You know me, pretty determined about finding and using the best practices for all sorts of things... This week I'm writing about a little detail regarding attaching covers to a Coptic bound book - the hidden diagonal stitch (for the lack of a better term). Have you noticed how the sewing thread in my Coptic bound books enters the covers at the edge of the cover board? It may seem like a very minor thing, but it's actually something quite relevant to the durability and stability of the finished book.
Most modern Coptic bound books I see around the Internet have their covers attached by simply wrapping the sewing thread around the board edge. (For obvious reasons I'm not sharing photos of any particular bookbinder's work here - it's a really common practice, so you can find photos with a simple google search for Coptic binding if you don't have a clue what I'm talking about.) While that's a quicker option, it's less than ideal for durability reasons: The thread holding the covers in place is exposed at the point where a notebook goes through perhaps the most wear - at the outer edge of the spine, which is the widest point of the book thickness-wise, and most likely to stick to things when you're stuffing that notebook in your bag. Sooner or later that thread will begin to break down, and little by little the covers begin to loosen. If you want a great Coptic bound notebook that lasts longer, make sure its covers are attached at the edge of the board, not over the edge!
Anchoring the covers in place with the thread travelling diagonally through the cover board protects the thread from needless wear and tear, and also diminishes the movement of the covers in relation to the pages a great deal. That's also one thing that helps to protect the thread from breaking from wear. Using this diagonal stitch does require some thickness to the cover boards for it to work. Depending on your thread thickness, you can probably get away with using 2mm board. I prefer 3mm minimum, but that's just me and my aesthetics.
I shared this little video on Instagram showing how I create that diagonal channel for the thread to travel from the spine edge of the board to the first hole going directly through the cover board.
And here's a peek of the double needle Coptic binding tutorial I made for Making Mini Books by Kathleen McCafferty (Lark Crafts, 2011). This illustration should explain much clearer the path for the sewing thread in the covers than my words ever could. I definitely recommend getting acquainted with the book - it has plenty of great mini book tutorials! And they're all made using techniques that are easy to adapt to larger scale notebooks, too.
Remember the tip I shared about creating neat holes? These holes were drilled using Dremel, and while that's neater than using an awl (also easier on my wrists), some tidying up is still required before covering. Creating those diagonal holes is less bumpy, so that's the one hole I always make after the covers are all done and ready to be sewn in place.
I'm a big fan of multi-needle Coptic binding, but you can apply all my tips to the single-needle binding just as well. This book has ten sewing stations, which means I'm working with ten needles. I can handle ten threads and ten needles, but when I add headphones to the mix (I often listen to podcasts while working) the trouble begins...
Structurally I find more sewing stations = better book. Unless you go really extreme, that is. Sadly, with multi-needle Coptic binding doubling the number of sewing stations also means the time spent on sewing doubles. Still, I think stability is crucial, and I'm happy to spend that extra time to create a more durable book. I'd only use two sewing stations if the book is max 3 inches tall. Any non-miniature book should have at least four sewing stations, but more=better, obviously keeping in mind the size of the book.
As a side note I want to mention that the terminology of bookbinding seems to vary a lot from source to source. I (and most others) refer to this type of binding as the Coptic binding, while some think it's an Ethiopian binding - the difference between the two being either the style and/or lack of endbands and/or the style in which the covers are attached. I haven't found a reliable definition that would make the difference clear. So, for now I'm still sticking with the term Coptic. If you have special knowledge about this terminology, I'd love to hear more about it!
PS. This tall but skinny book has plenty of pages made from thick drawing paper, and it's available for sale in my shop.