I Made a Coptic Stiched Book

One of the challenges I face in learning about bookbinding is a striking inability to think clearly in three dimensions; it’s no wonder that my vocations to date have been firmly rooted in the comfortable two dimensional plane of printing.

No more so was this true than in my attempt to sew together a coptic-stitched book today, helped along by this video how-to.

Coptic binding is simple, at its heart, but it requires the ability to retain a three dimensional picture of where you’ve been, where you’re at, and where you’re going, and this is something almost beyond my abilities.

But I kept at it, and here’s what I made:

Coptic-bound book

Detail of stitching on the coptic-bound book

Coptic-bound book standing up on its end

Coptic-bound book laying open, flat

Inside cover of the coptic stitched book

My stitching went off the rails a few times; most of the time I managed to wrangle things back into order, but there are a couple of gnarly bits there. Coptic stitching is a struggle to maintain just the right amount of tension in the cord to hold things pleasantly together, without making it tight enough to tear nor loose enough to flop around. I didn’t win that battle completely, and my book is a little too floppy for my tastes.

My big error in judgment was opting to use stock 20 pound printer paper for the inside pages; after dealing with the substantial living organism that is St. Armand machine made paper, constituted from rag not wood, stitching through Staples paper feels horrible and unforgiving and deeply unsatisfying. Never again.

That all said, the book does lay open flat rather pleasantly–coptic binding’s strong suit–and I was proud of my ability to translate the stitches on the video into stitches in reality.

I made the covers from the same sheet of “display board” I used to cover my hardbound book earlier in the week; I covered them with some lovely, thick green paper that Catherine gave me last year. The inside covers are Japanese paper from the same odds-and-sods lot I picked up at The Ikebana shop. The stitching is with green linen cord I purchased at the NSCAD art supply store a few years ago.

The only way I’m ever going to crack this thinking-in-3D nut is with practice, so I’ll make more coptic-bound books until I get it down.


Susan White's picture
Susan White on July 14, 2018 - 22:34 Permalink

These books are amazing!