Make your own notebook using pamphlet stitch

Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd

Vanessa is an archaeologist and an artist. She oscillates between these two poles of her personality and explores the many iterations of her reality in her art journal. She loves to share her art and process with others.

Hello, Get Messians! It’s Vanessa here to help you kick off this Season of Messy Lists. I am definitely a Lister and I love making notebooks to house them in. I’ve met a lot of people through 30 Days of Lists, including Caylee! The technique I am sharing with you today is one I used in my shop and that I have used for every 30 Days of Lists edition I’ve participated in. I’m pretty excited to bring you this tutorial.

First, assemble your supplies:

You will need eight sheets of paper. I am using scrapbooking paper here because I love the patterns on both sides of the page. You can also use white cardstock, sketchbook paper or mixed media paper. I would not use watercolor paper for this tutorial as it would make the binding too thick. You will also need an awl (to make holes), a bookbinding needle (or embroidery needle, anything with an eye big enough for your thread), scissors and some thread. I am using wax thread because I have a lot of it for bookbinding purposes. You can use embroidery floss or even thick dental floss!

Cut your paper to size. Remember that the width will be halved when you fold your paper. The pages above are 12 x 8 inches so that when I fold them, they will be 6 x 8 inches.

Once you have folded all your pages, decide in which order they will go (if you have patterns on them). If you are using plain paper, this isn’t necessary.

Nest all the pages together, they already look like a book! If you mind that the inner pages are sticking out on the right, like in my case, then you can cut the five innermost papers so they end up flush with the cover. Personally, I can’t be bothered to do this.

Make sure the papers are all snug and tight.

It’s time to pierce holes. I use a book awl that I bought a long time ago. You can find these at most art stores.

If you are like me (i.e. not too much of a perfectionist), you eyeball the middle and pierce a hole right through all eight papers. If you absolutely need to find the middle (which is absolutely fine too), just place a dot in the crease of the center paper using a ruler.

We will be making five holes in all. From your center hole, make two more toward the top and two more toward the bottom. You can also measure these ones with a ruler. Depending on the height of your paper, you may need to make them further apart. Make sure that the top and bottom ones are about one inch from the edges.

Now we prepare our thread. You should measure twice the height of your book and a little extra, especially if it’s your first time doing this.

Thread your needle and let’s start binding! You start by going into the middle hole from the outside of your book, toward the inside.

Pull it through leaving a little tail of thread on the outside. It may be a little difficult to get the needle through eight layers of paper at first. You may have to go back and enlarge the hole with your awl. But with a little wiggling, you should get through. Next, we go to the first hole toward the top of your book, from the inside outwards.

Pull the thread nice and tight while holding on to the little tail you left out of the middle hole. Next, we go to the top hole, from the outside inwards. So in the picture below, the tail is sticking out of the middle hole, the thread is coming out of the first hole toward the top and my needle is going into the topmost hole.

Once you have pulled the needle through and you are back inside the book, pull tightly on the thread so it rests nicely on the spine of your book. You may have to hold on to the tail to make sure it doesn’t get pulled inside. Next, we go back into the second hole from the middle, toward the outside.

Once again, pull your thread tight. We are now going to skip the middle hole and go directly into the fourth hole from the top. So this is a longer stitch.

Now we are back on the inside of our book. Make sure that long stitch is pulled tight. We now go from the fourth hole to the bottom hole.

Pull the thread tight and go from the bottom hole to the one just above, from the outside toward the inside.

Almost done, friends! Pull the thread tight and go from the inside fourth hole back into the middle one.

Now, try to get this last thread to come out on the opposite side of the tail you left from the very beginning. Make sure the long stitch is in the middle and tie both sides of the thread, trapping the long stitch in the center.

Trim off the extra thread and YOU ARE DONE!

YOU ROCK! Take a moment to admire your creation. You have just made your very own vessel to contain all of those messy lists.

Happy patterns just waiting for you to be inspired and start listing!

Action Steps

Create in your journal. Bring your imperfect, messy self, take what you need, and know that more than zero is enough.