Handmade Monday: Coptic Stitch Bookbinding

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This weekend, following the lovely instructions of YouTube’s Sea Lemon, I set about making a coptic stitch journal. (BTW, Sea Lemon’s DIY tutorial video is fantastic. If you’re planning to try coptic binding, be sure to give it a watch beforehand and keep it cued up beside you as you work! Very helpful.) I’ve had bookmaking on the brain again as of late, so when I woke up at 2:30 on Saturday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, I took the only logical step and started binding a book. 

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Apparently, this particular style of binding is perfect for sketchbooks, since the book opens nice and wide and the pages lay flat (see photo above). Dave likes looseleaf paper when he isn’t drawing digitally, and I don’t really sketch, although I do like goofing around with letters and different kinds of lettering, so I may end up using this book for that sort of thing. Or, I may see how it does as a regular writing journal. For years, during the back-to-school sales I’ve stocked up on those cheap-o single subject, spiral-bound notebooks without perforated pages. They’re perfect for daily writing. But now, everything has perforated pages. Everything. EVERYTHING. I, for one, can’t stand perforated pages! I don’t want pages to fall out every time I turn a page too quickly or move my wrist wrong as I write. Do you know what I want? I want those pages to STAY IN THEIR NOTEBOOKS!!! *sigh* I’m generally pretty mild mannered, but perforated pages ruffle my feathers any day of the week. (Sidenote: Anyone know a good place to purchase those single-subject, college-ruled, NON-perforated paged notebooks? I’d be eternally grateful for any useful notebook tips ;).) Anyway, I may need to switch over to making my own notebooks for that soon, but I’m not sure what style those will be. Something simple and very sturdy. Coptic could be a good choice. We shall see. Any suggestions?

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But back to the project at hand! I always call dibs on the backboards when Dave buys drawing pads, and that’s what this cover is made from. I punched the cover holes with my Japanese hole punch, which proved once again to be an excellent purchase! I do love that hole punch… As you can see from the photos, I didn’t decorate the cover in any way; I may add zendoodle and colored pencil later or maybe I’ll try stamps, but I haven’t quite decided. I kind of like the rustic look, so I may leave it as is.

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During this project, I had a book-making BREAKTHROUGH! I’m pretty excited about this. I folded and stacked the signatures (I used regular typing paper) as shown in Sea Lemon’s video, but instead of punching uniform holes in all of them, after I drew the vertical lines where I wanted the stitching to be, I clamped the signatures together with paper clamps and carefully sawed the pencil lines with a bread knife. Yep, I just used a kitchen knife. I’d seen a similar technique done in other online bookmaking videos (using an actual saw) and I wanted to give it a try. Dave thought I was crazy, but it actually worked. It worked quite well, in fact! The holes were better aligned than if each one had been hand-punched with an awl, so the pages of the book were more even than I’ve been able to get them in the past. It was also easier to get the needle and thread back into the signature hole at the end of the stitch, probably because the holes were a little larger than I typically make with the awl.  I’ll certainly be using the stack-and-saw technique in the future. I wish I’d taken a picture of the bread knife sawing process, but I didn’t think about it at the time!

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Speaking of thread, next time I do coptic stitch binding, I’m going to try a lighter, smoother kind. The thread I used for this project was a little bulkier than I liked, and the stitches didn’t always tighten up as well as I wanted them to, especially at the beginning. As a result, the right and left ends of the binding are different widths. Of course, this was only my second try at coptic binding so I’m sure there’s a healthy dose of user error going on with this… Perhaps it isn’t entirely fair to blame the THREAD for my novice mistakes! 😉

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