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Bookbinding 101: Japanese Four-Hole Binding

by Grace Bonney

Welcome back to Bookbinding 101! Last week, we made a pamphlet-stitched book, and this week we’ll be experimenting with a stab binding.

Here, the book block, or the body of the book, is a stack of single sheets rather than a signature. Therefore, stab bindings allow you to make books that are not possible with other bindings. For instance, in a pamphlet-stitch book, each leaf, or page, cannot have a different color. But in a stab-bound book, you can use scraps of different weights, textures and colors as long as they are the same size or can be cut to the same size. This is the perfect project for someone looking to try a scrapbook or family memento book — just in time for this month’s theme. Enjoy! — Pooja

Photos and styling by Claire Dalgliesh

The full how-to continues after the jump . . .

(See my “Tools and Materials” notes from my Five-Hole Pamphlet Stitch tutorial.)


  • 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



  • 1 roll unbleached French linen thread
  • 5 sheets 5″ x 7″ paper for pages
  • 2 sheets decorative 5″ x 7″ paper for covers (The paper I used for this project was purchased at Morita Washi in Kyoto, Japan. This wonderful shop sells a fabulous variety of handmade washi [Japanese paper] for reasonable prices.)



There are four basic variations of the Japanese stab bind: Kikko Toji (Tortoise Shell Binding), Asa-No-Ha Toji (Hemp Leaf Binding), Koki Toji (Noble Binding) and Yotsume Toji (Four Eye Binding). Today, I’ll share a tutorial for Yotsume Toji, the most common variation.

1. Using your ruler and a pencil, mark four sewing stations. The four sewing stations are at least 1/8″ from the spine edge. (I marked mine 1/2″ from the spine edge.) Station 1 is at least 1/2″ up from the tail; Station 4 is at least 1/2″ from the head. (I marked mine 1″ from the tail and the head.) Stations 2 and 3 are equally spaced between.

2. Using your awl, pierce sewing stations. Piercing through this book block is a bit of a challenge. Many book artists use a drill or a hammer and nail. Just watch your fingers! I use an inexpensive binder clip to hold my book together.

3. Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end.

4. To bind: Begin at Station 2 (back cover side). Pull your needle through Station 2. Pull snug.

5. Wrap your needle around the spine and back through Station 2.

6. Go through Station 1. Wrap needle around spine and back through Station 1.

7. Wrap needle around head to front cover. Go through Station 1.

8. Go through Station 2. Go through Station 3.

9. Go through Station 4. Wrap around spine and back through Station 4.

10. Wrap around tail to front cover. Go through Station 4.

11. Go through Station 3. Wrap around spine and back through Station 3.

12. Go through Station 2. Tie a square knot.

Additional Resources

Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions from a Master Craftsman by Kojiro Ikegami (available in English and Japanese) gives easy-to-follow instructions for making all the major, historically important Japanese bindings.

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. She blogs about family, travel and design at linsiwolsie.

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.

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  • Beautiful! It looks doable even for me who rarely pick up needle and thread except for little mendings. Marked it for my future project:) Thank you for sharing!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve been a book binding enthusiast since I started college and I appreciate detailed step by step tutorials (it’s not as intuitive as people may think!)

  • This stitch has such a classy feel to it – simply, but perfect for a little gift book.

    Thanks for the clear instruction and detail explanation.

    This is probably the one stitch that I only bring out for special project – as I personally like my books to be open fully and this type of stitch doesn’t allow for that so it only comes out to play when I am making some thing special for family.

    Thanks for a great post…

  • Compliments on the tutorial, those are hard to make! :D I havve done a course on this binding, but with hard cover. From you I got the idea that it can be made also differently and more playfully.

  • love your tutorial! whats the maximum number of pages you can bind together using this method?

  • This works great for rebinding magazines like I sometimes need to do, thanks for the tutorial!

  • I made a short story to give to a friend and only just needed something to keep the pages together. This tutorial came in very handy and I found it very easy given I have never done such a thing before. It lookes great, thanks!

  • I would love to do this for a 8.5×11 portfolio booklet. If I add more holes, do you know how it would change the sectioning?

  • Lovely photos and narrative of this binding. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit Morita Washi in Kyoto, you can browse the selection of Japanese washi, chiyogami and katazome-shi stocked in the United States at washiarts.com

  • With soft Japanese paper, do you not need to pre fold the pages from head to tail beside the binding to open easily.?

  • I have been looking for directions for making a four hole self bound book for years. I made one in the 80’s but forgot how to do it. So at last I have found the pattern. I am looking forward to many hours of recearching the many binding patterns and finding different papers for covers.