Kids Make Books: Simple Pamphlet Stitch Notebook

Before moving to Los Angeles, I was a teacher for nine to eleven year old girls at my church congregation in North Carolina. These girls were kind, smart, and super sweet to their teacher — little ol’ me. They were also very funny and regularly cracked me up. Teaching them was a great highlight of my week.

I mentioned that I make books one week in class and the girls wanted to know how I did it — and if I could teach them.

I was a little nervous — I’d never taught bookbinding to anyone before (besides the stuff here on Handmade Library), but I decided to try and prove my assertion that bookmaking is easy enough for anyone to do including kids.


The girls with their new, handmade notebooks!

We set up a time to meet and make notebooks. With some preparation I walked them through my tutorial on how to sew a simple notebook.

Here are some recommendations I would make for a more kid-friendly version of the tutorial:

  1. Make sure you go through the process ahead of time. This will help you understand the instructions and so you can explain it to your pupils. Keep in mind the age and development level of the child(ren) you’re instructing, and look for ways you can modify the instructions to fit your students’ needs.

  2. Prepare materials ahead of time. Have the covers and pages, thread, etc. all cut to size and ready to go. This will save time and confusion!

  3. You may want to poke the holes in the pages and cover, as well — this was the part that was hardest for the girls to do themselves, and their efforts resulted in a few pricked thumbs! If you are going to have them poke the holes themselves (which I think most kids 9-10 and up could handle with supervision), just make sure to use fewer pages — with less papers to poke through, the task will be easier and safer.

  4. Make sure to tell them to keep a good hold on the pages and pull their strings tight on every stitch to ensure that the notebook pages line up well and aren’t loose.

  5. You can definitely mix up the materials: use regular ol’ computer paper with a yarn needle and yarn. Or even cardboard and ribbon, with a hole puncher to make holes. Get creative!

Overall the project went well — and the girls loved their new mini-journals! We talked about what they could use their notebooks for: planner, diary, sticker book, sketchbook and more. They were so proud to take home a notebook that they had made themselves.

Children love to make books, and there are so great projects that you can make with bookbinding.

They could write down things they love about a family member on each page and give it as a gift. Or you could help them write, illustrate and bind a picture book they wrote themselves. Kids love the idea of having a book they made themselves, and it’s really easy to do!

Make an accordion book - easy & kid-friendly.

Click for the tutorial!

Another easy & kid-friendly bookmaking technique can be found in my tutorial on No-Sew Accordion books. They are super easy, and you probably even made one of these as a kid.

Have fun ideas for bookmaking projects for kids? Or had success doing a project with your child or students in the past? Tell me about it in the comments!

How to: Simple Pamphlet Stitch Notebook

Make a simple notebook by hand

Today I’m going to (attempt to) show you how to make a single-signature, simple notebook. This is called a pamphlet stitch, and is also known as a saddle stitch. It’s simple and easy, and you probably already have the supplies around that would be needed to make one!

Thing’s you’ll need:

Book making supplies

  • a crewel needle or binder’s needle
  • craft blade (or scissors)
  • 1 1/2 ft. of Linen thread (you can also use embroidery floss, in a bind)
  • 4 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • 1 pc of cardstock or scrapbook paper
  • ruler
  • cutting mat

1) Cut 8.5″ x 11″ sheets in half.

An easy way to do this is to fold the paper in half. Then, slip a knife in the fold, sharp edge facing into the crease, and push it through the paper. It will split it right along the fold!

2) Cut your cardstock.

Add about half an inch to the dimensions of your text paper to get a 9″ x 6″ piece. Carefully measure and cut to these dimensions.

3) Stack your text and cover pages and fold.

Line up the eight sheets of text paper and center them on the cover paper. Slowly fold it all in half width-wise (hamburger style), keeping the edges straight. Line up the two halves, making sure they are equal. Keep an eyes on the edges to keep them lined up as you crease the fold.
Folding for making a saddle stitch notebook

4) Poke holes in the fold (spine).

Hold your papers open and together firmly, with your thumb on the inside, kind of how you would hold a paperback you were reading. With your other hand, take your needle. Holding it firmly, push it from the inside of the fold out to the spine, being careful to stay aligned with the crease. Make sure you have an odd number of holes. For a project this small I would poke three, five or seven, but you can do however many you like. You can space them evenly or unevenly, as long as there is an odd number of them.

5) Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end.

It may take a few tries to thread your needle; waxing the thread may help. After it’s threaded, I usually just tie a slip knot at the end so there’s a little loop at the end of the thread, to keep everything in place.

6) Sew it up.

So, this part can be a little tricky, so I’ve made a diagram that I think will help. It corresponds to the letters that follow. The arrows are the same-ish color as the letters they correspond to.

diagram for making a saddle stitch notebook


  1. Start with the second-to-last hole — marked in the diagram as hole 2. Sew out to the spine and pull it taut, until the tail is inside the fold.
    sewing a simple notebook by hand 
  2. Sew in through the closest, outermost hole, 1, and then out again through hole 2.bookbinding a simple journal 
  3. Sew back in through hole 3, then out againg through hole 4.
    a pamphlet stitch notebook 
  4. Sew back in through five, out through 4, then in through 3 again. When you’re done, it should look something like this:

    binding a notebook

    Thread should run between each hole, on both the inside and the spine

7) Tie it off.

For your last step, sew underneath the stitch that runs between holes 1 and 2. Using your needle, tie a knot and tighten it until it lays flat, aiming to get it as close to the hole as possible. Then just trim the tail to the desired length.

finishing your handmade notebook


8) Add Pizzazz.

Stamp it, color it, cute it up!

For my notebook, I cut a window in the cover and gave it a title—”Menus and Groceries.” Throw it in my purse, and the next time I’m planning a trip to the grocery store, I’m set!

how to make a notebook

Ta-da! You have yourself a handy-dandy notebook. Now go record some clues or something.

Happy Bookmaking!

Recycle it! — 3 Bookmaking Materials You Already Have

I’m always looking for ways to reuse and recycle, because it’s the cheap green thing to do! Seriously, it saves so many bucks resources and is great for my wallet the environment. So do the miserly socially-concious thing and follow these tips.

And you won’t feel bad about the environment OR your budget.

board games coptic binding cover

Use old game boards, such as these thick bingo cards, as covers for a coptic bound book. Courtesy of flickr user Vitarlenology.

1. Board Games

Let’s face it—your beaten up version of Candyland is missing too many pieces for you to be able to donate it to Goodwill in good conscience. And you’re pretty well past the stage of needing to build up your color-matching skills. But, that board! So beautiful and colorful! And still intact! Though there is that corner that’s kind of bent from when you hit your sister over the head, but we all know she was cheating and totally deserved it, anyway.

A great way to reuse old board games is to use them as book covers. They are about the same thickness/stiffness (weight) as book board or box board, so they work great. Plus, they’re already snazzy looking so you don’t have to cover them! Use them in a Coptic binding with some lovely colored thread. Or, glue some book cloth in between to form the spine and make some regular ol’ covers. It’s a great look, and easy, too!

2. Gift wrap

Granted, you don’t want to become your mother, who insists you open all your gifts carefully so that you don’t rip anything. I’m not suggesting that you crazy with this.

But every once in a while, at my birthday or during the holiday season, I get one of those gifts. You know, the one from that person you secretly think about hating sometimes because they’re such a perfect over-achiever, that looks so beautiful you’re afraid to touch it.

If I see some gift wrap that strikes my fancy, then I’ll be careful in its removal. It’s great for folded book covers or to cover your ugly book boards. Be aware, they aren’t super durable and will hardly be archival, but it’s an inexpensive, easy way to get cover material (and recycle!).

3. Scrap paper

If you’re like me, you end up with a lot of scrap paper. Whether it’s from a bad run-in with the printer (who knew that it would print eight copies when I only needed one?) or leftover handouts from some social function, save these.

While you’ll probably never use scrap paper to make a super-functional book, they are great for practice. And practice makes perfect, right? And I’m light-years from perfect, so I need all the practice I can get.

If I’m planning a project that will use expensive materials, I might make a smaller practice book called a dummy. The dummy will let me practice the technique and get familiar with it. It can also help me iron out any wrinkles so that I go into the project knowing what I’m doing.


And now, I want to apologize for my weeks of absence. Life has gotten a little crazy lately! My husband heard back from graduate programs he had applied to, so there was a lot of thinking, number-crunching and ultimately, decisions to make, and that has been taking up a lot of my time.

Aside from that, I promised you a couple of things, specifically a video tutorial of how to determine paper grain and a how-to. I have worked on both intermittently, I promise, but it turns out that my video shooting/editing skills are not all that they should be. I appreciate your patience and continued support of this blog.

No-Sew Books: Folded-Over Accordion

This is one of the simplest books to make, and requires little more than some folding and cutting. It’s so easy, in fact, that you may have made them as a project in elementary school. I can remember some coloring-book version that I put together as a five-or-six-year-old.

You can start off with any size of paper and fold into pretty much whatever fractions you’d like. For simplicity’s sake, however, I’ll explain eighths. Also, I’ll be using scrap paper, because I’m eco-friendly (cheap?) and recycle and stuff.

Basically, fold your paper in half, and then in half again. This will make fourths. Then fold it in half once more for eighths. Yay, we can calculate exponential numbers!

I prefer to make each fold on its own, as that means that each fold will be more precise and your chances of ending up wonkified are decreased.

Making a folded accordion book by hand.

Folding with uber accuracy!

1) After I make the first fold in half (lengthwise), I will unfold it.

2) Then I will fold each side in on itself to meet in the middle crease I just made, and crease those folds as well.

3) Then I unfold it and fold it half the other direction (widthwise).

After you have your paper in eighths, you’ll want to lay it flat. Now comes the hard part, ok? So pay extra attention and be super careful.

Alright, now you cut up the middle crease, lengthwise, three quarters of the way. So, essentially, it will look like the general shape of a pair of pants. See below.

Making an accordion book by hand.

Make and fold your paper pants.

I know. Very difficult.

Then you just fold it over, alternating which direction you fold in, and leaving the middle part folded over, annnnd voila! You have yourself a no-sew accordion book.

Make an accordion book by hand.

The final product. Fancy, huh?

To make an accordion with a paper you’ve folded more, just follow the same instructions. But, cut down one crease, then move down to the next crease and start on the other side and cut in (see below).

I don’t make many accordions, but they are a lot of fun for some types of projects, especially those that benefit from a run-on sort of feeling. The nice thing about these is that you can unfold them and see all the pages at once.

An excellent project might be a timeline of a vacation or international trip. They make super cute gift photo albums—just make some strategically-placed notches in your pages and slip the corners of the photo in. I’ve also seen them used as catalogues, for collections of stamps or leaves. As I mentioned, they also make great projects for kids—they’ll love it.

Happy bookmaking!