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The art of Book Binding : How to…

Want to know how to make a small, pamphlet stitch, hand-made book?

Well thanks to my one of Visual Expression tutors, I can show you how to in 16 easy steps (Sounds like a lot but I’ve really broken it down)! Last Monday I was one of a few students who had a book binding workshop courtesy of Philippa.

You will need:
5 A5 sheets of white paper (so 2 and a half sheets of A4)
2 A5 sheets of coloured paper (so an A4 sheet split into 2)
1 A4 sheet of patterned paper/photo/wallpaper – for the cover of your book
2 pieces of grey board slightly bigger than A6 each (so roughly 115mm x 160mm)
Sheets of scrap paper/ newspaper for gluing
1 big needle
30cm of white linen thread
PVA glue
A stiff bristled brush
30cm ruler

1. Fold all of your A5 sheets in half – so 5 white & 2 coloured

2. Put them inside one another, with the 2 coloured on the outside and the 5 white in the middle.

3. Divide the length edge into an even number (so 6 will have 5 marks, 4 will have 3 etc) and mark onto on the spine of your paper.

4. Fold your pages out flat and using a needle, pierce holes into the fold where you’ve made the odd number of marks.

5. Number your holes, with 1 always in the centre. So here, 3-2-1-4-5 but if you are doing 3 holes then 2-1-3-1.

6. Spread your pages flat again. Starting from the top, middle hole (1), sew into the pages. Leave a bit of thread out loose so that you don’t lose the end. Then use this code to complete the stitching:


1 down, up to 2, down to 3, back up to 2, over 1 and down to 4, up to 5, down to 4 and back up to 1.

Make sure you pull your thread as you go along so it is nice and tight.

7. At hole 1, separate the two ends of your thread so one is one side and the other of the stitch going from hole 2 to 4. Tie into a knot and trim the ends. So that’s your pages done… Now for the messy part!

8. This is where you make the hardback cover. Lay your chosen A4 piece of cover paper/photo/wallpaper landscape design down, with your two pieces of grey board placed roughly in the centre.

Put one of your grey boards on top of a piece of scrap paper and use the stiff bristled brush to apply the PVA glue. ‘Stab’ the glue onto the board so that the glue is absorbed slightly.

Place your grey board glue side down, roughly into the middle of your cover paper.

9. From your glued grey board measure 8mm and make a small pencil mark at the top and bottom.

Repeat the gluing process (using fresh scrap paper) and align it with the marks you just made…. like:

10. Measure 5mm diagonally from each corner of the grey boards and then trim the cover paper into curves…

11. Another messy part!

Place some scrap paper underneath your cover. Using the brush, apply PVA glue to the bottom flap. Then move your cover up, away from the glue and fold the scrap paper over on its self so the glue is hidden. Next use the folded part of the scrap paper to pull the flap up and over, onto the grey board. Smooth the flap down and repeat for the top flap….

… like so:

12. Using your nail, press down on the corners to crease the over hang….

… so it looks like this:

13. Repeat the same gluing process with the left and right side flaps, ensuring that the corners are folded in. This will make sure you get crisp, square corners.

14. To attach the pages to your cover, align your pages so that you have an equal amount of cover at the top and bottom. Also make sure that you are 4mm (half way) into the gap that you have created for the spine. Place a piece of scrap paper in between your 2 coloured pages….

… and using the brush, apply PVA glue. Spread the glue from the centre of the page, outwards but make sure you glue up to the edges!

15. Fold the page over, remove the scrap paper and smooth out any creases.

16. Repeat for the other side…



Smooth out

And voila…

…a handmade pamphlet book! You can, of course, make books with more pages (multiple signatures) if you are feeling really booky.

I hope that wasn’t too confusing? If you make a book, take a photo and show me – I’d love to see what you create 🙂

I made 3 books this week as some students and I volunteered to teach others some book binding skills:

You can read more in my post on Discourse, our course blog.

I had great fun getting booky again- I have missed it. The last time I made a book was back in College when I made a matching collection of books – Hardback pamphlet, Japanese stab bound and Hardback Japanese stab bound. I also made a book about Royal Mail using recycled post items, with a jiffy bag as the cover and envelopes as the pages.

Going to be putting these book binding skills to practice in the D&AD and istd projects – watch this space!


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© Natasha Nuttall | January 2022

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