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Bookbinding 101: Five-Hole Pamphlet Stitch

by Grace Bonney

Today I’m thrilled to introduce a guest DIY mini-series on bookbinding! This month’s family theme lends itself so nicely to scrapbook, photo album and memory book projects, so I thought this series would be perfect for anyone wanting to make their own. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Take it away, Pooja! — Grace

Hi, everyone! My name is Pooja Makhijani, and I’m a writer, editor, teacher and New Yorker living in Singapore. I first learned basic bookbinding at the Center for the Book Arts in Chelsea, New York City, and continued my studies as a creative writing graduate student at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.

My avocation became a vocation in 2010 when my partner and I left our beloved New York City for adventure in Singapore. I left behind a strong book arts community in the States and was eager to find or create one in my new home in Asia. So, in 2011, I launched a series of classes via my blog. Soon after, I was featured in The Straits Times, the national broadsheet, and became the go-to gal for book arts on this tiny island. Most recently, I’ve entered a long-term partnership with the National Arts Council to bring the book arts to as many as possible.

In my classes, I encourage students to look at the book or book-like structure as an art object and not merely as a vessel for their content. I remind them that all the elements of an artist’s book — from the paper to the text and/or images — are deliberately interconnected and work in concert. I’ve worked with children and senior citizens, and I relish the challenge of sharing my love of this quirky art with those who may not have the access or the means to procure expensive tools and materials. Now I’ve partnered with my friend Claire Dalgliesh — blogger, crafter, artist and fellow Singapore resident — to bring to you three easy bookbinding techniques. This series of posts by no means encompasses everything there is to know about book making, but I hope that it will inspire you to explore more! — Pooja

The full instructions (and additional resources for bookbinding) continue after the jump . . .

Simple bookbinding requires no heavy equipment. All you need are a needle and scissors and a few other minor tools.

When I lived in the States, I purchased my supplies from New York Central Art Supply in New York City or Paper Source in Brooklyn. Now I order my supplies online, often in bulk, from Talas, a New York City-based supplier of bookbinding tools and materials with a comprehensive online store.


  • 1 bone folder — a flat, polished tool made of bone or plastic used to score a fold in the paper into a permanent position
  • 2 3/8″ x 19 gauge (blunt tip) bookbinding needle
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 steel ruler
  • 1 binder’s awl, a tool used for piercing sewing stations, or the holes through which the needle and thread can pass through



  • 1 roll unbleached French linen thread
  • 5 sheets A4 (8.3″ x 11.7″) paper for pages
  • 1 sheet decorative A4 (8.3″ x 11.7″) paper for cover



Folding a sheet in half yields a folio. A signature is a compilation of two or more loose folios. The simplest method of binding a single signature codex, or a book bound on one edge, is with a pamphlet stitch. In this technique, the cover and signature are sewn at once. There are three basic variations of the pamphlet stitch: the three-hole (station), the four-hole and the five-hole. Today, I’ll share a tutorial for my favorite variation — the five-hole pamphlet stitch.

1. Using your bone folder, fold each of the five “pages” in half and nest them together.

2. Fold the “cover” in half.

3. Using your ruler and a pencil, mark five sewing stations. Station 3 is exactly in the center of the spine. Stations 2 and 4 are equidistant from the center. (I marked them 1.5″ from Station 1.) Stations 1 and 5 are equidistant from Stations 2 and 4. (I marked them 1.5″ from Stations 2 and 4, respectively.)

4. Using your awl, pierce the sewing stations.

5. Thread your needle. Do not tie a knot just yet!

6. To bind: Begin on the inside at Station 3. Pull your needle through Station 3. Pull all but 2″ of the thread to the outside.

7. Go through Station 4 to the inside.

8. Go through Station 5 to the outside.

9. Go through Station 4 to the inside.

10. Go through Station 2 to the outside.

11. Go through Station 1 to the inside.

12. Go through Station 2 to the outside.

13. Go though Station 3 to the inside. Tie a square knot around the long stitch, which crosses over Station 3.

Additional Resources

Kevin Smith’s Non-Adhesive Binding (Volumes I–V): This series of books is a book arts student’s bible. These incredible reference texts are a must-have.

ABC of Bookbinding by Jane Greenfield is an illustrated glossary covering terms related to bookbinding and the book.

Bookbinding: The Classic Arts and Crafts Manual by Douglas Cockerell is a classic work of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England and covers every aspect of the craft — from folding and collating pages to designing and inlaying on leather.

Book Arts Web is a collection of book arts sites on the web, including professional organizations, tutorials, reference materials and galleries with images. It’s also the home of the Book_Arts-L, a listserv with a treasure trove of technical tips, announcements and helpful banter.

* * *

About Pooja: Pooja Makhijani is a writer, editor, teacher and New Yorker living in Singapore. She blogs about arts and culture (and the book arts) in Singapore at notabilia (notabilia.wordpress.com). She blogs about family, travel, and design at linsiwolsie (www.linsiwolsie.com).

About Claire: Claire Dalgliesh is an Australian designer and blogger currently based in sunny Singapore. She fills her time exploring her new home country, crafting up a storm in her studio and, of course, sharing all that and more on her blog, Fellow Fellow (www.fellowfellow.com).

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  • Thank you for this – really clear pictures and timely step by step instruction.. I do alot of book binding and I have yet to use the proper thread – I more or less use what is available and it works..

    I may have to find the right thread one of these days and have a go..

    Thanks for the post..

  • Bookbinding has always hovered at the periphery of my crafting/making interests, but I assumed it took more equipment. This tutorial clears up that misconception, so I think I’ll be giving it a try soon.

  • This is amazing. i’ve been thinking of making a “year book” to commemorate mine and my partner’s 1 year anniversary so this came just in time!

  • Great post! I was wondering how you create the tape-like labels at the top of photos like the first image in this blog post. Do you have JPEGs of scans of masking tape that you add type to? I would love to re-purpose this idea for a project. Thanks!

  • great! and so easy! once a week I have two 10year old girls coming over to my place to have a “crafts and cookies hour” and I’m sure they’ll love this one :D

  • @Dana, I think a lot of folks have the misconception that making a book requires a lot of “stuff.” You don’t even “need” a bone folder (use the back of a metal spoon) or the awl (use a nail or your needle).

  • I am LOVING pamphlet stitching. Once you get the hang of it it’s so quick and simple. It also allos the sections to open flat (always a bonus for art journals)

  • this is an incredible post!!! I’ve been searching for a tutorial like this! Instructions are so clear and pictures are awesome! thanks so much for posting this! Excited to start making my own!

  • My previous attempts at binding have been semi successful (hey the paper doesn’t
    fall out). This well made tutorial will help me clean up my efforts. Thank you so much.

  • I am SO EXCITED about this bookbinding series. I took a course a few years back and have not used what I learned enough. This will be a fabulous refresher. Yay!

    Thanks, as always your wonderfulness is appreciated,


  • Thank you for taking the time to document this process. You gave a good mix of graphics to text with clear readability.

  • So glad to see book binding making the main stream. I have been a book binder, hand made paper artist for 12 years. The possibilities are endless for this medium! I teach classes in Traverse City, MI in hand made paper & book binding. Hope this spurs more folks to give it a try!!! Well done post.
    By the way it’s Keith Smith not Kevin.

  • I just came across your website & I love it already :)

    This was very helpful. I have to do dummy books for my stories in the coming weeks and will definitely use sewing for binding them now.

    Thank you!

    Lovely blog :)



  • French linen thread comes in various weights/thicknesses. Does anyone know which weight Pooja is using in this tutorial? Thanks much =)

  • @Pooja, thank you much! That’s the thread I wanted, but I was unsure about the weight. I’m using Tomoe River paper, so I think I’ll try this pamphlet with #15 thread and see how it goes. Cheers!

  • I Can understand this very well, I was taught this in my high school art class and it’s the only way I know how! The only thing I can’t find is how long you need the thread to be? Other then that I give this an 8 on a scale of 1-10, Good pictures and Great explanations.

  • These were great step by step instructions and a very good diagram of the sewing. I teach bookbinding and this was straight and to the point. Just one thing. The reference for the bookbinding books at the bottom should read “Keith” Smith not “Kevin” Smith.
    Nice Job!

  • This is incredible that you can do this yourself. Really taking DIY to the next level. May we suggest using baby blue or baby pink cover for homemade baby books? Track your child’s first’s in this custom made book & it will make for a wonderful keepsake for your child when they grow up.

  • Hi there, how woul one be able to add multiple signatures to a pamphlet stitch, before having to go ‘coptic’ or long stitch?

  • Jules, the pamphlet stitch is a single-signature binding. Multiple-signature binding is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

  • Fantastic explanation and photos. HOWEVER, I wonder if you have a way to find a calendar (8 1/2 x 11 portrait) at the top? You method would be great for that size in landscape.

  • So well explained that I’m linking to this from my blog. I hope you don’t mind ;) Thank you for making this.

  • I just finished binding my first signature!! This post is amazing. Ive always heard and seen others binding their own journals but thought it was too complicated or i didnt have tools or skills necessary. But you have changed that And for that im so grateful… Thank you sooo much

  • How would I bind multiple signatures with this method? I’ve an odd number (3) and I’m having a hard time figuring it out.

  • I think you mean Keith Smith in the “Additional Resources” section not Kevin Smith. I realize this is old but can easily be corrected. Not interested in having the comment posted on your blog. Link provided for your reference. http://www.keithsmithbooks.com/

  • Pooja thanks sooooo much. I have tried many times to figure this out, and even with videos, I have not been able to until now.
    This is my first of many times, the insts. were so clear and the pictures were worth their weight in gold.

    You Rock!

  • Hi Grace and Pooja,
    Just wanted to say a belated thanks for this tutorial. I’m a high school teacher and I’ve used this method since you first posted it for projects in many many classes. The students love it and the results are always fabulous.

  • Hi!
    I’m a 16 y/o rising highschool junior, and I noticed a lot of kids in my class use bullet journals and planners to stay organized! Thanks for your tutorial! Now I can make my own bullet journal so I can get myself together next school year.
    Thanks so much!

  • Fantastically comprehensive instructions. It was exactly what I needed as I’ve not done any bookbinding for a few years. I’m now able to make my own sketchbooks to take on holiday :)

  • Hi,
    I was wondering how I could use this same method to bind two different signatures with a cover?
    Please let me know your thoughts ASAP!

    Thank you!

  • hi, i have a question. i wanted to bind a book on a5 pages but i wanted it to be printed. could i print on book paper using my home printer? is there a specific type of book paper i should get if i do it at home and not done professionally?