As I mentioned in my first post on this blog, my artistic pursuits began as part of a challenge this year. Since April, I have made several of my own art journals. Most of them for various classes I have taken, but this one is just for me–no theme, no purpose other than play. You can use any paper you choose, depending on the the type of media you want to work with, I am making mine from various heavy watercolor papers. They are thick and sturdy and they can handle a variety of types of supplies. I tend to use watercolors, gouache, colored pencils, pen, and sometimes acrylics. This paper is great for that. If I decide to play with pastels, I will need to apply a layer of pastel primer or gesso to the page first, but it still works really well. You can use this same method for creating a journal or sketchbook for any medium by changing the paper.
An empty art journal is a beautiful gift for the artist in your life. They will love it even more when they know you made it just for them 🙂
This is a super simple journal that is perfect for beginners.
Large sheet(s) of heavy paper. I used 30×22 sheets of 140lb Arches and Fabriano watercolor paper in hot press (smooth finish) and cold press (rough finish) One large sheet of watercolor paper, when cut and folded will make 12 pages that measure 10 inches high by 11 inches wide if the strip are only folded in half.
Awl or other pointed instrument to poke the holes. A Japanese Screw punch is great, but I don’t have one yet.
Waxed Linen Thread (or embroidery floss or dental floss) You can usually find this is the binding/leather-working section of the craft store or on Amazon.
a sheet of something thick like cardboard or a cutting mat to lay your book on to punch the holes–you won’t love having holes in your table
Begin by cutting down your large sheet(s) into the size you want your journal to be. I cut each large sheet into thirds, making each smaller sheet 22×10.
When folded, the pages (or folios) will be approximately 11×10. Using this method, one large sheet of paper cut down and folded this way will give you a journal with 12 pages. Each page will be 11×10. I bought this paper on a great sale at my local art supply store for $5 per sheet, so this journal will be inexpensive and handmade (which is the best part).
Here is an awesome tutorial by Teesha Moore that shows her method of making an art journal. She also folds each folio into three sections so that pages have fold-outs on them. This is hard to describe, but here is a picture from one of my journals that shows this technique.
Teesha also covers this in her tutorials. You can make your journal however is best for your purposes.
Once you have your large sheet cut into thirds, fold each of the cut pieces in half or in three sections–however you like them. Then, lay them on top of one another making sure the edges are somewhat straight. Mostly, just be sure the middle seem is lined up with the layers underneath. Don’t get too caught up in making it perfect. I personally don’t do perfect. Part of its charm is the handmade feel it has ❤
Holding your pages securely, lay them on a sheet of cardboard or your cutting mat and poke 5 holes along the center seam.
The center hole should be equidistant from each end and fall in the very center if you measure top-to-bottom. Punch 2 holes about an inch from the top and bottom edges. Lastly, punch the last two holes between the middle hole and the top and bottom holes. I didn’t measure mine, it’s really not necessary.
Once you have your holes punched you will begin the binding process. You can paperclip or use binder clips to hold your sheets while you work, but if you use heavy watercolor papers, they shouldn’t shift much. Once you have your papers secure, thread your binding needle with the waxed thread.
You can think of your holes as being numbered from #1 at the very top to #5 at the very bottom.
Here is a graphic to guide your stitching:
Here are a series of pictures that show the binding stitch steps:
1. Begin by threading your needle from the middle hole (#3)–moving from the outside through to the inside. Leave a three inch tail hanging on the outside. You will use this to tie off at the very last step. I like to tie off outside so the knot isn’t inside my journal, but you can make yours any way you want.
2. Bring your needle back OUT through the #2 hole. Your needle is now on the outside of your journal.
3. Thread your needle back IN through the second (#1) hole and pull thread snug. Your needle is now inside.
4. Push your needle back OUT through the #2 hole and pull the thread snug. Your needle is now outside.
5. Thread needle back IN through hole #4 and pull thread snug.
6. Push needle back OUT through #5 and snug your thread.
7. Go back IN through #4 and pull thread snug again.
8. Finally, push the thread out through #3 the center hole and tie off to the tail you left on step 1.
That’s it!! You did it! Simple AND beautiful. It will be even more beautiful when it is full of your gorgeous art work.
Here’s a peek at one of my hand-bound journals. This one was created for a gouache class taught by Mary Ann Moss. This was a super fun class. I love Mary Ann’s style and sense of humor. I found myself laughing out loud a lot. For this journal we did a more complex binding stitch. This was a real challenge since I hadn’t ever done any binding before and it uses several signatures (sets of pages) and handmade covers. I made the covers using 8×10 canvas board and a paint by numbers canvas board. I painted the front cover and used scrapbook papers to line the inside covers.
Here are some snippets from one of my other hand-bound journals.