How I Make a Folded Book

This little book came about when I realized I had quite a few pieces of handmade paper which were no good for anything.


I had stacks of paper I had made at home with recycled papers and your basic handmade paper supply stuff, maybe cotton linters or half-stuff. There were also a few sheets of really nice paper from workshops or Open-Vat days at  Rittenhouse Town which were too thick or nondescript for me to use for collage on my book covers. Some were glittered or oddly colored from vats in beginner papermaking workshops.


I had been looking for an idea for a quick little kind of book to offer to customers who want something low-cost and well, quickly handmade looking.

Suddenly there was my box of useless handmade paper. What if I simply folded it in half, inserted pages, and sewed it all up the spine?

Here is a sheet of otherwise useless handmade paper cluttering up my workspace. I fold it in half hot dog style.



I measure inside the fold to determine the size of the interior sheets. The largest pages which will fit are 3 5/8” x 5”.



I found another piece of lighter handmade paper  in the box for a nice inside page when you open the book. (It also is of little use for decorative or utilitarian purpose.)


I measure and cut my interior sheets. I have a Dahle rotary cutter. It has saved my life, bookbinding-wise. If you do not have one, you can use a metal ruler and an Xacto knife, as long as you are careful to be very precise. A self-healing cutting mat is also a necessity.


Here is my little stack of pages. This type of book limits the height of the stack, otherwise the book won’t close, so there aren’t a lot of pages. I’m using some basic sketch paper and a few sheets of manila. They are single sheets, not folded.


Now this book becomes a sort of hybrid. I’m applying the process I use to make a stab binding instead of inserting a signature. And my stab binding books are deviants from the traditional stab, or Japanese binding, because I use single sheets rather than folded ones.

Anyway, the next step is to give the stack of pages glued corners for stability. This is the most hair-raising part of the whole process because you really need three hands. Two must usually suffice however. Cut two square pieces of rice, mulberry or other long-fiber lightweight paper and apply glue to one side. The size can typically be one inch square but I need them smaller for this small book.

Keeping the stack carefully aligned by striking the top and outside edge on the table, card-shuffling style, you must apply and fold over each corner as if you’re covering your grade-school texts in paper shopping bags.



Insert pages into cover.



Now for the sewing. I clip the book together at the open side.


You might poke three holes into the spine with an awl but I use a drill. My Japanese-binding books are thicker than traditional regulation so I use a drill for those as well.

The two corners should, when sewn, create two squares, but you may fudge that if you must accomodate irregular handmade paper edges. Or you can be creative, keeping in mind that the book needs these two corners to be tight and stable.

I eyeball these holes, but you may want to measure a pretty good square for each corner and a hole in the middle, just the first time you make one.



All that’s left to do is the sewing. I use regular embroidery thread, a single thickness, no knot.

Start at the top corner. I will describe the sewing procedure in this way: make a square corner showing on both sides, go down the book, sewing front to back, then go back up, filling in empty spaces until you reach the original corner. When you reach that, go through that first hole one more time, and tie the two thread ends together by hand.






Now here is the finished book.



This might be a weird hybrid of two or three legitimate methods of bookbinding. Or it may be that it is a remarkably sturdy, quick-and-simple book, an example of waste and clutter transformed to usefullness. It’s not too bad looking either.

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