Check out this tutorial from guest writer Isabel Moseley to find out how to make your own sketchbook using Coptic Stitch binding:
Coptic Stitch-bound sketchbooks are my favourite type due to their flexible and user-friendly shape. This was a method used by the Egyptians from as early as the second century AD and comprises of multiple sections sewn together with an exposed spine.
The finished book can be opened out to 360 degrees, which means it sits flat against a table and is perfect for displaying images. It can be as decorative or as simple as you like and is widely used among book artists today.
What you will need:
- 5+ signatures (sections of 2-3 sheets of paper folded in half) 80gsm-120gsm
- 2 pieces of card for the covers (you can use grey-board or a thinner card if you prefer around 250gsm)
- Waxed linen thread
- A curved needle (you can make this yourself with an ordinary bookbinding needle by heating it and bending using pliers)
- A ruler
- A pencil
- A craft knife
- A pin vice or bookbinding awl
After folding your paper to make the signatures, cut the card to the same size as your pages using a scalpel or sharp craft knife and a metal ruler. I have added some coloured pages but the design choice is totally yours!
Tip: Blunt knives can be just as dangerous as sharp knives so take care to check that your fingers are not over-hanging the ruler – Check twice cut once!
Now to begin…
First you need to make a jig to indicate where to make the holes.
Take a strip of card as long as your signatures and make a mark at 1cm from both ends, then divide the rest of the card by three making two more marks (in total you should have four marks).
Note: You can have more than four holes in total, the design is totally up to you, but for beginners this is a simpler method.
Make small triangle cuts at the places you have marked, then slide the jig inside your signatures and make the holes using an awl or needle in a pin vice.
Using the same jig, mark the holes for your covers at about 1cm away from the spine – again it is up to you how far in you would like these holes to be, so that more or less thread is showing on the finished cover.
Now we are ready to thread our needle! Use a piece of linen thread as long as your arm span – any longer will be difficult to work with.
Note: I’m using Somac linen thread 3/18 but Barbour waxed linen thread is also good and can be purchased online or at any good art supplies shop.
Thread your needle and make an ‘S’ shape by piercing the thread with your needle. Pull this down the needle and it will secure your thread and stop it slipping off the needle whilst you are sewing.
Tip: It is easier to sew if you place the spine of your book at the edge of the table like in the pictures.
Take your first signature with the cover underneath and start on the inside of the signature leaving a small amount of thread to tie off (hold this with your finger so it doesn’t slip through).
Now thread the needle up through your cover making sure to come up on the right hand side of your first stitch.
Slide the signature to the edge of the cover and pull tight, then loop around from left to right (as shown) and go back into the first hole.
Tie a knot to secure the loose end.
Move across to the next hole and do the same – thread your needle up through the cover and then loop around and pull tight, go back into the same hole you just came through (this time you do not need to tie a knot).
Repeat until you have reached the last hole on your cover.
Tip: The most important part of Coptic binding is keeping the tension in the thread. This might take some practice but once you’ve got it, its like riding a bike! But do take care not to pull your thread too tight or you’ll rip the paper.
Take the second signature and place it on top making sure the holes line up. Thread your needle into the hole as shown and then move across to the next hole.
Now to secure the two sections together, take the needle around the back of the stitch below always making sure to go in the direction of travel – in this instance from right to left.
When you are ready, take the third signature and place it on top. Thread your needle into the first hole.
On your second stitch remember we are travelling from left to right, so now you will loop the needle behind the stitch beneath, moving from left to right. Thread your needle back into the hole you came from and then move along to the next hole.
Tip: If you run out of thread, don’t panic! Just cut it off the needle and attach a new piece by making a double knot.
Repeat until you have just one signature left, then take the front cover as you are going to sew both of these at the same time.
Thread your needle down through the cover first and then loop around the stitch underneath.
Now thread your needle into the final signature and across to the next hole.
For the remaining stitches, loop around the stitch beneath first, then thread your needle through the cover and around the back as shown.
Continue as before by going back into the same hole and across to the next one.
After you have completed the last stitch, thread your needle inside the book and tie a double knot to secure.
Use the craft knife to neaten any lose ends.
Now to admire your finished book!
Once you have mastered the basics ,you can experiment with colours and stitch patterns.
Be sure to give this tutorial a try and then leave a pic of your Coptic Stitch-bound sketchbook in the comments below!