Sewn Boards Binding
Instructor Karen Hanmer

Virtual Writers' Workshop
Saturday June 12, 2021
10 AM to 1 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From wherever you are, via Zoom

The Sewn Boards binding is Gary Frost’s elegant, modern adaptation of an ancient method of board attachment. Stiffened outer signatures sewn along with the text block function as the book’s boards.

The book opens flat. It can be dressed up or down with a variety of spine treatments, board-covering materials, and edge decoration techniques. It can be constructed quickly, lends itself to edition work, and can be made in a sparsely equipped home studio.

The sewn boards binding is also an excellent structure for beginning binders. Students learn to work with common bookbinding tools, materials, techniques and principles such as grain direction, folding signatures, tidy application of adhesive, and measuring one component of the book to fit another.


Advance registration is required for all JCBA workshops. For more details or to register, please email JCBA Director John Cutrone (


This workshop has a set tuition fee of $100.


Required Tools:

• Bone or teflon folder
• Small self-healing cutting mat
• Metal ruler or straightedge, 12” is adequate
• X-acto, scalpel or olfa knife and a few extra blades
• Scissors
• Awl
• Beeswax for sewing
• Small glue brush
• A pair of gluing up boards: scrap book board the height of the text block and a little narrower, one of the long edges of each covered in clear packing tape
• Waste paper
• Pencil


• Microspatula; Talas #TTB002001(link is external)or similar
• Dividers; Talas #TTB033004(link is external) or similar
• Square with base; Talas #TTB041001(link is external), or some device to keep text block and boards square
• Stencil brush
• Signature Punching cradle
(instructions to make one here:
• “Paper Rulers” strips of paper 1/2” wide to use for quick measuring when ruler is awkward or unnecessary

Required Materials:

The workshop model has a folded page size of 6.25 x 4.25". Of course, future books you make using this structure can be any size you wish. The dimensions given for some pieces are rough cut only. The workshop will provide information for cutting each piece to size in relation to other parts of the binding.

If you are making an important book that has a very large page size or is significantly thicker than the workshop book or a book that is significantly smaller in scale, make a model first to determine if the structure is appropriate, and what materials need to be scaled up or down.

Unless noted, all materials are grain direction parallel to the spine. Dimensions below are (height) x (width).

• 32 folios 70# text, unfolded size 6.25 x 8.5, folded size 6.25 x 4.25
• 2 endsheet folios, text weight, unfolded size 6.25 x 8.5, folded size 6.25 x 4.25
• 2 card outer folios, 10 or 20 pt folder stock, unfolded size 6.25 x 8.5, folded size 6.25 x 4.25
• 2 inserts, 2 or 4 ply museum board or 40 pt card, 6.25 x 4.25"
• Arches text or heavy tissue spine lining, 6.5 x 1"
• Spine stiffener + spacer, 20 pt card, 6.5 x 2”
• 1 spine wrapper, book cloth, 6.5 x 2.5”
• 2 card fills, thickness of the above book cloth, 6.5 x 4”
• 2 decorative paper to cover boards, text weight, 7.5 x 4.5”
• cardstock punching template, 6.25 x 3”
• 25/3 thread
• #18 bookbinding needle


Karen Hanmer's artist-made books are physical manifestations of personal essays intertwining history, culture, politics, science, and technology. She utilizes both traditional and contemporary book structures, and the work is often playful in content or format. Hanmer's work is included in collections ranging from The British Library and the Library of Congress to Stanford University and Graceland, and of course the Jaffe Collection. She offers workshops and private instruction focusing on a solid foundation in traditional binding skills.