Book Binding Two Ways

Book Binding Two Ways

Create your personalized artist journal or notebook at home. Homemade books can be a great way to document what you see, think and feel. Self-taught and outsider artists have used art as a means of communication, to seek connection and sometimes as a coping mechanism for going through hardships. 

Once you create your books, here are some writing or drawing prompts to spark your imagination:

  • Write about the most fun day you’ve had this year. Who were you with? What did you do?
  • Ask a buddy to do an impromptu dance routine. Try to capture their movements with lines, circles and dashes. Give their dance a name.
  • Draw your favorite work of art from memory. How many can you do?
  • Create a collage to decorate the cover page of your book 

In the instructions below you’ll see materials specific to book binding. We encourage you to improvise with household items. Rulers, for example, are a great stand-in for bone folders. Big-eyed needles are useful, but, in a pinch, you can guide string through holes with the push pin itself or a pencil. 

Pamphlet Stitch Book

A good place to start exploring bookbinding techniques is with a simple three-hole pamphlet. The fore edge of the cover may be folded in to provide support or additional decoration. 

Text: 4 sheets, standard size, of any blank paper or construction paper
Cover: 1 sheet of blank paper, construction paper or a fun magazine page
Paper towel
Tie: 1 piece of narrow ribbon, yarn, waxed linen, or strong twisted paper cord. You’ll need a piece about 3½ times the length of your pamphlet’s spine. 

Bone folder or similar tool with a straight edge like a ruler
Large-eyed, blunt-ended needle or push pin, awl or equivalent
Tip: In any type of binding, the cover’s fore edge takes the most abrasion. If you want your book to last, make the cover’s fore edge sturdy. 


1. Measure and cut the cover sheet ½” taller than the text paper. For a narrow fold-in at the fore edge, cut the cover 3” wider than the text; for a deep fold-in, make it 10” wider.

2. Score and fold the cover paper in half. Then mark 1¼” from each fore edge for a narrow fold-in or 4¾” for a deep fold-in. Score and fold both sides inward. Set the cover aside (the fore edge may be folded in as deeply as you wish; just allow for that amount when originally measuring and cutting the cover.)

3. Fold the four text sheets in half. Slip one inside another until the four sheets nest together as a signature. Secure the signature of four sheets together with paper clips so holes stay aligned when the holes are poked.


4. Open the signature and place it on top of the folded towel. Along the fold line, measure the center and poke a hole there with an awl or push pin. Then make two more holes, one about 1” down from the top, the other the same distance up from the bottom.

5. The cover can be punched and sewn at the same time as the signatures. Open the cover and lay it on top of the folded towel. Measure and poke a hole at the center of the fold line. To allow for the overhang, measure and make the top and bottom holes 1¼” in from the edges. Covers can be decorated or made of a different decorative paper.

6. Nest the signatures inside the cover, making sure the holes match up. After threading the ribbon or cord through the needle, begin sewing by passing from the outside to the inside through the center hole. Leave a tail of ribbon long enough to tie a bow or knot later.

7. Sew up to and out of the top hole.

8. Sew down the outside and into the bottom hole.


9. Sew back through the center hole, making sure to sew through the hole, not the ribbon. The ribbon ends must be on opposite sides of the long stitch if you want to tie a bow or knot around that stitch. Adjust the ends if they’re not on opposite sides, and tie a bow or knot.

10. Trim off any excess from the ribbon ends.

Accordion-Style Book

Created out of one continuous sheet of paper, the accordion-style book folds easily and is a great option for large, scroll-length imagery. The accordion-style book can be extended outward (as pictured) as well as kept flat between its closed covers. 

18” by 24” paper, cut into equal strips (this size yields 4 mini books)
Wax paper

Bone folder (or similar tool)
Weight (something heavy to apply even pressure) 


1. Decide on the size (length) and number of pages (folds). If needed, glue strips together overlapping one whole page as shown in the diagram below. 

2. Fold strip of paper in half. Pick up the top half and fold it over again, allowing the bottom half to remain on the table. Fold it again in the reverse direction so the panels angle upwards. Create a third fold in the middle panel going inward, then fold the top panel in half.

3. Measure cover boards a fraction bigger than the folded paper. Cut two cardboards to size and sand edges with sandpaper to make both boards even. 

4. Measure paper, cloth or whatever you are covering the boards with, leaving a 1” margin around all four sides of the board. Cut the material to size. 

5. Spread an even coating of glue on each board and press in from the center of the covering material. Turn over and rub with your hand and then with the bone folder.

6. Using two board widths as a guide, measure corners, and then cut on that line. 

7. Glue down the two side strips and then the remaining sides. 

8. Use the bone folder to press down and to smooth corners.

Illustrations by Annie Broutman