Japanese Sewn Binding

It is easy to bind a series of pages together with waxed thread. Simply punch four holes through the book near the spine and lash it together with needle and thread. You can make sketch books, scrapbooks or blank books this way, too.

To make smaller books, fold several sheets of paper paper carefully into halves or quarters, clamp the stack together and punch and bind it, then slit the pages apart with a sharp knife afterwards, being careful not to cut the binding threads.

You will need an awl, heavy thread (eight times as long as the book 's height), a needle, pencil, and ruler. Use waxed bookbinding thead available at art supply stores, or carpet thread, strong nylon thread, or even waxed dental floss. Binder clips are useful, too to hold the page in exact alignment while working. Cut covers from card stock, mat board, or other heavier material.

Bookbinding Procedure:

1. Draw a line from top to bottom of the front cover, about 1/4"from the spine, using a ruler.
    Make two marks on this line, one 1/4' down from the top of the book, the other 1/4" up from the bottom.
    Now divide the distance between these marks into thirds and mark the two middle points.

marking the holes

2. Even up the pages and clamp the book together with binder clips, or weight down the front edge to keep the pages from moving. Protect your work surface with a piece of scrap wood or an old phone book as you punch a hole at each of the marked points using the awl. Making these holes should not damage the text in the book.

a binder clip

3. Thread the needle and tie the ends together with an overhand knot.
    Open the book a few pages and, next to the lower middle hole, push the needle through about twenty pages.
    Pull the thread through until the knot is snug against the pages.
    Go back out to the front cover by pushing the needle up through the awl hole. This step anchors the thread.

the thread

4. Now sew the rest of the book as shown in the accompanying illustrations.
    Pull the thread tight each time you go through a hole.

sewing the binding, figure 1

5. Go around the back and back up through the starting hole, then down through the other middle hole.
Pull the thread tight after going through each hole.

sewing the binding, figure 2

6. Around the back again, then up through the top hole.

sewing the binding, figure 3

7. Around the back, then...

sewing the binding, figure 4

8. ...around the top of the spine and up through the top hole again. Keep going, down through one middle hole, back up through the next, and down through the bottom hole. Keep the thread tight.

sewing the binding, figure 5

9. Around the back again and...

sewing the binding, figure 6

10. ...around the bottom of the spine and back through the bottom hole. Go up through the starting hole again.

sewing the binding, figure 7

11. To finish, tie off the thread so the binding won't come loose. Do this by slipping the needle under two of the top threads coming out of starting hole and back through the loop to form a tight knot.

sewing the binding, figure 8

12. Run the needle back down through the starting hole and cut the leftover thread flush with the back of the book.

For more information on Japanese bookbinding, including decorative bindings, how to make cloth covered hard covers, making cloth covered boxes, and other useful techniques, check your library for Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions from a Master Craftsman, by Kojiro Ikegami (published by John Weatherhill).


This page is adapted from an article in Boys' Life (October 1991) by Brook West.
see the original page