Making a handmade sketchbook
Just a note - I am not a bookbinder. This is just the way that I have been doing it and each time I learn something new in a what to do next time or what not to do way. It's also for a sketchbook that suits my needs. Yours may differ. There is a video but sometimes people need things written down so here you go.
1. Decide what size you want your book to be. Mine is 4.5 x 6" so you need to cut paper that is 12" in length and 4.5" high. Decide what paper you want to use. I like to do different types of paper throughout - most are heavy enough to take watercolour or mixed media so they are similar weights. I do tend to keep the same weight paper together. See step 2
2. I tend to work in 2 sheets per signature so you will be cutting an even number of sheets. I have a total of 26 sheets forming 13 signatures
3. Once you have your sheets cut you will need to fold them in half with a bone folder. If you don't have one you can use a straight edge (ruler) and fold up against that and then use the side to flatten the fold until it is nice and sharp.
4. Put one folded sheet inside the other to form that signature. Group them all together. I have spaced mine out with watercolour paper signatures first, then a signature of coloured paper, then watercolour signatures etc. I like to have the watercolour paper beginning and ending the book as they are weightier and give the book strength. I like to put bulldog clips around the edges to flatten them out but you could just put a heavy book on top. I tend to do this overnight before I start putting holes in the pages but that isn't necessary.
5. Now you need to measure out the holes that you will need to make before you begin sewing. You will need to begin a hole about .5" or 1cm from the top and the bottom of the fold. Then measure out the rest of the holes so that they are the same distance apart. Now use an awl or another sharp tool to poke the holes through.
6. Now you sew. The stitch that I like to use is called a kettle stitch. This allows the book to open flat. Cut a length of waxed or heavy thread like coat thread (if regular thread you will have to double up) not too long or it will be unwieldy.
7. Knot your thread so that it is large enough to not go through the holes. Start from the outside at the bottom hole and guide your needle through. Pull this through until the knot catches. Then from the inside draw the needle through the whole above and continue sewing up the spine to the end. When you get to the end you just turn around and fill in the gaps until you get to the opposite end where your original knot is. Put your needle through this until you are in the inside of the fold. Now form a hitch knot. Then go through the hole again until you are on the outside of the fold. Honestly you'll probably want to refer to the video for this part.
8. Now you are ready to put your next signature on top. Put the needle through the first hole of the 2nd signature. You are now on the inside of the fold. Bring your needle through the second hole. When you come out to the outside fold put your needle through the second stitch and up through the first stitch before going back into the same hole. You're making a loop. Continue down the spine. You're basically tying it on to the first signature. When you get to the last hole, bring the needle through and loop around the one remaining thread before going back through the hole. Once you're through to the inside loop around the last inside stitch and then go through the hole again so you are back on the outside.
9. move on to your 3rd signature. Now you will go through a similar process but you will just loop around the stitch below from the second signature. Sometimes it can be difficult to get a good angle to get through the loop. This is when a curved needle might help or a shorter one.
10. continue to add the rest of your signatures and stitch. Keep your stitches taut throughout. Always hitch your thread at the end of each signature before going on to the next signature.
11. When you are finished adding all of the signatures form a couple hitches at the end to knot it and pull the thread through to the outside bringing the knot all the way through and trim.
Note: if you run out of thread part way through, finish your thread on the inside of the signature. Make a knot next to your final stitch by looping it through. Bring the needle through so it is back to the outside fold. Pull the thread until the knot pops through to the outside. Don't be too rough. Trim the end. Don't worry about cutting it right to the spine, it will get covered. Get a new thread and knot it. Go back through the hole you just went through. Continue as you did before.
12. Now your text block is done. I get a heavy card paper to wrap around the entire block to form its cover. I have left the ends longer as I will trim it when I've done applying it so cut the height the same as your block/pages. Wrap the cover around and make a fold around the spine. I like to use the bone folder to get a sharp edge.
13. Now apply glue to the edge of the binding. I used regular PVA glue but there are archival glues out there. You want enough to stick the cover on the binding but not too much that it seeps down through the pages. Put the cover on and firm it down on the spine.
14. I then put the bulldog clips around it again. I tend to stand it on its spine for a bit as well.
15. When the glue is dry (I tend to leave it overnight) I cut two pieces of book binding tape to add to each inside of the cover. This isn't entirely necessary but I think it gives the cover some support.
16. Trim the ends of the cover. I like to round the corners a bit.
17. And you're done! Start using your new sketchbook. You may have to ease the pages open in case you were overzealous with the glue. I usually put a business card attached to the front inside cover because if you lose this sketchbook there is even more reason now that you will want it returned!