Thursday, September 9, 2010

lets make a circle....

Over the past 10 days I've been madly making yet more circular bookforms made from pages from an old atlas - today I took a series pics whilst I finished my latest flowery book so I could share my construction process... hope you enjoy my firstest ever bloggy 'how to'...

How to make a circular 'flower' bookform

1. prepare paper strips...

the length and width of the strips doesn't particularly matter - just make sure that the strip proportions allow for a comfortable 'looping'....

2. select 2 paper strips and place back to back - take the ends together to make a loop (make sure you don't press down on the loop! eeeek a paper crease would just ruin the whole effect) and fold up a small section up on the end

I allow about 2cm folded section - this makes it easy to handle in the next stages.... (if you want an even circle when finished, make sure you cut the strips all the same length and fold them identically)

3. prepare the sewing holes

I use a paper guide to ensure that the sewing holes are the same for each section - and you can see that I use a small pin vice to make the holes..... of course it's possible to simply use a milliners needle without the little vice - but I'm used to doing it this way and I find the vice makes the holes neater and more accurate

4. thread a single piece of waxed linen thread with 2 needles (I'm using 2ply thread for this book and milliners or straw needles.... not specialty coptic or leather-working needles which are rounded.... it's just what I 'm used to...) and commence the sewing..

righto - now if you've never done any binding (and especially any coptic binding) any explanation now will sound like gobbly-gook (and if you have done coptic binding - I really don't need to describe what happens next.... because basically the initial sewing bit is identical to any coptic binding) soooooooo for now I suggest you check out a good simple instruction book ... like Esther K Smith's 'How to make books' .... because I'm going to call it as though you've got a vague idea of what is about to happen.....

take needles from inside section 1 to outside, add section 2 (needles outside to inside, crossover, inside to outside), add section 3 (repeat the same crossover sewing as for section 2).... now its time for the first kettle (aka coptic) stitch on the spine ..... add section 4 .... now it's just a case of repeat of what was happening for section 3 until you come to the final section.....

ahhhh that wasn't so bad (and not terribly clear either eh? well one day I'll do a quickie 'how-to' coptic bind..... this 'how-to' I must admit assumes SOME prior experience with binding......)

5. continue adding sections and binding as you would any coptic bookform...

I hold the growing structure in one hand with my index and thumb keeping the spine aligned quite straight really.... (um this is NOT how I hold the piece whilst I'm sewing btw.... this is my 'posing for the camera' hold!) It's important that the stitching is firm but not over-tightened (just the same as any coptic binding really!)

at this stage the piece can start to get unwieldy - and if I were to add any more sections I would start to use a bulldog clip to help to keep the sections together, aligned and tight... but for this little structure I'm close to the end...

as soon as the book is set down it naturally wants to form a circle.....

so finishing it off is quite simple really -

6. sew the last section to the first section (but don't tie off just yet!) depending on how tight the inner circle is, I usually ensure that I continue the spine coptic stitch even at this stage (yes it is almost impossible to attempt to do a kettle stitch with straight needles in a tight inner circle but it does make for a more successful neat, tight infinite circle so it's worth the swearing and the effort!)

7. to complete the sewing, take the needles back to the 2nd section (yep - you read correctly, after the circle has been closed by sewing the last section to the first, and whether or not another kettle stitch was possible - this structure is tied off inside the 2nd section)

its almost finished now.... but there's one last thing to do...

8. trim the stub ends of the pages

after making a few of these structures I noticed that if the stub ends of the sections were cut at an angle the final result was a more elegant inner circle - of course this trimming can be done before the sewing starts.... but I find it makes it much easy to bind if the stubs are trimmed after the sections are bound


there you have it - one circular 'flower' bookform.....

oceans and lands flower bookform


and after you've made one...welllll it can be hard to stop.....

map labels mini flower bookform

constellations flower bookform

bird migration mini flower bookform

map key maxi flower bookform



  1. lovely structure, wonderful instructions; next step: your own "how to" book!
    btw: I am going to make a few...
    Thank YOU!

  2. brilliant - thanks for sharing:)

  3. Ronnie that looks amazingly simple and very effective. I must try it one day and thanks for sharing . You have handled the "stages" of how to and photographing very well.

  4. Thanks, Ronnie, as always you are very generous with your information. Your flowers are so simple - I think I'll make some too. At the moment I'm just folding some old paperbacks while watching TV; very therapeutic.

  5. Thankyou, Ronnie. By the way, I have that Esther Smith book on order!

  6. nice tutorial. looks like a great project for teens. (yes, i may try it!)

  7. how lovely of you to drop by velma!

    let me know if you tackle this - with or without teens (oh boy!)

  8. Thanks for the tutorial, I have recently seen some of your circular map books on another site and was impressed.


thanks for all your lovely comments - your words are greatly appreciated xx