Handmade books are a great gift to give to friends and family members. You can make them and then add in your own stories or photos for a one-of-a-kind gift, or you can make a blank journal for the recipient to fill in as they choose.
In this tutorial you will learn how to create a simple pamphlet-bound book with two signatures and a cardstock cover. For the example, I used hand lettered messages, stencils, and stickers to decorate the book, but you can use whatever embellishments you have on hand to create the perfect book for you.
This book relies on basic crafting materials that most people already have on hand. While I use a few specialized tools common to book makers, I will give you alternatives that most crafters should have. All measurements assume you are starting with standard 8.5″x11″ paper. You should adjust the lengths based on the paper size you use.
- 3-4 sheets colored paper or light cardstock
- waxed linen thread in a complimentary color to the paper
if you don’t have waxed linen thread you can use embroidery thread instead. To wax it, simply thread a needle and pull the thread through a white or beeswax candle
- needle, curved or straight
- Japanese screw punch
as an alternative, you can use a small awl or the needle
- paper cutter
- scoring guide
this isn’t critical, if you don’t have one you can simply fold by hand
- bone folder
many people use the back of a spoon instead
- book weight
I made mine out of an Altoids tin filled with pennies and taped closed. You can also use a bunch of hardback books.
I used stickers, pens, pencils, edge cutters, and some additional decorative paper
Step 1: Cut the Paper
Cut the paper in half on the long side so that each page gives you two sheets that measure 8.5″x5.5″.
Create two piles of pages with an equal number of sheets in each. I like to keep the paper colors in the same order for each signature.
Step 2: Fold and Make the Signatures
Fold each sheet of paper in half on the long edge. This should be at 4.25″. I used a scoring guide, but you can just fold the pages in half. Once they are folded, it’s a good idea to reinforce the fold with the bone folder.
Then put half the sheets together in one signature and half in the other.
Step 3: Make the Covers
You want the covers to be slightly larger than the signatures. Since the signatures are 4.25″x5.5″ I cut my covers at 5.5″x5.75″. This gives me 1/4 inch extra around the sides, and a 1-inch fold inside, for the binding.
Once you have them cut, score the cover on the 5.5″ side 1-inch in. As you can see from the photo, you will have a cover with a short folded section that will display in the center of the book.
Step 4: Mark and Bore the Holes for Sewing
Open one of your folded signatures and mark a dot in the fold half-way up the spine, and two more dots 1-inch from the top and bottom.
Using your screw punch, awl, or needle, poke a hole through all your pages and the cover for one signature of the book on those three dots. Then do the same with the other signature and cover.
Step 5: Sewing the Book Together
- Put together one signature with the cover, and open the pages so you can see the holes. Thread your needle and start from the inside of the signature, go through the center hole. Pull the thread almost all the way through leaving a short tail (no more than 2-3 inches).
- Holding onto the tail, line up the second signature with the first, so that the two short cover pages are together as in the photo. Then thread the needle through from the outside.
- In the second signature, send the needle out through the bottom hole and then in through the bottom hole on the first signature.
- Pull the thread tight by gently tugging down towards the bottom of the book. Always tighten your thread by pulling up or down along the spine of the book. If you pull out like you would when sewing fabric you will rip the paper.
- Send the needle out through the center hole and then back into the second signature through the same center hole.
- Then take the thread up to the top hole, out the second signature and back into the first.
- Pick up the tail and tie it to the remaining thread in a square knot (right over left, then left over right).
- Cut off the ends close to the knot. If you didn’t use waxed thread, give a little extra thread to keep the knot from slipping.
Step 6: Flatten the Book
Unless you scored your folds very diligently, chances are your book is going to want to splay open. So you should put it under weights. A few heavy books or an altoids container full of pennies will do the trick.
Step 7: Add the Content / Decorations
This is the fun part. You can add whatever you want to the interior of the book. Decorate it to make it personal or leave it blank to use it as a journal. Let your creativity go wild!