The Perfect Gift: Bookmaking 101

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

25 thoughts on “The Perfect Gift: Bookmaking 101”

  1. 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. 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. 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!).

    1. 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. :)

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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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