I love sketchbooks. It feels great to write on the right kind of paper and hold in my hands this bound record that carries my thoughts.

A while ago I got a sketchbook for Mathias – a 4″x6″, spiral bound with bristol paper, a common kind that many uses to practice sketching. He didn’t really start to use it regularly but when I intentionally propose to him – like saying, “Mathias, let’s draw in your sketchbook!!” – Then he goes through a few pages and doodles many colorful, wiggly lines. Or sometimes he would write letters in them, asking for how to spell certain things. So even not being used too regularly, the sketchbook has become quite filled. Lately, the idea of hand binding sketchbook has been floating around my mind, and I tried my hand on one using the Coptic binding method here.

You can buy some interesting papers of your liking, but it would be fun to gather what you already have around – newspaper, kraft paper, computer paper, notebook paper… the list goes on.

  • papers of your choice (I used watercolor paper)
  • thread
  • card stock or other heavier paper for the covers
  • fabric tape (bookbinding tape or gaffer’s tape)
  • awl
  • needle
  • scissors or utility knife
  • ruler
  • binder clips
  1. Fold papers in half.
  2. Group a few pages together, making a few groups (called signature). For thicker papers like watercolor papers, two are enough. For thinner ones, 5~6 pages should be good.
  3. Hold together the groups of papers with binder clips at the top and bottom. Score at two spots (about 1 inch apart) at the top, middle, and bottom of the spine, a total of six spots. Score just deep enough, so it cuts through the papers. Punch holes at the score marks with an awl.
  4. Thread the needle and tie the ends of the thread into a knot. With the needle, go in at the bottom right hole of the first signature.

5. Sew in and out in the direction of the arrow shown.

6. Go back into the first hole. Sew towards the left hole at the first signature (dashed line, meaning the thread travels inside the signature).

7. Come back out through the second hole, and loop the thread around the binding thread shown on the left.

8. Move on to the left hole of the next signature, sewing from outside to inside. Sew within the signature towards the right hole of the third signature (dashed line).

9. Sew out of the right hole at the third signature, and go into the right hole in the second signature.

10. Sew out from the left hole from the second signature. Loop around the binding thread again. For the rest of the signatures, repeat from step 8.

11. Repeat step 5~10 for the rest of the groups of holes along the spine.

12. Punch holes on covers. Place them to match vertically as the ones on papers, but offset them about 1/2 inch horizontally.

13. Put new thread into the needle and tie the ends into a knot. Tie a loop around the top binding thread of the signatures.

14. Go through the two of the holes at the top of the cover and then loop around the second binding thread of the signatures, and tie a knot.

15. Repeat step 13~14 to attach both front and back covers.

I used painter’s tape here since at the time I didn’t have the gaffer’s tape. It holds up alright.