Bookmaking- Workshop Notes

Library for Educators
5 min readJan 17, 2023

Length: 2 hours

Age range: KS2+ (single sewn for primary, full sewn book for secondary and older)

* To understand how books are made

  • Follow instructions to make a sewn book

What is a book and how are they made?

Explore how binders throughout the ages have put together books, learn more about the materials they are made from, and then create your own book using traditional techniques.

Resources (consumables in blue)

  • Paper (A4 — primary will need 6 sheet each and secondary+ will need 24 sheets)
  • Bone folders
  • Awl (or bodkins)
  • Thread (specialist for bookbinding NB cotton is too delicate and will snap)
  • Needles
  • Endpapers (plain or patterned A4 papers 2 per person)
  • Card (grey boards)
  • Paper (patterned to cover the boards for the front and back of the book, cut to a couple of cm bigger in each direction than grey board, good quality wrapping paper works well)
  • Buckram (cut into strips to fasten the book together)
  • Glue
  • Tapes (for secondary+ only, archival tape cut into short strips)
  • Glue spreaders or brushes
  • Scissors
  • Coloured pen (for secondary+)
  • Pencils (for secondary+)

Teaching sequence

Intro: Discuss books and how they were made including materials they were made from.

Explain workshop involves following a step-by-step sequence


Making the pages (using a pamphlet stitch)

Take 6 sheets of paper and fold in half to A5 with bone folder.

Open up the fold. Use a pencil to make five Xs along the fold (on the pointy side of the fold — they will not be visible when the book is assembled).

The Xs should be at 2cm, 6cm, 10.5 cm (i.e. halfway) 15cm and 19cm.

Number the Xs 1 to 5;

Use the awl to make holes at each of the five Xs.

Thread the needle (the thread should be about 40cm) but do not tie a knot.

Holding the papers so the pointy side is upwards (to make an apex) start sewing by going down into the middle hole (no. 3).

Pull the thread through until about 10cm is left

Then sew as follows:

  • Up into hole 4
  • Down into hole 5
  • Up into hole 4
  • Down into hole 2
  • Up into hole 1
  • Down into hole 2
  • Up into hole 3

Tie the two loose threads into a neat knot. (Explain that knot will not be visible when the book is finished)

End papers

Children should choose two coloured A4 sheets for the endpapers and two patterned papers for the covers

To make the endpapers fold the two sheets to A5 and glue to each side of the pages to make a “book sandwich”. (Emphasise that:

  • The folded edges of the paper should all face the same way
  • A thin line of glue around the paper is sufficient — too much and the paper goes soggy!).

Covering the boards

Use four dabs of glue near the corners of the grey boards to glue the pattern paper.

Then use scissors to cut the four corners of the patterned paper to avoid bulk.

Fold the edges of the patterned paper onto the boards and glue down

Assembling the book

Coat the back (matt side) of the buckram in glue.

Lay the two covers onto the buckram parallel, about 3cm apart.

Fold the overlapping buckram over at the top and bottom of the cover and secure.

Lay the book on one of the covers leaving a 3–4mm of the edge of the board visible. Remove and then glue into place.

Place more glue onto the top of the book.

Fold the remaining board over so that the long edge matches the edge of the bottom board.

Use the bonefolder to make a “French groove” to stick the buckram down

Make sure that you are careful with glue to ensure the pages don’t stick together, if they do wait until dry and carefully peal them apart.


Making the pages

Take four sheets of paper and fold them in half using the bone folder. Repeat this five more times so you end up with six sections.

Put the sections together and ensure they are neatly together.

Mark one end with a coloured pen about a 1.5cm from the end all the way across the folds of all the sections. Then using a pencil, mark 1.5 cm from the other end.

Finally add four more marks, creating pairs of lines just wider than the tape in the remaining space.

Open up each section and use the awl to make six holes along the crease where the marks are.

Tie a knot in a length of thread (about 30cm).Thread the needle to about 7–8cm. The knot is at the other (non-needle) end of the thread.

Take the first section and sew along it with a running stitch, i.e. going:

  • down into the first hole
  • up into the second
  • down
  • up
  • down
  • up

When you get to the end put the next section alongside it, ensuring the coloured mark is at the same end, and sew back up that section.

When you reach the end, tie a knot to the loose thread where you started then add another section and sew down it.

You should snake backwards and forwards adding sections and knotting the ends that aren’t attached with a kettle knot until you have sewn together all of your sections.

Tie off at the end. The rest of the process is the same as for KS2.



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