09 September 2013

Secret Belgian Binding

So, what is the big secret?

 Okay, this is the story:
 Updated version, 3/17/2015: A Belgian bookbinder named Anne Goy devised this binding in an attempt to create something that would resemble a Japanese style binding, but that could open fully. She considered it to be a work-in-progress when a student of hers saw and learned it. That student in turn taught it to Hedi Kyle who asked who created it - the student could only remember that she was from Belgium - thus the name Secret Belgian Binding. Hedi taught the binding to many in the U.S. and it was attributed to her. There was just (March 2015) a long thread on the Book Arst Listserv about this confusion and the story has been set straight: Anne Goy is the originator of the binding that is now also being called the Crisscross Binding - not to be confused with Crossed Structure Binding by Carmencho Arregui. Confused yet? I hope not and that this sets the record straight and that I have gotten it right. I would hate to be spreading mis-information.

Anyway, the Secret Belgian Binding, a.k.a. Crisscross Binding, was originally a hardcover structure with a three piece cover: front cover piece, spine piece, and a back cover piece. These pieces are held together with an intricate, weaving-like, sewing procedure. This three piece spine allows for a unique flexibility.

I learned the binding from Macy Chadwick many years ago at San Francisco Center for the Book. This orange book is the binding I made in that class. Although I loved the weaving/sewing, I did not love how that spine piece wiggles around and being the softcover-paper-case-loving-gal that I am I devised just such a structure. One softcover, paper case with slots cut along the spine to allow for the original sewing/weaving technique. I love it!

My class samples

And, now I teach it. It is my own version of the Secret Belgian Binding and it is still nice and flexible since it is a non-adhesive binding but it is a bit more solid, compact and secure.

Student work in progress

Last Saturday I taught the structure in my studio and as usual my students did beautiful work.

Student binding with Cave Paper

We used Cave Paper for the covers since it makes for a wonderfully sturdy book.

This workshop kicks off Wishi Washi Studio's Fall teaching schedule. I have many classes coming up in my studio, taught by me as well as three amazing guest instructors. Check. It. Out. 

I am also venturing out of Wishi Washi Studio to teach at Makeshift Society, Open Ground Studios and SCRAP.

Hope to see you out there!


  1. Hi Jody,

    I just found your blog and am having fun reading over past posts. I had to smile when I saw the reason the Secret Belgian Binding isn't your favorite because I feel the same way. That wiggling just bugs my OCD side :) I am excited to try your version!


  2. Hello Jody!

    A fantastic post on Secret Belgian Binding, thanks for taking the time to put it together. Just a quick one to let you know that I’ve added it as a resource in our latest ‘Top 10 Secret Belgian Binding Tutorials – http://www.ibookbinding.com/blog/top-10-secret-belgian-binding-tutorials/

    Thanks again and keep up the good work!

    ~ Paul

    1. Thank you Paul! I updated/corrected some of the information in the post recently after the discussion on Book-Arts-L. So glad to get the real story which was always difficult to get to. Thanks for sharing it and I hope I have it right! - jody

  3. Hello Jody,
    I came across your blogpost about the Secret Belgian Binding.
    Being from Belgium myself, I'm interested in this binding. I once took a workshop about it. But I love your version !!
    Is there a way to get a tutorial somewhere ?
    Thanks in advance for your answer.
    Warm greetings from Belgium,