The Perfect Gift: Bookmaking 101

June 21, 2012

Summer is here! For many of us that means things like summer camp and road trips. So I asked Amy of This Heart of Mine to think up a perfect gift to make for kids who’ll be doing a bit of traveling this summer. I love the project she came up with — bookmaking is awesome! — kisses, Gabrielle

Bookmaking is a project close to my heart. I’ve been making sewn books since childhood. Made with cereal box covers, covered in wrapping paper, filled with stories and ‘thumb thing‘ drawings. In college, I spent a few semesters learning every which way to create and compile books. Even though they weren’t filled with my thumbprint drawings, each was a labor of love and my work was joy-filled.

I spend time each year teaching bookmaking to school-aged children. The children are excited and I love talking about and teaching about bookmaking. There is just so much potential in a blank book! I have this dream that if I can continue to share my joy and love of bookmaking, there will always be moms and children making cereal box cardboard and wrapping paper books in the years and decades to come.

Books can be made any size that works for you and your materials. Below are the measurements for the book I am sharing. I worked to get the most out of paper materials while paying attention to the paper grain, all to make a nicely sized book. And some of the ‘tools’ below are rudimentary, for sure, but in using them, it gives many more people access to bookmaking.


1. One piece of cardstock, cut to 5 ¾” x 12″
This size allows two covers to be cut from one 12″ x 12″ cardstock piece. Try to cut the paper so the fold will go with the grain.

2. 8 pieces of paper, cut to 5½” x 9½”
This size allows three “pages” to be cut from one 11″ x 17″ piece of paper. Try to cut the paper so the fold will go with the grain. Most of the time, in 11″ x 17″ paper, the grain runs the long way.

3. 1 colored tip pin

4. 1 dull-tip needle

5. 1 hook and loop dot (you know, Velcro)

6. 1 length of linen thread, cut to 20″
Linen thread is stronger than cotton thread and is the choice of bookmakers for its strength. If you only have access to cotton thread, for this simple book, it should be alright. [linen thread url - ]

7. 2 clothespins

8. pencil, scissors, glue stick

1. Let’s get started! Fold all eight sheets of paper, individually. With the paper laying on a flat surface, match up the corners and fold the paper. Make a good crease. Then stack all eight sheets, spine (the fold) on spine on spine. This creates one signature.

2. With the cardstock laying horizontally on a flat surface, lay the stacked signature on the left side with the spine (folded edge) to the right and the pages edge to the left. Note: There should be equal amounts of cardstock showing to the top, left and bottom of the signature. Make a small mark with a pencil right next to the spine at the bottom and the top.

3. Remove the signature and fold the cardstock on the marks. Make another good crease. Note: You will notice, if you are folding with the grain, how agreeable the paper is to be folded. Smooth and clean. You can check your work by slipping the signature in, stacking the spine on spine. If the signature disappears, things are good.

4. Find the clothespins. Neatly stack the signature and stack it on the colored cardstock, spine on spine. Clip things into place with the clothespins. Note: There should be equal amounts of cardstock showing at the top and the bottom.

5. Use the pencil to mark three sewing stations in the center of the signature. One in the middle and one about an inch from the top edge and one about an inch from the bottom edge. Note: Don’t have a ruler handy? For the top and bottom marks, using the length of a thumbnail (adult) or the first joint of the thumb (child) works perfectly.

6. Next up, the colored tipped pin. Use it to poke holes at the sewing stations you just marked. Watch out for fingers because this pin is sharp! When you’re finished, find a safe place for that pin so it doesn’t get lost.

7. Thread the needle with the linen thread. There should be one long thread tail and one short tail, not equal lengths. And no knots quite yet.

Time for sewing! Start in the center hole in the middle of the book. Once on the backside, put the needle and thread in through the top hole, between the clothespins.

Back in the middle, skip the center hole and put the needle and thread through the bottom hole.

For the final sewing step, put the needle and thread back through the center hole.

The sewing is complete. After removing the needle, find a safe place for it so it’s not lost.

8. Once the two ends have been returned to the middle, one tail should be laid to the right, one tail to the left and the middle loop should be in the center. Gently pull the two tails to pull the sewing taut. Proceed to tie a square knot/box knot ON TOP OF the loop in the center. Tying the knot on the loop will keep the loop from getting snagged at a later time.

9. Trim the thread tails. Not too close to the knot for fear it would come untied and the book would fall apart.

10. Folding the flap. With the covered signature closed, make a mark just slightly out from the cover’s edge.

11. Flip the signature out of the way and fold on the mark. Once the fold has been made, check your work by folding the cover and signature inside. The cover should fit and not be bunched up inside the flap.

12. Find the hook and loop dot. Remove one of the adhesive cover pieces, the hook and loop should stay together. Stick the dot to the flap near the right side edge, halfway down, halfway up.

Remove the other adhesive cover piece, again with the hoop and loop still together, and press the flap to the cover. With this the hook and loop dot is perfectly placed.

Now use the hook and loop all you want!

The book is finished. All that is left is the matter of decoration. Do what you wish, make it your own! The possibilities are endless. For the zigzag covers, I first printed the papers with a homemade stamp and paint, allowed them to dry and then cut them down to size. The heart was added to the red cover after the book was constructed.

Sewing a book is a really fun project for people of all ages.

Good luck!


- An anytime gift for your sister or best friend
- A birthday party activity for kids
- A classroom activity

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Danielle (elleinadspir) June 21, 2012 at 7:02 am

I can’t wait to make these. A million thank yous. My son loves little books to write and draw in. And he loves giving stories and drawings as gifts. I think we will make these to give family at the holidays, filled with stories.


2 Jody June 21, 2012 at 7:03 am

These are SO beautiful! This is something that all three of my kiddos will love. The teacher in me would want to point out that this is a versatile tool for differentiating instruction. :)


3 Janae @ Bring Joy June 21, 2012 at 7:05 am

I too, was a child obsessed with reading & making my own books! As an adult, I’ve made a few homemade books, & love the feel & look of them. I’ve even used my husband’s homemade paper to fill the pages of some of the books I’ve made. But, with all of this, I haven’t done any of this with my kids, so thank you for breaking it down & showing how to do it–and I love that your “rudimentary” tools are things that I know I have, & I don’t have to go out & buy something.

Beautiful pictures, btw. (Is that your little girl? She’s gorgeous!).


4 amy c June 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I’m excited you make books! It’s so fun. And children really like it. Thanks for your kind words. Yes she is mine and thank you. :)


5 Ashley Blossom June 21, 2012 at 7:18 am

These are incredible! I’ve got to make them immediately! FOR EVERYONE! :)


6 jane June 21, 2012 at 11:44 am

Can’t wait to make these. Quick question…what kind of paper is used for the filler? It doesn’t look like regular printer paper. I’d love any help and tips on where I could find that kind of paper. Thanks in advance!


7 amy c June 21, 2012 at 3:58 pm

The specific kind of paper there is 24 lb Royal Fiber paper in Driftwood. I haven’t been able to find that specific paper anymore, except at the 70 lb weight. Royal Fiber does have some other color options. Here’s a link to some –


8 jane June 23, 2012 at 3:44 am



9 how2home June 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm

This is such a lovely idea! I need to try this out :) thanks for posting the tutorial!


10 CMN June 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Absolutely. Brilliant! Love this tutorial. Thank you so much!


11 Sara June 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I love making books! What a great idea for kids. One thing I thought I would suggest is you could make the red/cover piece a bit taller and fold it up along the bottom edge before assembling. This would create a little pocket that souvenirs could be placed in. Adorable!


12 amy c June 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Great idea!


13 April Louise June 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm

These look so fun and easy to do :) I think I’ll have to give it a go! :)


14 Marisa June 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm

These are beautiful! 9yr old girl birthday party was the first thing that popped in my head—party activity and a useful favor in one! I see us making a lot of these in the future.


15 Lisa Fyfe June 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm

these are dreamy. can’t wait to make them!


16 Alysa June 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Awesome! And leagues above the fold-and-staple method, without being too much extra hassle. I emailed this one to my nine year old sis and bet she’ll be making them in the morning.


17 Lexy @ The Proper Pinwheel June 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Love Amy. Love these books. She has such a talent and I’m so happy she was willing to share. I’m totally going to mooch and make some books for my primary children! They’ll love them. Thanks for sharing~!


18 Trina {Beginner Beans} June 21, 2012 at 10:45 pm

What a beautiful and sweetly simple gift! Definitely pinning this for the near future :)


19 marie June 22, 2012 at 11:27 am

made me think of…a while ago i stumbled over a simple instant way of tiny little ‘books’ – called instant zine. no glue no tape no sewing : )
the only how-to-do i find here:


20 Karen June 25, 2012 at 8:23 am

This reminds me of a diy project I posted once… it was a travel booklet and the idea is similar! Love this idea! makes a great farewell gift….
Check it out… it’s really cute:


21 Katy June 26, 2012 at 2:15 am

What an amazing idea!You are awesome!
Can’t wait to make my own book!


22 Sara June 26, 2012 at 5:49 am

My 5 year old daughter and I made some the moment I saw this DIY. Although I admit I only used it for inspiration and didn’t follow the directions. Thank you for the idea!


23 Patricia June 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

Bonjour, Gabrielle!
This is a beautiful idea with clear instructions and photos!
I have taken the bookmaking approach for summer holidays as well but have adapted with a scrapbook & markers. I put up a link to it at
Your idea of two colours for cover and pages is excellent! Merci.


24 Tara Honeybird July 24, 2012 at 5:04 am

Wow!! These look like such great gifts :) Thank you for sharing!


25 Julie-Ann December 22, 2012 at 4:15 am

Just made two of these for my nieces for christmas. The instructions and photos were great, very easy to follow. I’m sure they will love these handmade gifts.


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