In my book The Sketchbook Challenge, I encourage readers to explore working with themes in their sketchbooks.
Working with a theme eases the pressure of deciding what to do in your sketchbook and helps keep you focused. Whether you like to write, draw, scribble, or collage, you’ll find the process even more enjoyable and satisfying if you use a sketchbook that you’ve created yourself.
Maybe you’ve bought one of those super-thick sketchbooks home from the store and then been too intimidated by all those blank pages to open it. I’ve got more of them than I care to admit! Making your own sketchbook means you can control the size, the type of paper, and how many pages your sketchbook will have.
The last time I was in an office-supply store, I came upon a rack of beautiful file folders and brought home a stack of them. They’re much too pretty to fill and stuff in a drawer so I decided to make some sketchbooks with them.
My directions show you how to make a full-sized version, but consider making a smaller version to tuck in your bag and carry with you. Make a stack of them so you’ll always have a nice little thank-you or thinking-of-you gift. A mini version can also stand in as a gift tag on a present.
• Fold the paper for your inside pages in half so that it measures 8 ½” x 5 ½”. Nest them together to create a signature (set of pages) for the inside of your journal.
NOTE: You can use any kind of paper that you like. Inexpensive copy and printer paper will work just fine, or if you prefer you can use drawing, sketch, or watercolor paper. Handmade papers can add a special touch to a book, especially when it’s a gift. Use one type of paper or a combination and if you want to add some color, use some scrapbook paper cut to size for a few pages. The number of pages in your signature will depend on how thick your paper is. The thicker the paper, the fewer pieces you’ll need. For this project, a signature that measures about ¼” thick is a good size.
• Using a sharp awl, poke four holes in the fold of the signature starting at 1 ½” from the top, then 3″ from the top, 5 ½” from the top, and 7” from the top.
• Use one of the pages from the signature to poke corresponding holes in the folder. Place one of the pages in the folder, centering it along the fold and the top and bottom edge of the folder, and punch through the holes.
• Thread a tapestry needle with a 24″ length of embroidery thread or linen twine and sew in the first signature. Place the signature inside the folder and, starting from the inside of the signature, sew through the second hole from the top to the outside of the folder.
• Then sew through the top outside hole of the folder back through to the inside top hole of the signature.
• Sew through the bottom hole of the signature to the outside of the bottom hole of the folder.
• Sew back through the third hole from the top of the outside of the folder back through to the inside corresponding hole of the signature.
• Tie off the thread using the tail that you left hanging when you started sewing.
• With the journal open and the inside facing up, fold the left front edge of the folder in 3”. Place a piece of double-stick tape or a line of glue along the top and bottom edge to create a flap pocket.
• Fold the excess folder that extends past the edge of the signature on the right edge over the signature.
• Here are a few ideas for closures for your journal:
• Poke two holes ¼” apart in the center fold of the journal, thread the ends of a 12″ piece of elastic through them to the inside, and tie a knot. Then you can just slip the loop end of the elastic on the outside around the journal to keep it closed.
• Use a small piece of sticky-backed hook-and-loop tape.
• Sew a button onto the top flap and then wrap a piece of ribbon around the journal and hook it around the button.
Visit the free projects page on Sue Bleiweiss’s blog for more free book and journal-making tutorials, and check out The Sketchbook Challenge for techniques, prompts, and inspirations to fill up your new sketchbook!