Intro to Japanese Stab Binding

Blue and yellow Japanese stab bound journal
Japanese Stab Bound Journal

A Brief Introduction

Japanese stab binding is an extremely accessible form of bookbinding and has been used for centuries to compile texts and images. The technique is quick and easy to implement, and most supplies going into book creation are household items. Whether you want to bind a comic book you've written, create a journal for a friend as a gift or make an intriguing book arts piece, this technique could be exactly what you're looking for!

I was first introduced to bookbinding while interning for the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center in Spring 2015. Since then, I have made dozens of books as gifts and to sell, and have taught the technique to others. (To attend one of my introductory classes, click here.)


Before you begin binding, you'll need to collect the following items:

- Inside pages (this can be plain copy paper)

- Cover paper (construction, decorated paper, etc.)

- Embroidery thread

- Needle

- Beeswax

- Awl

- Scissors

- Paper clips

- Binding pattern (for my beginner patterns, click here)


Step 1. Choose a book size. (Your book size and pattern size must match. My beginner patterns are based on 8.5"x5.5" (half US letter) or 4.25"x5.5" (quarter US letter) books for ease of cutting the paper down. If you decide to create your own binding pattern, you have more flexibility in book size.)

Step 2. Cut all paper down to the book size you chose. You should have about 15+ sheets of inside pages, a front cover and a back cover.

Step 3. Stack the pieces of paper together with the covers on the outside and paper clip both of the long sides (see photo below Step 4).

Step 4. Line up your pattern with the right edge of the front cover (see photo below). Poke through each dot into your book with your awl. Remove the pattern. Poke each hole all the way through the book, then flip the book over and poke back through from the other side. Continue doing this until each hole is as wide as the thickest part of the awl.

Step 5. Measure out your thread to be about 10x the length of the short edge of your book and cut. Run your thread against the beeswax until there is a noticeable wax coating, then thread it onto the needle.

Step 6. On the front cover of your book, thread your needle through the hole labeled "start" on your pattern. [Note: if you are working from your own pattern, start with a hole that is one hole from the top and towards the middle of your book.] Leave about 2-3 inches of a thread tail. There is no need to knot the end of the thread (see photo below).

Step 7. Begin binding your book by following the numbered pattern. You will notice that you'll alternate sticking your needle through the front and the back of the book and the sides won't look the same until the end. If you get lost, retrace your steps. No two stitches should be repeated on a given side (only one piece of thread goes from hole to hole). Pull your thread at each new stitch until the thread is taut.

Step 8. Eventually you will make it back to where you started and here is where it gets a bit tricky. Run your needle & thread underneath your first stitch, labeled as #1 in my patterns, or stitches on the opposite side of your starting hole as in the photo below. Pull tightly and knot the two thread tails togethers.

Step 9. Cut the starting tail down as close to the knot as possible.

Step 10. Pierce the hole next to your knot with the needle and pull the needle and thread through tightly. This should bring the knot into the middle of your book, creating a seamless-looking binding.

Step 11: Cut the ending tail as close down as you can.

TA DA! Your book is done!

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