Free June Downloads and a Mini Book Tutorial

Welcome to another installment of our free monthly downloads. We have something truly spectacular for you for June: a mini book! Included in the download is a cover and three inside pages, and all can easily be printed with designs on both sides to create your own special book. Most of the designs are from my recent Brimfield Antique Show finds, and I’m thrilled to share them with you. But wait, there’s more—I’ll show you how to create two books with different bindings, from start to finish, and you’ll be able to personalize them any way you like!

Make your own mini books with our free printable downloads!

I know, I’m probably too excited about this, but these things make me so happy. I lucked into a few ephemera treasures at Brimfield, an enormous antique/flea market in Massachusetts, and that ephemera has been turned into components for a mini book. None of this would have happened without the extraordinarily talented Janice Tapia, an Interweave production designer, who designed the downloads.

Simply print the pages and get started on your next bookbinding adventure.

Open the file in Adobe Acrobat and print the images on paper or cardstock (if printing on cardstock, make sure your printer can handle heavier weight paper). Instructions are included for how to print on both side of a page. For my first mini book, I printed the cover on heavyweight cardstock (about 80 lb.) and the inside pages on regular weight cardstock (about 65 lb.). This mini book has a ½” spine, and there are score lines on the template to show you where to score and fold. I used a scoring tool and metal ruler to score both sides of the spine; this makes it easier to crease the paper.

Using a scoring tool and metal ruler makes creasing paper a breeze.

The download has design options for printing both sides of the pages, which offers a lot of creative freedom for your mini book. I printed out three pages to use in three signatures. Signatures are folded pages nestled together, and in this project those signatures will be sewn into the cover to create the book. Each of my signatures was made up of three folded pieces of cardstock, and I used plain cream cardstock for most of the pages. To keep things simple I bound the book with a pamphlet stitch. Each signature is sewn with a separate pamphlet stitch.

To start, I created a template for punching holes in the spine. I usually do this on graph paper (either 8 squares to the inch or 10 squares to the inch), which makes it so much easier to make sure everything is even and aligned. A pamphlet stitch uses 3 holes, so I created evenly spaced marks on the graph paper, making the middle stitch a little longer to create a nice pattern. The template is the exact size of the spine. I attached it to the outside of the spine with low-tack tape, then punched the holes at the marks with a thin awl.

Take a few extra minutes to create a template before punching holes in the cover—the time will be worth it.

By the way, did you know that we have a brand new Bookbinding Collection? It includes three videos, a downloadable eBook, plus a great bookbinding tool kit from Lineco. If you love making books, or have always wanted to learn how to make books, this kit is an absolute must.

I used the same template to create a jig for punching the signatures. I cut a piece of scrap paper the same size as the pages and made marks on the fold right at the holes. Then I folded the paper the other way so the marks were on the inside. Two signature punching templates were created, since there are two different sets of holes.

The holes in the cover should correspond to the holes in the signatures.

Here’s a fun hack for punching holes in the signatures: Place the template in the middle of the signature and place the signature in the middle of a phone book. Then, punch through the signature at each mark with a thin awl. You’ll find great bookbinding basics and tips in the eBook Making Books Cover to Cover.

Don’t recycle those phone books—use them for making mini books!

When all the signatures were punched, I sewed them to the cover using 4-ply waxed linen thread; below is a diagram showing how to do the pamphlet stitch. With this stitch, where you begin is where you end, so if you want the knot on the outside, start on the outside.

The pamphlet stitch is the most basic bookbinding stitch and can be used to bind all types of books.

To finish the stitch, make sure both thread tails are on the opposite side of the center stitch. Then, tie a double knot. Since the signatures are sewn separately, you can use different thread colors.

Capturing the center thread with a knot ensures the pages of your mini book will stay put.

When all the signatures were sewn, I gathered the threads together, added a bead, and tied a slipknot at the bottom of the bead. Using an awl, I unraveled the waxed linen thread tails to give the tassel a little volume. I also rounded the corners of the covers and inside pages, using a corner rounder. Books made of cardstock tend to get a little dog-eared at the corners, and this helps prevent that.

Give your book a little style with a beaded knot on the spine.

Here’s what the mini book looks like when you first open it. Isn’t that lovely?

These pages are beautiful and versatile, allowing you to add your own artful touches.

What’s great about this book is that you can include elements from our previous downloads. Here’s a page taken from the April downloads, a page of handwritten French text:

Incorporate past printables to use in your book!

And here’s a printable pocket from the May downloads. Fits perfectly on the page!

This pocket is perfectly sized for the mini book.

For my second book I wanted a more contemporary look, so I used the inside cover image for my cover, printing it on the back of some decorative paper, then cutting it to size.

Use decorative paper for the inside cover of a second book.

I used part of one of the printable pages as a cover decoration and machine stitched it to the cover, along with a few other elements, to create a collage. I also cut a small piece of book cloth (paper-backed fabric) and glued it to the spine. This both reinforces the spine and gives a nice polished look to the mini book.

Create a collage for the cover using your favorite ephemera scraps and stitching.

I incorporated pages from the download, then added scraps of anything else I could find: book text, maps, ledger paper, etc. Here is the inside cover and first page—you can see how this already has a completely different look from the first book.

Make the book more contemporary with modern designs and bright colors.

Here’s another spread—as soon as this book was finished I couldn’t wait to work in it, and I’ve been using it as a mini book art journal.

This mini book is also a mini art journal.
This mini book is also a mini art journal.

For the binding, I used an X stitch; here’s a diagram showing the sequence of stitches. I created two signatures of six pages each, and both are sewn at the same time. The first few stitches will feel a bit wonky, but once you get going you’ll see how easy this binding is. Keep stitches tight by pulling the working thread parallel to the spine in the direction you’re sewing—never pull straight up, or you could rip the cover or signature. (Figure 1)

Use the template as a guideline to create a decorative X stitch on the spine.

Continue the sewing pattern for the remainder of the spine. (Figure 2) After completing the last stitch, you’ll be on the inside of the signature. Slip the needle under the closest stitch until you have a loop, take the needle through the loop, and pull until you create a knot. Repeat, and trim the thread to about ½”.

Try a variety of bindings with this mini book, for one, two, or three signatures.
Try a variety of bindings with this mini book, for one, two, or three signatures.

Are you ready to get going on your book? Will you add vintage ephemera, collage on the pages, use it as a sketchbook, or fill it with doodle art? Since these are so easy to make you can create several, and take them with you wherever you go. Make a few for friends and family, too!

This exclusive Bookbinding Collection has great the instruction, inspiration, and tools you need to make your own beautiful books!
Let Seth Apter show you how to make a no-sew book, plus interactive pages, in the video The Altered Book: 10 Mixed-Media Techniques.
See how your favorite ephemera can be transformed into something special and artful in the video Expressive Collage Workshop: Working with Color with Crystal Neubauer.
Discover ways to create a visual diary of your travels near and far in the video Art Journals On-The-Go: How to Pack, Prep, Paint, and More, with Jacqueline Newbold.


Blog, Handmade Books, Mixed-Media Techniques


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