Coptic Bookbinding

One of my favorite things about going to art school is being exposed to techniques I would never otherwise know how to approach. A perfect example is bookmaking. About two years ago, a project for our two-dimensional design class was to create a book.  At the time, we learned about the different parts of the book, how to make a clothbound cover, and a number of different binding techniques. In the end I designed my project after the large folio envelopes they use in our art library to collect loose leaf artwork, and so at the time I didn’t get a chance to try out any of the binding techniques, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while. With some time this summer, I decided I’d give the project another go. As a gift, I wanted to make a writing journal, and so I did a little research to find out what sort of binding might be best.  I wanted something that would allow the pages of the book to lie flat so it would be easy to write or draw on them, like the spiral binding of the sketchbook, but also something that would look a little more elegant. I finally settled on a version of Coptic binding. Here you can see the results.

This being a writing journal, I found some appropriate fabric, and made the covers by wrapping two pieces of chipboard cut to size. The inner covers are treated with some simple patterned paper to give a finished edge to the fabric wrap. There are actually two sets of binding stitches here. The first is a basic Coptic stitch which runs through the two outermost holes and the center hole. For this I used some basic bookbinding thread. The second binding is a two needle affair, and runs in two sets, one above and one below the center hole.

There are quite a few tutorials of simple Coptic stitching on the internet, but the more complex two-needle work was harder to come by. The best resource I found was a series of books by Keith Smith on Non-Adhesive Book Binding.

Now that I’ve had a little practice with this technique, I’m eager to try it again. When complete the book lays very flat, and is easy to write in, so I think this may be a great candidate for a homemade sketchbook.