SEWING THE TEXT BLOCK
Linen thread and sewing needles are discussed in earlier posts.
Depending on the height and weight of the text block, a volume may have more or less sewing stations than the example used in these instructions. The instructions can be repeated as often as necessary, depending on the number of sewing stations between the kettle stitches.
When sewing the link stitch, any number of sewing stations can be used.
For the lap-link stitch, there must be an even number of sewing stations.
The Link Stitch
1) Sewing An Anchor Thread Into An Attached Signature
- Begin sewing one signature before the first loose/unattached signature.
- Start on the outside of the sound signature at station 1 which is called the kettle station. Kettle stations are the first and last sewing stations on each signature. The term “kettle” may be a corruption of a German word for “catch-up stitch” or “Kettel stitch” (the stitch that forms a little chain).
- The sewing thread should be as long as needed providing it is a comfortable length to sew with. Adding new thread is discussed in an earlier post.
- To follow these instructions, station 1 can be the kettle stitch station at either end of the signature.
- Insert the needle into station number 1 and pull the thread to the inside of the signature.
- Leave a 2” tail of thread on the outside of the signature.
IMPORTANT: Always pull and tighten the thread in the direction of the sewing. Thread tightened in the opposite direction, against itself, can tear through the paper between the sewing stations.
- On the inside of the signature, insert the needle in station number 2, and pull the thread to the outside of the signature.
- On the outside of the signature, insert the needle back into station number 2 and pull the thread to the inside of the signature, leaving a loop of thread on the outside of the sewing station 2. The loop should be about l/2”.
- The two threads should not cross over one another and the needle should not pierce the thread where it reenters a sewing station.
NOTE: It can be difficult to locate the sewing hole on the back of the signature fold. If this is a problem, place an unthreaded needle or awl in the sewing station on the inside of the fold so that it protrudes onto the back of the spine. Slowly pull the needle or awl out of the hole and insert the sewing needle as first needle or awl leaves the sewing hole.
- On the inside of the signature, insert the needle in station number 3 and pull the thread to the outside of the signature. Do not pull so tight that the loop is pulled out of sewing station 2.
- Continue sewing along the spine, forming loops at sewing station 3,4 and 5. Remember to pull the thread in the direction of the sewing. Be careful not to pierce the sewing thread already in the sewing station.
- At sewing station 5, the thread will be on the outside of the signature. The first signature is now sewn. This sewing provides the anchor for the next signature to be attached to it.
2) Sewing The First Unattached Signature With A Link Stitch
- The next signature to be sewn is the first loose/unattached signature.
- It can be helpful to clip the first and second repaired signatures together so the centers of both can be easily located in the sewing process.
- On the outside of the second signature, insert the needle into station number 5 (a kettle stitch station) and pull the thread to the inside of the signature. Do not pull the thread so tight that any of the loops in the first signature are lost.
- The two signatures are now joined together at the kettle stitch stations.
- Working on the inside of the second signature, insert the needle in sewing station 4. Take the thread through the loop at sewing station 4 of the first signature. Bring the needle around the loop and back up into sewing station 4 on the second signature. There should now be two intertwined loops.
- Continue sewing in this manner to station 3, 2 and 1.
- Loop each thread through the loop on the first signature.
3) Tighten The Sewing Threads On The First Two Signatures
- The first and second signatures are now sewn together but the sewing thread is still loose. If the needle has not pierced the sewing threads when it was re-inserted into each sewing station, it is simple to tighten the thread.
NOTE: Linen thread is very strong, but it will still break if pulled hard enough. Pulling too tight can also tear through the paper. When tightening sewing thread, pull on the thread firmly until it just slips through your fingers.
- Position the book so the inside of the first sewn signature is facing out.
- Hold the tail end of the sewing thread (sewing station 1) in one hand, and grasp the thread between sewing station 2 & 3.
- Pull the sewing thread toward sewing station 3.
- Keep hold of the tail end of the sewing thread in one hand, and use this same technique to tighten the sewing thread one sewing station at a time, working the thread toward sewing station 5.
- When all the excess thread is at sewing station 5, reposition the text block so the fold of the signatures are facing out.
- Still holding the tail end of the sewing thread, use the sewing needle to pull the sewing thread to the outside of the signature at sewing station 5.
- Using the same technique, tighten the sewing thread in the second signature one sewing station at a time. Work the excess thread from sewing station 5 toward sewing station 1.
- When the excess thread is at sewing station 1, turn the text block so the folds of the signatures are facing out.
- Carefully pull the thread through sewing station 1 toward the outside of the signature.
- Grasp both threads in one hand and pull away from the edge of the signature fold to fully tighten.
- When the first and second signature threads are tight, tie the two ends of thread in a square knot (separate post).
4) Sewing The Second Unattached Signature OR Sewing An Anchor
Thread Into An Attached Signature
The third sewn signature will either attach another loose/unattached signature or anchor the first loose/unattached signature to the text block.
- Pre-punch the sewing stations if needed and place the signature in place in the text block. It can be helpful to clip the second and third signatures together so the centers of both can be easily located in the sewing process.
- It is possible to continue sewing the link stitch with a straight needle, but it will be easier with a curved needle. The nstructions for continuing the link stitch will be described for a curved and straight needle.
Curved needles can often be purchased in a sewing or craft store, but some people find these manufactured needles too curved.
Many book binders like a more specific type of curve and bend needles to suit a particular task.
Experiment with different kinds of sewing needles and decide which works best for you.
- On the outside of the third signature, insert the needle into station number 1 (a kettle stitch station). Pull the thread tight to the inside of the signature.
- Working on the inside of the signature, insert the needle in station 2.
- Pull the thread tight to the outside of the signature. Remember to pull the thread in the direction of the sewing (toward station number 3).
- Using the technique for a curved or straight needle, pass the needle behind the loop at sewing station 2.
– Link the third signature to the second signature by inserting a curved needle behind the loops at station 2.
– Pull the thread tight and reinsert the needle into sewing station 2. Be careful not to pierce the sewing thread already in sewing station 2.
– Continue onto sewing station 5.
– Insert the needle in between the first and second signatures. The needle should be between sewing station 1 (kettle station) & 2.
– Pull the thread to the inside of the text block.
– Working from the inside of the text block, insert the needle outward between the first and second signatures. The needle should be between sewing station 2 & 3.
– Pull the needle out of the signatures and tighten the thread.
– Reinsert the needle into sewing station 2. Be careful not to pierce the sewing thread already in sewing station 2.
– Tighten the thread by pulling in the direction of the sewing (toward
sewing station 3) and continue to station 3 on the inside of the
– Repeat this procedure for sewing station 3 and 4 then proceed to
sewing station 5. The two signatures must be linked together at sewing station 5.
– Since there is no second thread to tie into a square knot, a special knot is used to hold the two signatures to one another. It is called a kettle stitch because it is used to link signatures together at the kettle stitch station
- At station 5, pass the needle behind the stitch that connects the first two signatures together. Pull the thread until a small loop is formed, about l/2” in diameter.
- Pass the needle through the loop, and pull tight.
- If this is the last signature to be sewn, repeat the Kettle Stitch so there is a total of two.
- Clip the thread leaving a 1” tail.
- Return to sewing station 1 on the first signature, clip that thread to a 1” tail.
- If there is another signature to attach, put the needle into station 5 of that signature and repeat the sewing pattern using the instructions for Section 4 above.
NOTE: Keep in mind that the sewing will be moving in the opposite direction and the sewing station numbers will be backwards to the instructions.
When the last signature is attached, tie two kettle stitches and clip the thread, leaving a 1” tail. Return to sewing station 1 on the first signature, and clip that thread to a 1” tail.