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  • Ioana Pioaru

How to use my minibook kit (text and images)

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

In this tutorial, I will explain step by step how to make the text block for my 'Little Flowers' book, using the DIY kit from my shop. I'll try to be as clear as possible but if you have any questions please write them down in a comment and I will answer them ASAP.

Part 2 of the tutorial shows how to make the hard cover and how to attach it to the text block.

If you're not a big fan of text-based instructions, please check out this video tutorial I made.

What's in the kit

Inside the kit box you’ll find a bundle with all the materials necessary to make one copy of ‘Little Flowers’: the inner pages, cover image, cardboard and cloth for the cover, mull, head and tail bands, and silk thread.

Make sure you keep the inner pages in the order in which you found them when you opened the bundle! This is very important.

Apart from the materials in the kit, you’ll also need a few tools: a ruler, scissors, a bone folder, a small sewing needle, PVA glue, some weights or bulldog clips, a Stanley knife or crafts knife, and some scrap paper. You may also want to use a finger protector.

Step 1: Folding the pages

Start with the top sheet which has a blue flower pattern on it. You’ll notice that the paper is creased along the centre. This will make it easier to fold, but don’t rely solely on this. Fold it so that the flower pattern is on the inside of the signature.

Carefully align the corners and edges and then press down the paper with your fingers, starting from the centre and moving slowly towards the edges. Use the bone folder to flatten it a bit more, but try not to leave marks on the paper. Also don’t use excessive force. To get a better result, turn the sheet around and press it on the other side too.

After the first sheet is done, put it aside with the text side facing up. This is the last signature of the book and you will continue to place the next ones on top of it, in the order in which you found them in the kit.

Step 2: Making holes for the needle

There are many ways in which you can do this. The method I will show you requires making a simple tool from the 2.5 x 8 cm bit of card in the kit. Measure 1 cm from the left along the short edges. Then mark 1 cm and 6 cm from the top, along the 2 long edges. Connect the opposite marks, then cut out the 1 by 5 cm rectangle that’s formed on one side of the central line, as precisely as you can. Then mark 1 cm from the top and bottom of the rectangular hole, and make a small cut on each of those marks with the knife. Round it up with the needle, and the tool is ready. The image below shows what it should look like:

First of all, put aside the two end papers with the flower pattern – you won't make holes in them. Taking one signature at a time, fit it in the tool you just made and push it right against it so that the spine of the signature is perfectly aligned with it. Take the needle and push it through the two marks on the card tool just enough to pierce the paper a little bit.

Put the card tool aside and push the needle through the two holes to make them a little larger and more visible. This will help you in the sewing stage. Repeat this with every signature, and remember to always keep them in the same order.

When you’ve pierced all the signatures, re-position the end papers at the beginning and at the end of the stack. The one with the copyright info goes at the end. Use the cardboard to sandwich all the signatures and clamp them with the bulldog clips, or place them under some weights or in a book press if you happen to have one.

If you’re using weights or a press, you may want to connect the cardboard pieces with a bit of masking tape, to keep the whole thing from slipping or moving around. Wait for about 30 minutes and then you’re ready for the next step.

Step 3: Sewing the pages (or signatures)

(I've tried my best to describe this step in words, but I realise it might be a bit confusing so I highly recommend watching the short video at the end of this section.)

Put the needle about a third of the way along the thread. You don’t need to make a knot yet. Again, separate the end papers, and put the stack upside down. Take the last signature and, holding it with the spine towards you and the water lily drawing facing upwards, push the needle through the left-hand hole. Stop the last 4 or 5cm of thread from going through the hole.

On the other side of the signature, push the needle through the second hole, and then, returning to the outside, push it again through the first hole, thus making a loop. Make a knot on the inside of the signature and return the needle through the same hole. If you pull the thread a bit harder, you’ll see the knot will pop to the other side, which is what you want. Now you can tighten and double up the knot, after you’ve made sure the thread is not loose.

Take the next signature from the stack and position it on top of the previous one. Make sure it is in the right position. Push the needle through the left hole, then on the inside through the right hole. Hold the two signatures tightly together with your left-hand fingers (or right, if you are left-handed). Make a knot around the line of thread that runs along the first signature and pull it right next to the right-hand hole. Place the next signature on top, always holding the previous ones tightly and well aligned. Push the needle through the right-hand hole, then return it from the inside through the left-hand hole. Push the needle horizontally through the first and second signatures and make a tight knot around the bit of thread connecting them. From now on, you will repeat these steps until you have sewn together all the signatures.

Take your time and always check that the thread is not tangled on the inside. If the thread does get tangled, do not panic and try your best to untangle it. If worse comes to worst, don’t worry, you can simply cut the thread and start again.

When you've finished sewing the last signature, make a double knot and cut the thread.

Step 4: Attaching the end papers

Put a bit of scrap paper on your work surface and on top of it, put the end paper with the copyright text facing upwards. Take another bit of paper, with a straight edge, and cover the end paper leaving just a couple of millimetres visible along the fold, above the straight edge of the scrap paper. Spread a thin layer of PVA glue on the visible part of the end paper. Remove the scrap paper.

Take the sewn pages (also known as the text block), and align them with the end paper at the corners opposite the spine. When you are sure they are aligned, press the glued end against the text block. Repeat these steps with the other end paper.

Step 5: Finishing the text block

Sandwich the text block between the cardboard pieces again, this time leaving a bit of the spine out. Spread some PVA glue all along the spine making sure you don’t spill over the edge of the spine. Catch the loose ends of the thread in the glue. When it is dry, give it another layer of glue and place the strip of mull from the kit on the spine, covering the two rows of knots with it and leaving roughly equal parts of mull on either side. Then add another layer of glue all along the spine.

From the two-colour head band, cut one bit the same width as the spine, or even a bit more. Put a drop of PVA on either end of the coloured edge, to stop it unravelling. Then trim it so that when you glue it on the spine, it doesn’t cover the row of knots on the spine. When you glue it on, allow no more than one mm to go over the edge of the spine. Repeat the same process for the other end.

Step 6: Preparing the front cover

The cover image has to be inlaid in the front cover, so as to be flush with its surface. Here’s how to do this. Take the piece of beige card from the kit. If you measure it, you’ll see it is 5.2 by 5cm. The 5.2 is the vertical edge. Measure 5mm from the top and bottom of the long edges, and 5mm from the right-hand corners of the short edges. Connect the corresponding marks on the opposite edges. Place the cover image in the shape that is thus created and mark the last edge about half a mm away from the cover image. Cut out the square with the knife, as precisely as you can. The cover image should sit a bit loosely in that frame.

Spread a thin layer of glue all over the side with pencil marks, of the beige card you’ve just cut. Paste it on the brown cardboard piece from the kit.

Let it dry for about 10-15 minutes under some weights or books.

Step 7: Making the hard cover

Place the yellow cover cloth on your work surface with the paper side upwards. Make sure the surface is very clean as the yellow material can get dirty easily.

Position the front cover with the beige frame down and the narrow edge of the frame on the right, and then the spine and back cover next to it, so as to have have at least half an inch of material framing these three shapes. You can draw an arrow on the front cover so you know how to position it later.

Draw around the front cover with a pencil. From the top and bottom corners of the shape you’ve just drawn, measure 6 mm and connect the marks. Place the spine card from the kit on the right side of that line and draw around it. Again, measure 6mm to the right, and draw a line there. Place the grey board on the right side of that and draw around it.

Spread an even layer of glue on one side of the grey board. Place it within the right-hand shape. Before your press it down too firmly, check that it is in the right position. Press it and turn it around together with the cloth, then press it from the other side with your fingers or the bone folder to get rid of any air bubbles. If you use the bone folder, it’s better to use its flat side. Don’t press too hard with the edge because that might leave shiny marks on the cloth.

Next, you’ll spread glue on the inlay side of the front cover. Don’t leave too much glue on the surface but make sure you get some right up to the inner edge of the frame, and all over the frame. Place it in the left-hand shape and check it’s in the right position before your press too hard. Use the ruler to ensure it is perfectly aligned with the back cover.

Turn the cover cloth around. Starting from the inlay area use the bone folder to get rid of air bubbles and to paste it evenly. In order to define the inner edge of the frame, take your time with each side and press the cloth into the frame using the tip of the bone folder. Then press the top of the frame and make sure the corners and outer edges are well attached.

Cover one side of the spine with glue and position it in the shape you’ve drawn for it. Use the ruler to check that it is properly aligned with the covers.

Measure half an inch all around the covers and mark that in pencil. Use the knife to cut away the excess fabric. Measure exactly 2.25cm on either side of the corners and connect the marks for each corner. The centre of the lines you draw should be about 2mm away from the corners of the cardboard. Using either the scissors or the knife, cut the triangles that are formed on the corners of the fabric.

Put some clean scrap paper on your work surface. Put a fair amount of glue along one of the long edges of the cover and spread it evenly right up to the edge of the cloth and the cardboard. Lift up the covers holding the glue edge down firmly, to get a sharp edge in the cloth. Then, using the bone folder, turn the glued strip slowly over the cardboard, working from the centre towards the edges. Stretch it as well as you can getting rid of any air bubbled or excess glue. Notice the bit of fabric that hangs over the cardboard. You need to press that firmly around the corners of the cardboard, with your nail.

Repeat the same process with the other long edge, then with the short edges, being particularly careful about the corners. When you’re done, try to define the hinge of the cover by folding it in form the spine.

Step 8: Attaching the cover to the text block

Check how the text block fits into the hard cover. When you press it into the spine, it should have about one mm of the cover visible at the top and bottom, and about 2mm on the right.

Check that the text block is the right way up.

Put a clean bit of scrap paper between the first and second page. Spread a fair amount of glue on the flap of mull and end paper and spread it evenly, making sure the glue goes right up to the edges and corners. Remove excess glue if necessary. Checking again that the text block is in the right position with respect to the cover, and that it is pressed firmly against the spine, remove the scrap paper and close the cover over the glued area. Press it with your fingers. Open it again and use the bone folder to remove air bubbles and paste it properly. Repeat the same steps for the other end paper. Do not open the book at this stage!

Step 9: Pasting the cover image.

Put the cover image over a clean sheet of scrap paper, facing down. Apply a very thin and even layer of glue all over it. Position it in the inlay space of the front cover. Make sure it’s in the right position before you press it down.

Step 10: Press the book

Place the book under some weights or heavy books, or in a book press if you have one, ensuring that the weight is evenly distributed. Leave it overnight. When you first open it, do so from the middle and slowly work your way to the left and right.

You’re done!

Taking your time with each stage of the process is important if you want to avoid errors and to obtain a neat little book.

I hope you found this video helpful and that you have enjoyed binding my minibook!

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