Some time ago, I set out on the adventure of binding my own notebook from scratch.

The first step was the text block, which proved something of a rusty start but still was a lot of fun.

The second one I made went a lot easier, even though the method with the hole template was not as satisfactory as I’d hoped. I have to work something out there.

Once the text block was done, the next logical step was to continue with the case binding. I watched many videos on bookbinding, but the best method ever for notebooks, which I used here, I found in this awesome video: How to make a Moleskine style notebook by Sea Lemon.

Considering the rusty start I had with the inside pages, this went pretty smoothly.

So smoothly, in fact, that I forgot to take pictures altogether. A perfect flow experience. I got out my camera, put it within easy reach, and got started…

Some hours later, I was finished, saw the camera lying there and thought, darn, I forgot something!

Anyway, since I had so much fun with the whole thing, I later made a second text block and could at least take pictures of the cover-making process the second time around. So I do have something for Show-And-Tell. 😉

Step #1: Measure & cut ply board

If you have managed the text block, making the case binding is really not that difficult. You take measurements for front and back covers and cut out two pieces of ply board. Use the exact width of the text block, add a little for the height.

Step #2: Round corners (optional)

Since I rounded the corners of the text block, the corners of the cover had to be round as well, of course. 😉

The corner punch does not work with such thick material, so I used a craft knife. To match the corners made with the punch, use the text block as a template before you cut.

Step #3: The Spine

A piece of thicker paper is used for the spine (ply board is too inflexible for this purpose). It should have the same width and height as the spine of the text block. I used some 200 g/m² paper I had lying around. Roll it a bit, e.g. with a pencil, to make it curve.

In an attempt to be economical with my material, I used the short side of the paper (which has the same height as the inside pages, but not quite the height of the ply board pieces) to be able to get more out of it. I found that it does not matter at all if the spine is a little shorter. Works perfectly well anyway. 😉

Step #4: Fabric for cover

Glue the cover pages and the spine onto the faux leather using PVA glue. Make sure to leave a small gap between the parts to allow for easy folding. And, of course, a border around it to glue to the back side.

Make sure to run a bone folder over it to smooth out any air bubbles. And: Make sure no fluff ball, no matter how small it might seem, gets caught in the glue. I had a tiny, tiny one on the cover and thought it was no big deal, so I didn’t remove it. A big mistake! It does show and makes a little bump in the fabric.

Glue the corners last. It is a bit tricky to glue the fabric to the rounded corners. It takes a little practice and a lot of patience.

A Note on Material

For my first try I used black faux leather for the binding, the second time around I used this darker red one.

However, I found that the red one was a little too thick for this purpose. It was very difficult to get around the corners and was a little reluctant to stay in place once glued. So, make sure that you have thin material.

If you don’t like faux leather or want to try something different (or if you have difficulties finding some), you can, of course, replace it with other materials. Colored or patterned paper is a good alternative.  So is book cloth. (Although I have no experience yet how those work with round corners.)

If—like me—you find that specifically labeled book cloth is too expensive and too limited where pattern choices are concerned, you can easily make your own. Get any fabric that you like, double-sided iron-on adhesive, and tissue paper. Just search for “How to make book cloth” on YouTube. There are plenty of videos on that. I’m intending to try that out later.

Whatever fabric you eventually glue to your cover, the important part is that it has a linen or paper backing to allow glueing. Otherwise, if you just use fabric as it is, the glue will seep through.

Step #5: Elastic Band (optional)

If you like, you can add an elastic band. This makes the book look real professional. And it is very handy if you carry the book around with you.

After discovering bookbinding as a hobby, I also started looking more closely at notebooks that you can buy. So far, I had mostly bought cheap and very simple hard-backed notebooks. Now I started looking a little more closely at Moleskine and Co. While I like the style, I find that I don’t like the elastic bands they use. They often have very, very! thin elastic bands that look worn out even before you buy them.

Thus, I’m very happy that my local arts and crafts store has this wider band of about 2 cm in stock.

The width you use is up to your taste, of course. But make sure you make the elastic band tight enough so it does not hang loose, but otherwise to stretch it just a little. Try it out. It does not need that much tension.

Step #6: Join cover and text block

Then, join the cover and the inside pages by glueing the first and last page of the text block to the inside of the cover.

Voilá! After the glue has dried, you now have a pretty notebook to fill.

I love these notebook because they are handmade and fully personalizable while at the same time they look really professional, as if they were bought in a store.

Really cool! They also make good a present if you know someone who writes.

For sure this is not going to be the last one I’ve made. 😀