Coptic Binding Demonstration: Make Your Own Sketchbook

In her new book, Alternative Art Journals, author and artist Margaret Peot shows readers fun ways to collect creative thoughts and inspirations as well as how to create personal and unique art journals that break free from the confines of traditional sketchbooks.

In this demonstration, Peot shows how to use Coptic binding to make a specific book of a particular size. After you make this one, you will be able to see how you can adapt the binding to suit your size and shape needs. The book in this demonstration is made with clear, hard plastic covers, but you could also use museum board, which is easier to cut.

You might eventually want your sketchbook to be a specific dimension—one of the main reasons for making it yourself. Many times, however, the dimensions of a book are based on the dimensions of the paper to avoid wasting anything. For this sketchbook,  every bit of the paper was used.

 

 

MATERIALS 

PAPER
4 sheets of 22” . 30” (56cm . 76cm) Rives BFK
2 sheets of 8.” . 11″ (22cm . 28cm) printer paper

NEEDLES
awl or potter’s needle
curved needle
(Please note: You simply must have a curved needle to sew a Coptic binding. These are readily available from online suppliers. An awl or potter’s needle is also a necessity for punching sewing holes in the paper and board, though an embroidery needle can work in a pinch.)

OTHER
1/8-inch thick clear plastic sheet, 18″ . 24″ (46cm . 61cm)
bone folder
China marker or waxy pencil
hand drill or dremel
linen thread
masking tape
plastic cutter
steel straightedge

 

1 Prepare the Paper and Make a Hole-Punch Jig
Fold and tear four sheets of Rives BFK paper into four pieces each. Fold the paper the long way, to make a tall, thin book. You will have sixteen folded pieces—we will call them “sections” for the purpose of this demonstration. Tape two pieces of printer paper together so that they are the exact height of your book. Fold this in half, lengthwise. To get the outermost hole placements, fold the ends to meet the last folds you made.

 

2 Pierce the Holes
Make a visible mark at each of the fold intersections, and slip the printer paper into the first folded section of your book. Using an awl, or potter’s needle, and holding the hole punching jig in place, pierce through each of the hole placement marks, through the fold of the section. Repeat this for all sixteen sections.

 

3 Prepare the Plastic
The plastic will often have a thin protective film on both sides. Leave this on during the cutting and handling process as it will protect the plastic from getting scratched while you work with it. Lay the cover so that it’s flush with the spine edge of the paper. There will be 1/8 of an inch overhang along on the top edge, bottom edge, and fore edge. Make your cut marks with a waxy pencil or China marker.

Lay a steel straightedge on the plastic where you want to cut. Place the pointed end of the plastic cutter against the ruler, and draw it firmly along the ruler and towards you, about six times. You will not cut through the plastic, you will just be scoring it. Place the plastic with the cut edge exactly at the sharp edge of a table. Hold one side of the plastic firmly on the table, and with the other hand, bend the plastic off the table. The plastic should snap off cleanly at the scored line. Cut both pieces, then center the hole punching jig on one end. Using your waxy pencil, mark holes in the same places on the plastic. Drill the holes with a hand drill or dremel.

 

4 Begin Sewing
You will sew the book from the back cover, through the sections to the front cover. (Note: The pages you see here are the same that were pierced, but have since been textured using a gouache-resist technique.) Stack the last section onto the back cover so that the holes are aligned. Thread the curved needle. Start on the inside of the section, go out through the first hole, and under and through the first hole of the board. Go back through the same hole in the section, being careful not to pierce the thread as you go back in. Gently pull it taut.

 

5 Continue Sewing Through the Remaining Holes
Go back out through the next hole in the section. Pull the needle through, then under and through the board (as in step 1), and back into that same hole, being careful not to pierce the thread as you go back in. Do this all the way to the end of this section, attaching the section to the board.

 

6 Secure It
Open the section and take a minute to secure the thread end with a slip knot.

 

7 Sew the Second Section
Stack the next section on top of what you have sewn, aligning the holes. Go into the first hole from the outside, and back out through the second hole. Go between the first section and the board, around the stitch, then back into the second hole. Repeat this through the end of the section.

 

8 Stack and Sew the Remaining Sections
Stack the third section on top of the two sewn sections and board. Enter through the first hole. Go out through the second hole, then between the second section and the first section and around the thread as shown, then back into the same hole, being careful not to pierce the thread. Repeat this to the end of this section. Continue sewing with this method until you reach the last section.

 

9 Add the Final Section
Stack the last section on top of your sewn sections, aligning the hole. Place the front cover on top of this, aligning the holes. Put the needle through the first hole in the outside of the cover.

 

10 Continue Sewing the Final Section
Then go between the second-to-last section and the third-to-last section, around the thread as shown, and then into the first hole of the final section, being careful not to pierce the thread. Do this all along to the end of the last section. Attaching the final section and cover can be a bit awkward and frustrating, but you will have an opportunity to gently tighten the thread when you get to the end.

 

11 Tie It Up
When you get to the end, tie a slip knot to secure everything in place.