Turning a Crafty Ebook into a Cool Gift, part 2: Stitch Binding

14 Dec 2010


Today, we'll continue our series of tutorials for turning crafty ebooks into awesome, wrap-able gifts. Here's a slightly more traditional binding method. It's great for ebooks with a heftier page count, and ebooks that benefit from a full-size format. Like my Weaving Un-Loomed ebook.

Here's what you'll need:

  • An ebook, printed out (more on that below)
  • 3-4 letter clips, or 5-6 binder clips
  • Ruler and pencil
  • Needle and buttonhole thread (available in sewing stores)
  • Cork trivet (or other padded surface)
  • Awl
  • Card stock for back cover (optional)
  • Bone folder (optional)
  • Tacky glue


So, first, you'll print out your ebook. I like to print mine two-sided, so I use fewer sheets of paper. Your printer very likely can do this, too.


I also decided to print everything but the front cover onto regular paper. I printed that front cover, then, onto some matte photo paper, so it would be heftier and look nicer. (You could also use card stock.)

Set the cover aside for the moment. We're going to work with the pages first.


We're going to use a stitched binding technique to bind the left edge of all these pages together. To begin, clamp the stack pages together. (This is your last chance to make sure they're in the right order, too!)

I like to use letter clips for this, because they're nice and wide, but if you don't have any, binder clips will work just fine.


See how the clips are placed? At the top and bottom, about an inch away from the edge we're going to bind. (In fact, I'm going to refer to this edge from here on out as "the binding edge.") So far, so good.


Now, use a ruler to draw yourself a guide line 1/2" from the binding edge. Then, make a mark 3/4" in from the top and the bottom.

If I were a precise, traditional book binder, I would tell you to make an evenly-spaced row of marks along this guide line, between those top and bottom marks. But instead, I'll tell you to eyeball it. Make a series of marks that more or less divides the area between the top and bottom marks up into equal parts. You should have an even number of these marks when you're done. (In my sample, here, the marks are very roughly 2 3/4" - 3" apart.)

(I know, I know, traditional book binders - a travesty of loose measuring! But frankly, it works fine and I am measure-phobic.)


Anyway. Get yourself a cork trivet, or some cardboard, or something else you can safely press a sharp awl into. Place your clamped book on this surface, and push your awl into the paper at each of the marks you made. Gently push and twist, and after a few minutes, you'll poke your way through the entire stack.


See what I mean? Awls are dang sharp.


Once you've made all the holes, then you'll use them for your stitch binding. I prefer to use "buttonhole thread" for this process. It's a very strong thread with lots of nylon that resists tangling. I've tried to do this binding with regular sewing thread, and wasn't as happy with the result - it tangles too much and tends to rip the paper.

Cut a nice, long length of the buttonhole thread – I use three arm's lengths – and thread it onto a needle. Don't tie a knot.

I have a tutorial over on CRAFT that will walk you through the stitch-binding process. Start at Step 8, and go from there.


When you're all done stitching, you'll have a nice, strong, flexible book to page through! So now we can add a cover.


So, I have my front cover that I printed earlier. Since many ebooks (including mine) don't really have a back cover, I'm making one by cutting an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of coordinating card stock.


Score the front and back covers 1/2" away from the binding edge. I'm using a bone folder here, but if you don't have one, you can use a very light stroke with a craft knife.

(But get yourself a bone folder next year. One thousand and one uses!)


Place your back cover face down on your work surface. Put a line of tacky glue along the binding edge, between your scored line and the edge of the card stock. Place the bound book pages onto the back cover, lining up all the edges, and press them lightly with your hands.


Then, put a line of glue on the bound book, inside your stitching. Press the front cover over the pages, lining up all the edges.


Now it's time to clamp everything tightly while that glue dries. You'll need clamps evenly spaced along the spine of the book, like you see here. Leave it to dry overnight.


The next morning, you might want to glue a CD envelope inside the front cover, so you can give the ebook file along with the printed version. (This was a plain old CD envelope from the office supply store. I dressed it up by gluing a piece of scrapbook paper over it.)

About the Ebook:

Weaving Un-Loomed takes you through five weaving projects you can do using very simple household materials. It's a great book for any crafter who's ever been curious about weaving. You can read more, and score your own copy, over here.

This binding would also be great for:

Card. Paper. Ribbon, by Kristin Roach, shows you awesome things you can do with wadded-up wrapping paper, used greeting cards, and used curling ribbon (which, incidentally, you may have a lot of soon). Read more and score your copy over here.


I don't know what I want to do more now - weave or make a book :)

Thanks for the wonderful tutorial. I especially like the way you added the CD. That was a really clever touch!

Thanks for the how-to! To make the hole punching easier - try a small drill bit and drill through it. Especially for thicker books, it's a lot easier. But make sure to put a clamp fairly close to the holes.

I also wonder how well it would work to use a sewing machine (a true heavy duty one!) set to the longest stitch length and just run it through the machine?

Thanks for the suggestion, Gail! I like the sewing machine idea, too - I've seen several zine-size books bound that way. I think it mostly depends on the thickness of your stack of pages and the strength of your sewing machine. My ebook in this case is about 35 sheets of paper, which is too much for my poor, 30 year-old machine. :-)

this is such a good serie! Thank you!!