Level 5 Induction 1 : Coptic

This is a multi-section sewing structure that is usually visible on the spine of the book. The Coptic sewing is characterised by lines of chain link stitches across the spine. A useful structure for books that you want to open flat.

This is an ancient sewing pattern for making books and one of the first structures developed to join multiple gatherings of folded sheets together. The Copts were an early Christian community from Egypt  – so this sewing pattern is about 2000 years old.

Use coloured thread to accentuate the sewing pattern or sew in white thread for a more subtle texture. You can have as many lines of chain stitches as you like and it is possible to make them angled across the back of the book or even to create writing with them though this is quite difficult!

Take your time with this one as it can seem quite complicated, especially at the start. You will speed up once you have done it once or twice. You can ask the technician for help if there is anything you are not sure of.

Sew with short pieces of thread (100cm at a time) and join new pieces in when you need to. If you sew with long pieces of thread they are more likely to get tangled up which is very frustrating. The best knot to use to join new thread is called the weaver's knot but if you find this too difficult, just use any knot. Join on the inside of a section and try not to pull the knot through a hole.
Tip: keep the grain direction of all papers running head to tail or parallel to the spine folds.
  1. Start by folding up some 16-page sections. Each section is made from 4 folded sheets of paper gathered together, folded and pressed well with the bone folder. The better the sections are pressed the easier it is to make a strong and stable structure so press them twice with the bone folder.  Fold 6 sections as the chain link stitches show better on a thicker book.
2. Fold two pieces of thin card for soft covers in half. To get a sharp fold, score the sheets first using the scoring board. mark up the centre point on the long edge then line this up in the scoring board. Press and draw down with the bone folder to make the crease.
3. Make a guide for the sewing holes from a single sheet of folded paper. Lay a ruler along the fold and mark up for the holes at 1.5cm, 6cm, 10.5cm, 15cm and 19.5cm.
For future projects 

You can have as many holes as you like and they can be placed wherever you like but some things to bear in mind when designing are: 

1. More holes take longer to sew.

2. Avoid large spaces between holes (max 5-7cm).
4. Use the guide, pricking cradle and hole-making tool to make 5 sewing holes in each section. Also make the same holes in the two cover pieces. Do this neatly to get straight lines of sewing.
5. Gather the sections together and check that the holes align across the back of the book.
6. Thread up a needle with a length of thread. You will need a meter (100cm) of thread to start with. Take one cover and the first section and stand them upright on your desk, side by side. Use a wooden peg to hold them together at the top but only peg from the middle of the cover to the middle of the first section as you will need access to the centre folds for the sewing. Take the needle and thread in through the bottom hole of the cover and come out of the top hole. Pull the thread through until about 10cm hangs out of the bottom hole. Use a small piece of masking tape to stick this tail to the cover.

7. Now, take your needle and thread across and into the top hole of the first folded section. Pull the thread through and then come down and out of the second hole. Keep the sewing tension tight as you go on this one as you cannot adjust it at the end.

8. Now take the needle and thread across and into the second hole down of the cover section. Pull the thread through. Now you are going to come back out of the same hole but go around the thread that lies in the inner fold as this will anchor the thread inside the cover (shown). As you come back out of the same hole, try not to pierce the thread that is already in the hole. If you create some tension in the sewing thread by pulling it a bit, you will find you have more room to go through the hole a second time.
9. Take the needle and thread across and back into the middle of the paper section through the second hole. You are forming a connection between the cover and the first section made from two bits of thread. Now take the needle and thread down to the third hole whilst you are inside the first paper section.

10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 to make the same connection at the third and fourth holes down.

11. At the fifth hole, peel away the masking tape that is holding the thread at the start and then tie a tight knot between this thread and the thread that you have been sewing with.

12. Take the peg out of the pages and lay them horizontally on your desk (cover at the bottom) with the spine facing you and lining up with the edge of the workbench. Place the next section on top and check that the sewing holes align.

13. Now we begin the chain link pattern: take the needle and thread up and into the hole above the one you last came out of. Bring the needle and thread out of the second hole. Pull through. To make the first chain link stitch, point the needle in the opposite direction of travel and take it between the last two sections (or cover and first section) and behind the threads connecting these sections at the second hole. This move will feel awkward at first until you find the knack. Then take the needle and thread back into the second hole of the top section trying not to pierce the thread that is already there.

14. Repeat this link stitch at the next two holes.

15. At the end of the section you can point your needle towards the outside of the section but make a similar link by going between (sections) and behind (threads) as before.

16. Now place the next section on top, check holes align and sew into the hole directly above the one you have just come out of. Sew out of the second hole.

17. Make chain link stitches as you did before at the next three holes, pointing the needle backwards as you go between the previous two sections and behind the link stitches there. At the end of the section, make a link then sew into the next section.

18. Continue with this sewing pattern until you reach the end of all sections, including the cover,  when you should finish with a double kettle stitch.

The finished sewing.

Now give the pages a short nip in the press between two pressing boards, to squeeze some air out of the pages. 

Then set up your pages between the two boards ready for glueing:

Use the small brush to apply one or two layers of PVA to make the spine stronger and to seal the gaps between the sections. The spine should look white all along whilst the PVA is wet so check that you have filled in all the gaps. Rub the loose ends of thread into the glue with your fingers.

When the glue is dry, carefully remove the book from the boards and take to the technician at the guillotine for cutting. (The glue is dry enough when it doesn’t stick to your fingers. Should take about 5-10mins)

When you have finished, please tidy up your workspace by placing the hand tools into the quarantine tray and any rubbish into the bin.

Please also wash out the brushes you used and leave them in the pot in the sink.

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