This year I am participating in Sommerpost (summer mail) a swap project for which I am to make a single signature exercise book, well, 7 in fact, and send them to other participants. I’ll end up with 7 myself, from which we are then binding a book. Because my work will be further used in that way, it has to be a pamphlet bound in the fold.

But, since for the decoration I have quite a lot of Asian inspired imagery, I thought that a stab stitch would look nice. And so I it in my mind to develop a binding that would functionally be a western bound pamphlet but look like an Asian stab bound book.

Ta-Da, here it is:

Asking social media, it looks like no-one has seen this before, so here’s a step-by step:

Cut and Fold the Covers

For a cover material I chose a blue, cotton rich cardstock. I cut them to A4 size, as we are required to submit A5 sized booklets for the swap.

re-enforce the spine when using paper

To emphasis this Asian look, I like paper covers with a fabric spine. With paper covers the fabric is indeed needed as a spine re-enforcement. However, if you are using a tougher material for covers, the choice of whether or not to add a fabric strip becomes an aesthetic choice rather than a necessity.

trim head and tail

Like with an Asian stab binding, you won’t be able to trip the head and tail after binding, so you have to do it before. I left the front edge uneven, for now, because like in any pamphlet, you can still trim that later.

The next step is to design a punching template. For this I folded a strip of paper the size of the fabric re-enforcement, and first drew my stab-stitch design on to there. You could do any Asian stab design, but I like this fairly simple one.

design on punching template (marked out for better visibility, I would normally just mark the holes)

Punch through the holes on the template where you would drill for an Asian binding. Then fold the strip open. You now have pairs of holes there on either side of the fold. Connect these pairs with a pencil line. I now have 6 (4+2 corners) lines crossing the centre fold. On four of them (I chose the 4 in the middle, but it could be argued, that including the outermost or maybe all of them would be preferable) I punched holes through the centrefold.
I marked all holes for you with a little arrow here:

the completed punching template
pre-punching the centrefold holes

Next comes the pre-punching of the holes. First punch the holes in the centrefold through the complete booklet. Then put away the inner pages, lay the cover flat, and continue to punch the “Asian” holes into the cover.

punching the “Asian” holes into the cover

And then we can proceed to sewing the first set of stitches. I used a silk thread of a lovely, ever so slightly varigated pink colour.

starting to sew

It is easy to measure the length directly if you really want to. Approximately you’ll need four times the height of the book plus 12 times the width of the fabric strip plus a bit for knotting.

starting the stitch

For these first stitches ignore the holes in the centrefold completely. The stitch pattern is essentially the same as for an Asian stitch. Start on one of the two middle holes on the inside of the cover. Now every time you’d normally go around the spine of your text block, switch to the other side of the fold and make sure you mirror the stitches already done on the other side. Make sure your pattern is “complete” both on the inside and the outside.

complete stitching on the outside
ending on the inside; knotting will make the pattern complete here

At this point, this stitching looks purely decorative, but we’ll use the spanning threads to hold our secondary stitches in place, and those in turn will hold these first stitches in place. Be careful for now with moving your cover, because the position of those threads is less secure than you might think.

now on to the secondary stitching

Put the pages back into the cover. If you all did correctly, the holes in your signature line up with the spanning thread from the first stitching.

Start on one of the outermost holes on the inside. Go through the holes onto the spine, taking care not to pierce any thread as usual.

first stitch

Then loop the thread around the spanning thread and go back inside the signature and pull tight.

Repeat with all the remaining holes. Now you have an end of thread dangling both head and tail, but the pages are securely in place. All that needs doing is to knot that thread.

I chose to wind the two ends around the stitches and knot them together. You could also just knot each end to itself if you prefer.
The sewn book outside view. The little spanning threads at the centre line are hardly visible at all, but help to keep the thread in place.

The final step now is to trim the front and you are ready and done.

last step: trim the fore edge

Now you have a booklet sewn throught he centrefold with a decorative Asian stab pattern.

Next I’d like to try with several signatures. It shouldn’t be hard to do the same with a thicker spine. Although it might become a little pointless, not to just simply do an Asian stab binding in that case.

Mhm, the general ethos for that swap seems to be, not to show finished parts before sending off. But just the cover won’t hurt, don’t you think? So what are you thoughts: Top or flop?

Finished single signature pamphlet with Asian Stab Stitch look

4 replies on “Codex Binding with an Asian Look”

  1. Auch an dieser Stelle noch einmal ein DANKE für die tolle Anleitung! Das probiere ich bestimmt mal aus! Ich bin sehr gespannt auf deine Bücher und schicke liebe Grüße aus Köln

    1. Danke für deinen Kommentar! Freut mich, dass dir die Idee gefällt. Viel Spaß mit dem Sommer-Swap. Bin gespannt, was du machst! Liebe Grüße zurück über den Kanal und in die alte Heimat 🙂

  2. This is brilliant.
    Multiple signatures will be different from traditional, because the pages will open from spine, be more fully open, not the opening from stitch edge.

    1. Hello Beverly, thank for your comment – I am glad you like the idea!
      You are right of course, that when applying this to multiple sections, the result would still combine a Western-type opening action with an Eastern-Style look. I think it’s always good to have options to choose from, and for me the way a book opens is always interesting and a property I like to optimize for the intended use.
      In this case, the thought was that while I was forced for my project at hand to make a booklet bound in the centrefold, I don’t (currently) have such constrains for a larger book. And thus if I wanted an Asian look, I could just make a real stab binding. When done with care it is a real thing of beauty, and the look emulated by this technique is a mere theatrical prop in comparisson. But of course it could have its place…
      If you ever try, please let me know!

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