The children use traditional Japanese bookmaking techniques to construct and bind their own books. For ages 9 to 13. Plan 2 to 3 sessions.
- Learning about traditional Japanese bookmaking
- Constructing a book
- Discovering practical uses for patterned papers
calligraphy, spine, binding
In traditional Japanese bookmaking, the hand-decorated covers are joined together by patterns of stitches along the spines, or back edges, of the books. The inside pages are folded to make them double-sided, since the ink that is used for Japanese calligraphy (decorative handwriting) tends to bleed through the paper. The completed books are usually filled with writings, haiku poetry, and paintings.
YOU WILL NEED
For each book
- Two pieces of patterned paper—8½ x 11½ inches (see note below)
- Two end papers—6 x 9 inches
- Embroidery thread—3 times the length (spine) of the book plus 24 inches
- Large-eyed needle
- Glue stick
- Paper clamp
- Scrap paper
In addition, for each book with a horizontal orientation
- Two pieces of cardboard for the hinged front cover—6½ x 1⅛ inches and 6½ x 8¼ inches
- One piece of cardboard for the back cover—6½ x 9½ inches
- Three to five sheets of paper—6 x 18 inches (6 x 9 inches when folded)
- Two strips of muslin or old sheet—6½ x 1 inch
In addition, for each book with a vertical orientation
- Two pieces of cardboard for the hinged front cover—9½ x 1⅛ inches and 9½ x 5¼ inches
- One piece of cardboard for the back cover—9½ x 6½ inches
- Three to five sheets of paper—9 x 12 inches (9 x 6 inches when folded)
- Two strips of muslin or old sheet—9½ x 1 inch
For adult use
- Hand drill
- Exacto knife and/or paper cutter
Note: Using papers patterned by the children will make the books more personal and teach the children a practical application for their artwork. Processes such as stamp printing, marbling, weaving, or paste painting work well.
- Make a book to use as an example.
- Cut the cardboard, end papers, and inside pages to size.
- Set out the cardboard, end papers, inside pages, strips of muslin, glue, and paper clamps.
- Set out the children's patterned papers.
How to Begin
- Sharing your example, tell the children about the Japanese style of bookmaking. Explain that, in the next several sessions, they will be constructing books in a similar style using their own decorated papers for the covers.
Constructing the book
- To make a hinge to facilitate the opening of the book, lay the two cardboard pieces for the front cover on top of the piece for the back cover, matching the outside edges. Glue a strip of muslin over the small space left between the front boards. Turn this over and glue the second strip of muslin to the back.
- Center the cardboard for the front and back covers on the undersides of the two patterned papers and glue them in place. Cut off the four corners of the paper at an angle close to the corners of the cardboard, taking care not to cut off the tips of the cardboard.
- Glue the sides of the paper to the cardboard, pressing them firmly against the edges of the cardboard. Center the end papers on the cardboard, covering the raw edges of the patterned paper, and glue in place. Turn the cardboard over and carefully press a ruler along the hinged area to bend open the front cover.
- Fold the paper for the inside pages in half to form the double-sided pages of the book and press the creases firmly.
- With the open sides facing toward the spine of the book, lay the folded pages over the end paper on the back cover. Lay the front cover on top and hold everything together with a clamp. (A piece of scrap paper between the clamp and the patterned paper will protect it from scratches.)
- Have the children make their covers and assemble their books, holding everything together with a clamp.
Note: When the glue has dry, have an adult use a hand drill to make holes through the thickness of the assembled books. The holes should be approximately ⅞ to 1 inch from the edge of the spine and ½ to 1½ inches apart. Be sure the holes are large enough for the needles to fit through easily. Once the holes are drilled, it is important that the clamps are not removed until the books have been sewn together.
- Cut the embroidery thread.
- Set out the clamped books with the holes drilled, embroidery thread, needles, and scissors.
How to Begin
- Explain that in this session the children will be sewing, or binding, their books together. Emphasize the importance of keeping the books carefully clamped so the holes will line up properly for the sewing.
Sewing the book
- Leave a couple of inches of thread hanging loose as you start to sew. This will be used to tie off the threads later. Using a running stitch, start at the top of the spine and go in and out of the holes to the bottom. At the last hole, circle the thread around the bottom of the book and go back through the same hole from the opposite side.
- Then circle the thread around the spine and go through the same hole again.
- Go through the next hole, circle the thread around the spine and go through the same hole again. Repeat this process until returning to the first hole. Circle around the top of the book and securely tie the two threads. Trim the extra length.
- Have the children choose a color of thread that compliments their books and then sew their books together. When completed, the clamp can be removed.
- The size of these books can vary, but keep in mind that the inside pages need to be one-half inch smaller than the cover and will lose one inch after the book is bound.
- A guide line made with pencil will help to avoid cutting off the corners of the cardboard when trimming the patterned paper.
- Emphasize the importance of pressing the patterned paper firmly against the edge of the cardboard before gluing the sides down.
- Glue sticks dry faster than liquid glue, making it easier to finish the covers in a single session.
- Although time-consuming, the holes can be made with an ice pick and a hammer if a hand drill is not available.
- Although the stitching takes some patience, the children enjoy the challenge and are very proud of their handmade books.
- This project nicely compliments courses in writing and poetry.
LET’S TALK ABOUT OUR WORK
- Are the books neatly constructed?
- Discuss the unique characteristics of Japanese bookmaking.
- Have the children talk about what they might put inside of their books.
What the children might say…
- Do I need to put glue on the whole paper?
- The edges of my paper won’t stay down.
- While sewing my book, I forgot a stitch.
- When I went back through the same hole, my thread fell out.
- This pattern of sewing is very confusing.
What you might say…
- Cover your whole paper with glue so it will lie flat.
- It is especially important to cover all the edges of the paper with glue. Lift the area that is not sticking and apply more glue.
- If you missed a stitch while sewing your book, you only need to pull out the stitches that go back to the mistake. Don’t pull out all of the thread.
- Before going through the same hole, remember to wrap the thread around the spine and come through from the opposite side.
- If you are having trouble with the sewing, let’s go step-by-step together while I sew my book.