Sewing Japanese

This is a book structure that sews single sheets of paper along one edge with a pattern of holes, which is usually one line equally spaced but this can vary. It is also known as a stab binding. It is a useful structure for when you have lots of single sheets of paper that you do not want to fold. Each page can be of different paper.

The draw back with this structure is that it does not open flat and usually depends on the flexibility of the paper to open well. Landscape format books may open better than portrait ones and it is sometimes possible to improve the opening mechanism by making “hinges” in pages with a scored line a few millimetres to the right of the binding – this works better with heavier weights of paper than thin stock.

This binding is relatively simple to put together. Gather all your pages in order and knock them up (align) to the binding edge. On the top sheet,  draw a pattern of holes say 5mm from the binding edge. Make the holes then sew through them with thread. (See sewing videos below) The hole pattern can be on a straight line, equally spaced or can be very complex. Some alternative sewing patterns – external website.

It will be difficult, at home, to achieve the precision on a Japanese binding that we get in the workshop when we use the paper drill and the guillotine so just try your best to line things up.

Here are some tips to help:

Cut each page individually using a template for the page made from 2mm grey board. Use a sharp blade and carefully cut round the edge of the board. Take your time and be careful not to cut into the board.

Use the template again to mark the hole positions. Draw them on the board then poke through with a suitable tool. The bookbinding punches are the best but what could you improvise with - hammer and nail? Compass point? Corkscrew!

A Japanese Screw punch might be a good investment if you want to make lots of these kind of books.
Make the sewing holes using a needle. They don't have to be huge, just big enough to get the needle and thread through. Again use the board template on top of each page to mark the hole positions. Use a heavy weight to hold the board in place if that makes it easier for you.
Reduce the number of holes in the pattern - choose simple patterns and space the holes about 5-7cm apart.
When you are ready to sew, gather everything in a tidy pile and use a weight to hold everything together whilst you sew. The edge of the book with the holes in it can hang over the edge of your work top.

Sew with strong thin thread so that you don't have to yank it through the holes. Go round again if you want more thread in the bind.

Don't worry if it isn't perfect.
Video: simple Japanese sewing
Video 2: Stab sewing “plain”
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