60. Japanese Bound Handmade Books

    writing or drawing paper (20-30 uniform sheets)
    thick decorative paper or cardstock (for the cover)
    a Binder clip large enough to hold all of your paper in place
    waxed linen thread (can be found in the jewelry section of craft stores)
    Bookbinders needle (or a curved needle, found in the sewing section of most craft stores)
    a non-tapering awl, or needle tool (to pierce holes in the paper) — you can also use a small nail or a large needle (they're just a little harder to punch paper with)

  1. Stack your paper, with the covers on the top and bottom of the stack, just as you would like your book to appear.
  2. Using a ruler, draw a line from top to bottom of the front cover, about 1/4"from the spine. Make two marks on this line, one 1/4' down from the top of the book, the other 1/4" up from the bottom. Now divide the distance between these marks into thirds and mark the two middle points.
  3. Even up the pages and clamp the book together with binder clips, or weight down the front edge to keep the pages from moving. Protect your work surface with a piece of scrap wood or an old phone book as you punch a hole at each of the marked points using the awl.

    (note: you can also use this technique to repair books that have loose bindings. Making these holes should not damage the text in the book. Most paperback books have an inner margin of 1/2" to 3/4", leaving plenty of room for rebinding.)
  4. Thread the needle and tie the ends together with an overhand knot. Open the book a few pages and, next to the lower middle hole, push the needle through about five pages. Pull the thread through until the knot is snug against the pages. Go back out to the front cover by pushing the needle up through the awl hole. This step anchors the thread.
  5. Now sew the rest of the book as shown in the accompanying illustrations. Pull the thread tight each time you go through a hole.

    Go around the back and back up through the starting hole, then down through the other middle hole. Pull the thread tight after going through each hole.

    Around the back again, then up through the top hole.

    Around the back, then...

    ...around the top of the spine and up through the top hole again. Keep going, down through one middle hole, back up through the next, and down through the bottom hole. Keep the thread tight.

    Around the back again and...

    ...around the bottom of the spine and back through the bottom hole. Go up through the starting hole again.

    To finish, tie off the thread so the binding won't come loose. Do this by slipping the needle under two of the top threads coming out of starting hole and back through the loop to form a tight knot.

    Run the needle back down through the starting hole and cut the leftover thread flush with the back of the book.

Free Instructional PDF

[Edit 12/16] —It looks like the original source for this information (Sff.net) has been removed. 
I created an illustrated tutorial a few years ago for a workshop I taught on Japanese stab-bound books, and am including it here.

If you want to learn more about making hand bound books, check out:

Making Handmade Books
by Stanford, Kate T.Trade Paperback

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