Arts and Crafts: Book Making (Preschooler – Adult)

Materials: Paper, Thread, Needle, Ruler or Measuring Tape, and Clamps (optional)

Goals: Preschoolers will practice fine motor skill development and creators of all ages will experience gained confidence and satisfaction that results from the completion of an aesthetically pleasing project.

Step 1: Tear down paper to equal sizes.

We used our handmade paper from our paper making project, but you can use sturdy papers like construction, cardstock, or drawing paper from sketchbooks. Thin printer paper is not ideal for this project. I also had a strong, fibrous paper that made a great cover material, which was purchased from an art supply store. Originally I planned on using a hand pulled sheet with a flower inlay as the cover, but a wild three-year old preferred it inside a glass of soda water.

To tear down the paper:

  • Fold the sheet in half with the corners of the sheet meeting. Create a strong crease.
  • Take a damp sponge and run it along the crease. Run the back of your fingernail along the crease, reinforcing the fold.
  • Unfold the paper and refold it along the crease in the opposite direction. You will not be creating a new crease, but continuing to weaken to same crease. Run the damp sponge along the edge again and reinforce by running the back of your fingernail along the fold.
  • Unfold the paper and slowly pull it apart in opposite directions (photographed above). You should be left with two equal sized sheets. The edge that you created will mimic a deckled edge that comes from hand-pulled paper.

Step Two: Measure and create holes

Once the paper was broken down into equal-sized sheets in the dimensions of our planned book (10 sheets total at 3″ x 5″), we stacked them, making sure they were centered with edges lined up at the spine. To keep them in place, I used my mini-clamps. Chip-clips work well too.

I measured 3/4″ from the spine into the book, and drew a line in pencil. Then I measured my three holes along the 3/4″ line. The first and last holes were 1/2″ from the edge, and the middle hole was 1.5″ (centered). Mark your holes with a pencil (or a pen if you’re especially brave), and make sure to remeasure to confirm that your holes are lined up and equally spaced. Once you’re happy with the spacing of your marks, run a needle through each mark, piercing the entire book and making sewing easier for your preschooler.

Step 3: Sew the book

Have your preschooler sit near you or in your lap as you guide their hands through the stitching process. There are several different patterns you can use to bind the book, and we chose a simple Japanese side stitch. I sewed from left to right, and below are the detailed steps that I took.

  • Thread the needle and knot the ends of your thread together. Open the front cover of the book and pull the needle and thread through the front cover (moving inside to out) leaving the knot on the inside.
  • Moving the needle around to the back of the book, push it through the same hole as your knot. After the needle has pulled through the book, pull the thread tight, creating a loop over the top of the spine.
  • Move the needle around the the back of the book and repeat the previous step, but pull the looped thread over the left edge of the book, creating a square on the left side on the front and back.
  • Move the needle to the front of the next hole, and push the needle to the back of the book. Pull the thread tight. You will have created a horizontal line on the front connecting the left square to the center hole.
  • Move the needle back to the front of the same hole, creating a loop over the top of the center hole. Pull the needle through, tightening the thread.
  • Move the needle to the back of your right hole, and pull it through to the front.
  • Loop the needle over the top of the book’s spine and pull it back through the same right hole from back to front, creating a top loop.
  • Loop the needle over the right side of the book’s spine and pull it back through the right hole from back to front, finishing the right side of your book (the square will look the same as the leftmost square).
  • Move the needle back into the center hole, moving front to back.
  • Move the needle back into the leftmost hole, moving back to front. This should finish the stitching on both sides of the book, creating the final pattern photographed below.
  • Tie the thread inside of the front cover, knotting it with your first knot.
  • Cut off excess thread. You can use the back of a fingernail to compress the knot so that the book does not bulge when closed.

Now you can do whatever you’d like with your final book, from a beautiful sketchbook to a diary. Our plan is to ink found natural objects, and for my preschooler to create hand pressed prints on each page, making a preschool-aged nature journal.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the creative preschool activities we’ve documented over the past two weeks! I realize that life has been stressful, different, and unpredictable throughout March and going forward during this pandemic. My goal was to offer a few creative ideas to explore with your little ones as we navigate this strange time together. With pressures to homeschool and anxiety about our future, I realize that it may take time to find a new normal or to explore the ideas here. It’s okay. If or when you are ready to try a creative activity, I will have a quick link to this collection of posts on my website. I will occasionally add notable projects and cool activities we will complete going forward.

I’d love to know if you tried any of the activities we’ve been posting, if you have any awesome projects of your own to share, or if there are any questions about the process. I’ve turned on commenting for this post, if you have anything to share.

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