Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bookbinding, Part Two: Stitching the Signatures

Now that you have your signatures ready, time to start stitching them together!

Before you cut your thread, you want to make sure that you'll have enough so that you don't have to add more later.  Better to have a little too much than not enough!  Take one of your signatures and use that as a measuring tool, advancing it as many times as you have signatures.  If you want to get technical, multiply the distance between holes 1 and 8 by the number of signatures, plus about 6-8 inches to give room to tie knots.  Our example is 7" (since the holes are 3/4" from either end) and we're using 10 signatures, so we need around 78 inches of thread, which is a little over 2 yards.  Cut your thread and run it through the beeswax, then thread the needle.  No need to tie a knot.

Cut 3 pieces of binding tape two inches from the estimated thickness of the spine.  We'll trim this later.

From here on out, when I say "GO IN", I mean from the spine (the mountain side of the fold) to the inside of the book (the valley side of the fold), and if I say "GO OUT", you're going from the inside of the book through to the spine.  

VERY IMPORTANT!  Take your time, make sure your thread doesn't hang on anything, and pull slowly to keep it from tangling.  Keep the tension taut, but not so tight that you tear your paper.  The thread does not go through the binding tape, but just holds it in place.  Make sure you catch all the pages of the signature when going through the holes.  It helps to open the signature when stitching it.

Grab one signature, keeping them all still facing the same way so your holes line up.
  • Go IN through hole 1, leaving about a two inch tail.  You'll trim this later. 
  • Go OUT through hole 2.
  • Line up your binding tape and go IN through hole 3, the thread should go over the tape and hold it in place.
  • Go OUT through hole 4.
  • Over the binding tape and IN at hole 5. (I'm sure you're getting the idea so far, repeat until you get to the end.  
  • You should end up coming OUT at hole 8 last.
  • Stack the next signature on top, lining up the holes.
  • Go IN through hole 8 of the second signature.  You're going to work your way back to hole 1 now.
  • When you get back to hole 1, you should have just come OUT, you'll tie a small knot with your working thread to the tail from the beginning.  A square knot is fine.
  • Add another signature and continue on, IN through hole 1, etc.
Notice how at hole 1 and hole 8 of the first two signatures are attached to each other?  It won't happen that way for the third and subsequent signatures, so we have to add another technique called a KETTLE STITCH.

  • When you get to the end of signature 3, out at hole 8, insert your needle BETWEEN signatures 1 and 2, between holes 7 and 8, then pull it around.  This will wrap the thread around the stitch that holds the two together on the end, locking it in place.  This is called a Kettle Stitch, and you will do this at the end of each signature before adding another one.
At the very end when you do your last Kettle Stitch, you need to insert your needle through the loop made to tie a knot.  Trim the threads, leaving about 1/2 inch tails on both ends.
    This is what you'll end up with at the end.  (Picture might not be the best in the world, but I think you can see.)

    Once everything is stitched securely, clamp the spine securely between two boards or a stack of heavy books with just a little bit of the spine barely sticking out.  Two heavy duty paint stirring sticks (the kind used for 5 gallon buckets of paint) and a pair of "C" clamps would work well.  Paint on your white glue with your paintbrush, using a generous amount of glue (but not so much that it drips all over the place).  Tuck your thread tails down into the glue.  Let this dry thoroughly. 

    **You will need to measure the exact thickness of the book AT THE SPINE at this point.  You can do this right before you apply the glue, while it's clamped down.

    While your glue dries, you can start on the cover!

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