic Stitch

Okay so I will be the first to admit that I am not the World’s Greatest Bookbinder. To be quite honest, I am mediocre. So when I say that coptic stitch is easy and enjoyable, I want you to understand the gravity of that statement.

Finished product

The final product of this tutorial! Huzzah!

So let’s get started.

I referenced this super awesome video tutorial by Sea Lemon and I highly recommend watching it. She goes through the process at a very reasonable pace, plus you can pause it whenever you may need to.

Here is an image of what you will need to bind your book. I have already pre-cut my pages and covers so that they fit together. Make sure your covers are the same size as your paper!

Supplies

Bookbinding thread, needle, awl, two boards for covers, and signatures (I used 4) for pages

Next you mark where you would like your holes in the cover to be. I measured mine to be about 3/4″ away from the edge (my book is rather small), and then did two more interior holes that were equal distance apart.

covers

Use the awl to punch decent sized holes for you to attach your signatures to

Make sure all your holes line up and that you know which cover is the front and back, and also which side faces inwards and outwards. There’s nothing worse than realizing halfway through binding that you’ve messed up your covers.

covers finished

Make sure all the holes line up as this will directly affect your bound book

Next you place your signatures inside your two covers and mark where the holes line up to on the spine. These will serve as guides as to where to put the holes for sewing and it is imperative that everything lines up!

signature marks

Mark along the spine of the signatures where the holes should be

Now that you have the pencil marks, lay each of the signatures flat so you can put holes in the marks. Note: you may want to mark your signatures from first to last, and top to bottom. It’s very easy to get confused once the binding process is started.

Lay your signatures flat open to create holes for spine

Lay your signatures flat open to create holes for spine

Use your awl to put holes through the spine, large enough that they will accommodate not only the needle width, but also for your thread passing through it a few times.

Use the awl to make holes large enough for your thread and needle to pass through

Use the awl to make holes large enough for your thread and needle to pass through

Now it’s time to thread your needle. I used white bookbinding thread that I received in my Graphic Design kit, but I am sure many arts and crafts stores carry it. Waxed bookbinding thread is best because it doesn’t tangle as easily (though it still probably will so go slowly, especially if you’re using a lot of thread). Also don’t despair if you run out of thread before your finished binding. You can always add more once you’ve started. The video that I linked to above has a great tutorial on it.

Note: Don’t forget to knot the end of the thread!

Thread your needle with a decent amount of thread.

Thread your needle with a decent amount of thread.

Bookbinding is basically sewing together a book, so if you’re like me and have sewing experience, it’s pretty easy to get through. Start in the centre of your last signature and sew through the bottom hole like shown below.

Begin by sewing from the inside of the last signature at the bottom hole

Begin by sewing from the inside of the last signature at the bottom hole

Once you’ve pulled the thread all the way through, loop the thread around the outside of the bottom-most hole of your back cover and then through like shown. This part can be somewhat confusing so if you’re lost, again, Sea Lemon’s video is super informative and easy to follow.

Thread your signature like this through the bottom hole of the back board

Thread your signature like this through the bottom hole of the back board

This part can warp your brain a bit. You have to pull your thread taut, then hold your signature in place while you loop around the stitch you just created. I tried to capture what your needle should look like during this process.

Take your needle and put it between the signature and the cover and loop it around upwards

Take your needle and put it between the signature and the cover and loop it around upwards

After pulling the thread tight, go back through the same hole and pull tight. You’ve successfully created the first (of many) coptic stitches!

Go back through the bottom-most hole, then into the next. Repeat these steps until you've reached the last hole on your first signature

Go back through the bottom-most hole, then into the next. Repeat these steps until you’ve reached the last hole on your first signature

At this point, you just continue on in a similar fashion. Go through the second hole on your signature, loop around the outside to the inside of your cover, go around the stitch, and back through the same hole. Continue this until you reach your final hole on the first signature because in order to attach the next one, you have to do something a little different.

Instead of going back through the same hole at the end of sewing in the signature, you go through the first hole of the new one.

Instead of going back through the last hole on the finished signature, go through the first hole of your new signature.

Instead of going back through the last hole on the finished signature, go through the first hole of your new signature.

Repeat all the steps in a similar fashion but instead of going to the back cover to loop around, simply loop around the previous stitch. You don’t need to resew to the back cover at this point because it’s already attached to the previous signature.

Sewing in multiple signatures

Looping around the previous stitches from the previous signature instead of looping around the cover

Bookbinding is pretty repetitive so once you’ve reached this point, it’s all about repeating until the job is finished. When you’re on your final signature, don’t forget to attach the front covers in a similar fashion as you attached the back. It’s the same process, just flipped around which makes this type of binding very fun and easy to do!

To finish off your book, once you’ve re-entered the final hole with your needle, tie off the string with a know. Loop around the last stitch and back through. Then trim the excess.

Once you've sewn all your signatures together, tie a knot through the final loop of your signature and voila! You have a book!

Once you’ve sewn all your signatures together, tie a knot through the final loop of your signature and voila! You have a book!

The interior of the front-most signature

The interior of the front-most signature

And we’re at the end. This is an excellent way to make sketchbooks in you’re on a budget, or if you want to make them out of a specific type of paper.

Finished product

The final product of this tutorial! Huzzah!

And coptic stitch doesn’t have to be just for sketchbooks. I recently created a menu using coptic stitch. It’s a great way to bind because you can do incredibly cool things with spine details. Leaving the edges exposed creates an interesting, unique experience with the added plus of being able to lay the book open flat.

Created both covers from Balsa wood, sanded to be smooth, and wood-burned my logo into the cover. I left room on either side of the signatures for aesthetic purposes

Created both covers from Balsa wood, sanded to be smooth, and wood-burned my logo into the cover. I left room on either side of the signatures for aesthetic purposes

Coptic bound menu by yours truly

Coptic bound menu by yours truly

Menu interior 2 Menu interior Menu cover

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little process guide of coptic stitch binding! Post pictures if you made anything based off of this, I would love to see it!

Cheers,

Camilla

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