Bookbinding Tutorial: How to Make a Coptic-Bound Book

31 August 2022
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In this tutorial, we will make a book that is sturdy and incredibly flexible. Coptic binding creates a book that not only lies completely flat when opened but can fold back on itself like a spiral-bound sketchbook without weakening the pages. First created in 50–100 CE by the Copts in Egypt, Coptic books evolved from the accordion-folded scrolls that were common in Egypt at the time.

Copts were early Christians who were often the subject of marginalization; it’s not hard to imagine that their books might have held sacred texts, squirreled away and shared only in secret. Today, these books are used for writing, drawing, or painting. What will your Coptic book hold for you?

image description: a small handmade book, positioned so that you can clearly see the Coptic-style sewn binding

Leave the cover plain, or decorate it.

Finished Size

14 × 17.5 × 2 cm/5.5 × 7 × 0.75 inches

Tools and Materials

  • Pages: 36 sheets of plain/blank paper (e.g., watercolour paper, sketch/drawing paper, printer paper, large grocery bags), each sheet large enough to cut into 27.5 × 17.5 cm/11 × 7 inch pieces
  • Covers: 2 sheets of stiffer paper (e.g., cardstock, file folders), each sheet large enough to cut into 36.5 × 18 cm/14.5 inch × 7.25 inch pieces
  • Scrap paper or cardstock: One piece, approximately 7.5 × 17.5 cm/3 inches × 7 inches
  • Thread: 150 cm/60 inches. You can use linen 3-ply 28-gauge thread, embroidery floss, or dental floss. If you wish to use standard sewing thread, you will need three times the recommended length so you can triple up
  • Curved needle (e.g., quilting or carpet needle): If you don’t have one, you can create your own using a straight needle, two sets of pliers, a candle, and a matchstick/lighter (directions included below)
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Binder clip
  • Awl (or a thick sewing needle)
  • Bone paper folder (or a dull knife)
  • Cutting tools and guide: utility knife, metal/metal edge ruler, and cutting mat (or scissors); pencil; ruler

All images by Suzan Lee.

Copyright © Suzan Lee except as indicated.
image description: image description: a portrait of an Asian woman with shoulder length hair, wearing glasses; she looks direction into the camera

About Suzan Lee

Suzan Lee is a bookbinding instructor based in Vancouver, Canada. She has been teaching bookbinding and box making for over 10 years. She learned her bookbinding skills at the Center for Book Arts in New York. Her interest in bookbinding started with her fascination with the wide range of materials and techniques involved in binding books. She is a co-founder of the BC Lower Mainland chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG). Through this local chapter, she works with other book artists to help grow the book arts community in the BC Lower Mainland.

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