Video Tutorial: The Locking Coptic Stitch

A short time ago, I posted some pictures of a jig I was building as a visual aid to help teach students in my book binding classes coptic sewing. I’ve finished the contraption up and I’ve dubbed it the High Speed Sewing Simulator. There’s really no compelling reason to talk about the jig itself so instead, I’ve completed a video tutorial on sewing the Locking Coptic Stitch. The Locking Coptic Stitch is an exposed spine sewing and it’s a variation on the traditional Coptic Stitch. I sew it this way simply because I feel it adds a little more structural integrity to the sewing. Enjoy.

Teaching the Coptic Stitch (Better)

I’ve been teaching the Coptic stitch a lot lately and I’ve been thinking about how to teach it better. When it comes time to teach the stitch during the class everybody gathers around to watch and that’s where the problem is. Everything is too small. with a half-dozed or more people gathered around looking over my shoulder it’s hard to see what’s going on. I’ve tried doing things like sewing with two different colored threads but at the end of the day, nobody can get close enough to see what’s going on during the demo.

I’ve decided to scale up and build a demo rig so everybody can see what’s happening during the demo. I just started working on it today and I hope to have it done soon but here’s what I’ve got so far, I hope to have it done by the end of the week.



Worn by Time: A Coptic Bound Art Journal

Art Unraveled has been going on for the past week or so and it’s been a great event. This past Saturday the Shopping Extravaganza took place and a wide variety of artists and vendors where there selling everything from handmade journals to stencils. Classes start late on Saturday so everyone has plenty of time to shop and I had just enough time to check everything out before teaching my class, “Dug from the Ruins: A Polymer Clay Art Journal”.

Today, I taught my class titled “Worn by Time: A Coptic Bound Art Journal.” In this class, students use Milk Paint to transform ordinary oak boards into a 3″ x 5″ journal. The morning was spent drilling holes for the binding, building up layers of color using Milk Paint and the distressing the surface to reveal those layers and simulate the look of wear and age. For many, the Coptic Sewing is hard to learn so the rest of the day was reserved for sewing demonstrations and hands on help with the binding.

Students finished their books by setting a small image into a bezel and attaching that to the cover and then installing a simple closure that was fabricated from brass. It was a great group of students and their books turned out exceptionally well. I hope to see them again in the future at other events.


A student distresses the covers of their journal in the “Worn By Time” class.

Long and Skinny

It will be time to put the holiday decorations soon and I don’t want to kill myself climbing over a ton of junk while I do it so I thought tidying up the garage might be a good idea. I found a piece of red oak about 3″ X 24″ while I was cleaning up, seemed like a good excuse to bind a new book. The book show below is approximately 3″ X 10″ and contains 8 signatures of 200gm Fabriano Artistico. The wood was finished with several coats of milk paint in different colors and then distressed using a sander. The signatures are sewn to the leather spine with 4-ply Irish Linen using a long stitch. As I was getting ready to bind it all up, I thought it was a little blah so I added a band of polymer clay faces across the front cover. Here are the photos…

Long and Skinny: Front
Long and Skinny: Back

Getting Ready For Play

For those of you who may not know, PLAY is an annual journaling retreat hosted by Teesha and Tracy Moore. One of the features of PLAY is a optional swap. For the past two years, I’ve bound a small 3 1/2″ X 5 1/2″ pocket journal for each participant. For the last two years I’ve made the same book, I settled on the design the first year because they’re easy to make and sew and since I’m putting about fifty of them together, well… you can see the logic. I do change the cover design and last year I also included a second small book which was based on the design of a Moleskine Cahier.

I thought about doing some small leather books this year but as time got tight, I decided to do the same one yet again. This year, I ran into a problem with the covers. I make the covers using two sheets of paper glued together, I use Rives BFK on the outside and black Rising Stonehenge on the inside. In the past I’ve decorated the cover with a simple acrylic wash and then printed the cover art with a Gocco. I wanted a little more texture this year so I went with Paste Paper, when I Gocco’ed the design on the prototype I found that the text and the artwork got lost in the design or the paste paper. I mentioned the problem to Cindy Iverson at The Paper Studio and she suggested using the letterpress; we set up the job so the design would have a little punch. The embossed quality the letterpress lent to the cover makes it work. Here’s a photo of the printing job in process.


Once the cover design wan printed the rest of the process was fairly straightforward, throw on a movie and just keep sewing like a madman until their all done. I ended up making 53 books, enough for everybody attending and a couple of extras — one for Andrew Borloz at Urban Paper Arts and one for Cindy at The Paper Studio for her help with the letterpress. Here are a couple of photos as they near the end of the process, the Gocco printing of the Colophon and the books waiting to have the Colophon pasted and then get packed up.