From a Jig to a Sewing Frame

One of the first DIY presses I made was a jig for perfect binding, following this guide from DIY Bookbinding.

This DIY jig makes perfect binding quick and easy.

I wanted to try sewing text blocks with linen tapes so I could practice rounding and backing the spine, but did not have a solution for a sewing frame. I realized this old perfect binding jig could do the trick!

By flipping the wing nuts (butterfly nuts) and screwing them on first before placing the wood bar on the long bolts, I can widen or narrow the gap between the base and the bar.

To attach the tapes, I use binder clips to clamp them to the base (see below). Then, I wrap the tapes around the bar and use spare needles to secure the tapes. Finally, loosening the wing nuts simultaneously pushes the wood bar farther away from the base, creating tension in the tapes to keep them in place and provide better structure for the book block (though a sewing frame is not absolutely necessary for sewing with tapes). This guide from Papercut Bindery explains the process of using a sewing frame in greater detail.

Large binder clips on base
Securing tapes to base

Tapes secured to bar with needles

I successfully sewed about 10 book blocks using this DIY sewing frame. Because the original jig is designed to align the pages for gluing up a perfect binding, there is less clearance than a legitimate sewing frame. This makes it somewhat difficult to access the holes from the inside of the signature. However, it does a commendable job keeping the signatures in place against the tapes. Most of all, the sewing process is a lot faster than attempting to keep the tapes in place by hand while sewing them to the signatures.

Eden Workshops has a simple guide for building a DIY sewing frame that would be much better than reappropriating a jig like mine. Alternatively, if you would like to purchase a prefabricated sewing frame, explore the Resources page under the “Bookbinding – Shops” listings.

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