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Learning to Make a Sketchbook, Lesson 2

December 10, 2007

Last week I started learning to make my own sketchbook, and today I went back for lesson two. The paper was already cut to size, and endpapers folded and glued in place, so today’s job was to begin sewing. First of all, Dominique took a page and calculated with a grid where to put the ribbons on the side

Then, she marked where we would punch the holes where the thread would pass :

She then wento over to a large armoire which is a treasure trove of various papers, to choose one which would work as a cover page and a last page. once we’d chosen that, we cut it to the width of the watercolor paper and kept out a small piece to sew directly on to the first and last watercolor paper pages (we will later glue the actual first and last page onto that.)

Next step, using the marks she’d made on the red cardboard guide, she showed me how to punch the holes in the paper where the thread would go through. (I then did that part for the 15 remaining pages)

For sewing the pages together, she has one of these (if anyone knows what they’re called in English, please leave a comment!)

Update – from Bill’s comment, I learned that this is called a book sewing frame. According to Jenny, it also looks like a sewing press (or book press).

Apparently it’s not necessary, but helps to keep everything in place while you sew.

First, she put the ribbons in place :

They were anchored down with modified hairpins :

Then she clamped everything in place:

Time to start sewing :

The thread needs to be pulled tight enough to snap back when you pull it out. She warned me to always pull the thread in the direction I was sewing or I’d risk tearing everything up!

At the end of the first page, you tie the string in a knot,

but after that you attach one page to another by looping the thread back down through the previous two pages :

You keep working from one side to the other, so that you are tying up both ends.

So you basically sew one page at a time, attaching it to the previous pages on either end by looping back through.

It’s pretty easy once you get going. There is one hard thing though, and that’s adding extra string if you run out. I’m not even going to attempt to explain it – here are photos of every step though. You make a knot this way, which can be placed precisely where you need it before tightening. It needs to fall right at the hole by one of the ribbons. Here are the photos in sequence – I wish I could be of more help!

As I said before, the sewing can be done without setting it up this way, as long as you can keep the threads straight – Dominique said she does it all the time – and to avoid making the famous knot, you would just have to be sure you had enough string from the beginning!

OK, I hope this wasn’t too confusing! Lesson 3 tomorrow.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Sharp permalink
    December 10, 2007 9:52 pm

    Thanks for all these details. I believe it’s called a Book Sewing Frame in English.

  2. December 11, 2007 1:32 am

    Your sequence of photos is fantastic. Thanks for doing these. I think the thingy that holds the ribbons is a sewing press. If not, it’s a book press.

    Looking forward to your next lesson.

  3. caseytoussaint permalink*
    December 11, 2007 7:07 am

    Thank you both for the information!

  4. December 11, 2007 1:35 pm

    This is really great Casey! I’ve always wanted to make a sketchbook and your description and photos are so clear and easy to follow. Thank YOU for posting this!

  5. December 11, 2007 4:55 pm

    This seems like an amazing task! I’m very impressed.

  6. December 13, 2007 3:31 am

    hummm…..and why wasn’t I invited to come along for the fun? I would have hopped a plane to join you in this endevor. LOL! If only it was that easy! I am SO impressed with all of this. I have never known a real bookbinder and certainly my tools are nothing like this. What a great opportunity to have such an accomplished artisan teach you this process! I know this has been lots of fun for you and what a treasure you’ll have when it’s dry and pressed!

  7. December 13, 2007 11:28 pm

    Wow, I love to watch this process and have always wanted to make my own. I am having a hard time reading the Lessons from bottom to top though but the results are beautiful. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comments of support. Hopefully my computer will be back up and running again soon!

  8. caseytoussaint permalink*
    December 14, 2007 8:00 am

    Sorry – I guess these are a bit difficult to read – they were hard to write! Maybe it’s because the process is still difficult for me. I made sure to post these directions right away while it was all still fresh in my mind – it’s probably a lot simpler than it seems here.

  9. January 3, 2008 4:25 am

    wow. very cool sketchbook making. Thanks for sharing.

  10. January 20, 2008 5:14 am

    Hi Casey! All these pics are great. There are some things I do in a similar ways and some others i don’t. The way I do the knot to add more thread is similar (or the same) I make a loop with the thread that comes from the book, then pass the new thread through this loop to make a new loop, then i pull to close both loops and make a knot to attach them. otherwise the threads separate. I used to sew books with ribbons but with time found that in those parts the glue didn’t stick the signatures, so whe the papers were thin they would fold out when opening, so I’ve stopped using them several years ago. Anyway I never used a sewing press or anything like it, I simply use a big weight after placing each open sig on top so that it doesn’t move while sewing. The information and pics you’re showing are terrific. Now it’s time you start to practise bookbinding not to forget all the process. Best wishes, Martín.


  1. 3rd Installment on Sketchbook « rue Manuel bis
  2. Finishing up the Sketchbook - the Cover « rue Manuel bis

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