The Book: How to Make a Pamphlet Stitch Book

A book is an intimate way of viewing images. An artist’s book is created as the work of art (rather than as a way to display pre-existing works). All aspects of an artist’s book - form, content and layout - are considered simultaneously and in support of one another. A monograph or portfolio book is a means of presenting pre-existing works and can be approached as a kind of exhibition. All books are time-based, and some are sequential, offering artists an opportunity to create a narrative or excursion for their reader to explore. Familiarity with various book-binding techniques enables an artist to determine the form along with the content, a distinct difference from purchasing a blank book and trying to adapt one’s work to that vessel. Print on demand offers the opportunity to create side sewn and perfect bound books as artworks or for presentation or documentation purposes. In this section, we describe the basic parts of a book, two simple type of bindings, and print on demand options.

See the Reframing Photography book for instructions for the sidestitch and accordion bindings and print on demand services.

Constructing a Pamphlet Stitch Book

The pamphlet stitch is a simple way of binding folded pages, often as an alternative to stapling. A sheet of paper folded in half is called a folio. Folios yield 2 leaves and 4 pages. Multiple folios stitched together are called a signature. A signature should not have more than six folios (this number varies, depending upon paper weight) as too many pages makes folding and nesting difficult.

The following directions describe how to bind a single signature (we use four folios) with a cover. Because the folded sheets nest inside one another, it is important to consider the imposition of the book, that is, the layout of page numbers within a sheet so that they will be in the correct order and orientation (i.e. right-side up) when the book is bound. Impose the book before placing images on paper and before binding.

The pamphlet book is usually read in one direction, front to back, thereby emphasizing a linear narrative. Yet, the book can also be opened randomly to any page. Julia Farina’s pamphlet stitch book above Streetlevel Suriname combines photographs of Surinamese street life from various newspapers.

Tools, materials and equipment:
• Paper
: (Use lightweight paper like typing paper that will fold easily. Each sheet of paper will be folded in half)
Cover: (Medium weight paper or cardstock. The cover paper should be slightly heavier than the interior pages, but still foldable.)
Lightweight thread (3x the length of the spine)
Xacto knife
Piercing Tool
Straight-edge or Ruler
Creasing Tool
Paper clips

Assemble pages

Fold paper in half, using a creasing tool to crease the edges. Place each folded sheet, each folio, inside one another in order. Fold the cover sheet and place the book block inside. If the cover is slightly bigger than the book block, make sure the cover is evenly aligned (say, 1/4” at top and bottom). Open up the book to the center. Clip a paper clip at the middle-top and middle-bottom of each page to keep the paper and cover from moving.


Along the center crease-line of the book, place three pencil dots -- one in the center, and one on either side. The outer dots should be no less than 3/4” from the edge. Each dot will be a stitching hole or sewing station for the binding. If the book is very big, use 5 or 7 stations. Using a piercing tool, punch a hole through each of the marked dots.

Thread the needle a single thickness (no knot). Push the needle through the center hole B (beginning on the inside of the book), leaving a 2” tail of thread hanging inside. Bring the needle back inside the signature through the top hole A, back out through the center hole B, in through hole C, out through hole B, back in through hole A, out through C and back in at B. Cut the string from the needle and tie off the 2” tail. Trim ends and tuck any excess string in hole B.

Close the book so that the front cover is visible. Place the straight edge against the fore-edge of the cover and use an Xacto knife to trim the page edges.

photo: Inside spread of pamphlet-stitch book. Julia Farina, Streetlevel Suriname, 2005.

Bookbinding Resources and Suppliers

BOOKS ABOUT BOOKBINDING TECHNIQUES: books of bookbinding techniques:
Kojiro Ikegami
, Japanese Bookbinding (New York: Weatherhill, 2000).
Keith A. Smith
and Fred A. Jordan, Bookbinding for Book Artists (Rochester, NY: Keith Smith Books, 1998).
Aldren Watson
, Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction (Newton, MA: Focal Press, 1994).

Johanna Drucker
, The Century of Artists’ Books (New York: Granary Books, 1995).
Joan Lyons
, editor, Artists’ Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook (Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1993).
Jerome Rothenberg
and Steven Clay, editors, A Book of the Book (New York: Granary Books, 2000).

University Products

Manufactures and sells archival quality materials including Japanese papers, matting and mounting boards, tapes and adhesives.

Gaylord Brothers

A great source of archival supplies, including conservation tools and materials, such as adhesives (carries pre-cooked and uncooked wheat starch paste), boards, fabric, and paper.


Sells bookbinding tools and supplies and museum quality materials including tissues, papers, boards, fabrics and frames.

ANW Crestwood

Imports Asian and European art papers including Japanese kozo paper.

Hiromi Paper International, Inc.

Sells fine art papers (including Japanese kozo paper).

Print on Demand Services