Instructions: Margin-fold Signatures for Laser or Inkjet Printing

Many times, students want to be able to print on single sheets of paper and bind into a multiple-signature book, but they end up with a sidebound book instead. A friend (of Slot-and-Tab fame) just brought me this technique to bind single sheets of printer paper into a larger book that would lie flat when open. It's a brilliant way to be able to print out in a word processing document without the imposition. (I really wanted to make a joke there.) What I mean is you don't have to figure out what page gets printed with what other page. You can print them out in order. I'll list the settings for Word at the end. I'm calling it a Margin-fold Signature or Margin-fold Book.

The book has tabs between the pages, which can be used for added content: run a poem down the tab or use a decorative element such as a pattern or design or other marginalia. Punch holes in the tabs or attach collaged paper, if you like.

Any paper will work for the signatures, but you will need to fold with the grain, that is, have the grain run parallel to the spine of the finished book. In this case, 8.5 x 11" printer paper is grained long, so it works perfectly well, plus you don't have to cut it. Of course, you could always make your book smaller, if you preferred.

Tools: bone folder, ruler, pencil, awl, needle, 2 paper clips, scissors
Materials: 8 pieces paper, grained long, for each signature you want (my example is 2 signatures printed front and back = 32 printed pages, 16 pieces of 20# paper); thread (one length from head to tail for each signature plus a little. My example took 2+ lengths.)

If you are using card stock or vellum, plan for 4 pages for each signature, total. (Other medium weight papers might work best with 6 pieces, rather than 8.)

For the stitching, I used a typical running stitch for a multiple-signature binding with an even number of holes.

It would work well with any binding that requires signatures: Coptic, exposed stitching, signatures sewn to an accordion, and many more variations you can find in my book, Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms.

1. Measure 1" from the right edge on all the papers. (This for right-handed folks; left handers feel free to rotate the paper 180 degrees and measure from the left.)

2. Score and fold up the tab(s). You may find it easier to fold up against the side of the ruler.

3. Depending upon what binding you are using, measure and mark for the required set of holes. If you are only making one signature you will need an odd set, for most other bindings, you will want an even set. For this tall a book, I recommend 5 or 6 holes. You only need to mark one paper and use it for a template to poke the holes in the others. Nest half of the papers with the template on top where you can see it. Poke the holes with the awl.

4. Refold the remaining half of the papers so that the tabs bend the opposite direction. Then nest the template inside of this stack and poke the holes.

5. Put the template back with its original first stack. Take one paper from each stack and nest and alternate them, tabs in the center.

6. Align the edges and the folds and clip with paperclips in the center of the signature across the tabs.

7. Put the holes facing you and sew. This photo shows two signatures: I sewed down one and am now sewing up into the other.

8. Before you tie a knot, crease the folded edges well with a bone folder.

This shows how the finished book block looks. It opens flat. You can see the tab.

The image that follows shows what happens  if you want to have one tab at the front and one at the back to be able to attach covers, the second image is the view between the signatures when you do this.

This shows the stitching on the inside.

This shows the verso of the tab.

For the cover, remember that you made your book narrower by one inch, so the finished size of the book block is 7 1/2" x 11".

Casebound, hard covers: use one decorative paper or book cloth (size determined by your project); two boards, 7 1/2" x 11 1/4" and one spine board or strip the depth of the book block (space between board/strip/board is 3x thickness of the boards); apply glue to the spine of the book block; attach a strip of mull or cheesecloth for stability; case in as usual, adding endpapers front and back, 7 1/4" x 11" each.

Soft covers with fold at fore edge: make a spine strip that 11"by twice the width of one tab plus the width of the spine (my spine strip was 11"h x 2 1/2"d); measure, mark and score so the depth is centered on the strip; glue the right and left edges of the strip to the exposed tabs, front and back (leave the tabs free of the book block and leave the spine free as well); for the covers, use paper 11" x 15 3/4" (grained short), folded in half with the grain; sandwich the pieces and glue to the tabs/spine.

The reason you don't put glue on the spine itself is that you want it to flex when opened. You can see it becomes hollow, allowing the pages to move easily.

Sandwich, from bottom up on the left: front half of folded cover glued to the spine strip glued to the front tab, glued to inner half of folded cover. Cover folds are at the fore edge.

And, as usual, put something on the front so you know it is the front.

Many possibilities!


To set up a Word doc format
Top: 1"
Bottom: 2"
Left: 0.25"
Right: 0.25"
Gutter: 0
Header: .5"
Footer: .5"

Number of Columns: 3
Col #1: .5"
Col #2: 5.23"
Col #3: .5"

On even pages, put the tab design in the lefthand column and leave the other one blank; for odd pages, put the tab design in the righthand column and leave the other blank. Also, for the right and left columns, 1 and 3, make sure you center whatever content you add there. OK?


P.S. Due to continuing interest, I've added more waxed linen thread packs to nevermindtheart, and will try to keep some variety in stock.


Aine Scannell said…
love this Alisa. thank you so much, for sharing the procedure.
Alisa said…
You are welcome, Aine. It will be interesting to see what else we can do with it.
Daria said…
Thanks for this, Alisa! Stay well.
Anonymous said…
Thanks so much: this is a very elegant yet accessible solution! I look forward to using it.
Velma Bolyard said…
so nifty. maybe i can adapt something i have going to this and it will be even better than i'd planned! thanks!
Alisa said…
Daria—you, too!

DLGoodwin—I'd be interested to see what you do.

Velma—I'd love to see it! It might work for fabric with a crease ironed in, too.

Stay safe everyone!
Ama said…
What a useful and ingenious binding. Thank you!
Alisa said…
Thanks for reading, Ama!