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!

Brackets & Robotics: 2 Small Books

I’ve been making some smaller books lately. They’re the perfect size to get the grain right when starting from 8.5 X 11 paper — and I had a lovely ream of natural colored cotton Strathmore to put to good use.

I love making smaller books because they are the perfect way to experiment and try new things. They don’t take as much materials, so if you mess up, you aren’t wasting too much. They also tend to come together faster for me.

So, here are a few I made. All pictures taken with my iPod and edited with

This journal was really fun to make, though a little challenging. I wanted to cover the spine in leather, but alas, the square I wanted to use was just a little too small. (click for full view)

handmade book sewn onto cords

But, never fear! With a little improvisation, I decided to turn the leather so that the diagonal ran along the spine. This way, the corners flapped onto the covers. Then, I cut it into this cute bracket shape and glued it down. The scrolling cover material is just some scrap fabric I had around. I think it turned out really well!

On this second one, I tried to keep the fun feeling of the more stylized spine shape, rather than just the usual straight line. (Again, click for full view.)

book cloth handmade book with robots

I used the robot print to cover the book boards, being careful to glue it correctly so that the robot was in the center of the cover. I then glued mull and whatnot to get it sturdy-like. Finally, I cut the book cloth into the desired shaped and glued it onto the spine. I’m please with

I love making smaller books so much, but have a harder time finding a use for them… blergh! But then, I guess that finding a happy home for their creations is a challenge any bookmaker faces.

Hope this gave you some inspiration. Happy bookmaking!

This crafting station is now fully operational

My Husband is a super patient man. And by super patient, I mean the kind that sees the huge messes I left on the living room floor after a book-making frenzy and manages not to freak out. In fact, he managed to endure that mess (in varying degrees of catastrophic) for a whole week, which is how long it took me to get my projects finished and put away.

I can be a messy person. I have this creative momentum that leaves a destructive trail in its path. And since I am also easily distracted, it means that once my attention breaks for a second, I move onto something else—leaving a mess that I will totally clean up, real soon, I promise.

This happened a few more times and my husband was still patient, but I was feeling guilty. Mostly because since he’s a blogger and internet man extraordinaire, and the living room is where his desk and computer stuff are housed, it’s sort of like his office. And I was unceremoniously and obnoxiously taking over.


Also, he may have stepped on a crewel needle. Luckily, he just bent it and it didn’t go into his foot, but I felt terrible.

The Hubs, being the best man alive and all, suggested that I figure out what I needed and that we get those things.

So I took inventory, and decided that of the things I needed, first and foremost would be some drawers and a table top that I could adjust the height of. I dug out some drawers gifted to me from my mother, and the Hubs was good enough to take me on a trip to Ikea for a table with adjustable legs. And I thrifted the most perfect stool—not to tall or short with a nice wide, padded seat.

Sigh. So clean and organized (for now). I still need a larger cutting mat, but it’s almost perfect. Squee!

Two finished flat-back journals

Two flatback journals

I got to work on these two lovely books! I used the same technique for both text blocks and covers.

The text blocks were already made; one was sewn onto tapes, and the other was the same stitch but minus the tapes. So, the next step was to cut the book board, get it covered and lined up and glued together.

It sounds simple, but it turned out to be a messier procedure than it should have been. Although, knowing myself, I shouldn’t have been at all surprised.

Handmade journals.

I was a little worried with the floral one, because I forgot to double-check and ended up cutting the book board with the grain going in the wrong direction (yikes!). It looked like the covers might end up being curved, but I let is sit under some weights for a while and the covers straightened out nicely.

Overall, I was pleased with how these both turned out. They lay flat when opened and are the perfects journal size.

fabric covered handmade journal
The gray is just a simple fabric I had lying around. It is thick, which is ideal for covering books, and I loved the clean, simple lines. It reminds me of tire scuffs on a sidewalk. I also alternated light gray and white pages in the signatures.

leather and floral handmade journal

For the other, I covered the boards in a floral print and the spine in dark chocolate goat leather. The endpapers are a creamy orange color. I’m gifting this to my lovely friend Tess, and I think it’s very her.

Textblocks Ahoy!

Sewing books by hand

I've been busy with textblocks!

I just ordered some paper and book cloths to make some covers with, but they’ll be shipping all the way from the East Coast so I knew they wouldn’t arrive for at least a week, so I got busy sewing text blocks!

I mostly did a flat-back variation of a long stitch book, sort of a version of sewn onto tapes without the tapes. I’m sure it has a proper name, but I don’t know it. If you do, let me know. I also did a sewn onto cords binding. I braided some jute (it tends to look scrawny on its own), securing the ends with small bits of slip-knotted string, and then went to town.

making books by hand

The finished textblocks, ready to be covered.

All in all, I made 10 textblocks. I finished them off with some mull on the spine to increase strength and durability, and now they are ready to go. Now I just have a lot of casings to make!

sewing a book

I’m looking forward to getting my new materials. A lot. I’ll post some pictures of the final products. Now, if only UPS would hurry up…