Since I've been showing you how my new journal and I are getting along, I thought I'd better show you how I put her together in the first place, at least before she becomes anymore unrecognizable. If you are a journaler and haven't actually made your own book yet, I highly recommend it. You can think of this as a kind of how-to to get you in the mood. The techniques themselves really are super easy and adaptable to whatever your imagination or needs once you get the hang of it.
First up, you will need to decide on the covers for your book; they will determine the size of your pages. I wanted this journal to be Big and eventually decided on cutting up an old stamp collector's book left behind by the previous owner when we purchased our house last summer. The temptation for me is always to hang onto things I love just in case I come up with a better idea for using them down the road. But I've learned that I rarely do, and it is so much better to use and enjoy the things you love rather than hoard them waiting around for someday. Still, the temptation is always there and I loved these covers--but now I love my new journal more.
My favorite part of making a new journal is gathering up the papers. This journal was a little spontaneous and since we were leaving town in just a few days and I didn't have much time to look around for the perfect inclusions, I used only supplies I had on hand--and, to be honest, I have a lot. It turned out perfectly, though. I got to use up some papers I haven't touched in literally years and got a journal that is unlike any of my others.
I started by pulling out my stash of papers: purchased, handmade and found. I carefully went through all of it imagining the feelingI wanted my new journal to have and deciding what fit and what didn't. I set aside anything that might possibly work knowing I could still cull things back more later. For this journal I decided to break into some of my old scrapbooking papers. I haven't scrapbooked in 7 years or more but I kept a box of papers that I still love and by now they're so old I doubt most of the designs would even be recognizable to most scrapbookers. That was exactly what I wanted. To adapt the patterns to my own designs without the added noise of a recognizable brand. Still wanting to do something new, I decided against including any of my own hand painted papers for this journal and added more blank watercolor pages than I usually do for painting. I planned on doing lots of painting in this journal.
Once I had a nice big stack of potential papers, I started folding and sewing to piece together pages that fit the size of my covers. The biggest papers were simply folded in half and used as is while I sewed strips to the sides and tops of the smaller ones to make the final size I needed. For this journal I wanted as many whole pages as I could get with a few pieced together ones in the mix. Once that was done, I began nestling the finished pages together into signatures of about 8-12 sheets a piece depending on the thickness.
Once you have your stack of signatures, you are ready to begin binding your book. Because, like I said, I wanted this book Big, I folded up just about every scrap I had into 8 huge signatures. Since I was going to be hand sewing the binding instead of machine stitching it like I sometimes do, I wasn't so concerned with the thickness of the signatures but mainly kept them to an easy to handle size. You definitely don't want your pages slipping and sliding while you are trying to sew them together.
Now comes the tricky part. The initial prep of the pages usually takes me about a day. I like to save the binding itself for the second day because, to be honest, this is not the fun part for me. It isn't that binding a book is difficult and it doesn't even take much time, really, but getting the needle through the pages just right, keeping the signatures lined up and the stitching tight--ugh. Lets just say I make sure the kids are well occupied at this stage because there are bound to be some curse words flying and a little fit throwing on my part. But, hey, I'm not known for my patience either so maybe you'll have better luck! And, regardless, no matter how much I dread the binding (and I always do) it is sooooo worth it in the end, and I am always so proud of myself and so glad I stuck with it!
For this journal I used the same binding technique as in my watercolor journal. Both books were sewn from instructions in LK Ludwig's Creative Wildfire, a beautiful book on art journaling that you really should have in your library anyway. However, if you're in a hurry or saving money, there are tons of tutorials online. In fact, there are so many that I had planned on scoping out a few to share but I quickly became so overwhelmed that I decided to leave that part to you! For more online tutorials--including YouTube videos--than you'll know what to do with, just search for "handsewn book binding tutorial" or "chain stitch tutorial" or "coptic binding tutorial". I promise one of these will speak to you, regardless of how you learn best!
Because this post is already super long and I still have tons of pictures to show you, tomorrow I'll be wrapping up Part 2 of the post with a look inside the finished journal.