Sew and Finish Making A Handmade Journal

Following my previous posts about my bookbinding tools/materialspreparing my journal cover and folding paper for your journal – this week I would like to finish things up! It’s time to stitch up my handmade journal and put it to use. The first thing to decide is how I will sew everything together. That will determine how I should punch the holes in my paper and journal cover.

I decided to just do some simple longstitch binding, but with a continuous string… a bit out of laziness perhaps! Instead of sewing each individual signature and knotting it up, I would just continue weaving in and out all signatures and then backwards, so there’s only one knot in the end. With that decided, I punched holes in all my signatures of papers with an awl and ruler. You can also create a guide for your holes with thick cardstock and use it as a template to punch all your holes. That can help to ensure that the holes are all exactly in the same spot per signature. However, I  just measure and eyeball it…

Once all my paper signatures have been punched, I do the same for my cover. However, instead of punching for each hole and each signature of the journal, I’ve decided to just slit my journal cover. It’s less time consuming and I actually like the rustic look of it in the end.

With all my materials ready to go, I thread my needle and start sewing the paper signatures to the journal cover. I’m using a rusty orange colored string that is fairly thick, so I have to make sure and tighten properly as I weave in and out while sewing.

Although it might seem complicated to understand… you can actually make up your own sewing patterns and create different looks in the bindings of your journals. Try drawing out a diagram and using your pen as the needle to see what would work out. It’s a great way to discover your own method of stitching up your books!

For my journal, it was really important that I kept everything tightened up properly because there are slits in the binding and my thread is so thick and stretchy. BTW, there’s no need to use a curved needle for this project, I just grabbed whatever was handy. In this case it would have been better to use a straight needle! Sometimes when I use really thick string, I might need to use pliers to help push and string the needle through everything…. just depends how skillful you are with your fingers and hands, I suppose!

As I mentioned earlier, doing the longstitch with one long piece of string will result in these criss cross parts on the edge of the binding. I sort of think they are cool, but if you don’t like that you’d better plan up a different stitching pattern for your journal. There are so many different binding methods and patterns possible – the sky is the limit!

Another detail I added to my journal was some velcro closure. I simple glued the velcro bits to my cover, leaving room for a bit of bulk as I might add bits and pieces to my journal papers. Although some find the velcro noise annoying, I like how practical it is! You can also try using a buckle, buttons or ribbon/string wraparound closure as well. It’s all up to your imagination.

With just a little effort, I’ve made myself a lovely leather journal for doodling and experimenting in… how cool is that, huh?

You can see that it looks a bit imperfect and the string is quite thick creating a sort of staggered effect in the binding. I really like the rustic feel of it – I think it matches the coloring of my journal and raw edges of the leather. Just my preference! The cool thing about having a soft leather cover is that the journal opens up flat and it’s very comfortable to write and draw. Of course, I had to pop in a doodle on the first page to welcome my crisp and clean new journal. No surprise that it’s my default girl drawing!

Have you made your own journal before? Hope you will be inspired to make yourself a handy little creative idea keeper – share your thoughts below!

Folding Paper for Your Journal

Following my previous posts about my bookbinding tools/materials and preparing my journal cover, this week I want to share some information regarding choosing and preparing the paper that will go in your handmade journals. It’s it certainly a personal choice, regarding what type of paper or papers you choose to include in your journal. After all, if you’re making something custom, why not experiment? You can include found papers, printer paper, thicker cardstock, watercolor paper and a variety of other artist papers on the market.

PAPER FOR YOUR JOURNAL

Know that you will need to cut your paper to size, so that when folded in half they make up the size of your journal. A couple of sheets folded and stacked together make a signature and you would usually include several signatures, depending how many pages you want in the final journal. What is important to consider is the thickness of your paper as that will more or less decide how many sheets go in each signature. If you are using regular printer paper, you want to go for at least 6 or even 8 sheets in a signature. That will ensure that the signature is sturdy and can hold up to however you stitch the signatures into your journal cover. If you only had a sheet or two of thin paper, your thread would surely rip through!

On the other hand, if you are using a very thick cardstock, you want to use less sheets per signature. In fact, as you stack them together, you’ll notice that the open edges look a bit diagonal. I don’t mind the inconsistencies, but many folks prefer to stack up their signatures and then trim off the excess so that they have an even edge. It’s up to you!

THE GRAIN OF PAPER

Once you have decided on your paper and cut them to size, you’ll have to fold them in half and stack up your signatures. When it comes to folding paper, there is technically a right way to do it! Paper has a grain to it and you’ll be able to tell especially with thicker papers when you start folding. When your fold paper parallel to the direction of the grain, it will fold nice and crisply. If you fold perpendicular to the grain, you might notice more resistance and a crackly, ragged edged fold. This is because the fibers of the paper are giving you resistance.

However, if you are using regular printer paper, you might not be able to tell much of difference at all. Paper with less fiber and less thickness simply doesn’t resist as much. I usually only run into a problem with really thick 300 or 400 lb painting paper. Normally, I don’t even check for the grain of the paper! Being in the more practical and economical boat, I usually buy white cardstock printer paper in A4 size and just fold in half to make my journals. However, I do use a bone folder to smooth over edges… makes it easy on my fingers. If you don’t have a bone folder, use a spoon! It’s totally works!

CHECK  YOUR JOURNAL

Once you have your paper decided upon, cut them size and folded them into signatures you are ready for the actual construction of your journal. Before moving on it’s really important to put your journal together and take a look to make sure everything checks out. Do you have enough signatures to fill up the journal as you envisioned? Do you need to take away a signature or add more?

If your journal cover wraps around, you’ll definitely have to check to make sure enough room is allowed… you don’t know how many times I’ve simply forgotten about the spine taking up space and thought that my journal could have been much thicker! Here’s a look at my mock-up journal, not yet sewn… but looks good to me so far. Join me next week for the final step of putting it all together!

Why kind of papers do you prefer to put in your handmade journals? I know that junk papers are especially popular for those who will cover up the pages with paint and ink… get creative! Feel free to share in the comments below…

Journal Cover Inspired By Beautiful Leather

To follow my previous post about bookbinding cover materials, this week I would like to share the beginnings of my process in creating a brand new journal. I’m very often inspired by the leather that is available here in Tuscany, Italy. When I come across a beautiful material, I naturally want to make it a part of my next sketchbook. For this journal, I have been inspired by a piece of double-sided leather…

It’s a medium weight black leather with a copper metallic layer on the other side. Beautiful! I decided to use the metallic color on the outside and black on the inside. First step is to decide on the size of my journal and how I will bind it, in order to cut the cover material to size. I most often use regular-sized paper folded in half,  A4 in my case and since the piece of leather is pretty small in size, I really can’t go larger. Then I have to decide how many pages of paper will be included, so I know how much cover material is needed for the spine. I decided to go with a wraparound cover using the longstitch binding to use as much of the leather as possible… so calculating the size and using a piece of paper as a guide, I went ahead and cut my leather to size.

When not using another material to line the inside of my cover, I often just fold over the raw edges of the leather to double the weight. I actually like keeping my journals soft and malleable. Also, the double-sided feature of this leather brings some of the color inside which is a nice effect.

Using just regular PVA glue, I secure the folded portion of the leather and let it dry under a heavy weight. It works great for me and never had any trouble of it peeling apart.

With a final check, I can see that my cover is all ready! Next week I will share my process of preparing the signatures of paper and sewing the journal together…

 Is there a cover material you’d like to try using? Please feel free to create your own sketchbook along with me and share your comments below! Enjoy!

Bookbinding Cover Materials

I’ve blogged about my bookbinding tools and materials, but thought it would be helpful to start a series of posts that goes through my thought process of creating a brand new handmade journal from scratch. Inspiration can certainly come from many different sources. Sometimes an embellishment might seem really cool to add to a journal cover and that’s where it all begins. Or perhaps a new binding stitch discovered tempts me to try it out. Or even coming across some special drawing paper that I want to test.

But most often I’m inspired by cover materials… what will my journal look like outside at first glance? What will protect my precious journal entries from the elements? What look, feel, style will set the theme for the whole journal? Since we see the covers of our journals pretty much every single time we use them, I would say it’s a pretty important aspect. It’s also just fun to experiment with all kinds of different materials.

Let me say that you can literally use any material for your journal. Yes, any material, I said. Even when something seems flimsy or difficult to work with, remember that you can always mount it on another base material and protect it with a layer of varnish or gloss. Get creative! I’ve used cardboard, scrapbook papers, packaging materials, cloth, felt, handmade papers, wallpaper, paper-mache, fused plastic bags… the list goes on. Do you have a funky material used story to share? 

 Of course, by far the most popular material for me to use is leather. This is simply because I have access to beautiful leathers (thank you hubby). However, I also sometimes back it onto cardboard or hardboard to give it more structure. Other times I also line the inside with felt or fabric to give it a lining. Here are some points to go through when considering a material for your journal cover…

  • Does the material have the desired structure/weight/flexibility?
  • Will you need to back it with a supporting material?
  • Are you able to cut it to size and work with it to construct your cover?
  • Will you need a lining material for the inside?
  • How will the material stand up to the elements? Water? Fire? Tossed around in your purse?
  • Will you need to consider protecting the material with varnish, medium, transparent cover material?

Hope that my tips will help you to find lovely cover materials for your own handmade journal. BTW, iHanna recently blogged about deciding on cover papers for her handmade journals as well. There are certainly so many possibilities, it might seem like too much choice. But the freedom to use what you want and use what you have, makes bookbinding fun and approachable for all. When you make your own journal that’s the first step of your creative self-expression… so try it out!

Are there other materials you have used for journal covers? Please share below your tips and suggestions.

Start An Artful Journal Instantly

Many art journalers don’t decorate the cover of their journals until the very end. It’s sort of a sweeping measure to finish up a long record of artful adventures. However, I personally like to decorate – at least in part – my journal covers immediately.

I want my journal to be inspiring, inviting me in, even if I see it on the shelf or from across the room. An easy way to give yourself an instant journal cover is to use a piece of existing artwork. For this journal, I used Create Fearlessly and you can see the many motivational prints I have in the shop. You can definitely use a copy of your own artwork or even magazine cutouts of imagery that inspires you.

Don’t hesitate to alter and decorate the art to make it your own. Think about collaging different elements together, adding 3D embellishments, and little details with pens and paints. I’ve added a paper-mache glossy heart, with some tulle to embellish the cover and binding area.

Existing imagery can give you a jumpstart, so you can dive into your journal today. How would you decorate your journal covers?

My Bookbinding Tools and Materials

Over time I have learned what my favorite tools and materials are for this lovely art called bookbinding. I thought it would be nice to go through what I normally use when binding books and journal. Nothing really fancy here…I think we might all have these items in one form or another. I’m definitely a very DIY small-time bookbinder…

A self-healing cutting mat and cutting knives - definitely must haves in so many ways. I’ve never found a paper trimmer that I love and much prefer a mat and knife. Also, the measurements on the mat itself are very useful for lining up cuts and projects while crafting in general.

A metal ruler – metal means it will last longer and sits heavier on top of paper to prevent sliding while you cut. Love it!

Bone folder – a must for folding paper and smoothing things over. You can also use the tip to score lines in your paper as well…

Awl – for punching holes! I have a pretty small one that sometimes gives me a handache…one of these days I might  invest in the Japanese screw hole punches… very cool. Just know that you need a way to pre-punch your holes.

Needles – big tapestry needles work great for sewing up books.

Linen thread – I use both waxed and unwaxed linen thread, because it’s super strong!

PVA glue – Vinavil is the brand we use here in Italy and it’s the same glue even bookbinding teachers at workshops use…so I’m cool with it! Really, just any glue will do.

Junky brushes – to brush on the glue – probably more important than the glue, because if you get a nice coat on, it’ll stick! I use hardware store brushes. If it gets junked up, I just toss them out.

Materials from paper to leather – I use all types of materials, even recycled board to create book covers and fill in the pages of my journals. It’s fun to use alternative materials actually.

Those are pretty much all the tools and materials that I use… pretty straight forward. I don’t have any fancy presses or stands. Any other tools you love or suggest? Hope my list can help you get started in bookbinding or you can just hop onto my Etsy shop and pick up a pre-made journal. I think anyone can learn to bind their own books, but it doesn’t mean everyone will want to! I get that!

Bookbinding

I’ve noticed here on my blog that bookbinding posts have been the most popular by far. Granted, some bookbinding affiliated sites have linked over to certain posts, so it might not really represent my regular blog readers. However, I love creating my own books and journals, yet fail to share the process as much as I would like to.

At times all the ideas and thoughts get jumbled up and I find it difficult to express and organize. One big hang up is just fear, because I’m a beginner in many respects. I’m also very much self-taught and have no claim to the proper ways or professional ways of bookbinding. I don’t have a standing press. I don’t really care about the grain of my paper. I skip steps and mess around, because it make the process more fun for me.

In my effort to stop over analyzing and simply create, I’ve decided to share regardless. I’ve thought about creating a series of posts about all the different types of binding methods I use…but I kept getting hung up on the order of presentation, how NOT complete my list was, and if I was using the right names. I realize that it doesn’t matter in the end, I’ll just take it post by post…no one is expecting a course in bookbinding here! So yes, lots of book projects will be coming to the blog in no particular order or sense. It’s just what I happen to be creating.

In the past, I have already shared various bookbinding tutorials… so check them out in the meantime.