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Sewn Binding Styles: What’s In a Thread?

sewn bindingBook projects that place a premium on strength, durability, longevity and distinction can benefit from a sewn binding style. Although these binding styles involve the “sewing” of signatures, the methods and equipment used for sewing books are quite different than those used when sewing a hem on a pair of jeans.


Riverside Binding offers four sewn binding styles, and each possesses characteristics that are beneficial to a range of different applications:

Smyth Sewing

Smyth sewing uses thread to first sew the backbone of each folded signature. The stacked groups of signatures are then sewn together. Finally, the spine is glued to set the thread and a cover material is attached. This is the only type of sewing for which the signatures will need a lap to hold the project as it is sewn.

Applications - Smyth sewing is typically used for case binding applications. Due to its ability to lay flatter than a perfect bound book, Smyth sewing is ideal for children’s books or image-heavy applications with photos crossing over the spine.

Center Sewing

In this style, thread is sewn through the center of nested signatures. The visible threads that are a hallmark of this style can be used as a styling cue if your book is designed with a self-cover.

Applications - Since only one signature is required, center sewing is a great choice for thin projects. Brochures, catalogs and marketing materials are common applications for center sewing.

Side Sewing

Like center sewing, side sewing uses nested signatures rather than stacked signatures to create a single backbone. As the name implies, the threads are sewn through the side of signatures close to the spine. This technique produces an incredibly strong book block.

Applications - Side sewing is best used for thinner applications bulking 3/8" or less; strength will be compromised on thicker book blocks. The attractive stitch pattern is becoming increasingly popular as a design element for side-sewn books with a self-cover. However, this style is primarily used to create strong, durable case-bound books.


The most durable sewing style available, oversewing features a series of interlocking threads that make it extremely difficult to remove pages.

Applications - Need a sewn book to last decades, or (almost) support the weight of a small child gripping its pages? If so, oversewing is your solution. This style is popular for legal documents and lab books, where the security of its interlocking threads makes page removal nearly impossible – and very obvious if it’s accomplished.


The Riverside Advantage

With such a broad range of sewing styles at your disposal, Riverside Binding is capable of providing the right method for your specific application. In addition to our full fleet of modern sewing equipment, we offer everything else you need to create hard cover and soft cover books, including case making, turned-edge production, foil stamping and embossing, folding, gluing, cutting and more. Contact Riverside Binding today to put our sewing expertise to work for you!