Rothkoesque Japanese Stab Binding

Handmade stab binding by Ruth Bleakley with collage coverTraditional Japanese bindings are side-sewn, and large books are divided down into slim volumes which are printed on thin kozo paper, and the volumes are collected in a custom-sized case.

My book is “westernized” because in Japan the thin kozo pages are folded in half, and the folded edges are on the fore-edge, where you would thumb through the book. I’ve used single sheets of paper, and because it’s thicker there isn’t a problem with ink bleeding through the pages when you write on them.


Orange and Blue Stab Binding by Ruth Bleakley

Traditionally an awl and a mallet would be used to punch the sewing holes, but I used a hand-cranked drill.



blue and orange stab bound book with collage cover by Ruth Bleakley

When I finished with the covers for this book I thought they reminded me of a painting by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, which is why I describe this journal as “Rothkoesque”.

I used lined super thin notebook paper inside, and the outside is hardcover, but traditionally these books would be soft cover.

Japanese Stab Binding in Blue and Orange by Ruth Bleakley

The back cover of the book – the knot for the sewing is hidden inside, so that the clean lines of stitching are maintained.

Jenni Bick, whose bindery is located in Martha’s Vineyard, MA has a great tutorial and examples on her blog about Japanese binding. Another good resource is a book by Kojiro Ikegami, called Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions from a Master Craftsman which includes step by step photos and diagrams.

About the Author


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *