Monday, May 14, 2012

Handbound (Faux Leather) Journal Tutorial: Part 3

This is the final part of a three part tutorial on how to make your own handbound journal. See part 1 and part 2. This section, the actual bookbinding aspect of making the book, is the most difficult part. It will take some time and you'll probably feel like you need some extra hands when you're trying to wrangle the book and the pages and the long piece of thread. But you've made it this far- you can do this! :) I'm the most clumsy, uncoordinated person in the known universe and I can do this.

This part was also the most difficult for me to explain. I tried to take lots of pictures and explain things clearly. But if all else fails, watch this video. Sometimes you just need a video. It's hard to see in spots, but it's how I learned how to do this type of binding two years ago. And please know that I don't consider myself a bookbinding expert by any means. It's just something I enjoy doing and like to play around with.

1. Cut a length of waxed thread approx. 2 yds long. This will be a bit more than you'll need, but I'm always terrified of running out of thread in the middle of the project. To arrive at this estimate, I measured the length of the spine, multiplied by how many signatures I have (six in this book), with a couple of extra lengths thrown in to account for the bookmark and just in case. :)

2. Tie a good knot (at least a double knot) about 14 inches from one end of your thread. Thread the other end in a blunt tapestry needle.

3. Take a deep breath. This is easy when you get the hang of it. :) From the outside of the cover, insert the needle into the top left hole of the spine, as shown below. Pull it all the way through up to the knot.

It'll look like this on the inside of the cover:

Then take one of your signatures and put the thread through the top hole of it, from the outside, pulling it tight. Now the pages will be against the inside cover.

4. Now the thread is on the inside of the signature. Pull it through the next hole of the signature.

And then exit through the second hole in the cover.

5. On the outside, enter into the third hole in the cover, and pull it through the third hole in the signature.

*Important! As you're stitching the binding, keep the thread tight, but not too tight. This is something you'll adjust to as you practice. If you pull it too tight, the spine will buckle a little (that happened on my first book). But you don't want it loose, or the pages will be able to shift.*

6. On the inside of the signature, pull the thread through the last hole, and then through the bottom hole in the spine.

The outside of the spine will look like this.

The inside center of your first signature will look like this.

And that's the basic back and forth, in-and-out that you're going to use on the whole book, except for at the first and last holes, which is where things get a little different.

7. Put the needle into the second hole down, on the far right (or bottom) of the cover.

It will make a little stitch like this.

Then continue on as before, in and out, adding and sewing in another signature on the inside, until you reach the last hole of that row.

8. Now, tie a knot using the thread and the tail that is still there from the begining.

9. Pull the thread through the third hole down on the spine, and continue on as before, adding the third signature intside.

10. When you reach the end of the third row, it will look like this.

Put the needle through that first little stitch that you have.

Pull it through...

And then go in through the fourth hole- the next hole down.

11. Continue across the fourth row, adding the fourth signature inside.

12. When you reach the end of the fourth row, do the same thing you did at the other end. Thread the needle under the previous stitch (where the knot is), then come down and enter the fifth hole.

Then continue on across the fifth row, adding the fifth signature inside. You're nearly done!

13. When you reach the end of the fifth row, repeat what you did at the end of the previous two rows. Thread the needle through and enter into the last hole below.

The far right of the spine will look like this:

14. Continue across the remaining row, adding the final signature. Then exit through the very last hole.

Go up and thread through the above stitch, and then tie a knot. Trim the end of the thread off (the thread you just finished with- not the first tail).

You're done binding the book! The spine should look a little something like this.

15. If you want a built-in bookmark, leave the first tail from the beginning of the binding. Tie a knot, add a bead or two, and then knot it again and trim off the end. (First pull the tail to the inside of the book and make sure that you tie the bead far enough down that it will hang below the pages.)

If you don't want a bookmark, no problem-  just trim off the 14" tail you left at the begining.

At the end of your leather lacing, tie a little knot.

You're done! Now you have a lovely handbound book to journal your awesome summer adventures in. :)

Here are some other options for this kind of book:

-Use another fabric instead of fake leather. This looks really cute! And I recommend using a layer of batting and a layer of fusible interfacing inside if you're using printed cotton. It won't wrinkle like it does with fake leather.

-Use real leather for the outside of your journal. If you're doing this, then you can skip steps 1-5 of part two. Just cut your leather into a piece measuring 9.25 x 18.25 inches. Then pick up with step 6. To attach the cord, either sew it on, or just cut a tiny slit on the edge of the back cover, insert the leather lacing through that end and knot it.

-Instead of using leather lacing for the tie, use something else- rope, twine, rickrack, yarn, etc. If you're using printed cotton for the outside, make your own skinny ties out of fabric and attach them the same way.

-Use different kinds of paper inside: scrapbook paper, watercolor paper, cardstock, old magazine or dictionary pages, etc.

If you're interested in more information about bookbinding, there are lots of helpful videos on Youtube (I really like the coptic stitch, too). I own two books on the subject: Re-Bound, by Jeannine Stein (it has book projects made from very unique objects- very inspiring!), and Making Handmade Books, by Alisa Golden (which is so packed with information that it's a bit overwhelming). I've got my eye on this one and this one, and I'm hoping I can get them soon (this one looks cute, too).

Well, that's the end of my first tutorial here at Sew Technicolor. I hope it wasn't too incredibly long or complicated. If anyone has questions about the binding or any other aspect, please ask and I'll answer in the comments.

I hope you guys enjoy! I'd love to see any books that you make with this tutorial or otherwise. :)
P.S. I have a couple more ideas for tutorials (one of them is another little book, much simpler than this one). I promise they won't be this complicated. :)

Until next time,


  1. This is a HUGE help to me. I am in an editing and publishing class, and the final project is to submit three hand bound books full of your own work. I made a rather long zombie themed book, but I didn't want to go with something simple like Japanese Stab Binding. I had this image in my head for a zombie leather journal, and I have a program that allows me to make signatures with my writing. I'll have to adjust this just a little for 8 1/2 by 11 paper, but I think it will work great and it will turn out really cool. I'd be happy to send a photo of the finished project when I have finished them. :)

    1. Also, may I add, that it's really difficult to find a good tutorial for stitch bound leather journals like this. Usually they are all offers for journals that are on sale, and I had to have my handmade. So this was a great find, and this tutorial really is well made. :)

    2. I'm so glad the tutorial was helpful to you, Mika! I'd love to see photos of your book when you're finished. :)

    3. It took me a while because I was busy with finals, and it was a big project, but I finally finished!

    4. They look great! Awesome job. :) I love the details you added to make them fit perfectly with your story.


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