Book sewn on cords – done!

Today I attacked my first unfinished project – a book sewn on cords from a workshop with Patty Grass at the 2007 Focus on Book Arts conference. This one has long plagued me – eight and a half years of unfinished-ness.

The book’s time had come – I opened up the bag of materials and found the following:

Green handmade papers

Cover papers

Book cover boards with carved channels

Cover boards

Templates for book sewn on cords


Book text block sewn on cords

Sewn text block

The thing that’s interesting about this binding is that we sewed it without using a sewing frame, as is traditionally done with books sewn on cords. Instead, we impregnated the cords with PVA to stiffen them up. Since the cords stuck up, it was as if they were being held in place by a sewing frame. We could proceed with our sewing unencumbered by equipment.

I had a vague recollection about what needed to be done, but I checked my work journal to see if I had made any notes. I found nothing specific to this book. I just had to go for it.

Each cover consisted of two boards and the cords were to be sandwiched between them. I started by covering the interior and exterior boards.

Covering boards with paper

I had to mold the paper to the channels that had been carved into the board – that’s where the ends of the cords would be attached.

Paper wrapped cover boards with carved channels

I love the cover paper we used for this book. It was made in India and has a wonderful embossed texture. It’s a tough paper to work with in that you have to make sure not to flatten the texture when adhering the paper to a board. No heavy-handed bone folder work on this paper!

The combination of PVA and the cover paper produced a lovely green glue while I worked.

Covering boards with paper and folding corners

I was concerned about how the cover paper would conform to the shape of the carved channels, but it worked like a champ.

Paper wrapped cover boards with carved channels

I trimmed the ends of the cords so that they fit in the channels. I then unraveled the cord strands so that I could fan them out for gluing.

Text block sewn on cords and inside cover with carved channels

Glue was applied and cords were smushed into place on the interior boards.

Text block sewn on cords with frayed ends in carved channels

Lastly, the exterior boards were attached. I pressed the covers one at a time to help with adhesion – the boards were a bit stubborn and did not like sticking together.

Pressing handmade book under weight

After pressing, the book was done – woot!

Handmade book sewn on cords

No more guilt for you – I officially cross you off my list!

4 Responses to “Book sewn on cords – done!”

By Heather - 13 January 2016 Reply

I’m so impressed that you not only finished a long-languishing project, but you rocked it! I love the use of cords…seems almost a shame to have to cover the frayed ends with the exterior cover. The end result is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your process.

By Elissa - 13 January 2016 Reply

Heather –

I’m just glad I remembered what I was supposed to do to finish it! I’m usually much better at taking notes.

I agree that the frayed cord ends look cool (and they’re really fun to smush with glue).


By marleen derweduwen - 25 February 2016 Reply

heeeel mooi !!!!!

[Translation: Very nice !!!!!]

By Elissa - 25 February 2016 Reply

Marleen –

Thanks so much!


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