exposed sewing

Soft Coptic with Closure

When my children were little, sewing exposed link stitch books, which some people call Coptic binding and some people call exposed link stitch. was one of my go-tos to keep my hands in the creating mode: I made them for my children’s drawing books and scrapbooks; my friends and sisters’ children received them as presents; they were made for pressing flowers, to keep next to the phone for writing notes, and for small photo albums. I made big ones, tiny ones, used bookbinder’s thread, shoelaces, cord. Right here where I sit, I could easily grap about a dozen of books stitched this way. What made this sort of bookmaking so attractive to me during that time was that, being able to work only in random moments, it was something I could pick up and put down easily.

So why did I sign up for a class, taught by Ali Manning, who runs the facebook group called Crafting Handmade Books with Vintage Page Designs to make a journal bound with a “Coptic stitch”? Well, not only did it appeal to me to make a journal along with hundreds of Ali’s followers, but I was curious about how she would teach this form.

I was delighted to follow along.

Ali showed the multiple needle version of this sewing pattern, which happens to be the version I like. I chose to go with 8 needles, because it’s the sewing of this book that I enjoy the most: the more sewing stations I have, the more I get to sew.

I was especially delighted by two things: one which was a variation in Ali’s instruction, the other was what this variation suggested to me.

First, Ali’s variation.

I have always made my books from bookboard, or a stiff paper., both of which I would attach by stabbing through a hole about 3/8″ away from the edge of the board. For each cover, Ali had us cover a thick piece of paper -the size of the signature papers -with decorative paper, fold it in half, then sew through the fold just like it was a signature. I enjoyed this method.

I poked around a bit, wondering if this way of attaching covers has been around. Artist Susan Joy Share provided me with this stunning article, noting that “this form has a history – over 1000 years old and was adapted and made popular by Gary Frost.” Sometimes I feel like I have lived under a rock for so many years….at least 1000, I guess.

I sewed my book, but there was more.

Ali suggested a closure, and showed some fine examples. I generally haven’t put closures on my book, but since the foredge of my book was flush with the edge of the cover, seemed like a closure would be a good idea. Besides, I wanted to follow through on staying within the steps of the book hive. Ali made a few suggestions, but it took me awhile to image what I would like best.

The solution I came up with for the closure is the real reason I am writing this post. To further stiffen the cover, Ali recommended gluing in a piece of paper that is sandwiched between the folded sides of each cover. What I did was to extend this piece beyond the foredge, long enough so that it would extend beyond the width of the book block, and what’s more,….

….would extend further still so that it could slip into a pocket that I could create between the folds of the front cover pieces.

I glued down paper to fill in around the area that I left for the pocket.

When I glued the folded sides of the front cover together, I left a space for the enveloping closure to slide into. When the closure was activated, my book felt like a complete little package

I felt quite clever, but not for long.

What happened next is that I lost the book.

Can you guess why my book seemed to disappear?

My lovely black closure made my book turn into a black hole. Back to the drawing board.

Hilke Kurzke to the rescue. I had bought her book, Six Ways to Make Coptic Headbands, which she now has available as a digital download quite a few years ago. I looked through this book and decided to give my closure a simple coptic headband. First I practiced quite a bit, then punched some holes on the “spine” of my black closure flap, and did some sewing.

Not only did I like the look of the sewing, but I like how it created a relationship between the spine and the foredge of the book.

Here it is, up close.

Am feeling quite sure it will not be lost again.

All in all, quite a satisfying book making adventure.

5 thoughts on “Soft Coptic with Closure

  1. Her classes are a wonderful place from which to grow. I’m constantly amazed by the multiple images that come from the same concise tutorial. Some book “mistakes” cause us to create a unique and improved project.


  2. Lovely to be able to see how your thinking works! I always appreciate when artists are so generous with sharing their thought process. Seeing how something came along as a fix for something creates a much deeper understanding than if you are just presented with a method.

    And I am very happy to have been able to play a small part in providing a solution 🙂 Thanks for sharing the link. – Have you tried stitching all around, including the spine and the boards? Mhm, that gives me ideas… 🙂


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