Here’s another method of binding your book with an open spine…a chain stitch or also called coptic stitch binding. This is a great method for when you have book covers that are individual boards instead of completely wrapped around the entire journal. You are basically binding all the signatures and covers together with a connected stitch that holds everything together tightly, but with super flexibility. The pages will open up completely flat and that’s a big reason why this method is so popular. I’m sure you might have seen lots of books on Etsy bound in this way. There are variations to the chain stitch (as with everything) but this is how I go about binding with this technique…
From a materials standpoint, you’ll need your cover boards and paper signatures to go inside. I’m also using a roll of self-adhesive paper to cover my boards. That’s actually the stuff you stick in your kitchen drawers and such…very handy! You’ll need some string to bind it all and a needle – here I’m using a curved needle. I also have my awl and holepuncher to make holes.
The first thing I do is to cover my cover boards with the decorative paper. You can use fabric or other decorative papers as well, just finish up your cover boards exactly how you want them to look bound into the book. You can see that I cut my decorative paper to size…
Then I stuck them on the boards, cutting the corners at a diagonal so that it’ll fold over nicely without too much bulk on the corners.
You just smooth down one corner and make sure everything is flat without bubbles and continuing securing the other sides.
Then to cover up the empty side, I put in some dark brown liner paper…that will be the inside of my journal cover.
Once my cover boards and paper signatures are ready, I start to punch my holes for the binding. You don’t really have to space them evenly, just make sure they are spread throughout the spine to be secure. I’ve marked up my holes on the cover then punched them out with a holepuncher.
Then I use the cover as my guide to punch holes in all my signatures. It’s nice to use an awl just because the hole doesn’t need to be huge…it just needs to fit your string or thread type.
Once your materials are prepped, you are basically ready to sew. Pretty easy process at this point and not much different from other binding methods…it’s the stitching pattern that is special in this case. Note that you can have as many signatures you would like, however once it gets really fat, the sheer flexibility will allow your signatures to be more movable and not as “together” in my mind. They sort of “snake” around… but that’s just my experience.
To start stitching, you go with one board and one signature inside. You can see I’m starting at the bottom hole inside the first signature.
You bring the thread out and under the cover board to attach it to the signature…
I like to wrap my thread around the cover board one more time, so it’s a double loop before putting my needle back into the signature bottom hole where I came from.
I make sure everything is tight and aligned, then tie a knot. The important part of this method of binding is keeping the cover and signatures on top all aligned…because that’s exactly how it’s going to end up in the end. You want a perfectly aligned stack of signatures on the covers, nice and tight.
From this point, I just move up one hole and repeat the process of looping around the cover and coming back up. Only difference is that there is no knot to tie, you just keep looping through to attach the signature to the cover.
When you get to the last hole, after looping onto the cover, instead of going back into the same signature you stack on another signature and go into that hole.
See how I’ve come up from the top hole in my second signature here…then I immediately go to the next hole…
…and on the outside I want to attach this signature to something, but there are no holes to go through like with the cover. Instead I loop my thread in between the signatures below it, in this case the first signature and cover. Just stick your needle into the left side of the stitch already there and exit to the right of it. This is a kettle stitch that connects the stitches together and creates the cool pattern on the binding. It is for this stitch that I use the curved needle, because it’s so much easier to stitch it in between the signatures.
Here’s a close-up of the needle pulling the thread behind the existing stitch of previous signatures, from the left side to the right side. You are making a little loop to basically connect the new signature to the rest of the book.
Once you’ve made this loop, the kettle stitch and tigtened it all, you stick the needle back into the hole you came from and repeat going down the line of holes.
Again, once I get to the last hole of that signature, after doing the kettle stitch instead of going into the same signature again, I add a new signature and go into that hole.
Repeat…repeat…repeat. Once you get the idea, you’ll be able to continue for as many signatures as you have, no problem! You’ll see here I’ve added all 5 of my signatures. There are ways of binding the last signature with the cover together…but I find it all confusing. So I bind all my signatures in the same fashion until there are none left.
Then when I just have the cover left to bind, I sort of do the same thing, but weaving through the last signature again. This means the signature will have a double thread inside, but I don’t mind that for the easy of understanding the process.
With my kettle stitch done on the last signature, to add the cover I go through the same process… I do my double loop around the cover, kettle stitch to attach it securely to the book and then go back into the signature of paper. I move up one hole and repeat the steps…
When I get to the last hole, instead of going back into the paper signature, I actually go in between the cover and paper signature. I loop it around that stitch and tie a knot here to finish binding the book. Pretty easy! One of these days I might learn another method, but this works really nicely for me anyway!
You’ll end up with a book that has a snazzy binding stitch showing, very neat and secure. You’ll notice that the kettle stitches create a column of “v” or “u” looking pattern in the binding. The very left and right holes will look like half of that design, since it’s the edge.
See how the book lies completely open when flat on a table? That’s one of the big benefits of binding this way, you see the entire page and most people find it great to write and work in. Of course, if you add lots of signatures things may get imbalanced. I blogged about another chain stitched journal here and even though it looks cool, I’ve found it to be too fat!
I like this kind of binding and find it very useful, but it’s not the easiest and does require a lot precision in the tightening and lining up…otherwise things will be oddly hanging around or crooked. I often end up tightening a bit too much, so that the book doesn’t even close completely from the tightness. In this case, I put some paper weights on top for a day and it all evens out…thread always seems to stretch a bit!
There are many other coptic and chain stitching tutorials, so don’t hesitate to find a youtube video that shows the process, etc. It’s not complicated to understand, just a bit tedious depending how many signatures you have. The results are fabulous though, so it wouldn’t be bad to make this every once in a while. Have fun and let me know what you think!