Pamphlet Stitching For People Who Want To Try It

OMG My 2nd Tutorial

OK so this is my second tutorial, and it comes straight after my last post which was also a tutorial. Freaky. I like sharing my knowledge, so expect to see more. And, please comment and help me improve in any way—if it needs it. I love getting comments anyway so comment away!

Pamphlet Stitching is Easy

As you may know, this stitch is intended for thin, single-section pamphlets, and can be used in a few simple binding structures. I have used it in the past for other things as well, like birthday cards for my wife and our wedding invitations, both of which consisted of a heavy (200gsm+) cover and a lighter sheet of paper as the single section. It is very easy to learn and adapt to your own needs.

All Pamphlet Stitched Up

Above is an illustration I created to enable the visual among us (like me) to see what to do instead of interpreting a confusing list of in-this-hole, out-that-hole instructions. I started to type out a list of instructions, but it started to get long-winded and probably not very easy to follow. However, if you want me to I’ll include them.

On thing I didn’t include in the diagram is the final knot. You should use a reef or square knot. My colleague gave me this little ditty to remember how to tie it: right over left and under, left over right and under. Right and left in this case refer to the right an left ends of the twine or thread. Make sure that you start the knot with the thread ends on either side of the long stitch so that the knot ends up holding onto it.

To do a 3-hole stitch, simply cut out the last loop to the left and right in the above diagram; to do more holes, just add more in-and-out loops. It is possible to sew an even number of holes—you’ll just end up with an uneven number of stitches either side of the knot. In either case, don’t try starting sewing at the last hole.

What You Need for a Very Simple Book or Card

You will need the following tools and materials:

  • Text paper—1 if you’re making a card, more if you are making a book.
  • Cover-weight card. For the cover. About 200–300gsm is good.
  • Thread, twine, or string—about 3 or 4 times the length of your spine.
  • Bookbinding needle (you don’t even have to use a needle, just make the holes bigger each time you pass thread through).
  • Bodkin or Awl, or something else spiky. The sharper the better.
  • Scissors or knife.

You do not have to have shiny new expensive bookbinding tools—use whatever you have that will get the job done. In the past, I have used bamboo skewers to pierce the holes for little pamphlets, and some plasticky type of string instead of linen thread or whatever. Also, you do not have to be too exact with your sewing-hole placement—random can be quite cool.

With the paper and cover stock, make sure that your grain is in the right direction. I mostly cut A4 in half parallel to the short edge to give me 2 A5 sheets, which I fold in half again to give me an A6 notebook. Because A4 office paper is usually long-grain, this means that I end up with short-grain A5 sheets which are perfect in the grain direction department.

Steps to Success

  1. Gather your tools and materials

  2. Fold your text pages and cover in half

  3. Pierce your holes (freehand it or measure-and-mark it)

  4. Sew the pages together using the instructions above

  5. Et Voila! You now have a little notebook, created in four (4) steps.

The End

I hope you liked this little tutorial. It actually turned out to be a two-in-one: how to do a pamphlet stitch, and one idea about using it.

I’m trying to keep the posts up, in an effort to keep my readers interested. More to come soon, including a proper look at what I gave a sneak peek of a little while ago. I am also planning a bookbinding phrasebook section of my website. Stay tuned.

Christmas Break Creativity

Christmas Gifts: The Book Blocks

Christmas Gifts

I know Christmas was a while ago, but I am just getting around to writing a post on some little notebooks that I made for Chrissy presents for my sister-in-law and two of my nieces. They are similar in construction to Ana’s Book—they are hard-covered, 5-hole pamphlet-stitched, single-section notebooks with the name of the recipient embossed on the front cover, and the word ‘book’ embossed on the back.

These books are so easy to make, and are so satisfying. I can think of nothing better than when giving someone a gift, giving them one that is hand-made. My wife and I got a little handmade felt bird for a wedding gift, and it made the most impression on me out of all the gifts we got. There is something special in the knowledge that someone was thinking about you and valued your friendship enough to spend some time making something. In a world where everything you could possibly want is mass-produced on machines and is available on demand at any time of the day, what I think of as the ‘lost arts’ are so important to preserve. It takes a few days to produce a few books, what with the drying time and everything. If I wanted a journal, I’d much rather make myself one—and get something cheaper and infinitely better-produced—than go to the shops and buy an off-the-shelf one.

Christmas Gifts: Jen’s Book I Christmas Gifts: Bri’s Book I Christmas Gifts: Karlie’s Book I Christmas Gifts: Cover in Progress Christmas Gifts: Karlie’s Book II Christmas Gifts: Jen’s Book II Christmas Gifts: Bri’s Book II Christmas Gifts: Bri’s Book III Christmas Gifts: Maker’s Mark Christmas Gifts: Karlie’s Book III Christmas Gifts: Karlie’s Book IV Christmas Gifts: Bri’s Book IV

Ana’s Book

Ana’s Book Front Cover

Recently I made a little book for a friend’s 30th birthday. It is a little hard-cover number, with standard 80gsm laser printer paper. It has some lovely Chiyogami endpapers and is covered in dark blue Momigami paper. I embossed the words ‘Ana’s Book’ on the front and back cover respectively. The spine is covered in some type of book cloth—I am not sure which—but it is pretty sturdy and looks much the same on both sides.
Ana’s Book Front Cover DetailAna’s Book Back Cover IIAna’s Book Back Cover IAna’s Book Endpapers

The Process

Making the Text Block

The pages of the single section are first folded, and two decorative endpapers are then folded so that they are facing each other (the printed side inwards) and put with the text block. A smallish piece of calico is cut to wrap around the outside of the text block—about 3–4 cm away from the spine is enough, and about 5mm from the head and tail. The calico gives the whole thing some strength. The sewing holes are carefully marked and punched, and the text block is then stitched together. I used a 5-hole pamphlet stitch, with the knot hidden in the spine (if you make it small enough, the knot won’t be visible on the outside of the spine when the book is finished). That means that you start sewing from the outside. I used some raw-coloured 1-ply linen thread, which I waxed with bees’ wax.

The text block was trimmed on a guillotine, head and tail, to fit into the covers with a 3mm square (that’s the bit of the covers that extends past the book block). I left the text a little long before sewing, and trimmed it afterwards.

Making the Covers

The boards for the covers were pre-cut (I made the book to fit some board I already had), so all I had to do was sand the head, tail, and fore-edge, and round the corners a little. For the lettering, I first sketched what I wanted on a separate bit of paper, then transferred it to some thinnish board. I then carefully cut them out with a sharp hobby knife. Some of the smaller curves are hard to get looking nice with just the knife, so I sanded the edges a little with sandpaper. Once I was happy with how they looked, I glued them to the covers with a little PVA and left them to dry.

The next job was to prepare the book cloth for the spine, and the Momigami for the covers. I measured and marked on the book cloth the height of the covers plus 15mm head and tail. I made it wide enough to wrap around the book and then 25mm or so onto the covers. I cut the book cloth making sure it was nice and square. With the Momigami, I just roughly cut two pieces to size, after which I marked the outline of the covers, allowing 15mm for folding over. I made it wide enough to overlap the book cloth by about 3–4mm.

To glue the book cloth, I placed the text in between the covers, protruding out the back about 7mm. I put this front-cover-down on the bench, and put a weight on it. After applying PVA to the spine strip, I applied it to the cover, up to the line I had marked previously. I then carefully turned the whole thing around and weighted it again, making sure I didn’t disturb anything. Next, the book cloth was wrapped around and glued to the front cover, up to the line I had marked. The cover was then taken away from the text block and the head and tail folded over and pressed in with my bonefolder, making sure that the cloth was stuck to the edges of the board. Next, wheat paste was applied to the Momigami and it was carefully applied to the front, then carefully pressed into the little nooks and crannies of the lettering. The same was done for the back. It was left to dry overnight.


The next evening, I prepared to case-in the book (paste the text block into the covers, also called a ‘case’ I think). I started by gathering the tools and supplies I’d need: paste brush, damp cloth, plastic sheet to protect work surface, scrap glossy paper, paste, and a small jar of water. I positioned the text into the case, and placed it onto the bench. I carefully opened the cover and slipped a sheet of the glossy paper in between the endpapers and applied paste. When doing so, I made sure that I got enough paste under the calico, and on top of it, and the rest of the endpaper. I then carefully closed the cover and pressed down a little, after first taking out the sheet of glossy paper. The same process was applied to the other cover. I then left the book under a stack of heavy computer programming books, some book board, and a container of lead shot (which I use to make paper weights) for the night.

The Result

On inspecting the book the next morning, I was dismayed to find that the end papers had stuck together. I carefully pulled them apart—luckily there was no ripping or anything. They were stuck a little more firmly there the calico was, but this came undone with a little careful manipulation. I will not forget to put some wax paper between the endpapers again! I also discovered that I put just a little too much paste on the endpapers, as it had leaked out and stuck a couple of pages together. Luckily, they came undone with only slight tearing.

Overall, I was immensely happy with the outcome; the book felt really good in the hand, and opened and shut really well. The embossed text looked awesome, and I was happy with the colour combinations.

Ana loved her gift, and I can’t wait to make another one! I only wish I remembered to take some better photos.