The Art of Japanese Book Binding

Handmade books make such sweet gifts, and learning to hand-stitch them is easier than you might imagine. This tutorial will walk you through the book-binding process step-by-step. Charming details like a fabric front page and wool as the binding thread make these books feel extra special. Add some heart embellishments, and you've got a Valentine's Day gift for someone you love.

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I'm so excited to share this Japanese book-binding tutorial with you. I added a Valentine's Day twist to these notebooks with charming fabric-heart embellishments. This example is called a Noble binding. After you get this one down, try the Hemp binding seen here. I adore these handmade books. My daughter is a note writer and loves receiving letters of any kind. These books are a perfect place for her to collect drawings and sweet nothings. Sometimes leaving a note at the top of the stairs is the only way I can get her out of bed in the morning! I'm pretty sure these books will help do the trick.

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Line the front of the book with coordinating floral fabric to add a surprising and lovely feature to your book.

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The big floral heart on the front is so fun. Alternatively, you could cut a shape into the cover to show the fabric underneath.

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On the little-hearts version, I added a couple of extra holes for more yarn across the binding and doubled the binding strand for more heft. I like the fuzzy yarn against the paperboard.

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Japanese book binding changes in nature as you alter the materials. Experiment with the paper, the covers, and the binding thread. So many endless and beautiful ways to execute this craft.

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For Valentine's Day, have the kids fill this book with gift coupons (for example: empty the dishwasher, take the dog for a walk, give a BIG bear hug), and present it to Mom or Dad. Or, just fill the book with your own heart-ful ideas and inspiration!

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Japanese Book-Binding Tutorial

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How to Make Japanese Book Binding:

1. Individually fold 3 or 4 pieces of paper (8 1/2-by-11 inches) in quarters and cut the folded edge along the top.
2. Cut 2 book covers (4.5-by-5.75 inches) out of paperboard. If covers are from a cereal box or printed paperboard, cut 2 more pieces of paperboard or decorative paper at the exact same size and glue to the back side of each cover.
3. Cut decorations out of fabric and glue to front of cover.
4. Let embellishments dry. You can also try embroidering onto the paper covers.

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5. On the cover, mark 2 lines, one 3/16 inch from the edge and one 3/8 inch from the edge. Mark 4 hole spots (A, B, C, D) with a pencil along the 3/8-inch line. The 2 outer spots (A, D) should begin 5/8-inch from the top and bottom of the book. Evenly space the other 2 hole marks (B, C) in between the first 2 marks. Mark 2 dots (1, 2) on the 3/16-inch line in between the edge of the book and the outermost dots (A, D) on the 3/8-inch line.

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6. Cut additional fabric lining (4.25-by-5.5 inches) for top of paper stack. Carefully stack the book contents together (front cover, fabric front page, bundles of inside pages, and back cover).
7. Make sure the edges of the book contents are flush with the binding, and secure with 2 binder clips on the outer edge. Using an awl, poke holes through all layers in spots as indicated.
8. Separate stack in half and bring needle and thread through the center of the book and through hole B (see labeled guide above). Leave a 2-inch tail (it will be tied off at the center of the book at the end).
9. Bring your needle and thread around the outside of the book and back through B from back to front.

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10. Bring the thread from front to back through C.
11. Bring needle and thread around the outside of the book and through C again from front to back.
12. Go through D from back to front.
13. Go around the side of the book, bringing needle through D again from back to front.

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14. Go around the bottom of the book, bringing needle through D again from back to front.
15. Now, go through 2 from front to back.
16. Go around side of book and through 2 from front to back.
17. Go around bottom of book and through 2 from front to back.

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18. Come up through D from back to front.
19. Go through C from front to back.
20. Come up through B from front to back.
21. Go down through A from front to back.

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22. Go around the side of the book, bringing the needle through A again from front to back.
23. Go around the top of the book, bringing the needle through A again from front to back.
24. Bring needle up through 1 from back to front.
25. Go around the side of the book, bringing needle back up through 1.

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26. Go around the top of the book, bringing the needle through 1 from back to front.
27. Bring the needle down through A from front to back.
28. Bring the needle up through B from the back, and exit through the middle of the book where you started. Tie a knot tightly in the center of the book, and tuck ends into the binding.
29. Use a ruler and a bone folder to score along the front of the cover and the back of the cover just inside the binding to create a foldable edge for the covers to move more freely.

I find the whole process of Japanese book binding much easier than it looks. Definitely give it a whirl, and spread some of that love around!

About the Author

Anne Weil

Anne Weil is the creative voice behind Flax & Twine. A lover of beautiful things, she designs charming knit and crochet patterns and simple DIY crafts for the modern maker. Her signature style is bright and clean, with gorgeous photography and step-by-step instructions that can be followed with ease. Find Anne's book, "Knitting Without Needles," a Potter Craft title, to immerse...


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