Book Binding for the Altered Book Artist


Book binding is the craft of well, binding books! It's also known as bindery.

hand made journalAltered book artists sometimes utilize book binding techniques to create special effects in their work. And of course, some altered book artists come into this art form from a background in that particular craft.

The hand-made journal to the left is a project that I made in a class. It has a book board cover, decorated card stock pages, metal embellishments and brads, and is bound with twine threaded through holes made with a hole punch. It didn't scan well, sorry.

Even if you don't want to make your own books, you might discover that a little book binding knowledge is a good thing when it comes to book altering. You will need to assess the strength of your book's glue binding, for example. If you determine that the binding is not strong enough to support the art work you have in mind, you might opt to repair or re-do the binding. Sometimes a book is just so perfect in every way that restoring it is preferable to tossing it out and looking for another.

And, sometimes you want to make a book within a book. I have just finished a large altered book project in which I made a mini-book to include in a niche carved in the bigger book.

Miscellaneous Things to Know About Book Binding

  • Paper Grain
    Identifying the direction of the paper grain is important before you assemble a book. Your book will not lie flat unless you glue paper-to-paper and paper-to-board with the grain of both going in the same direction.

    To idenity the grain direction, take your paper and bend it end to end. Do not crease it in the middle. Press in the paper near the fold with the flat of your hand and notice the amount of resistance. Notice how easily it bounces back when you release the pressure. Now release the paper and bend it end to end in the other direction. Again, press in and notice the resistance. The grain is going with the fold that offered the least resistance and that bounced back the easiest.

  • Coptic Stitch
    This is a hand-stitching technique used in the arts and craft of bookbinding. It leaves the spine exposed so the book can open a full 360 degrees. Altered book artists sometimes rebind their books with coptic stitch.

    Book binders have been using coptic stich in one form or another since the 4th century. It can be done by machine or by hand.

  • Glues
    PVA bookbinder's glue is the preferred choice. This product is pH-neutral and is used for book binding, collages and for gluing blocks of pages together. You can purchase it at Light Impressions - The Leading Resource for Archival Supplies.

    Of course, the world won't end if you use a different glue. Refer to the Glues and Adhesives section of this web site for more info.

  • Binders Board
    These are the book boards used in making covers. They come in many weights and styles. To purchase locally, you will probably have to go to a bindery or bookbinding service and ask if they will sell you a small quanity of board. Otherwise, you can purchase binders board at

  • Bone folders
  • These are used for creasing, burnishing, and smoothing. I have seen these at Michaels Arts and Craft store from time to time. You can purchase them online at

  • Book Binding Needles
    These are large, steel needles used for coptic stich and other stiching. I have seen large needles at Michaels that might work. Otherwise, try a bindery, or purchase online from

  • Book Binding Awl
  • Used for punching holes prior to sewing. An ordinary hole punch will work for your pages, in a pinch. Making holes in the board cover requires a stronger approach. Look for awls at a bindery, or purchase online from

  • Irish Linen Thread
    Used for sewing on paper or board. This strong thread is available at

You will also find many excellent books on book binding. Run a search at

Tons of book binding information at

Return to Altered Book Home Page