japanese stab binding tutorial: marionette

I would call this tutorial more intermediate than arrows. Mainly because it isn’t simple in how the bind crosses the spine and requires more finger-coordination. As I was drawing my diagram and thinking about my method of sewing this bind, I realized that there might be a second, somewhat easier way. However, since many of my other binds use this technique (and must be done this way) I decided to stick with this.

So, to start:

**click on the image to make it bigger**

EXIT = needle pointed DOWN and ENTER = needle pointed UP

Figure 1

enter 1 (leave a tail of thread, but don’t knot it)
wrap around spine at an angle, below station 4 (hold it with your thumb…see figure 1)
enter 1 again
exit 2
-wrap around spine at the same angle as before, 1/3 of the way to station 5
-exit 2 again
enter 3
-wrap around spine 2/3 of the way to station 5
-enter 3 again
exit 4
-wrap around spine below station 5
-exit 4 again

Figure 2

enter 5
-weave thread through loops from stations 4, 3, 2…over, under, over
-cross under loop from 1, pull tight (see figure 2)
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 4, 3, 2…over, under, over
-enter 5 again
-wrap around spine at an angle below station 8
-enter 5 again
exit 6
-weave thread through loops from stations 5, 4, 3…over, under over
-cross under loop from 2, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 3, 4, 5…over, under, over
-exit 6 again
-wrap around spine 1/3 of way to station 9
-exit 6 again
enter 7
-weave thread through loops from 6, 5, 4…over, under, over
-cross under lop from 3, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 6, 5, 4…over, under, over
-enter 7 again
-wrap around spine 2/3 of the way to station 9
-enter 7 again
exit 8
-weave thread through loops from stations 7, 6, 5…over, under, over
-cross under loop from 4, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 5, 6, 7…over under, over
-exit 8 again
-wrap around spine below station 9
-exit 8 again
enter 9
-weave thread through loops from stations 8, 7, 6…over, under, over
-cross under loop from 5, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 6, 7, 8…over, under, over
-enter 9 again
-wrap around spine below station 12
-enter 9 again
exit 10
-weave through loops from stations 9, 8, 7…over, under, over
-cross under loop from 6, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 7, 8, 9…over, under, over
-exit 10 again
-wrap around spine 1/3 of the way to station 13
-exit 10 again
enter 11
-weave thread through loops from stations 10, 9, 8…over, under, over
-cross under loop from 7, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 8, 9, 10…over, under, over
-enter 11 again
-wrap around spine 2/3 of the way to station 13
-enter 11 again
exit 12
-weave thread through loops from stations 11, 10, 9…over, under, over
-cross under loop from 8, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 9, 10, 11…over, under, over
-exit 12 again
-wrap around spine below station 13
-exit 12 again
enter 13
-weave thread through loops from stations 12, 11, 10…over, under, over
-cross under loop from 9, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 10, 11, 12…over, under, over
-enter 13 again
exit 14
-weave thread through loops from stations 12, 11…under, over
-cross under loop from 10, pull tight
-weave thread back through loops (opposite side) 11, 12…over, under
-exit 14 again
enter 15
-cross under loop from 11, pull tight
-enter 15 again
exit 16
-cross under loop from 12, pull tight
exit 16 again
-wrap around edge
exit 16 again
enter 15
exit 14
enter 13
exit 12
enter 11
exit 10
enter 9
exit 8
enter 7
exit 6
enter 5
exit 4
enter 3
exit 2
enter 1
-wrap around the edge
-tie off

37 thoughts on “japanese stab binding tutorial: marionette

  1. I did it! It wasn’t easy. At first I thought I wouldn’t make it because the thread gets too messy. The result was far from perfect, but considering it was the first time, I think it deserves a 6. :)

    • For this bind, I would estimate a length equal to 8.5 loops around the edge of the spine. If your book is a good deal thicker than mine (which is .25″ or .64cm) then you will need to add extra length to account for the depth of each hole.

      • Hi, Becca! I would love to try this binding, but i’m having a big problem trying to figure out the length of the thread i should use. I’m making a hardcover book, with 2.5cm thick and with the spine measuring 30cm. What was the size of your book’s spine? Thank you!!

      • Whoa, that is a large book! The spine of my example was about 8mm thick, and 15.2 cm wide. Also my holes were placed 15mm from the edge. I would suggest that with such a large book, you move the holes even farther away from the spine (to at least 30mm). To estimate the thread length… once you have drilled your holes, take a piece of your string and thread it through hole 1, wrap it around the spine at an angle to below 4, and then up through hole 1 again. However long that length is, multiply it by 24, then add extra length (that goes around the book twice). Sorry if that sounds complicated, but it is how I would figure it! :) Best of luck to you.

      • Hi, Becca! I credited you on my website for your amazing bindings! Thank you again for helping me with the book i was making to gift to a friend. Your instructions were beyond helpful! =)

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  3. Would this work with a hard cover? Also does the book open ok? I am in a book structures class and am thinking of using this binding style. I just don’t know if the book would open ok because we have to put content inside.

    • First, your book would need to be portrait and not landscape. I forgot to mention that in my recent theory of JSB post. And a hard cover would work only if there was a break (of at least .25″) in the bookboard where the cover crease would be. So yes, it is very possible as long as you keep those two things in mind.

  4. I’ve been thinking about making a journal using this binding technique and was wondering if you could recommend supplies- paper, thread, etc.
    Did you use leather for the cover?
    Also, what’s used to punch the holes?

    • Hi Leah,
      For paper, I’d say experiment! It all depends on what you want to use the journal for. As long as it is landscape oriented, most papers work. For thread, I like to bind with waxed linen thread. But you don’t have to use it, anything will work. Or you could get chunk of beeswax and wax your thread as you go. I’ve seen people use ribbon (with very large holes) for this binding style.

      The journal in this particular post doesn’t have leather for the cover, it’s actually a textured paper with a waxy coating. Often large-scale printers will have paper samples available. Clampitt paper in Dallas, TX is an example. They also generate lots of scrap paper waste (from the edges that are cut off of print jobs) and I often use that for the paper of my binding experiments.

      There are many options for punching the holes. The most common tool is a bookbinder’s awl, but you could also use a drill press or a Japanese hole punch. Hollanders.com and Talasonline.com are good places to look for bookbinding supplies.

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    • Hola Diana! I might post video tutorials at some point, but unfortunately that won’t be any time soon. I’m currently finishing a masters degree and planning a wedding! But there are some good tutorials on youtube on the basics.

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    • A good rule of thumb is to have at least .25″ or 6mm in between each hole, so the risk of ripping the paper between two holes is greatly reduced. It is possible to place the holes as close as 3 mm, but you must be very, very careful as you sew. This pattern, if you go by .25″, makes it 5.75″/146mm wide (the large gaps in the pattern would be .25″ x 3). So for 4″/101mm the gaps would be about 4.4mm or .173″.

      Another thing to keep in mind is a stab bound book doesn’t open easily… so at 4″x6″, your holes need to be within half an inch of the spine edge at least, if not closer. Try as well to not pull your thread super tight.

  12. Hi Becca,
    I am currently working on a book with the dimensions 5.9 w x 11 h. I would like to do this marionette binding but I am trying to figure out how much space this will take up. In the image it looks like you go about an inch into the book. Is this correct? my biggest thing I am trying to figure out is how large of a gutter the inside my book will need to be. I am open for any suggestions or advice you have! Thanks !

    • Hi Shelby! In this bind I would usually make it at least an inch from the edge, but it doesn’t have to be. Just be aware that if you push it closer to the edge the V pattern will be flatter. Your book has good proportions though, so an inch deep bind would work fine. Hope that helps!

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  14. I’ve been struggling with this technique! It seems everyone knows how much they need to measure but I just can’t get it down. I’m working on a 8.5 inch by 2 inch piece of paper just to test it out, but the triangles are all over the place and they are not spaced out equally. For future reference, is there any shortcuts or techniques in figuring out how much spacing you need for the holes so that way this design (and future ones I’d really like to do!) come out correct and even? Thank you for taking the time to respond!

    • Hi Yvonne,
      Sorry to hear about your struggles! A couple of suggestions for you: it’s much easier to do test samples on foam-core board, or regular corrugated cardboard, than just a piece of paper. Paper has nearly no thickness, so your thread wouldn’t have anywhere to anchor itself around the spine and I can see how tangled up it could get! For this bind, and for most patterns, I try to keep at least 6-7mm between holes. That distance reduces the danger of ripping two holes into one giant one during the sewing.
      Hope this helps!

      • Thank you Becca!
        I actually meant to say that I was measuring the holes on a piece of paper to know where to put the holes on the book board, but after just trying to measure things to a tee, I kinda guessed on the design for measurements and it worked on the book board! After that, it came super easy to me and things have been awesome since! Thank you for getting back to me and giving me measurements to help me in the future :). Really having a blast learning your designs and I cannot wait to apply them to my senior project!

  15. Hi! Im having my struggle too!.. This is an amazing binding! But there is no video on the web to keep up with the steps.. I think im lost!. please make a video if you find the time!.

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