How to Repair Loose Sewing


How to repair loose sewing in a book. This procedure is useful when the text-block is separated from the text-liner and the signatures and most of the sewing is intact.



Inner Hinge Repair when only one hinge is broken.

These instructions are for Inner Hinge Repair when only one hinge is broken on a typical case-binding. (This blog is still being updated. More soon.)

These instructions will apply best to case-bound books with french joints. (Rather than tight joint books which are typically, but not always, leather bound). A French joint is a type of joint that looks like a long depression in the cover.

French Joint

(A case-binding is created when the text-block and case are made separately and then put together. This creates a natural hollow in the spine area.)





  • Materials: archival PVA, Nori Paste,  Muslin or Mull, Archival heavy-text-weight paper (not printer paper and not card stock), Japanese tissue like Sekishu or thicker,
  • Tools: Scraping Knife, Scissors, Lifting Knife, Some sort of Skewer, Rod or Knitting needle, Cutting Mat or board, Utility (exacto) knife, Wax paper or Baking parchment, Waste papers, A piece of Polyester Film (Mylar), Bone or Teflon folder, Weights (like covered bricks) other books or magazines to raise the board up to be worked on,
  1. If the spine isn't completely separated yet, cut the last few threads or paper so the whole spine is exposed.
  2. Remove any of the paper liner that is loose. Only whatever comes off easily. Don't scrape the whole case-spine liner off unless you are prepared to break the other hinge.
  3. Clean the text-spine edge
  4. Clean the case-spine edge
  5. Lift the paste down
  6. Remove the mull?
  7. Make a new hinge from Japanese tissue or Paper
  8. Either lift off (remove) the flyleaf, attach the new hinge to the flyleaf edge and then re-attach it. Do this especially if it is illustrated.
  9. OR: if the flyleaf is too solidly attached then:
  10. Leave the flyleaf in place and attach the new hinge on top of the flyleaf. It shouldn't come down further than the bottom of the shoulder.
  11. Glue muslin (or tissue or mull or paper) as a hinge along the edge of the text-spine. It should extend about an inch onto the text-spine and extend far enough to reach under the paste-down where it has been lifted.
  12. On top of this hinge glue a paper liner. Be sure to maintain the natural hollow space of this typical case-binding.
  13. When you are ready to make the new attachment, weight the text-block so it doesn't move around and prop up the cover so that the hinge is in alignment.
  14. You will need a waste sheet of paper, some wax paper and a rod or skewer.




The un-damaged inner hinge.

The restored inner hinge.

How to Tint Japanese tissue for Book Repair

 How to Tint Japanese tissue for Book Repair

I only learned how to tint Japanese tissue for book repair after many years of making do with whatever colors I already had around. When I finally did start color matching myself I couldn't believe how easy it was to at least get really close. Getting an exact match took longer but it is a fun process anyway so I do recommend trying it. And it only requires a few tools and materials.
A small but deep cup
A brush (maybe 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch wide).

Something to paint on that the paint won't stick to like glass, pyrex, plexiglass, or what I have here is an enamel photo processing tray.

Japanese tissue. I am using Sekishu here but many others will work fine too.
A Water Spray Bottle (optional)
The Acrylic Paints that will make the right color for you. That will be different for each situation but here is a list of a few sort of standard colors for paper. I like Golden paints particularly.
Titan Buff
White (whatever kind)
Raw Umber
Burnt Umber
Yellow Oxide

You will only need a small amount of each. A pea sized dollop is a good way to start but with fluid paints two or three drops will work.
Some colors go further than others meaning that it is best to start with tiny amounts until you get a sense for how much the addition will change the overall color.

After mixing the colors with no water added (or just a tiny bit), use the spray bottle to add water a bit add a time. The spray helps it blend in faster but you can just dribble some water in if you don't have a spray bottle handy.

Watch for lumps. It should be watery like milk rather than cream. You will need at least a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of liquid to make it easy enough to paint with.

When you think you are getting close to the color you need, hold the cup near the object you are trying to match (end-sheet, page or cloth cover) to take a look. Don’t spill!

When you think you have a good match test it out on a bit of the paper you are going to color. Dry it. The color will change so make sure it is really dry. Hold it next to the paper you are trying to match. Notice: Too dark, too light? Needs more red or yellow?
This may take a long time to match the first few times but you will get faster at it. I think my first color match took 2 hours! Now it can be 15 minutes.

There is a color wheel that I have always liked called the Analogous Color Wheel. It is for oil paints but I like the muted colors. It can help you to see what direction to take the color in.

Hal Reed's Analogous Color Wheel

Once you have the color, get a bigger paint brush. I like a two inch Purdy for this. I used an enamel photo processing tray, but you could use anything so that the paint won’t stick to it.

Paint away. Fairly quickly to avoid leaving brush strokes.

Peel it up while it is still wet and then dry it. You still have to check to see if the color is accurate so waiting for it to dry can be annoying.

I will typically use a bit of paper towel to dry it but be careful. Letting wet paper sit on top of any pattern can imprint that pattern into your paper. So keep it moving!

You can use a hair dryer too of course.

Typically I will make a batch of several sheets of slightly different colors to match different books. This saves a lot of time.

Here is the book I was working on.

I matched the Japanese tissue for the hinge color.

For more on how to actually match colors, this Members Only Blog post and video will help.  go to…restoration-less/

Damp cloth method for cleaning a book cover vs. scraping method

I thought this video was going to be about scraping and color touch up again but turns out the damp cloth method worked very well. There are just a few notes on pens vs pencils to round it out.

How to Deodorize Smelly Books.

How to Deodorize Smelly Books and do it Safely.

This is simply the best product I have found so far to deodorize smelly books. It is cleaner than cat litter, baking soda and charcoal and less dangerous than freezing or microwaving your books. Any of the zeolite-based deodorizers can work well and you don't need to immerse your book into them for it to work. Wikipedia on zeolites: "Zeolites are the aluminosilicate members of the family of microporous solids known as "molecular sieves." The largest single use for zeolite is the global laundry detergent market. Non-clumping cat litter is often made of zeolite. " However, cat litter or other granular materials that you set the book into can get caught up between the pages and cause tearing or staining and sometimes they have added fragrances you don't want to add to your book. The technical stuff: How Smelleze Works

deodorize smelly books

Smelleze: Book Deodorizer

Baking soda

Baking soda, while slowly effective, has a ph of about 8 (alkaline). Typically people pour it onto the pages and no matter how much you brush and wipe it never really all comes out again. Because of the alkaline nature, the un-evenness of the distribution means that eventually the pages will age with a very mottled look. Setting the book on top of baking soda with a spun polyester fabric between them should be just fine. Still, baking soda may be messy but it is easily available. Better for a quick fix than waiting a week for your Smelleze order to arrive.


Charcoal is an ingredient in some book deodorizers and can be effective over time but on its own is again messy. No one is talking about charcoal briquettes by the way. Don't use those to deodorize books especially the ones that have chemicals infused to make them easier to light!

Freezing or Microwaving

Freezing your books can ruin the glue attachment if it is a white PVA (poly vinyl acetate) glue. Microwaving can do the same thing. Heat re-activates the glue and this may be ok but you have to watch that the book doesn't shift or the glue may dry in a different position and make the book crooked.

How to deodorize your smelly book

To start deodorizing your smelly books first get a plastic tub that can be closed. A picnic cooler works very well. (Be sure it is clean). Some books open easily so that both boards of the cover will be flat on the bottom of the tub as shown in this video. Others will not open fully and will need to be placed only on one side and then propped open. Both methods work fine.

Be sure the book is completely dry before using this method or you may be helping mold to grow! If there is any sign of mold, after it is dry, wipe the moldy area with Isopropyl Alcohol. 99% is the best to use because you don't want to introduce moisture again. Using sunshine to help it dry is good because of the ultra-violet rays helping kill the mold but it will also drain color from books so be cautious.

How to Deodorize Smelly Books:

Note Sewing when Deconstructing a Book

When you are deconstructing a book and you know you are going to re-sew it in the traditional manner with needle and thread. Make notes on a piece of paper that will help you remember what you discover while you are taking it apart. That way it will be easier to re-sew it according to the way it was done originally. This is typically only needed for more rare books and only if the client is willing to foot the extra expense. Other sewing options include Kerf sewing which destroys some of the inner margin, or there is a sort of tacking together sewing that is possible where you line the spine and then sew through it only for the loose signatures.