How to Assemble Your Book then Bind it with Coptic Stitch


Please follow the instructions below to assemble and then bind your journal using coptic stitch.

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Assembling Your Book with Coptic Stitch

It's much easier to do coptic stitch than to explain it. I have struggled to make these instructions as clear as possible. It would be much easier to just show you what to do.

Step One -- Prepare the Cover

Cut your book board to size. Sand the edges if necessary. Now, before proceeding with the cover holes, you must make a decorating decision. If your cover is to be decorated with paper or fabric, you will want to attach that prior to punching the holes. If you are planning to paint the cover, it can be painted either before or after.

Step Two -- Make a Jig or Template

jig or template for coptic binding
This is the jig or template that I used to place the binding holes.

A jig is a hole-punching guide. You use it to ensure that your punched holes will all line up evenly. This step is critical. Unevenly spaced holes will result in a twisted and unattractive coptic stitch spine.

To make a jig, cut a paper the same length as the book and about half as wide. My jig is 8" by 3". With a pencil and ruler, draw a line along the length of the jig, about ½ inch from the border.

Decide how many sewing holes your book will have. I used four. Place evenly spaced dots along the line you have drawn. The bottom and top dots should be at least 1" from the top and bottom border.

Measure the space in between the two dots. Depending on how many holes you want in total, place dots at even intervals between the upper and lower dots. Each dot represents the spot where you will punch holes.

Step Three -- Punch Your Cover Holes

Using paper clamps, attach your jig to your cover. The dots should be about ½" from the border. Mark your cover at each dot placement. Remove the jig. Punch your holes in the spots you have marked. Repeat with the back cover.

Insert eyelets or grommets if you are using them.

Step Four -- Prepare Your Signatures

This is one signature ready for hole punching.

Cut your card stock to the size you want. Score each piece down the middle. Each piece folds into a valley fold.

Hint: A valley fold resembles a valley; the opposite side, the tip, is a mountain fold.

Assemble your signatures by placing a pre-determined number of card stock pieces on top of each other. I used four pieces per signature.

Line the papers up carefully so your pages andd your coptic stitch spine will be even.

Step Five -- Punch Holes in Your Signatures

hig on signature
The jig is aligned on a signature ready for punching holes.

Using paper clamps, attach your jig to the first signature. The dots for holes should line up along the valley fold of the inside paper.

Mark the dots on the paper, remove jig, and punch small holes with a push pin or sturdy needle.

Repeat with remaining signatures.

Step Six -- Doing the Coptic Stitch

coptic stitch step one
1. Poke the threaded needle through the first hole in the first signature's valley fold.
sewing coptic stitch
2. The needle also goes through the first corresponding hole in the cover.
coptic stitch
3. Bring the needle around the inside cover so it is between the cover and the signature. Cross it under the first thread so as to make a chain stitch.
coptic stitch
4. Poke the needle back through the same (first) hole in the signature. It will now be on the inside where you started. Pull everything snug.
5. No picture because I couldn't get an image of this. However, bringing the thread down the inside signature's valley fold, poke the needle out through the second hole in the signature, and through the second hole in the cover. Bring it back around the cover as before. Then, crossing under the first stitch, poke the needle back up through the second hole where it came out.
coptic stitch
6. Continue until you reach last hole of the first signature.
first signature added
7. The first signature is sewn to the cover.
8. Now, it is time to add the second signature. This time, poke the needle through the last hole in the cover as before, but do not go back through the first signature. Bring your thread around to the back of the cover as always, looping it behind the thread that is connecting the cover to the first signature. Then, poke the needle through the corresponding hole in second signature.
9. Continue in this fashion until all signatures are added. Attach the back cover to the last signature.
coptic binding
10. Tie off your end threads and decorate. Picture shows the fully bound book.

First, cut a LONG piece of cord or thread. You want to avoid running out of thread midway and having to attach a second piece as you are doing your coptic stitch.

Thread your needle, and begin stitching. Use the pictures and instructions to the left as your guide.

For best results, pull each stitch snug as you proceed. Not so snug that you tear holes in your paper, however.

When finished, tie off your end pieces. Since I made an art book, I used my top end thread to attach fibre and a tag.

Step Seven -- Decorate Your Book as Desired

This is the fun part. Enjoy.

My book's theme is the annual Tulip Festival in the Skagit Valley in Washington State.( Since it's only a couple of hours from my home in Vancouver, Canada, my friend and I drive down almost every year to view this glorious display. The Skagit Valley produces 80% of the world's tulip crops.

I am also using the book to practice new techniques -- including the new (to me) technique of coptic stitch.

Recommended Resources for Coptic Stitch and Other Bindings

Handcrafted Journals, Albums and Scrapbooks A great book for the beginner.

Bookworks: Books, Memory and Photo Albums, Journals, and Diaries Made by Hand A good book for the experienced book binder or craftsperson.

The Essential Guide to Making Handmade BooksThis book contains eleven projects suitable for persons of all skill levels.

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