H is for… half leather

Marching through our bookbinding alphabet,we are now to the letter H. Leather is one of the most enduring cover materials. Since the dawn of books animal hide has been used to bind and decorate books for all occasions. Half leather means that the corners and the spine are covered with leather and the rest is covered with marbled paper or book cloth. The leather protects the most vulnerable parts of the book from excessive wear.

 Lovely sample of half binding from TJBookarts

Beth Antoine’s exquisite half binding with marbled papers

G is for… gilt

Ooooh adding gold or silver to your book makes even the simplest tome a treasure to hold. Gilding is the process of adding precious metals to leather or paper bindings. There are gilding supplies available for anyone interested in apprenticing or taking a class.

gilded and enamel covers

beautiful detail on a gilded prayer book from Etsy

Red cover with gold gilding from 1700’s France

Etsy sample of a handmade book with beautiful gilided Art Nouveau cover

Great tutorial of creating a gilt spine here.

E is for… exposed binding

Exposed binding is an easy way to add a WOW factor to your tome. Instead of concealing the stitching, it becomes a decorative focal point. And it’s great for making books on the go because no adhesive is involved.

Exposed binding from Cailun

Exposed sewing on tapes from Feeling Bookish

Lovely exposed binding on cords from SlateBlu

Titanic Letterpress has several works with exposed binding to see if you click on the photo

Keith Smith has terrific books on making books without adhesive.

Tutorials here here and (long one) here.

D is for… dos a dos

This is a super fun binding! It’s two, two, two books in one. The term comes from French, meaning “back to back.” It’s not difficult to make and a ton to fun to use. You can keep two journals or a journal and a commonplace book or any other combo that suits your needs. It’s also makes a great interactive journal between two people.

top view of this binding from Brittle Paper

Dos-a-dos style with four books from Batcat Press

Beautiful dos-a-dos with ephemera at Altered by the Sea

Fantastic embroidered dos-a-dos book from the 17th century

Book of Common Prayer ca. 1895

Book of Common Prayer and 1633 New Testament


Tutorial here

C is for… coptic

Coptic stitching is one of my go-to bindings. It’s terribly easy and is useful for so many projects. I enjoy the straight lines and chain stitching that accentuates the open spine.

Lovely coptic binding nice and straight, from The Laurel Tree

Fantastic coptic with an added caterpillar stitched on the covers, from Katie Calak

coptic binding in a zigzag variation, from Garlic Harvest Studio

Up close and personal with another coptic variation, from Cailun

Video Tutorial here


B is for… Belgian

A lovely binding choice is the secret Belgian binding. I really love the simple lines and clean look. It’s not too difficult for those who have some experience with bookbinding and the results are beautiful. They make nice journals and albums. because it opens flat it can be a good option for left-handed people like me.

Click the pics below to visit the sites of these lovely books.



lovely sample from Art-is-try. You can really see why it is called secret. The choice of thread is perfect to hide the binding.

Closeup of this binding. Excellent work!

Inside view of Belgian binding from BookGirl

Another view of inside from Studio B.


Excellent instructions here.

A is for… adhesives

So the first letter in our book binding alphabet is for adhesives. There are many choices for sticky things to keep your book together.

  • Rice paste is easy and inexpensive to make at home. Recipe here or all over the Net.
  • wheat paste can be made from scratch but bugs like it so long-term it can be a problem. Recipe here or on the Web.
  • PVA–polyvinyl acetate, standard adhesive for bookbinders. Strong and long-lasting glue for porous materials like paper and wood. can be a bit pricey, depending on your source. Also it cannot be shipped in winter.
  • glue sticks–available everywhere
  • archival glues used for scrapbooking available ant any scrapbook supplier adequate for gluing down papers but not for hinges and corners such as boxes.
  • tapes come on tape guns and handheld applicators. They are quick and easy to use with little mess.
  • white glue like Elmer’s in not a good choice for most projects.

There’s a perfect adhesive for any job you have. If you decide to make a book that you want to last, it pays to do your due diligence and investigate the best adhesive for your project.

Questions? Did I leave an adhesive out? Leave a comment!

French binding examples

None of these are mine but they are amazing. Enjoy!

French binding variation

French binding tutorial

The white book on the bottom is French link binding

French link stitch for an art book

French link and kettle stitch

Pretty repurposed covers with French link

Another up cycled book with lovely French stitch binding

In art, bigger really is better

These days in the art community there is a wonderful movement that strives to get back to handcrafted, placing a premium on pieces that are brimming with the artist’s personality. I agree, I much prefer the one-of-a-kind over the mass produced. I prefer smaller pieces that are well done over larger pieces that lack detail. That said, there are some things about your art that are better bigger.


Bigger Dreams. Goal setting is important, but don’t forget your dreams in the day to day. When you are afraid, reach even higher.

Bigger Quality. How can you improve on your quality?

Bigger Knowledge. Take a class. Call a mentor. Read a book. Get into the studio and experiment. It is amazing how learning will spark the creative juices. Learn something new already!

Bigger Reputation. What do you want people to say when your name is mentioned? Make every effort to keep your word, ship on time and offer value every chance you can get.

Bigger Body of Work. Keep on growing. Keep on reaching. Keep on working.The most successful artists are the ones who are faithful to work work work.

Bigger Circle of Friends. Get out there and make sincere connections. Not just for your career but for your sanity. Friends keep you honest, give your ego a healthy boost and make sure you keep some balance. But adding to your professional Rolodex doesn’t hurt either.

Bigger Heart. Be generous with your information. Offer freebies. Donate profits or do work to sell for charity. People love people who aren’t afraid to share their knowledge with them.


These things, added up, will add up to a fulfilling artistic career. And all that will translate into bigger dollars, but all the other “biggers” will ensure that your increasing profits are not temporary, but a natural, permanent growth. And that bigger is definitely better.