Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Self-taught bookbinding

In my daily art this year I have had occasions to make little collections of maps, and because I own reams of index cards, I frequently paste the maps onto the cards as I assemble them.  But that leads to the question of how the individual cards can be put together.  The simplest way, of course, would be to rubberband them into a deck, or stash them into an envelope, but I like the idea of making them into a book.

The problem is that bookbinding generally starts with signatures, one or more pages with a fold down the center.  You can then stitch through the fold and the threads hold the pages in place.  But that doesn't work if each page is on a separate piece of paper, as with my index cards.

I've experimented with a couple of different methods of joining cards into books, using techniques such as tape and needle and thread.  But last week I figured out a technique using the sewing machine that I think is turning out quite nicely -- nicely enough to share.

The trick is to use the blind hemstitch, where the machine takes one stitch to the left and then four stitches to the right, and set it to the widest stitch and relatively long stitch length.  You position your card so the left-hand stitch pierces the paper but the four right-hand stitches fall just off the paper, interlocking the threads in the air for a tight little chain.

(Note that you have to stitch with the card upside-down to make the right and left work out correctly.)

If you carefully position your card so you're always starting at the same place, you will end up with the four-stitch chains all lined up along the edges of your cards.  You can then cut a thin strip of paper, thread it through the chains, and paste it down on the front and back covers.

On the inside of the book, you just see the stitching, not the binding strips.

I've used this method for six to eight pages, and the books seem quite sturdy, at least for my purposes of limited display and use.

You might ask why I don't do some research and find out tried and tested binding methods instead of inventing my own.  First, because that's easier said than done.  The other day I spent two hours on google and pinterest trying to find usable directions for one binding method that looked intriguing.  After the two hours of frustration I turned off the computer and decided I'd rather be sewing.

But second, isn't it fun to figure out your own way to do something?


  1. How clever...and look at all the time you saved us from doing the 'google' search!!! Thanks once again for a tip!!

  2. This is a good idea. and tip: If your machine has a feature which flips a stitch design, (say like you are stitching little elephants or machine feather stitch which you want to go the opposite direction), then push that button, and the bite will go in the opposite direction. You shouldn't use the blind hem foot if you do that. But you could use the foot with the edge guide.
    If that explanation needs clarifying, just ask!

    1. good point -- I suppose I have that feature on my machine but I don't know how to access it. simpler to run it through the machine upside down.

      I believe I own a blind hem foot but I can't find it. I must sound like a total zero when it comes to sewing machine mastery -- that comes from years of doing nothing but straight stitching. Bot wow, can I straight-stitch!!

  3. I immediately thought of the flip function. Use it all the time for a remarkable number of things it isn't meant for. And yes, so much more fun to make up your own way. Though I have to say that I'll take all afternoon to get something just right, then the next day stumble on something that would've taken 1/4th the time and been easier. Doh! Pretty clever with that blind hem though. I'm the opposite on the feet. I know where all mine are, just don't know what half of them are for.

  4. Great idea, it makes sense and looks good. I've also struggled with trying to bind single cards but using the sewing machine never even crossed my mind. Thank you.