A Peek Into PurpleTrail Production: Sewn Books

Here at PurpleTrail, we pride ourselves on high-quality, hand-made stationery and gifts. And when it comes to our signature planners, journals, and guestbooks, there’s of course no exception – which is why we were thrilled to introduce a tried-and-true Smyth sewing machine to our Issaquah, Washington production facility. With a Smyth sewing machine, PurpleTrail can offer exclusive, super durable sewn-bound versions of our most popular products. Being one of the few small businesses in the US with access to a Smyth sewing machine, we at PurpleTrail want to offer customers a look into our experience using a Smyth machine and what goes into producing your one-of-a-kind sewn book orders!



David McConnell Smyth, born 1833, was an Irish-American inventor, patenting forty-some inventions related to sewing, irrigation, and mining throughout his lifetime. Best known for inventing the first book sewing machine in 1868, Smyth’s device played a huge role in America’s book production throughout the latter half of the 1800s. In fact, books published in the US nearly doubled between 1869 and 1890, growing from 2,600 to 4,500 annually. Smyth’s centuries-old book sewing machines and techniques, still considered the hallmark of top-quality books, are manufactured and used even today!


How Smyth-Sewn Works

Smyth-sewn books start with a collection of folded pages, known as “signatures,” that are fed into the sewing machine via hand crank and/or foot pedal. Each signature is individually sewn together, with threads passing through each page multiple times, then tied off. Once all the signatures are fed into the machine, they are sewn all together to create a “book block” (the bulk of pages that the final book will be comprised of).

The book block is then carefully removed from the machine and trimmed down to the book’s final size. After that, the book block’s spine is passed through adhesive and attached to end-sheets – these end-sheets get glued onto the inside of the book’s front and back covers, ultimately holding the book’s contents in place.

PurpleTrail’s Production of Sewn Books

From customized inside pages to personalized covers, PurpleTrail’s sewn-bound planners, journals, and guestbooks are entirely handmade to your unique liking. Design your very own sewn book in the PurpleTrail design center, then let our production team bring your creation to life! 


Starting with high-quality prints available on durable 80lb paper, or our extra sturdy water & tear-proof paper, your sewn book pages are first printed and prepped for the Smyth sewing machine.

One by one, each signature of your sewn book is hand-fed into the sewing machine, creating the body of your planner, journal, or guestbook.

Your book block is now cut down to size and glued into end-sheets; once dry, your pages are ready for their cover!



PurpleTrail’s sewn book covers start with a vivid print of your cover’s custom design on an adhesive paper, which is then run through a soft-touch laminate, creating a matte, velvety finish to your book’s cover.

After lamination, your cover design is adhered to a long-lasting, dependable book board.

Next, your book block is ready to be glued into its cover!


Once glued, the book is placed into a book press to ensure a strong adhesive between pages and cover.

Now, your custom sewn book goes through a quality check by the PurpleTrail production team, and is ready to be hand-packaged & swiftly shipped to your doorstep!

Why Smyth-Sewn?

With a rich history of integrity, Smyth-sewn binding is the pinnacle of high-quality books. Pages are reinforced with multiple threads sewn throughout the book block, assuring a lack of loose pages after continuous use. Smyth-sewn books are even tamper-evident –  a page cannot be removed without hampering the binding as a whole, which is why research labs and companies require the use of Smyth-sewn books.

Not to mention, Smyth-sewn books are extra easy to write in due to their lay-flat nature. Unlike glued books, which tend to be rigid when opened – making text near the spine hard to write and read – sewn books open up flatter, which creates planners, journals, and guestbooks that are completely user-friendly and effortless to read.

PurpleTrail’s sewn-bound products are perfect for both devoted writers and special events – from planners that get used daily to guestbooks and journals kept as precious mementos, our production team handles each sewn book order with care and a keen eye to ensure durability.

Now that you’ve learned about the perks of Smyth-sewn books and our process behind creating them, head over to purpletrail.com to design a sewn-bound planner, journal, or guestbook of your very own! Delicately handmade and speedily shipped, a PurpleTrail sewn book makes for a high-quality gift that won’t disappoint.

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