Sunday, April 25, 2010

Crafting a Coptic Book

A few weeks ago, I attended a Coptic Art Book class at a local stamp and scrapbooking store. Completing my first Coptic stitch recently, I was curious to see bookbinding from a crafting point of view.

The three-hour class was taught by a cheerful and enthusiastic lady and it was well attended—11 students. Assorted book covers, already with designs on them, were in a package from the company 7 Gypsies. Boxes of distress ink pads and chalk colors were passed around and everyone promptly began inking up their covers. I tried some sample stamps--one with wheat stalks and one with an oval vine--but since the boards were a bit warped they didn’t take the impressions well. I wondered if book board was underneath and if they’d cause problems later when we did the stitching.

Instead of finding the grain and tearing down large sheets of paper, we collected 16 sheets of colorful cardstock. I chose 4 colors each of light gray, light tan with deep chocolate inside, dark green, and deep purple. Folding each page in half, we nestled two together to form one signature, and using paper cutters we trimmed those to 5 ¼” x 6 5/8”.

The last hour we spent doing the assembly and stitching. To punch four holes on the covers, there was a scissors-like tool I’d never seen before, probably a scrapbooking item. Using an awl, we punched four holes in each signature, too. With two pieces of waxed linen thread and four needles, one on each end, we started sewing from the back cover and last signature upward.

At the second or third signature, our teacher called out “Whoops--I forgot to mention you hook back to the previous signature! But you don’t have to pull out what you’ve done so far.” Everyone was a little confused after that, especially me since I began doing a double stitch (going back two previous signatures as well as the one above). So, I ended up with a much thicker but kind of cool stitch. I ripped one signature a little and promptly remembered to sew and pull the direction of the sewing and not straight up.

The good-natured teacher went over any question patiently, checked everyone’s progress, and stayed afterwards helping anyone wanting to do the signatures the correct way. She even pointed out my unique stitch to everyone, calling it the Mitsdarfer stitch! It was fun going to this class. Bringing some drugstore magnifying glasses to wear over my contact lenses, I was able to keep up and finish the project (something that bogged me down in previous bookbinding classes). Afterwards, I browsed the shop and one of the owners demonstrated a form foam that, when heated, can press into any firm material and become a stamp, something I’d read about in Maggie Grey’s book Paper, Metal & Stitch. It looked like printmaking on a small scale and something I want to investigate further.

It will be interesting to see how this book functions and what kind of medium to use on the dark cardstock pages.


  1. The book looks really great. So much care and work in it and it shows.

  2. I like the book. I wish I could find someone to take book binding classes from. Not going to happen.
    Live the world of nothing going on in the art world. LOL

  3. Thanks, Diana. I really appreciate it. Sorry I’m so tardy in replying to your comment.

    Hi Poetic Artist,
    There are some good books out there explaining the Coptic stitch, as well as free resources on YouTube where you can see it being done.