Project Friday: Portrait Party Booklet Sewing Demonstration: Japanese Stab Binding

January 20, 2012

View the full post for a video and details.


If the above embedded video doesn’t work, view this Japanese Stab Binding tutorial at YouTube.

This is another in my new intermittent Project Friday Series. Perhaps this is something that you’ll try this weekend. It’s always a good weekend when you make a book. If you can have a portrait party that’s even more exciting.

Last year I created a video tutorial on creating a Japanese Stab Binding using the MCBA Visual Journal Collective’s Third Annual Portrait Party booklet as the model. I then forgot to post it! I discovered this on Monday night after the Fourth Annual Portrait Party when I wrote a thank you to the participants and tried to find various links on my blog.

Since creating the video I’ve changed software. I had to redo this video with the new software to add titles and it looked as if the bottom of the frame was being edited out so I have some captions which are not actually necessary about the end knot—but at least you can see the end knot! I’m gratified that the image wasn’t truncated in the final output.

Why Make This Structure?

First of all a stab binding is a shitty book structure if you are going to work in it because it doesn’t open flat. But if you are going to create a book to look at then it becomes a very easy book to put together, especially when you have an unknown number of participants at something like a portrait party.

Because the pages get folded and then stacked, not made into signatures like many other structures, there are no involved collating or imposition issues that you have to work out. (For our first portrait party I designed a 5-hole pamphlet stitch booklet and had to work out an imposition for making the master sheets (to make photocopies from) for a single signature and a double signature pamphlet, in case we had a lot of people show up and more pages than a single signature would bear easily.

That’s a bunch of fussy planning work that I’d just as soon not do in advance. And doing imposition on the fly with a lot of people milling about and last minute changes is definitely not something to which I look forward.

For the Japanese stab binding all you need to do is layout your front matter and know that you have to start your portraits on an even numbered page so that an even or verso (left) page portrait will be opposite its odd numbered or recto (right) page portrait partner. Keep repeating that until any endmatter you might have.

Then you just have to make sure that you layout your masters with that in mind, because it is a little counterintuitive for a western-style bookbinder to put the master/art for a recto page on the left side of a print master. You have to remember that the pages are going to be folded with the fold coming forward to the fore edge! When you watch the video you’ll see what I mean. (I intend at some point to print out a booklet of detailed instructions because I’d love for people to have this type of party and make editions of books! But for now I think you’ll see what I mean if you watch the video.)

Additional Reasons To Make This Structure

1. You’re only doing single sided copies so it is a lot simpler for the intrepid soul who volunteers to mind the copier. And a lot faster if you have a slower copier.

2. You don’t have to worry about toner showing through the page because there is toner only on one side of the paper.

Additional Notes of Possible Interest and a Debt of Gratitude

After the first portrait party I was worried that if tons of people started attending we would have trouble with the structure. I was talking with my friend Linda Koutsky, who is a designer and makes handmade books as well as jewelry. Linda’s niece had just visited. Linda had given Greta folded sheets of legal size paper on which to keep a visual journal during her Minneapolis visit. Linda’s plan was to then unfold the legal sheets which had only been sketched upon one side because the fold was at the fore edge. Then she could easily scan or color photocopy these pages to make enough copies to bind a keepsake copy for both sets of grandparents, herself, and the parents. She ended the project by rebinding her niece’s copy and returning the original to her.

Well, I looked at that book and thought my problems for making a photocopy edition of the Portrait Party have been solved! And so every year since we have done this structure and I have plans to continue to do so.

I have also used this structure to make some editioned artist books. I made a journal facsimile of my 2011 Minnesota State Fair Journal for our journal bits exchange

The structure has other uses, however. Let’s say you want to make a collaborative book. Years ago I participated in a mail art project and everyone was required to send in 30 flat sheets to collated into 30 books and be stab bound. Well you can do that, but you can also set the requirement as 2 folded sheets and then every participant has to come up with an opening recto page, a page spread, and a final verso sheet. That would make a very fun collaborative book. Again at the end of the evening everyone could go home with a book of everyone else’s work!

If you are traveling with new companions for the first time and don’t know how your visual journaling habit will fit into the mix, you could precut art paper to whatever size suited your work and then simply carry the folded sheets around with you, and perhaps a bit of cardboard for backing when working. I would suggest that you date and time your entries so you can get the pages in order if they get mixed up. When you get home you can simply bind your sheets and have a wonderful trip journal—it doesn’t matter at this point that you can’t open the book flat since you’re not working in it. One drawback is that you can’t work across spreads, unless you’re really good at balancing, or you’re sitting down, because you’ll have to have two sheets of paper out at the same time. But you could do it if you wanted to—I’ve done some extreme journaling that would make outdoor enthusiasts shiver! Just be sure to leave room for the binding on all your pages and the cut (non-folded) end and not paint in that gutter margin area.

I would recommend you stay in the legal paper size range for your folded sheets because then you can easily copy your unfolded sheets (before binding) and make a commemorative trip book for everyone in your party (if that’s something you think they might enjoy).

I have several projects I hope to involve the journal collective in over the next two years—I’m betting some of them will involve Japanese stab bindings. So even if you are committed to signatures, and working across spreads, and books that open flat, don’t discount the positive attributes of this workhorse structure.

    • j.long
    • January 20, 2012

    Happy Birthday Roz! I guess you can’t hear it too many times today? I posted on FB and also am sending you a Storypeople. Like a lot of people, I am a big fan and follow you daily. Thanks for YOU!

  1. Reply

    Thanks Jill, I’m glad you enjoyed the video! I hope you have a portrait party! Or make one of these for some other reason.

    So far, it has been a pretty great B-day. No cake today though, but I had it yesterday and before that and will have it tomorrow. Yep, I’m getting my cake in.

  2. Reply

    J. long, thank you! Nope you can’t hear it too many times. I’m so glad that you are enjoying the blog. I hope you keep reading in 2012. Meanwhile I’m going to float away on cake if I don’t watch it!

    • Miss T
    • January 20, 2012

    Aha! I’m glad Jill and j. long spilled the beans. Happy Birthday, Roz!!

    • LizzieBo
    • January 20, 2012

    Happy Birthday! How did they know? Well, isn’t it great they did. So glad you are having a great day. How come it’s your birthday and we get all the gifts? A wonderful video (I’ve been wondering what a Japanese stab binding looked like), helpful links and info (thanks so much for the book structure suggestions yesterday) and sneaky gift plotter (my husband contacted you about Christmas gift suggestions – what a lucky woman I am!). I hope someone was as kind to you and you are showered with riches of kindness and joy!

  3. Reply

    LizzieBo I think that the word “leaked out” because of Facebook. Let’s just say if the greetings were actual cards that had been posted to me there would have been a postal truck in the driveway unloading! It’s been fun to know that people are thinking of me, and my horrible chocolate chocolate (not a typo) cake addiction.

    Yes, your husband did enlist my aid as a gift-guide. I’m glad that you got something that you want and can use and have fun with.

  4. Reply

    Thank you Miss T. It has been a good day!
    I hope you have been painting!

  5. Reply

    Hello Roz!

    A fantastic tutorial, thanks for taking the time to make it. Just a quick one to let you know that I’ve added your tutorial as a resource in our latest ‘Top 10 Japanese Stab Binding Tutorials on the Internet’ –

    Thanks again and keep up the good work!

    ~ Paul

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