I made my own notebook! Book binding workshop review

It’s not unusual to find me gushing about notebooks. But when the notebook has been made by my own fair hand, it stands to reason I’m going to be extra excited.

My handmade notebook

Yep, I made this

The little pamphlet you see here is the result of a book binding taster session I went to last Friday at London’s City Lit. It took just over an hour to pull it all together. And a large chunk of that was spent choosing the papers.

The five-hole stitching – I did that.  Cutting the paper to size – I did that, albeit badly. The fancy folding thing with the cover…well you get the picture. I’ve got a long way to go of course, but am much-encouraged by my first foray into notebook making.

A taste of book binding

The class began with paper selection. I was torn between feathers and ferns for the cover, but went with the latter because it reminded me of a gorgeous planner I’d seen by Day Designer. Next came the selection of the end papers. I briefly thought about orange, but decided on the blue because of its strength.

Our kind, and very patient tutor, Nesta, then gave us a brief run down of the tools on our work benches. We talked about the difference in production value between books made commercially and those made by hand. And how a well- bound book should look like a bird in flight when opened out.

Book binding tools

Next, grain direction. It’s a concept I simply cannot get my head round when it comes to fabric so no surprises that I failed to identify it on cartridge paper. I know to look for the bounce when it’s folded now though. You can try it too,  just fold a piece of paper in half and the edge that folds easiest, with the best bounce, is going with the grain. I think!

Folding, lots of folding

Once correctly folded, we had to cut our sheet down. The folding and cutting was strangely meditative, especially smoothing the folds with the bone folder. My cutter was a little rusty so the edges of my first sheet were a little jagged, but I think it lends the finished notebook a rustic charm – at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Paper trimmed and folded to its finished size, we then nestled it in the end papers and gave a final trim. The whole was folded into the fancy decorative paper before the holes for the stitching were made. I chose a contrasting orange thread. Nesta explained that it was linen that she had dyed by hand.

Five-hole stitching with hand-dyed linen thread

The stitching was relatively straight-forward, mainly because we were closely supervised and then it remained to tuck the outer sheet of cartridge paper into the folded cover and we were all finished.

My book binding next steps

I stayed a little while after the class to find out where I could buy a starter kit. Nesta recommended Hewit’s and Shepherds, so no doubt I’ll be making a trip to Victoria soon to pick up some supplies.

A few days on, I’ve been pinning all sorts of book binding related things on my notebook making board. And have determined that when I grow up I want to be a book binder.

My workstation at the end of the book binding taster session

Now I’ve been through the process once, I believe I could do it again. But to help reinforce what I’ve learnt, I’ve signed up to a second full-day session in October, which will focus on hard-cover binding. Again it will be run by Nesta at City Lit. I’d always thought of book binding as relatively niche but City Lit do all sorts of classes. I’d love to do the ten-part course that kicks off in May next year, but I’ll have to save up for that one.

In the meantime, I just need to decide exactly how to fill my notebook. As you’ll see, I’ve got more than a few ideas!

Ever bound your own notebook? I’d love to see your pictures in the comments.







2 Replies to “I made my own notebook! Book binding workshop review”

  1. I make my own notebooks for the (Midori) Traveler’s Notebook. This one for the larger size is even easier:

    Take a Rhodia Pad (I love the Yellow Lined) in A4, cut of a strip from the top so you end up with a square of 21 x 21 cm, fold that in half, staple it twice with a long arm stapler, et voilà, done!

    I usually use 8 sheets per cahier, so I have 32 pages for each month. This way one pad à 80 pages is enough for 10 months of writing fun, all for ca. 10€/$. It takes me about 1-2 hours to making these 10 booklets.

    1. That’s a great tip, Julie – thank you. Love the paper you get in Rhodia pads. Perfect when you’re using fountain pen. Traveler’s Notebooks are so special and this handmade touch you’re giving yours will only add to that.

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