The Ethiopian Binding online workshop

July 12th, 2023 3:00 PM

  • Instructor: Karen Hanmer
  • Workshop Type: Binding
  • Workshop Status: Open
  • Sessions: 1
  • In-person or Online?: Online

Workshop Fee (includes materials fee): $145
Scholarships available; click here to apply.


This is a single-session online workshop.

The Ethiopian binding structure may have emerged as early as the fourth century and has been in use unchanged for centuries. This humble, elegant binding opens flat and is the inspiration for many contemporary “Coptic” book arts structures. Characteristics include wood boards trimmed flush with the text block, paired sewing stations, and chain stitch-sewing that enters the board edge to incorporate board attachment. 

Historically the text blocks were made of parchment. Any covering would be done with goatskin. If the boards were to be left uncovered, no endband was added. If the boards were partially or fully covered in leather, braided leather endbands were sewn on after covering.

In this workshop, students will make an uncovered binding with wood boards. We will begin by folding and punching sections, and drilling holes into wood boards. A brief PowerPoint will introduce covering, endbanding, and decoration of these structures.

This is a fast-paced intermediate-level workshop. Students should be making sewn books independently, outside a workshop setting.

The workshop fee includes a mailed materials kit containing all paper, thread, and wooden boards to make one binding. Non-US students, please email us before registering to see if we are able to mail a kit to your location.

Materials to Bring: 

  • Mailed materials kit from SFCB


  • Bonefolder
  • Scissors
  • Awl
  • Small cutting mat, 9 x 12" is adequate
  • X-acto knife/scalpel/Olfa with several extra blades
  • Small straightedge
  • Beeswax for sewing
  • Section punching cradle (Instructions to make one are here:


This workshop requires some woodworking tools in addition to bookbinding tools. Please familiarize yourself with any woodworking tools you have acquired for use in this workshop before the session begins.

  • Dremel or hand drill (like Fiskars #85167097J)
  • 1/16" drill bit
  • Please note: To use small drill bits in a Dremel you may also need the #4486 MulitPro keyless chuck
  • Scrap of wood or stack of scrap board to drill into, about 1" thick and 4 x 6"
  • 6 x 4" piece of non-skid shelf lining
  • Small C-clamp or quick-grip clamp
  • 1/4" (6 mm) chisel 

Microspatula, Talas #TTB002001 or similar
Square with base, Talas #TTB041001, or some device to aid in marking sewing stations in boards. This item will also keep text block square.
Dividers, Talas # TTB033004  or similar

A small vise is useful to hold the boards when drilling the diagonal holes.

Date & Time: Wednesday, July 12, 2023 :: 3-6pm Pacific time

Location: Online over Zoom.

SFCB online workshops are recorded; all registered students will have access to the videos for a month after the final class session.

Please read over the SFCB Registration Policies before signing up for a class.

Registration will close at least two weeks prior to the start date of this workshop to allow time for kits to ship.

About the Instructor | Karen Hanmer (she/her)

Karen Hanmer’s artist-made books are physical manifestations of personal essays intertwining history, culture, politics, science and technology. She utilizes both traditional and contemporary book structures, and the work is often playful in content or format. Hanmer’s work is included in collections ranging from The British Library and the Library of Congress to Stanford University and Graceland. She has served on the editorial board of The Bonefolder, as Exhibitions Chair for the Guild of Book Workers, and as frequent exhibition curator and juror. She offers workshops and private instruction focusing on a solid foundation in traditional binding skills.

Past Student Reviews:

“I really like Karen and hope there will be more classes with her. Her talents are wonderful! She has a quirky sense of humor, which is especially appreciated since we struggle sometimes to understand next steps on the Zoom classes. She is adaptable and tries to help each student."

“She's a very organized, knowledgeable teacher who takes the time to share detailed information without turning the class into a tedious slog.”

“Karen was great. I would consider taking another class from her even if I wasn't particularly excited about the topic.”

“Karen is an amazing no nonsense teacher with incredible skills and great teaching techniques.”  

Register Now
Online Via Zoom
United States