Someone posted a request on h-needlework about how to make a needlebook. I do not have any information on the historical accuracy or use of needlebooks in period (SCA, that is) but the books I make are small and practical. I would love to hear from anyone that has information about needlebooks in period.
I have made several as it is a great small way to try out a pattern, material or technique and get a usable item as a result. They also make great gifts. My first needlebook had many pages and I still use it, but it is a bit bulky. The small roll up design (from an older post, below) is great for tucking into my purse for a carry along project. At least it was until I lost it recently. The little roll up model, some thread, embroidery scissors and a small project (like another needlebook) fit easily into a small ziplock bag.
The design I make now has only two pages which are actually one piece of fabric folded in half and stitched through the middle to the lining. I like to put the same size needle on each page and I have different needlebooks for different types of needles. I keep one book for the needles of my current project. I also make my needlebooks with a little pocket on the inside. The pocket holds my needle threader so it is always in the same place as my needles. It is less easy to forget things when they are all together!
A small needlebook that is big enough to hold most needles need only be two inches by three inches (or 5 by 8 cm) when closed. Or make one as big as you want.
The picture above shows different views of my most recent needlebook. The cover is two pieces of linen sewn together; one has the blackwork and the other is plain red linen that matched the wool I used for the lining. The inside picture shows the pocket attached to the lining with the pages turned to one side. This needlebook is approximately 2.5 by 4 inches.
The cover can be a single embroidery folded in half, two embroideries, or half embroidery and the back side plain fabric. Do whatever you want, there are lots of options. The "spine" can be left plain or have a ribbon or cord attached so as tie the book onto a belt.
Lining the needlebook
I line my needlebooks with felted wool. It is thick enough to give the book structure so I do not have to add cardboard or some other stiffening (keeping it simple). For embroidery that will cover the entire surface of the base fabric I use linen congress cloth because it is stiff enough that it can be easily worked without a hoop (fits into my purse) and provides some additional stiffness to the needlebook.
Cut a piece of felted wool the same size as the cover; stitch together. Leave a gap in the stitching where the cords to tie the book together will be placed. It will be much easier to attach the ties by sewing them into the seam if there is a little gap for them to fit into. Or, don't leave a gap and learn this the hard way. Sometimes that is the only way some of us learn.
The pocket is a piece of fabric cut exactly half the size of the lining. Turn under the edges 1/4 inch (or 0.5cm) and stitch to the lining. I place the opening of the pocket towards the center of the book rather than the edge. That way things don't fall out and get lost.
Now cut another piece of felted wool slightly smaller than the finished size of the book (about 1/4 inch or 0.5cm), and stitch it to the lining down the middle to create two pages. Trim any excess as needed. The nice thing about using felted wool for pages is that the edges do not have to be finished in any way because the wool does not fray (again, keeping it simple).
Tying it together
I use ties of the same cord as the edging to tie my books together. Just make sure to think about where the ties will go before stitching the cover to the lining or finishing the edge seam. I like to stitch the ties in before I finish the edges. Sometimes I get excited and forget, then when I realize this I say curse words.
Another method of closing is to use a loop and button. Here is an opportunity to use a pretty button!
Finishing the edges
When the outside and lining are stitched together there is a seam edge which may be left plain or the edge can be finished in various ways. I think a finished edge adds a special touch.
One way to finish the edges is with an embroidered braid. There is an excellent tutorial on the Medieval Silkwork blog here:
This technique looks nice and has period documentation. I fingerlooped a matching cord to tie the book shut using only two loops.
Another technique is to sew a ready made cord to the seam. I have tried fingerloop braid and kumihimo. I generally use kumihimo because it is so much easier for me to do and my kumihimo looks nicer than my fingerloop braiding.
A third technique is to use tablet woven edging. Maxlu179 has a very nice photo of this type of edging in progress on a pouch he made:
I hope this information is helpful to anyone who is interested in making a needlebook. They are really fun!