Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Introduction to Pamphlet-Stitch Books

Though I'm a graphic designer, that's not my first love. At heart, I adore books. I read them by the score, from children's books to science fiction and fantasy to nonfiction. I can't get enough of them.

And what's almost as fun as reading books? Making books! No, not writing books. Making books. I'm absolutely addicted to book arts and papermaking.

I fell in love with book arts when I was a senior at Georgia State University. (Many years there's only one book arts course, and it was limited to sixteen or so when I was there. So if you weren't a senior, you would never get in!)

Like any addict, I want company. So I'm going to show you how to make one of the simplest of books: single signature pamphlets.

Here's the idea. One sheet of paper is folded in half, to make a "folio." Nest several of those together, and you have a "signature." If the outside sheet is heavier, like cardstock, you can stitch it all up and have a basic little book. These can get fancy, but they also make excellent little notebooks. The best part? You can use whatever paper you have on hand.

How to Make a Simple Book

This is a folio. Nest them together to make a signature.

  • Four sheets of lighter-weight paper (pages)
  • One sheet of cardstock or heavy text-weight paper, same size (cover)
  • Bone folder or other implement to smooth the folds
  • Ruler or other straightedge
  • Pencil
  • Embroidery floss or bookbinding thread
  • Awl, pushpin, or heavy (sharp-pointed) needle
  • Embroidery or similar needle for sewing

Prepare the Pages and Cover

To make a pamphlet-stitch book, first you'll have to assemble the signature.

  1. Fold each sheet of light paper in half, as shown at left. (If you're serious about this, you'll need to fold your paper along the grain. However, if you don't tell, I won't!) Do not fold the cover yet.
  2. Run your bone folder (or whatever) along the fold of each folded sheet (folio), flattening and smoothing it.
  3. For best results, find the center of your cover. Align your ruler with it and run the edge of your bone folder along the fold line. This will press a crease into your paper (called "scoring"), making it fold more neatly.
  4. Fold your cover and smooth with your bone folder.
Assemble the Book
Open one folio and lay it flat, with the fold down. Use your ruler to find and mark binding holes along the fold line: one in the center, and .5" to 1" from each edge. (Keep the marks light!)
  1. Using your awl, pierce a small hole, just larger than your sewing needle, at each mark.
  2. Using this folio as a guide, pierce the cover and remaining pages. Make sure all holes go exactly through the fold.
  3. Insert the page you used as a guide inside the cover. Nest the other three pages inside it. (This hides any errant pencil marks!)

Sewing It Up

It's easy. Really.
This method leaves your knot in the center of the book. You can experiment with this. If you start at the outside, at the top, you can tie on a tassel with the tails of the thread. (I love to do this!)
  1. Thread your needle with a length of thread equal to four times the height of the book.
  2. Bring your needle up through the middle hole, leaving about four inches of thread as a tail. Your thread will come out of the book through the middle.
  3. Bring the needle down through the top hole, to the inside. Pull it snug, and check to make sure you still have enough of a tail.
  4. Bring the needle up through the middle hole again, being careful not to pierce the first thread.
  5. Bring the down through the bottom hole, to the inside.
  6. Bring the thread back up to the middle and run it between the pages and the first thread. Do not take the needle through the cover and pages!
  7. Snug up all the threads and tie a secure knot in the tails. A square knot is fine.
  8. Optional: Dab a tiny dot of glue on the knot and let it dry.
  9. Trim the thread ends.
This may seems complicated, but it's actually very straightforward. And once you've made one or two, it's unlikely you'll need the instructions. It's that easy.

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