How to make a stab binding

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Finished book

Create an elegant, strong, three-hole stab binding with painted covers.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - You Will Need

You will need:

  • Around eight sheets of soft thick paper – I’ve used 320gsm cotton Khadi paper 15cm x 10.5cm
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Thread – I’ve used pale blue waxed linen
  • Needle
  • Awl
  • Watercolour paint or ink
  • Bulldog clip
Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Mark sewing holes

Once you’ve painted the covers and let them dry, we’ll be ready to mark the sewing holes. I went for a simple watercolour wash, like a horizon line at sea.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Prick sewing holes with awl

Pencil in three holes: One at the top, a centimetre down and a centimetre in from the left hand side. The second hole in the middle, around half way down, and one centimetre in (….I’ve used the watercolour line as a guide.) And finally the third hole, equal distance in from the left and up from the bottom edge.

Make sure your pages line up by gently banging them down squarely on a flat surface. Using an awl, carefully prick the holes right through all the pages, straight down through the book – watch out for what’s underneath!

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Bulldog clip to hold pages

When your holes are pricked right through, and the pages are banged square again, you can place the bulldog clip on the fore-edge (on the right hand side.)

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Thread needle

Load your needle with thread – four times the height of the book will be plenty. You don’t need a knot.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Start in the middle

Begin by finding the centre of the book – Mine has eight pages, so I’m starting four pages in – Take your needle through from the middle hole to the front outside cover. Let the (7cm-ish) tail hang down into the book.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - First stitch

Now take your needle along to the top hole, and go through all the pages.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Close up of wrap around

Wrap the thread right around the spine and go back in to the same hole.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Pull thread tight

Pull the thread tight so that it really bites in to the soft paper.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Down to middle hole

Go down to the middle hole on the back cover and come through to the front.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Continue to bottom hole

At this point don’t wrap around the spine, but continue down to the bottom hole….

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Wrap around spine

…and get ready to wrap around the spine again, back in to the same hole.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Keep tension tight

Remember to keep the tension tight.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Back to middle hole

Come back to the middle hole.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Final stitch

Now, instead of taking the needle right the way through the book…

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - take needle to  centre

…you’re going to do a little shimmy – wiggle the needle so that it comes out in the centre of your book…

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Reunite with tail

…reunited with the tail end.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Reef knot

Tie off with a double knot (aka a reef knot) then trim and tuck the ends away neatly.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Tie off

Simple and strong.

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Two three hole stab bindings

Make another one!

Make a stab binding with The Travelling Bookbinder - Four three hole stab bindings

Make a series!

Experiment with cover design and the middle sewing hole position.

This is the step by step photographic version of the project developed for Toast‘s Time to Make series – you can watch the short film on their IGTV channel published 21st May. You’ll need an Instagram account to view it.

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