Sewing Metal (Yes, Metal!) For Mixed-Media Books

Do you remember the first time you learned to sew? I sure do—my family still teases me about it. It was on my favorite pair of jeans. I’m sure you have a pair: they fit just perfectly, and they’re irreplaceable. I had worn a hole in these jeans, and, determined to make them last, I picked up a needle and thread and tried to fix them myself, despite the fact that I had rebelliously denied learning to sew from my mom. I was totally focused on sewing the jeans, and I was full of pride when I finished. That is, until I held up the jeans and realized that I had sewn the knee to the crotch.

As you can imagine, I eventually learned how to sew fairly well and developed a healthy respect for those who can manipulate fabric and thread with surgical precision. Lesley Riley is one example, and she has blown me away with her article, “Sew What?”

handmade book by Leslie Riley, featured in "Getting Started: Bookmaker's Basics Kit"
Fabric-covered canvas, embellished with fibers, fabric scraps, and an inquisitive-looking bird, creates the cover for this book by Lesley Riley. 

“Knowing that quilters had been sewing through aluminum soda cans, I tried sewing copper tooling metal or foil,” she says. “This thin copper can be cut with ordinary household scissors (don’t ever use your fabric scissors). I also tested fine copper mesh, the weight of fine screening. The main reason copper is my first choice is that placing it in a flame oxidizes it and creates beautiful colorations. Other metals can be machine stitched as long as they are soft enough to be cut with scissors.

how to sew metal

“The number one rule when stitching through metal is stitch slowly. I use a Universal 80/12 or 90/14 needle. Increasing your stitch length will allow for more thread to show and fewer holes punched by the needle; when the needle punches through the metal, it creates a rough edge on the underside. Rayon and metallic threads are more likely to shred and break after continuous sewing, so I recommend a polyester dual-duty thread. Heavier-weight threads are attractive as well, but keep in mind that the larger needle required for those threads will create larger holes. If the underside of the metal will be exposed, I flatten the rough, punched holes on the back by burnishing them with the back of a spoon or a similar object with a rounded edge.”

“Sew What?” is part of “Bound & Beautiful: One-of-a-Kind Handmade Books." Download it when you get this exclusive kit that also includes:
• The Mixed-Media Workshop Season 100: Best of Art Journaling & Bookmaking (DVD)
• Handmade Book Essentials: Learn to Make Folded, Side-Stitched, and Signature-Style Books (DVD)
• PAGES Volume 1-4 Collection (CD)
• Stitch This Book: Long, Link, and Coptic Binding for Beginners and Beyond (DVD)
• Plus an awl, thread, a bone folder, bookbinding needles, adhesive, and more bookmaking supplies!

It’s everything you need to create your own, personal, handmade books. Just remember to practice (and if you make mistakes along the way, make joy, too, by laughing at them).

Happy bookmaking,


Blog, Handmade Books


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