Traditional Moroccan Bookbinding: The Cord Binding Technique

Live from Fes, Morocco

Join VAWAA Artist and multidisciplinary craftsman Hamza on Saturday, July 25, at 10 AM EDT for a 2-hour traditional Moroccan bookbinding session using a creative cover of your choice. In the previous sessions, we learned the old African braid stitch techniques, as well as long stitch; in this one, we will use the traditional cord bookbinding, also known as the raised cords binding -- a famous binding technique that appeared in the 9th C. and was actively used until the 18th C. 

Moroccan cord binding usually applies sewn-in techniques where the cords are stitched hidden inside the book spine. However, binding a text block and cover is a fascinating art of its own, with various stitching techniques shared across cultures. What makes Moroccan bookbinding special is usually the addition of an embossed leather cover. During the live session, we will learn how to use the basic technique of cord binding. Followed by a short tutorial video for homework to learn how to attach a creative cover -- Hamza will demonstrate with decorated leather but we can replace that with any material. We'll reconnect a week later for 90 minutes, on Saturday, August 1, 10:30 AM EDT, to share our books, learnings, feedback, and ask questions.

And who knows? Perhaps Hamza will take out his oud to serenade us with Moroccan Andalusian music! All levels welcome, no experience required.

Joining us from a different time zone? Be sure to convert the time.

Those who attend the live session can purchase the recording at an additional fee.

What you'll need

For the live session:

  • 36 sheets of kraft or drawing paper in any size (avoid printing paper). To get papers ready: take 6 sheets of paper and fold them in half; you'll end up with 6 gatherings, each composed of 6 folded sheets of paper, i.e. 12 pages in each gathering
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Two laundry pegs or binder clips
  • Needle (1mm thick if possible)
  • Long thread (1mm thick if possible)
  • Awl or nail or thick needle to poke small holes into folded sheets of paper and cover
  • A thick book to support the ground of the binding
  • Long hemp or linen cord
  • Steel weight (if possible)
  • Bees wax (if possible)
  • Sewing frame - a very solid frame on which you can tightly attach cords top and bottom. It can be a proper bookbinding sewing frame (see below), or a DIY frame or even the feet of a solid chair.

For homework:

  • Depending on your cover idea, you can use a leather strap, cardboard, wood, or cardboard with pasted art onto it. Whatever you choose, make sure it is thick, sturdy and easy to poke a hole into.
  • Paste (white paste or bookbinding paste)
  • Blade (a flat knife - does not have to be sharp)

How to join

We'll be hosting this VAWAA Online on Zoom. We'll send link and details to join via email a few hours before it begins.

About Hamza

Hamza is an Andalusian Oud musician, a geometer, brass-smith, bookbinder, paper-maker, paper-marbler and founder of a crafts studio dedicated to Moroccan arts and crafts in Fes. He comes from a multigenerational family of artisans and passing on crafts knowledge is a family culture. He apprenticed under his father and traveled around 15 countries crafting and learning from masters. Now his mission is to continue this legacy and help people around the world connect with old Moroccan crafts. His traditional art revolves around the art of Compass & Ruler. With those two instruments, he draws and traces Moorish and Islamic geometric patterns, etches and engraves them on brass and copper trays and embosses them on leather book covers.

Visit his artist page to learn more about his in-person VAWAA.


"Very amazing class, yet challenging but so satisfying when I achieved binding my book. Besides sharing creativity with people from all over the world was so fascinating. Recommend" - Imene

"A really useful book form and excellent tuition - thank you Hamza!" - Gillian

"Hamza is fantastic! I’ve been enjoying his Moroccan geometry class here in Vawaa and this one is on par! Fun, enjoyable and well organized!" - Clara

"Loved learning a different method of Coptic Stitch binding. Hamza made it easy to follow and is very knowledgable and patient. Looking forward to another workshop (please)." - Janet

"Beautifully and clearly presented method of Moroccan bookbinding. Hamza provided terminology and demonstrated the craft to create a book or journal. It was a class." - Kathy

"The class was great, well facilitated and reasonably priced. Hamza was a pleasure - knowledgeable and patient and encouraging. The process was fun and I’m pleased with the results." - Pat

"Working live with Hamza was truly inspiring. He is an excellent teacher and was also able to ground us with the cultural significance of his art all throughout the lesson." - Steve

"What an amazing opportunity! Thank you Hamza, and thank you Geetika. I highly recommend this online bookbinding class. Hamza is a very talented artist and teacher.   I loved adding "Okiktej" on the last page to protect the paper. (Do I have the correct spelling?) I hope to take more classes with Hamza! Many thanks and be well." - Todd

Sessions are ticketed to support artists, makers and our small team. If you’re experiencing financial hardship, please reach out. We may have a generous participant who has paid it forward and would ask that you pay the love forward by sharing online sessions with 3 new friends.