Museum Craft Corner: Hand Sewn Notebooks

November 2, 2012

Crafts, Scotland

It’s time for another round of Museum Craft Corner. This month’s craft suggestion comes from the National Library of Scotland. Technically not a museum, but they have both two permanent display areas and a space for special temporary exhibitions. The John Murray Archive is a permanent exhibition which uses digital exhibition technology to bring to life the work and lives of some of the most influential figures in John Murray’s publishing firm, such as Charles Darwin or David Livingstone, while the Treasures display showcases some of the National Library’s most important collection pieces. The temporary exhibition space has housed such varied exhibitions as Scottish cinema, banned books and Miffy the rabbit.

The craft workshop I attended at the National Library was run by a local Edinburgh book binder and showed us how to hand sew our own notebooks. I loved the idea so much that I later sewed about 80 of these as favours for our wedding, but of course you don’t need to make that many ;-) How about sewing your own museum spotter’s notebook? Here’s how to do it (please note that these instructions are just to show the sewing technique for the pages, you can also include a cover if you like – see end of post for details):

1. Take some A4 paper, fold and cut it into quarters. Fold the quarters in half for your pages. I used 6 quarter pages per notebook, meaning I got two notebooks worth out of three sheets of A4 paper. You’ll also need some thread about three times the length of the spine of your notebook. In the demonstration I’ve used wool, so you can better see what I’m doing.

2. You’ll be sewing your notebook via the three spots I have marked with black pen. These are just for your guidance. You don’t need to draw these on when making your notebooks, apart from anything else they look ugly. Begin by going through the centre spot, from the inside to the outside, leaving a length of thread behind as shown in the picture.

3. Next, come back in from the outside to the inside through the top spot.

4. Now on the inside, go all the way down to the bottom spot and back to the outside.

5. For the final but of needle work, come back from the outside to the inside through the same centre spot where you started.

6. Pull your thread tight. From the outside it should now look something like this.

7. Almost done. Make sure that the two ends of your thread are lying underneath the thread that goes from the top to the bottom spot, with one end sticking out either side…

8. …then tie a knot around the central thread. This is what will keep your sewing secure and your notebook from falling apart! If the ends are too long, you can trim them a bit.

 To give the notebooks a binding, choose some nice paper – something sturdy is best, nothing too flimsy – and cut it slightly wider than the outside of the pages. Fold the excess width inside (as seen above). It makes your cover a bit more sturdy and gives it a neater edge less likely to fray. Just remember to take the cover in to account when working out how thick the total volume of paper will be for the stitching.

You can also do the stitching in reverse, i.e. start by going from outside to inside, so that you end up with the tassels on the outside of your spine. Whichever you like best. And of course you can make bigger notebooks. Here’s a selection of notebooks with different spines and sizes that I made (the pink ones on the left are from the library workshop, the green and strawberry ones are from our wedding).


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8 Responses to “Museum Craft Corner: Hand Sewn Notebooks”

  1. Ish Says:

    These are completely adorable. Makes me want to host a craft event for kids. Maybe when Toddlerpants is a wee bit older. :) Great pics.


    • jennifuchs Says:

      Thank you :-) You could probably makes the holes in the paper beforehand and then use some blunt needles, e.g. darning needle, if you were doing this activity with kids. The workshop I attended was for adults.


  2. Lexie Says:

    Hi JenI!
    Thank you for your encoraging words about our blog. I hope you’ll visit often and would love to hear any suggestions you might have!

    I really enjoy this idea, anything book related I am crazy about! I look forward to browsing your site and the many museum adventures featured, which will surely make me want to travel more!


    • jennifuchs Says:

      Thanks Lexie. If there are any children’s books set in museums (I know of a few) that would lend themselves to your format, perhaps we could collaborate on a guest post. Best wishes, Jenni


  3. handmade by amalia Says:

    This is a lovely post, Jenni! I have to say, the more I see of your blog the more impressed I am. It is excellent and unique, a wonderful combination
    Amalia from BYW



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