I am so happy with the collage art journal I
made last time, that it is nearly full! I found the pocket pages
particularly useful for collecting ephemera, like tickets – but I
also found that I am still a big text and word girl. I mean I was
rarely adding images – photos or torn clippings – to my journal. I
did fold a few whole pages and insert them in the pockets, but these
are the kind of things that I would then want to pin to a vision or
inspiration board, rather than keep small in the notebook. And I
must have a notebook with me at all times. That is just a given!
So I've been inspired to make a more note
taking/scribbling/doodling friendly handmade art journal this time,
and start from scratch so that I can use up what seems to be an ever
increasing pile of good quality paper left over from document
printing and the mail. I've realized that as much as I love the
color and vividness of my collaged notebook, I need a higher
proportion of light colored pages, just to make my copious notes
easier to read later.
I don’t pretend to be an authority on making or
binding books – but there are many blogs, websites and publications
devoted to the art form. You will find a selection of these links,
including a full bookbinding glossary, in the footnotes to this
article on my Making, Mothering, Musing blog.
Here are the tools and materials I used to make
my recycled journal – ready to carry in my purse as soon as the
"big" (in my mind) colorful one is full. Please note I still wanted
pockets – more if anything – so I have included optional pocket
pages in my book. As an added bonus, this book turned out to be a
much quicker project than the last one.
Leftover printer paper or misprints.
A few old bills and other light colored papers
(I actually pulled these out of the "to be shredded" bag), including
some scrapbooking remnants.
Lightweight cardboard or wallpaper for covers
Paper trimmer (or scissors or blade & metal
- Big, honking doll making needle
- Heavy duty sewing thread
– stamps and inks, rub on
transfers, phrases to collage, ribbon, borders or stickers from you
The folded sections in books – that is where
the folds are against the spine – are called “signatures.” The
simplest books are made from one signature, sewn or stapled to a
folded cover, essentially without a spine. The number of pages in
your signature may depend on your ability to punch or drill holes
through them, and your ability to slice the fore edges even – often
with a guillotine.
Decide on your finished size. Since I was using
ordinary printer paper (8 1/2 x 11 inches) and I want mine to
continue to fit easily in my small purse but I also want it to be
easy, I made mine 6 inches tall and 5 1/2 inches wide (half 11
Slice 2 1/2 inches off the width of 16 sheets.
(These make great memo tablets for shopping lists or by the phone.)
Then instead of cutting, use a bone folder to score at the 2 1/2
inch line 8 more sheets. Fold at the score line to create pocket
Layer one pocket page, two regular sheets,
another pocket page and two more sheets to create a signature. Score
or mark a vertical line in the center of the top sheet. This will be
the fold line.
I used my sewing machine with variegated thread
and a variety of stitches to sew the outside edges of the pockets,
and down the center line of the 6 sheet signatures. Then I folded
them, and pressed with a bone folder. Other choices would be
stapling the signatures and pockets, or hand stitching.
At this point, art book binders will often
drill holes all the way through the signatures and ladder or cross
stitch them together. However, again for the sake or ease and speed,
I simple glued the bottom page of one to the top page of the next
signature, being careful to line them up at the fold. Also be sure
that your pocket pages are the right way up!
I had some 12 x 6 scraps of scrapbooking paper so I glued them to
the front and back as facings, trimming off the excess. The spine is
exactly half an inch deep. I could have used scrap cardboard or
printed cardstock for the covers, but I still have quite a lot of
wallpaper samples. So I cut a piece to size and glued it to my
facings for a flexible soft cover.
make sure you use a glue that will dry flexible, not a simple white
glue that will be hard and rigid. I like Best Glue Ever from
ScraPerfect, but decoupage medium or bookbinders glue will also work
Variations: glue an
eight inch length of narrow ribbon to the top inside of the cover at
the spine, before gluing the cover to the facings, to be a book mark
later. Sandwich two short lengths of ribbon between the cover and
the facings at the "waist" to tie the book closed.
At this point the notebook could be considered
finished and ready to use. Mine has a nice mix of already marked
sheets – with the text going sideways, and plenty of space for notes
But where's the fun in that? Now would be the
time to ink edges, perhaps in an assortment of colors, stamp images
or borders on some of the pages, add favorite quotes from rub ons or
in colorful caligraphy, or add stickers - just as I did with the
spiral art journal. You could even age the book by painting tea or
coffee over the pages, in sections.
Easy peasy hand drawn stamps
If you have some soft craft foam, a ball point
pen, and possibly a mirror, you can make the easiest, quickest
handmade stamps of all time. This is even easier than making stamps
from expanded polystyrene packaging.
These stamps work to create a white line within
the color, so the outside edge of the stamp is important. I
recommend cutting a very neat rectangle or other shape to start, or
cutting a narrow border around the design.
Draw into the foam with a ball point pen,
pressing firmly. Designs that are simple and calligraphic, like
woodcuts, work best. Words should be a mirror image, (see photo
bottom right), so write them
on paper first, hold them up to a mirror and copy what you see, or
write on translucent paper and flip it over to see the correct
Paint a thin coat of acrylic paint on
the whole stamp with a foam brush or small roller. You can mix the
colors if you wish.
Flip the stamp on to your paper and roll a
brayer over the stamp once. Peel the foam back, and there is your
After a long career designing for theater and independent films,
Robyn Coburn finds her joy as an unschooling mother who also writes and crafts.
She has been a confirmed greenie since working for Greenpeace during her college
years in Australia. Robyn is currently working on two crafty books, a fairy tale
screenplay and a TV series about doll making and collecting. A past speaker and
funshop presenter at Live and Learn Unschooling conferences, she contributes
regularly to unschooling e-lists. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her
husband James and ever inspiring daughter Jayn. Contact Robyn by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her at