Make a Small Hand-bound Journal

Introduction: Make a Small Hand-bound Journal

I  made a travelling journal for an art swap at the Milliande Art Community for Women.  It had to have forty pages between two covers and be between 6 inches square to 8 inches square in size.  It had to be sturdy enough for mixed-media art journaling and to endure 17 months of postal travel.  I decided to use 12" square scrapbooking cardstock:  5 sheets cut in half would give me 40 6 inch square pages;  another contrasting sheet I used double for the front cover and the back pocket.  Since it should lie flat when open so art work can be added to it, I went with one of the signature bindings in Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden.  This could also be done with the Coptic binding that is abundantly documented on YouTube and in blogs.

This journal looks simple now because it has not been embellished in any way.  Though sturdy, it is comparatively lightweight -- a plus for mailing!

Step 1: Materials and Tools Used

To make this, you will need:
  • 5 sheets of scrapbooking cardstock 12" x 12" for the pages
  • 1 sheet of scrapbooking cardstock 12" x 12" for the cover  (I got these sheets on special at Michael's:  40 cents each)
  • good paper glue for securing the pocket edges 
  • heavy thread or waxed dental floss;  I've used upholstery thread and top-stitching thread for sewing the signatures with success.
  • upholstery needle or bookbinder lightweight awl for punching signature holes
  • scrap paper 6" long by 2" wide for signature hole template
  • steel ruler plus good craft knife and cutting mat for cutting the paper or a paper cutter
  • steel ruler plus bone folder to score page centers
  • large-eye needle for sewing the signature

Step 2: Cutting and Folding the Pages

If you don't have a paper cutter that handle 12" sheets, you can use a cutting mat (or a cardboard pad), a steel ruler, and sharp craft knife to cut the cardstock in half.  A good knife will handle cutting three sheets at once.  Determine how the paper folds most easily and make your cut across that dimension so your signatures will fold neatly.  Measure in 6 inches top and bottom, place the ruler and cut from top to bottom in a smooth, decisive cut.  As a last resort, you can use scissors on a pencilled line but it's hard to get a good straight edge with them.

Once you have your halved sheets, you will fold them in half to get the making for your signature.  If your stock has two different surface textures (let's call them texture A and texture B), fold half your sheets with texture A on the outside and half of them with texture A on the inside.  This will allow you to set up your signatures so that each double-page spread has the same texture on each page.

Folding is much easier and more precise if you pre-score the stock with a bone folder (usually made of plastic these days rather than bone),  fold with the scoring to the inside, and then press down the fold with the bone folder.  I like folding on my cutting mat since it has an inch grid that I could line the paper up with,  set my ruler on the 6" line, and score.  Fast and accurate!

Step 3: Making the Cover Pocket

The cover pocket is for holding ephemera from those journal contributors who want to add something extra relevant to their page or just as a good wish. 

I decided to cut out a triangle with a gluing allowance along the center.  Alternatively you could cut out a crescent shape or a square -- it's your journal!

The gluing of the covers is the last step, but I didn't want to try making a neat cut with the cover bound to the rest of the journal.

Step 4: Making Signatures

A signature is a group of pages; several groups sewn together make up a bound book.

This journal has signatures of eight pages each.  The forty pages are divided into 5 signatures.  (Each 12" x 12" stock sheet makes up one signature, though if you decided to use different colours you would not have to group them by colour -- it's your journal to do as you like!)

Since each contributor will be making a double-page spread and the stock I used had different textures on each side, I decided to make up the signatures so that each spread would have the same texture, but textures would (necessarily, due to geometry) alternate from one double-page to the next.

The order of the textures for the eight pages was:  A-B-B-A-A-B-B-A.   Two signatures next to each other make a double-page spread, so texture A always starts and ends each signature.  I noted that half the pages should be folded with one texture to the inside and the other half with  that texture to the outside in Step 2.   The first set (A-B-B-A)  is folded around the second set  [B-A-A-B].  The signature thus has the order: (A-B [B-A-A-B] B-A). 

Step 5: Preparing to Bind

Before sewing your covers and signatures into a bound journal,  you need to make holes for the thread to go through that line up consistently.  I used a Western Multiple Signature binding with four-holes described p. 147 ff in Making Handmade Books by Alise Golden.  The Coptic Stitch binding would work just as well and Google will return plenty of documentation links for that.  Determine the number of holes you need,  fold your template paper in half so the crease runs along the 6 inch dimension, and mark out your holes.  Put a "T" at the top edge of your template and pre-punch the holes with your binding awl or upholstery needle.

Put little marks to indicate the top edge of your covers and five signatures.

Open your catalog or small phone directory in the middle.  Open the cover or signature and place it  so the middle crease lines up with the "valley" of the catalog.  Place your template over the crease and be sure the top of it lines up with the top of your signature or cover.
Punch through the pre-punch holes with the awl or needle.

Step 6: The Finished Bound Journal

Thread a a large-eye needle with your heavy thread (upholstery thread, top-stitch thread, waxed dental floss, and bookbinding linen thread all work).  Don't try to work with a length more than the span of your out-stretched arms;  you'll be frustrated with thread tangles.  It'll be faster to go to a second length of thread that you tie in if you need it.  Follow the procedure you're using to bind the journal, beginning with the front cover and ending with the back cover.  Be sure you use the marks you made to line up the tops!

Once the binding is sewn, you can glue the two pages of the front cover together and the three edges of the back pocket to the back cover.  Put wax paper between the covers and journal pages and press in under a stack of books or other weighting system to ensure flag covers.

The journal will lie flat no matter where you open it to.  Enjoy!

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    7 months ago

    Nice journal


    5 years ago

    This looks doable, even to me, although I am hoping that I will have enough strength in my hands/wrists. Thanks for sharing.