Following two of our most popular ‘Top 10 lists’ posts (Top 10 Japanese Stab Binding Tutorials on the Internet & Top 10 Coptic Stitch Binding Tutorials on the Internet), we’ve been asked to find some resources for the rare, and ever so secret, Secret Belgian Binding technique.
We have also prepared several other bookbinding tutorial collections:
The Belgian Binding (aka crisscross binding) is a bookbinding technique/method which produces a beautiful and distinct, semi-exposed stitched spine as a result of a dual sewing process (initial sewing for the book covers and a later sewing process used to attach the text block to the covers). Originally invented in the mid-1980’s by Belgian bookbinder, Anne Goy (and her book: Reliure crisscross : The secret belgian binding), who was looking for an alternative binding technique to the Japanese Stab Binding method that would allow the book to open flat whilst also remaining simple to make.
The secret Belgian Binding type of binding is relatively rare in the bookbinding community and is mostly used in specialised bindings. This technique is often referred to as the ‘Secret’ Belgian Binding mainly due to the fact that much of the thread used for binding the cover to the text block is hidden behind the spinal board but, other interesting and slightly unexpected explanations of how the name of this technique was derived can be found here, here and here! Which one is correct? You decide!
An interesting feature of the Secret Belgian Binding is that the spinal board (or spine piece) is only held together in tension by the cord that is woven above and below it.
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The signatures of a Belgian Bound book are sewn directly to the cord that is threaded behind the spinal board, as a result the signatures can become ‘loose’ and thus wear if correct tension is not applied during the signature sewing process.
There are however many benefits to a Belgian bound book over many other binding techniques, these can include:
- The book will lay completely flat when opened
- Book covers can be easily transferred from one book to another
- Repairs are relatively simple and straight forward
- No glue or adhesives are used during the binding process
#1 Secret Belgian Binding – Intermediate
Assuming you have all the necessary materials you should be able to complete this tutorial in under an hour. Thanks Erin!
- Measuring your book boards
- Covering your book boards
- Trimming the inside edges
- Punching holes in the cover boards
- Marking down the endsheet position
- Cutting out channels for thread
- Sewing the spine piece
- Tying off the last stitch
- Pasting down the endsheets
- Punching your signatures
- Sewing in the text block
#2 Hollanders – Secret Belgian Binding
A great Secret Belgian Binding tutorial by Hollanders. Contains some good tips and techniques to make the sewing process a little easier (as it can be fiddly to get the tension just right when making the cover also when sewing the signatures to the cover).
The tutorial takes you through the materials needed, punching your boards, sewing the spine piece, tying off the last stitch, making the text block, sewing the text block onto the book cover using the kettle stitch.
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#3 Emily Martin – Secret Belgian (PDF)
There are no photographs in the PDF but some excellent hand-drawn images which really help to guide the user through the process and explain the techniques as a whole.
Emily covers the following topics in her 5 page PDF tutorial:
- A little history on the Secret Belgian Binding technique
- Creating a hole punching template
- Preparing to sew the text block
- Sewing pattern for the text block
- Calculating the spine thickness
- Calculating the thread length
- Pattern for sewing the covers onto the text block
- Book cover weaving pattern with numbers
#4 UArts MFA Book Arts – Secret Belgian Binding Tutorial
A great tutorial by MFA Bookarts covers the entire binding process and introduces some VERY useful tips and techniques using tapes which will help you get a little more enjoyment from binding in this method.
The process used in this tutorial is actually in reverse to the above tutorials where by the signatures are sewn together first, then the cover boards and spine are sewn directly to them which is actually a lot easier to do.
- Tools and Materials needed
- Marking up your cover boards
- Punching your signatures
- Cutting your tapes
- Stitching your signatures
- Stitching your cover boards to the signatures
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#5 – A Criss-cross Binding Technique
#6 Cai Lun – Secret Belgian Binding
Cai Lun has put together a small post about the Secret Belgian Binding, whilst it’s not a full tutorial it does highlight the correct methods to bind a cover in this method. A good resource with some fantastic photos which should be read in conjunction with other tutorials listed on this page.
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#7 – Secret Belgian Binding – The Crafted Life
Rachel @ the Krafted Life has uploaded some nice and probably very helpful photos of her secret Belgian bound book. Not a full tutorial though unfortunately but have included as will likely be of use to a few of you out there.
Bonus: 5 1/2 Tutorial (Some good photos)