INTRO TO BINDING: JAPANESE STAB BINDING TUTORIAL (flexible cover with three-hole stitching)

By Tiffany Eng

For those interested in making books, Japanese stab bindings are an ideal place to start. They are simple, don't require many tools, and are endlessly customizable. Today we'll be starting with the easiest of the stab bindings, a simple three-hole binding. By using a flexible material as the front and back cover, no special cover construction is required, and punching the holes can be done easily.


  • Ruler
  • X-acto® knife or craft knife with a sharp blade
  • Scissors
  • Cutting mat, or surface to cut on
  • Awl, or nail and hammer for punching holes in your book
  • Large needle
  • Bulldog® clip, to hold pages together while sewing [optional]
  • Metal square, to ensure straight cuts [optional]


  • 2 pieces heavyweight material for the front and back covers of the book
  • 5-10 sheets of lightweight material for the textblock
  • Binding thread, yarn, ribbon, or any long material to stitch with

After obtaining all your materials, begin by cutting all your pages to same size as the covers. For nice straight edges in the book, it is best to use a ruler and knife to cut the pages to size. These pages make up the textblock of your book.

Cut a length of your thread to four times the height of the book, and thread it through the needle in preparation for the sewing stage.

Sandwich the textblock between the two covers you have chosen, making sure that the pages are lined up on all sides.

If using a Bulldog clip to hold the pages together as you stab and sew, then at this stage, carefully clamp the pages together on the right hand side of the book without disturbing the alignment of the leaves.

Using an awl, or nail and hammer, carefully punch three holes ¼ inch away from the edge of the book. Make sure the holes are aligned with each other and evenly spaced.

Using the needle and thread, enter the first hole from the front of the book and pull the thread through, leaving a few inches of the thread in the front.

Take the thread over the top edge of the book and enter the first hole through the front of the book again. Pull the thread firmly to tighten. The thread is now at the back of the book.

Take the thread from the back of the book, over the right edge of the book and back into the first hole through to the front of the book. Then follow by taking the thread through the second hole, this time entering from the back of the book. The thread is now at the front of the book, at the second hole.

Wrap the thread around the left edge of the book and back up through the second hole. Take the thread from the second hole, through the third hole from the front to the back.

Wrap the thread around the right edge of the book and through the third hole again from front to back. Take the thread from the back of the book around the bottom edge of the book, and enter the third hole again from front to back.

Take the thread from the third hole and up through the back of the second hole. To finish, tie the threads together tightly in a double knot, and cut the loose ends.

If you have access to finishing equipment, the covers of the book can be finished with gold foil lettering.

Congratulations, you've finished your first Japanese stab-sewn book! I hope you enjoyed this installment of Intro to Binding. Stay tuned for next time for five-station pamphlet bindings.