Dick Mace Photography


Homemade Photograph Books

Continuing with my newfound hobby of creating books and albums by hand to showcase my photography I began a new type of photo book this past week. These books are made using a Crossed Structure Binding Technique which leaves a portion of the spine exposed. This spine exposure allows you to see the separate signatures (groups of pages stacked within each other) and the stitching that binds them together. To bind these photograph books together I used a French Link Stitch to give added strength and stability to the books. The French Link Stitch combined with the open Crossed Structure Binding allows for a stunning visual effect.


This project began with the intent of documenting all of my Korea trips in one handy photo album. I should have known myself better than to have thought I would be able to combine three separate trips into one album. The project inevitably expanded into two separate photo albums. At which point I realized that I did not include photographs from my most recent trip to Korea so this project will most likely end with a third album sometime soon.



The following is a photographic How-To documenting the process that goes into creating one of these photo albums. I got these instructions from the wonderful "Making Handmade Books" by Alisa Golden.


Any good photo album begins, of course, with the selection of photos to be included in the project. Once you've decided upon the photos you wish to include you have to decide upon the format of the pages. I went with anywhere from 3-6 page signatures with a total of 6 signatures per book. 

After you  have printed the photos in your chosen format you need to create the signatures. My chosen method is to align the edges, clip the pages together to prevent movement, and then crease the pages backwards and forwards to allow for the pages to lay flat when open.

To create the cover you lay your selected cover material out on your cutting mat, measure and mark the width of your books on the left and right sides of the material ( I added a quarter inch to the edge in order to ensure that the cover completely "covered" the pages due to the unevenness of the signature's edges).

Next, you mark out five sections in between the sections you just marked out for the covers. Using a craft knife and a ruler carefully cut the five center lines. Next make cuts along the edges to create one cover that has three tabs and one cover that has two tabs. 

Next in the process is creating a jig, or guide, the same height as your project to ensure uniformity amongst the signatures when punching the sewing holes. When creating the jig you want to make sure that you place the holes as close to tabs of the two-tab cover as possible, as this will keep the signatures from moving up or down after you finish binding them. I did not do this correctly which you can see in the following photos. I punched the holes too far away and only realized the mistake after completing the book which meant I had to go back and re-punch the holes and re-sew the entire book. 

Next comes the fun part! Sewing! (cough, that was sarcasm, cough)

Start from inside out, loop over the tabs and continue sewing. At the end of the first signature you sew directly into the next signature. If you're doing the French Link Stitch you catch the stitch from the first signature before you go into the third hole. You repeat this linking up whenever you come out of a hole in the second signature. Each stitch will then look like an X. When you reach the end of the second signature tie off in a square knot with the tail from the end of the first signature. Do not cut. 

Add the third signature, continuing to catch the threads from the previous signature. A helpful hint here is to go through the previous signature's stitch at closest point to next hole in the signature that you're currently sewing. At the end of each signature do a kettle stitch to secure a link with the previous signature. When you reach the end of all of your signatures do two kettle stitches. If you have an even number of signatures and end on the same side that you began sewing on, I recommend tying another square knot with the leftover tail from the very beginning. Just to be safe.

After sewing the binding you combine the two covers together. There are various methods of interlacing them, I did two different styles for my books. I sewed the tabs to the covers for an added aesthetic but you can also glue them if you prefer.

Note: I hate sewing through Canvas. Even when I pre-punch the holes it is still incredibly time -consuming and difficult. It looks great when you finish and lends a very rustic, homey look to the albums but I absolutely hate doing it.

I will probably go through and add some other papers and photo desciptions to this book at some point but I'm so excited to just be finished with the overall form that I'm going to take a break from it for a while. 

Boom! And just like that you're done! Try to pretend that these didn't take you hours and hours and hours. Enjoy!

Richard Mace