Bookbinding How to sew a book block

(examples with and without bands) Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009
1) Choose what size book you want to make. 2) Decide how many quires (sections) you want to have in your book (an even number is good, 6-8 is a nice easy workable number to start with) 3) Decide how many pages in each quire (depends on your paper, 80gsm photocopy type paper, you can have up to 6 pages happily, 200gsm card, you may only want 2 or 3 leaves in each quire) 4) Select your paper and fold your papers into half 5) Interleaf each page inside another to form your quires as decided above.

6) Collect your working materials together: board/flat surface to work on, folded quires, bone folder, boards, beeswax, linen thread, needle, straight edge (ruler), template for marking sewing stations, awl (to mark sewing stations in quires), craft knife or scalpel. Pencil, bands (if sewing onto raised bands).

7) Measure out the length of linen sewing thread you will need (one length for each quire, plus 2 eg if 6 quires, then 8 lengths of the spine of the book).

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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8) Wax the length of linen thread prior to sewing and thread your needle (do not tie a knot).

9) Stack your quires on top of each other, all up the same way 10) Decide how many sewing support stations you want to use – for a banded book this will be how many bands it has (the kettle stations at each end are not counted).

11) Mark out your sewing stations from the centre of each quire. A template is useful for this to ensure each quire is marked the same. Tap the quire on each first to ensure all pages lined up and the edge is straight 12) Line up the template flush with an edge.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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13) Using your awl punch holes at each marked sewing station.

14) Check that your punched holes are all the way thru on all quires

15) Collect all quires together and mark one end – this will help you to make sure you put the all up the same way when sewing. Particularly important is sewing a book with text so you don’t put a quire in upside down – its been done.

16) There are several ways to sew your first quire. One method is to go in an out of each support station leaving a small loop to go thru after you have attached your second quire. Another method done (often easier for first time binders) is to run a length of thread on the first quire and start sewing onto that (as shown below). 17) Insert the threaded needle into the end kettle stitch station from the top, exiting in the centre of the fold and then coming back out thru the first sewing support station. If wanting to sew on raised bands just to step 38

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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18) Bring the needle out to the spine and loop over the thread and enter back thru the same hole.

19) Then bring the needle up from the center to the spine at the second sewing station, loop over the thread and back thru. Keep repeating this action at each sewing support.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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20) When you reach the end, the needle will come up from the centre of the quire to the spine, then add your next quire and the needle enters the kettle station and towards the centre of the book, to then come out at the first sewing support of the second quire.

21) Loop the need down and around the sewing support of the first quire

22) Then enter back thru the same hole as you had come out (on the second quire)

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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23) Continue this along repeating at each sewing station 24) Once you reach the end kettle stitch station this time to join to the first quire, loop the needle down and around the first quires kettle stitch station – but do not reenter the same hole

25) Instead add the next quire (3rd) and enter thru that hole to the centre of the quire.

26) As you did for the second quire, now bring the needle up thru the first sewing station of this quire. 27) Repeat the steps of looping the needle down and around the sewing support of the previous quire and re-entering the same hole that the needle had emerged thru.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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28) Continue these steps for the remainder of your quires. 29) When you have finished adding all your quires to your now formed book block, when you exit the last kettle stitch station, loop to knot the end.

30) Your book block should look like this (if a 4 station book)

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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31) Closer detail of the sewing support stations

32) Close up of the kettle stitch station (end) plus a sewing support station. You can see the loops that are formed by looping around the station of the previous quire.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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33) If you want to finish the edges of your book to be straight you will now need to use a book plough or modern guillotine. 34) If you have access to a book plough, put your book in ready for cutting and ensure laying press is tightened (also that you have a piece of card behind the book so you do not cut into the laying press. 35) Book block in laying press ready for cutting

36) Line up the blade of the plough ready to start cutting.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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37) Move the plough back and forth along the laying frame, adjusting the blade after each pass.

To sew on Raised bands
38) Using our waxed linen thread, enter your quire from the spine to the centre, then exiting to the spine at the fist sewing support station. Leave a small tail to knot at the end when the book block is complete.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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39) Lay your band at right angles to the spine and loop over it, then enter the sewing station hole to come up at the next sewing support station.

40) Keep repeating this along the spine till all bands and attached. 41) At the end when you reach the kettle station, add your next quire and enter thru the kettle stitch station at the end and then come back out at the spine.

42) Loop over the band as you did with the first quire, but before tensioning check the thread is straight and close but with a small gap to the first quire.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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43) When you then reach the end at the kettle stitch station loop down and around the station of the previous quire – do not enter back thru the same kettle stitch however, enter thru the kettle stitch of the newly added quire (would be 4th quire not yet added below).

44) Completed book block sewn on four bands.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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45) Check all your threads over the bands to ensure even spacing

46) Close up of kettle stitch station on right. Can see how you come out quire, down around previous station and then up to the new quire.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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Terms Quire – pages interleaved after being folded in half. Kettle stitch station – the very end sewing stations at both the head and tail of the book block. Sewing support station – supports of the book block – where bands or tapes place (or looping of previous station if not sewing on bands.

Written by Lady Isabell Winter, 2009. How to sew a book block

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