DIY: How to Stab-Stitch Bind a Chapbook

A companion to our special section on independent presses.

1. Format and design the pages of your poetry or prose manuscript using steps 1 through 4 of the "How to Make a Saddle-Stitched Chapbook" instructions.

2. You should end up with all the pages folded vertically in the center. Cut the pages along the center fold so that they become individual pages (fig. A).

3. Order the pages chronologically, then clip the stack on the top and bottom with binder clips to keep it in place. (Protect delicate cover stock with an extra sheet of paper between the clip and the cover.) Score a line on the cover a half inch from the bind edge (fig. B).

4. Using an awl—or, if you're just practicing, a hammer and nail—punch three holes, each a quarter inch from the spine edge: one in the middle, one a half inch from the top edge, and one a half inch from the bottom edge (fig. C).

5. Choose a sturdy thread such as bookbinding thread (available at specialty stores), waxed thread, or crochet thread—any kind that doesn't snap when you pull hard on its two ends. Thread a needle and push it through the middle hole from front to back. Then sew the thread around the spine, leaving a four-inch tail for a knot (fig. D).

6. Stitch down to the bottom hole, around the spine, then around the bottom of the book and back through the same hole (fig. E).

7. Sew up to the middle hole again, then to the top hole, around the spine, and then around the top of the book (fig. F).

8. Bring the thread back down to the middle hole and tie off your thread (fig. G). Now that you've made a basic stab-stitch binding, create your own variations: For instance, put the holes closer together, use more or less than three, or vary their placement for a zigzag look.