Saturday, December 7, 2019

{Getting Started with Handicrafts} :: Book Binding

I almost called this series "Handicrafts for the Non-Crafty," but I decided that it's important that we as mothers redefine ourselves and be open to changing self-perception and self-description. I am not a particularly crafty person by nature, but that doesn't mean I can't become one by habit! Skills are learned, and it turns out that I like crafting much more now than I ever thought I would. So let's say "Getting Started with Handicrafts" with the idea that we are starting with few skills and little knowledge in the area but that we will learn and grow alongside our children.

You can read a bit about my personal handicrafting story here (scroll down a bit to the photos of me and my kids): Meet the Maker.

These posts are NOT written from the perspective of an expert -- neither in Mason's approach to the craft nor in the craft itself. They are written mom-to-mom, answering frequently asked questions I get about our personal experience with these activities, all of which our family has picked over the past few years and now practice regularly and joyfully.

For many years, handicrafts was my nemesis on the Mason timetable. I didn't feel like I could give it dedicated time with all the littles underfoot. I got creative and made it a priority and I'm so glad I did.

Here's my plan for the series so far:
Book Binding << we're here!
Knot Tying
Sewing with Felt
Needle Felting

Thanks for reading along!


I didn't originally have book binding in the line-up, but then I had an introduction to this craft at CM West :: Retreat at Puget Sound. I brought it home to my kids and it caught on like wildfire! So easy, so few supplies needed, and a super-useful result. My Form 1 daughters can do this with very little help, and Form 2 and up are now experts. And I have to admit: I am finding it super fun too.

(Fair warning: if your kids are friends with my kids, you are very likely getting some of these sweet notebooks in your home this Christmas. They have been binding up a storm in preparation! And I might also be gifting some of my own... :))

I can't take any credit at all for discovering these items or the way to do it. Emily Pastor gave me such a good start at CM West. So I'll direct you to some tutorials, share the supplies we are using and a few tips, and then let you have at it!

(And a related side note: if you are in the Northwest and interested in Charlotte Mason, check out the new account of CM Northwest! Charlotte Mason West has split into two groups to better support the regions we are dedicated to, so Amber and I are still planning Northern California events and then they have a team of ladies in both Oregon and Washington that are dreaming up day events, retreats, and more.)

On to the crafting...

What You Need

Once you have what you need for simple saddle-stitched book binding, you can easily make a ton of them. And even though you might not have everything you need already in your cabinet, the items are easy to find and inexpensive. Definitely worth investing in for the Charlotte Mason homeschool!

Basic supplies:
8.5 x 11 cardstock for the cover
regular printer paper for the inside pages
ruler and scissors
binder clips (medium or large size)
an awl (or a large nail can work fine too)
waxed thread or linen thread
a large-eye needle (often sold with the thread)
bone folder (also useful for sloyd!)
** This looks like a perfect starter set: it has the thread, needles, bone folder, and awl in one pack.

Optional supplies:
photo corners and small pieces of cardstock for labels (you can also use sticker labels or just leave blank)
a hammer (we actually use a kids' one from my boys' woodworking kits)
a piece of scarp wood or very thick cardboard for protecting your table when you hammer

these cardstock pads are from Dick Blick and so pretty!

A Quick How-To and Some Extra Tutorials

I have a simple write-up below, but here are a bunch of tutorials if you like visuals:
Design Sponge
Easy Bookbinding Two Ways
How to Bind Using a Saddle Stitch
And a video here -- we use the method that starts at about the 4-minute mark.

Those are all a bit different (and a little more complicated, I think) from how I learned, so here's the way Emily taught us at CM West:

1. Fold a piece of cardstock precisely in half. Crease well. That's your cover.

2. Fold five sheets of printer paper in half, one at a time. Nest them inside each other, lining up the edges as well as you can. Those are your inside sheets.

3. Place the folded inside sheets into the folded cover, lining up the crease and edges. You have assembled your book! Now it's time to stitch it together.

4. Unfold the book as-is so that the pieces are in the same order but flat again, then clamp the stack of papers together with a couple binder clips, one on each side. Make sure the edges meet on all four sides.

5. Using your ruler, mark the halfway point along the inner crease with a little dot. (That should be at 4.25'' if you are using regular-sized paper.)

6. Make a dot at each inch along the crease for two inches above the center dot and two inches below the center dot. You should have five dots along the crease now.

7. Punch holes with your awl at each of those dots. We line the crease up along a piece of scrap wood and tap the awl a few times with the hammer at each dot to get a good hole.

8. Cut 20'' of thread and thread your needle.

9. Sew your binding, as shown here. (This looks more complicated than it is!)

10. Once you have sewn up and down the crease, tie your ends and trim them.

11. Refold the notebook and admire your finished work!

12. Optional: to make a sweet little label, cut a rectangle of cardstock to the desired size, put sticky photo corners on each corner of the label, then carefully affix to the front of your book. This step can be a bit tricky but adds a nice touch.

A Few More Tips

Before punching the holes, I like to bend the notebook to make sure they are all lined up in the crease. If they aren't, your outside binding will look a little wonky.

Some needles have smaller eyes than others. Large eyes make theading the thick waxed thread easier, but then they can be tricky to push through the holes for little hands. You can play around with the size of the needles or just punch slightly larger holes for younger children.

We like to have various colors of thead so we can do contrast stitching or match up our paper and thread in different ways. Since the binding is visible from the outside, it's a fun way to jazz up the notebook.

All of our materials except the paper neatly stores in a plastic shoebox. It takes less than five minutes to make a notebook, so this is a simple one for kids to get out and put away on their own once they have had some practice.

These can easily be "dressed up" or "dressed down" depending on the recipient. You can make some very fun notebooks for younger kids or more classy notebooks fit for mamas.

You can change out the kind of paper inside to make something sturdier, lined, dot gridded, etc. Obviously a thicker paper will be a bit harder to fold and to punch and sew, so you might want to experiment before switching from printer paper with your kids. But once you get the hang of it, these can be very customizable.

It's nice to have a craft that is good to make and good to gift for boys and girls, kids and adults alike. And if you're looking for a crafty activity that will keep your kids busy all winter break, this one should do the trick!

And a warning: once your kids start making their own notebooks, they will likely want to start writing and drawing more too. So make sure to have plenty of free time on the calendar and get ready for an onslaught of notebook-keeping! ;)

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  1. Thank you for this! Do you have sources for lined paper or dotted paper?

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