How to use Learn Bookbinding’s sewing frame

The purpose of a sewing frame is twofold: When sewing a single book-block, the sewing frame holds the tapes or cords upright, assisting in neater, faster sewing. A sewing frame also makes edition sewing onto tapes possible. Edition sewing is sewing a succession of the same size book-block in a stack and separating them when sewing is complete by sliding them along the tapes and snipping off enough of the tape for each one.

Many types of ‘home made’ sewing frames available via the internet, have mechanisms to to stretch the cords and tapes to a significant degree of tension. This is not only unnecessary but detrimental, particularly when sewing onto cords. Over-stretching the cords will result in the signatures being pulled too tightly together when released from the sewing frame and rounding or backing will be rendered impossible. Tapes and cords do not need to be stretched under tension like guitar strings, they simply need to be held upright without slackness.

Our sewing frame is designed to enable sewing onto both tapes and cords and also enables edition sewing onto tapes. It is simple to use and folds flat for easy storage.

Your sewing frame comes with a box of accessories. You should have 5 each of the following: drawing pins, rings, tabbed D rings and safety pins. On the underside of the board is a strip of Sundela board (pinboard). This strip is attached by Velcro and can be removed and replaced. We also supply replacement strips. 

Before you begin. Whether you are sewing onto tapes or cords, loosen off the thumb nuts a little and raise the frame upright at 90° to the baseboard and tighten up the thumb nuts firmly. 

Setting up for sewing onto tapes:

You do not need to cut off short lengths of tape, you can set up the sewing frame using long lengths of tape if you wish and stow the excess underneath the base. This method is particularly useful If you are edition sewing. Setting up using short lengths of tape is covered further on.

Begin by passing one end of the tape over the top bar.

Using the safety pins, secure the end of the tape around the top bar. 

If you have already pre-pierced your signatures, use one signature to line up the tapes along the top bar so they lie vertically between the corresponding holes before securing the tapes underneath the base. 

Pull the tapes straight and taut but without excessive tension, simply use the drawing pins to pin the tapes to the Sundela board under the base. 

Whether you are sewing a single book-block or edition sewing you can remove your book-blocks in the same way. Unfasten the safety pins and remove the tape from the top bar. (It’s a good idea to put the pins back in the end of the tapes; this will help prevent you accidentally pulling the tapes all the way through the book-block)

You can also remove the drawing pins from underneath. Slide the bookblock up the tapes, pulling the tapes through the stitching and then trim the excess, leaving enough tape on either side of the spine (be a little generous, you can trim these tapes at a later stage of the binding process).

Setting up for sewing onto cords.

Begin by tying a small loop close to one end of each of your cords. You can use either a slip knot or an overhand loop. 

Pass the looped end of the cord over the top bar and pass the tail end of the cord down through the loop to secure the cord to the top bar. 

To secure the other ends of the cords underneath to the Sundela board, you will add a tabbed D ring to each cord.  Begin by pinching the cord to create a v. Make this v at a point in the cord that is approximately 5cm beyond the baseboard. Don’t worry too much about the placement of the v because the cord length can be easily adjusted once the tabbed D ring is attached. 

To attach the tabbed D ring to the cord: 
  • Pass the pinched v loop through the D. 
  • Pass the tabbed D ring through the cord loop.
  • Pull both free ends of the cord to secure the cord to the D ring.
Pull the cord taut but not tight and secure the tabbed D ring to the Sundela board, under the base with a drawing pin. The cord can be easily adjusted on the D ring before you pin the tab to ensure it is the correct length to pin to the Sundela board. 
You can use one signature with its pre-pierced, or pre-sawn holes to work out the spacings of your cords, as with step 5 in the previous ‘Setting up for sewing onto tapes’ section.

Sewing with short lengths of tape:

You can add a spare piece of tape over the top bar to allow you to sew to short lengths of tape as shown.

Sewing with short lengths of cord:

You can make extenders using the rings included to allow you to sew onto short lengths of cord. 
Using spare cord or string, attach a loop to your ring. 
Attach this extension loop to the top bar and attach the cord to the ring. 
You can use the same method for attaching your cords to the ring as detailed a few steps above on this page.

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