You've probably never made your own sketchbook — it's easy enough to buy one, after all. Possibly the thought of making this thing never even occurred to you.
I'm here to say: Think about it!
Bookbinding gives you the freedom to choose the size, paper and style you want. It's not expensive. And if you truly love drawing, it can produce so much joy.
I'm going to teach you how to make an A5 sketchbook bound using the saddle stitch, a relatively easy bookbinding technique that involves sewing the cover and inside pages together at the same time. There are variations of the stitch, but my favorite is the five-hole saddle stitch.
But first you get to pick your papers. Think about what you want to use the book for. If you often paint with watercolors , you may want watercolor paper. Consider weight, too, since paper that's too thick will not fold easily. I suggest not going above 200gsm; I used a 130gsm cartridge paper for the tutorial below.
The paper you select for the cover should be heavier than the inside pages — at least 200gsm. I like to make my cover ½ to 1½ cm larger in width and height than the inside pages so it neatly covers everything inside.
For my cover, I printed one of my illustrations onto a 220gsm natural cartridge paper. Experiment with your own cover designs. Because: joy.
Make Your Own Sketchbook
What You Need
- Multiple sheets of A4 paper for inside pages
- 1 sheet of decorative A4 paper for the cover
- Bone folder (made of bone, heavy acrylic or Teflon)
- Bookbinding awl (used to pierce sewing holes)
- Waxed linen thread
- Bookbinding needle
- 2 binder paper clips
- 4 small pieces of board to use with binder clips
- Steel ruler
1. Fold the Inside Pages
Fold over your paper, lining up the edges but not creasing the fold. Hold the bone folder perpendicular to the paper. Pressing gently, smooth the side along the fold. The bone folder will help you produce a sharp crease.
The more accurate you are, the neater your sketchbook will be. Don't be sloppy!
2. Fold the Cover
Do this exactly the same way you did your inside pages.
3. Assemble Your Sketchbook
Lay the cover page flat and nest each inside page atop one another. Make sure your book is neat and lined up.
To hold the papers in place, clamp two binder clips on opposite sides of the horizontal length of the book. Use two pieces of heavy cardboard under each clip on either side to prevent damaging or creasing your paper. Do not put them on the spine.
4. Pierce Your Holes
Using a ruler and a pencil, mark out five holes. Hole 3 will be precisely in the center of your book, and the remaining holes will be equidistant apart.
Using your bookbinding awl, pierce the five holes. Holding the awl at an angle will better ensure that the holes go straight through the pages and the cover's spine.
5. Thread Your Needle
The amount of thread you need depends on the size of your book. As rule of thumb, use a length that can wrap vertically around the book one and a half times. It's better to have too much than not enough.
With your needle, pierce through the thread approximately 5 cm from the end. Thread the end through the needle's eye, slide the thread upward and pull tight. This will prevent the thread from sliding out.
A waxed thread isn't necessary, but it helps. If you do not have a ready waxed linen thread, you can run it through some beeswax.
6. Sew Your Book
Let's take this one step at a time!
Starting from the inside of the book, take your needle and enter Hole 3.
Pull all the way through and leave about 3 cm of thread on the inside of the book. You'll use this tail for a knot at the end.
From the outside, go through Hole 4 and pull through to the inside.
Then, from the inside, go through Hole 5 and pull through to the outside.
From the outside, go back through Hole 4 and pull through to the inside.
Remember to pull everything tightly while stitching. It is important to keep a good tension — otherwise, you will have a very loose binding and a loose book.
From the inside, go back through Hole 3 and pull through to the outside.
From the outside, go through Hole 2 and pull through to the inside.
From the inside, go through Hole 1 and pull through to the outside.
From the outside, go back through Hole 2 and pull through to the inside.
From the inside, go through Hole 3 and pull through to the outside.
Make a knot: Thread your needle underneath the stitch between Hole 3 and 4 on the outside. Make a loop and thread the needle through. Carefully pull tight so the knot sits neatly on top of Hole 3.
Take your needle and thread it back through Hole 3, pulling the knot to the inside. Be careful not to pull too tightly or you will rip the paper.
Using both ends of the thread, make a knot and pull tight.
Slip the ends underneath the stitches so they are discreetly hidden, then carefully trim.
You have now mastered the saddle stitch and have your own personal sketchbook! There are many other bookbinding techniques out there, so get out there and try some.
You may never buy a sketchbook again!