How To Make a Journal

Hello hello!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been perfecting my hand-bound journals by making a few a day and sending them to people on Instagram. It’s still a work in progress, but enough of you have asked me for references that I thought I’d put together a post. Initially I wanted to make a video, but seeing as this takes me about an hour and a half, I thought it would be too long to record. Instead, I’ll write some instructions, include my favorite YouTube reference videos, and encourage you to email or comment with any questions you have 🙂

To start, here is a photo of the basics you will need to make a journal my way. There are a TON of different materials you can use, but these are the ones I am currently using:



  1. A cutting board. You will definitely need this unless you have a work table you are not scared to scratch.
  2. Some kind of knife. I use one like this because I like how easy it is to break off the blade and work with a new sharp one, but exacto knives are also a good option.
  3. Any needle and thread you own. I like to use waxed thread like this one because it makes it less likely your thread will tangle, but for your first journal, dont bother spending extra money when you have perfectly good thread at home 🙂
  4. Ribbon to use as the attached book mark
  5. Binder Clips
  6. Paper for the inside of your book. I tend to recycle empty pages from old journals I didn’t complete. The added benefit here is if you cut them out of the journal, they will have holes pre-punched. Also feel free to create your own signatures. If you need a diy video on this, my previous post explains it in great detail!
  7. Glue. Preferably PH neutral. This is the one I use.
  8. Decorative paper for the inside and the cover (I tend to use scrapbook paper from Michaels or Amazon). For this project I have two 4x6in sheets which I use for the front and back cover, and two 8x6in sheets which I will fold in half to use as the inside cover for the front and back of the journal.
  9. Tape for the spine. For your first book, feel free to use anything you have around the house. As you make more of these, you’ll recognize the value in these two types of tapes: white book binding tape (which can be used for many things in this process that I’ll explain later), and some kind of cloth tape to use for the spine, like this one.
  10. A ruler (not pictured above)


If your decorative paper is thinner than you’d like, you might consider some mixed media or watercolor paper (aka my grey paper above). When I am using thin paper for the cover of my book, I glue watercolor paper between the cover and the inside decorative page.

Whew! Long list. Now for the fun part – let’s make a journal! Quick note – make sure to read this entire post before you start. I do things a little differently than most.

STEP 1: Creating Your Text Block

For anyone who is new to book binding, a text block refers to the inside pages of your journal, which are all bound together prior to adding the cover. A text block is made of several signatures sewn together (a signature is a few pages which are stitched together – most text blocks have at least 5 signatures).

I toyed with the ideas of creating a video for this, but the truth is, there are already a lot of really awesome videos out there. My personal favorite is the one I have embedded below. While this is the technique I use, there is one thing I do a little differently. I try to use paper that is significantly larger than my final book. You will see why in Step 3. When I start binding my pages look a little bit like this (note the fine pencil lines that indicate where I will start and stop stitching):


STEP 2: Glue The Spine

There are many different ways to go about gluing a spine, but pretty much everyone will tell you that it requires pressure. Take your completed text block and place it between two heavy books, the spine sticking out just a little bit. From there, take your glue and spread it across the entire spine, making sure it sinks into the space between each signature. This will make sure your book doesn’t have any weird gaps. Now the hard part: wait for it to dry.

Step 3: Add the inside pages

This is the part where I do things a bit differently. Remember the pencil marks for stitching? I do this because I like to have clean edges on all three sides of my journal. To do this, first start by attaching those inside decorative pages. Add a bit of glue next to the edge of each decorative piece, about an inch thick, and attach your pages to the front and back of the text block.


Once the glue has had a chance to dry, set your ruler on one of the three edges, and slowly cut the paper away with your knife. The key here is to take your time, or else your pages will look jagged.


This is what it should look like in action:



Step 4: Attach the Bookmark Ribbon

Attach the bookmark ribbon by gluing it to the spine. Cover it with a piece of tape which is the length of the spine to reinforce it (this is where I use that white bookbinding tape. It’s also great to mend anything post production, like if you have unwanted space between signatures). It should look something like this:



Step 5: Prepare the Cover

Measure the width of your spine. Cut out a thin piece of paper (it doesnt matter what type but I would recommend something with a bit of weight like watercolor paper) that is the length and width of your spine. Then take the brown or black book binding tape and set this piece of paper in the center of the sticky side. Leave a sliver of space (where the cover will crease) on either side before laying down the front and back of the book cover. Fold the tape over. It should look like this:



Step 6: Attach the Cover

Add glue to the entire back side of the front and back cover (but not the spine). Glue this to the front and back of your text block. You can use a ruler to smooth the bumps out by running it up and down the front and back cover, being sure to wipe off any excess glue. Once done, leave your new notebook between two sources of weight (I usually use two heavy text books) to dry. You can also just use binder clips on the front and back edges like I’ve done below:



Once it dried…you’re done! Congratulations! If you feel so inclined, you can smooth the edges with sand paper, and create a rounded edge using a tool like this one. And you’re done 🙂 Let me know how your journal turns out! Send me pictures, questions, anything you’d like. I would love to see your creativity in action!





How to Bind a Traveler’s Notebook Insert

Hi Everyone!

For anyone who’s been following me on Instagram, you have likely noticed my recent obsession with book binding. I’ve been trying a bunch of different styles ever since I discovered Jose Naranja binds his owns books (check out his method here, he rocks). A few of you have asked me for an instructional video or post, so I figured I would start with the most basic type of binding I learned so far, and work my way up. Today’s post will show you how to make a traveler’s notebook insert.

First things first, here is what you will need:


  1. Paper you like to write on for the inside (I like to use Rhodia paper)
  2. Cardstock for the cover (I recommend scrap-booking paper from Michael’s
  3. Needle and thread
  4. ruler (mine is triangular but that’s not needed)
  5. An awl (pictured on the top left) or thicker needle to punch holes through paper
  6. Clamps or binder clips (not pictured above but you’ll see them in pictures below)
  7. Exacto or box cutting knife
  8. Scissors (not pictured above, but I’m
    sure we all know what those look like :P)
  9. Any old hard-cover book (also not pictured above, but you’ll see it below too!)
  10. Ribbon (optional)
  11. Duct Tape (optional)

*Everything I listed in steps 3-6 can be purchased in this kit on amazon).

Now, for the fun part – actually making the book 🙂

Step 1: Fold your sheets of paper and the card-stock cover in half. Cut them to the size of journal you would like. Make sure the cover is the right height and width (the journal I’m making here is 7 inches tall and 5 inches wide). The inside pages just need to be the right height. We will worry about width later because sometimes the pages move while binding them.

Step 2: Put the pages inside your cover and clamp them together so they don’t move.


Step 3: Open your hard-cover book and place your insert inside. With your notebook inside the hard-cover, measure where you’d like to punch your holes. I recommend making them 1 inch apart. Make a dot where the holes will go with a pencil or pen.


Step 4: Punch holes through each mark with your awl or thick needle. Doing this with the crease of your hard-cover book beneath will make it easier to punch the holes.


Step 5: Sew the pages together. I recommend by starting with the center hole (as this will be where you tie of the book). Place the need through the back to the center of your book, tying a knot in the thread so it doesn’t pull through completely. From there you will weave the thread through all holes. (I’ve been trying to find a way to write this part out, but I feel it will be easier to view my instructional video for this – it will be much clearer when seeing it in action!)


Step 5. After you finish sewing and tying the thread, it’s time to cut the inside pages to size. Take the binder clips and clamp the book shut. From there, place the ruler where you’d like to cut the pages, and start cutting with the knife.


Step 6. BONUS: If you’d like to add some more decorative elements, you can add duct tape to the spine (instead of super glue), and a bookmark by taking a ribbon and super-gluing it to the back cover.




And that’s all folks! If you are more of a visual learner (like I am), I have an instructional video on my YouTube channel, or embedded here below. Enjoy!

How To Start A Bullet Journal

Hi Everyone! A few of you have asked me how to start a bullet journal. To be honest with you, there are so many ways to do it that there is almost really no right or wrong way, but I figured I would write a little something to help you get started.

First and foremost, I recommend you watch this 5 minute video by the man who created the bullet journaling system. There will be nothing better online than hearing it from the source.

Once you’ve watched the video, feel free to browse the steps below, where I have written how I use the bullet journaling system. You will notice that its pretty similar to what’s in the video, with a few minor changes.

How I Set Up My Bullet Journal:

-1- Index and Future Log

Begin by creating an index and six month future log. The index will be used to reference notes you take later in your journal for easy finding, and the future log will be used to record future events and activities you don’t want to forget. Once complete, my index and future logs look a lot like this:



-2- Monthly Calendar and Task List

Next, I set up two pages for the current month. The first will have a list of the days of that month, next to which I will record any activities I have planned. The page right next to it will include a task list of everything I hope to accomplish that month. If I have anything in my future log listed for that month, I record it as well. Often I also include a habit tracker. I have two examples below.



-3- Weekly Log

There is a big discussion amongst the bullet journal community about using weekly logs or daily logs to track tasks. I actually have opted to use both. Weekly logs I use to track events and tasks I want to accomplish on specific days (as daily logs are created day of, so there is no future planning capability). I also tend to use my weekly log space to track habits if I haven’t already done so on my month spread.



-4- Daily Log

The daily log is a quick and easy way to keep track of what you want to get done every day. To set up the daily log, write the day’s date, and add: tasks signified by bullets, events signified by open circles, and notes signified by the dash symbol. At the end of each day, x out tasks you have completed, strike out tasks you don’t intend to do, and migrate the tasks you want to do later by turning the bullets into an arrow symbol (>). This is where I differ from the traditional method a bit. Instead of migrating to a collection or to the future log, I migrate a bit more specifically.

There are the three ways I migrate my tasks: 1. If I want to do it the next day, I list it at the top of the next day’s Daily Log 2. If I want to do it later in the week, I record it in my weekly log on the day I’d like to do it 3. If I plan to do it in a future month, I mark it beneath that month in my future log.


You also may notice I occasionally use this symbol: *. This is a signifies, used to indicate a particularly important task.


And that’s pretty much the whole process! All that remains are the notes, drawings, and another key term you have likely heard: collections. Basically, collections are lists of things that are related (ie lists of favorite books, tasks for a specific project, etc). It’s nice to create collection pages and index them to continue adding to later. One example I have now is a collection of projects I want to 3D print.

I hope this helped! If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out and I’ll be sure to answer 🙂



Best Pens and Inks for Painting/Highlighting Over

One of the biggest issues I have seen in the journaling world is people struggling to find a pen that won’t smudge. Many artists want to watercolor in their notebooks, and many people who are hyper-organized (like myself) want to color code their notes with highlighters. The biggest problem with this, is most pens and inks will smudge if you try to put anything on top of them. Over the last two years I have tried everything under the sun, and I’m excited to share that I have found four different things that work, and they work REALLY well. Two are markers, one is a fountain pen, and the final is an ink. Here I go!

Sakura Pigma Micron 71UJH0APqNL._SL1500_.jpg

Pro: Most anyone who has ever been into art probably recognized these markers. They are some of the best you can find for good quality fine-liners. You can generally find them in packs of 6 at any art-supply store, or of course, on amazon . They come in a wide variety of sizes, as fine as .15mm and as thick as .50mm or even brush pens. The ink is pigment based, making it archival and waterproof. It does not feather or bleed on pretty much any kind of paper, and dries quickly. It’s almost impossible to smudge.

Con: There are two issues with these markers that I have found in my years of using them. The first is well known: the tips of these markers break pretty easily. Because the nib sizes can be so small, if you use just the right amount of pressure, the nib will break or squash back into the pen, making the marker useless. The second issue is one that is less known, but that has caused me significant problems: erasers life micron ink. For anyone who likes to draw first in pencil, this can be very frustrating.


Copic Multiliner SP


Pro: I discovered these pens just a few months ago and they have been a godsend. They are very similar to micron, with a few key exceptions. First, is the nibs. While they are fairly similar to micron (with the same feel and sizes), they are interchangeable, and so is the ink cartridge on the inside. This way, if you do have any problems with the nib, it’s a lot easier to replace and you don’t need to buy an entirely new pen. The second is the ink, which is alcohol-based, is eraser friendly – ie it does not lift when you erase over it (to remove pencil marks beneath the black).

Cons: These are definitely on the more expensive side, and while the nibs are replaceable, they also come at a cost. You can purchase them here.


Rotring Rapidograph Technical Drawing Pen


Pros: These lesser known German fountain pens are incredible. The nibs on them are made of a fine, stainless steel wire, making them incredibly precise. The ink they come with is also archival, waterproof, and probably my all-time favorite. Because the nibs are so fine, the ink dries quickly too! You can buy the pens on amazon. Refills come in cartridges, (though if you prefer manually refilling your fountain pens, there is a version called the Rotring Isograph that is the same pen with that capability).

Cons: While the nib on these is pretty incredible, it’s also very fragile. You can purchase replacement nibs, but because they are made of steel and specific to these pens, they are not cheap or easy to find in stores. The second known issue is if you tighten the cap on the body of the pen just a little too tight, you run the risk of cracking the barrel of the pen (which is made of plastic).


Platinum Carbon Black Ink


Pros: Platinum’s Carbon Black ink is made with particles of carbon, meaning it is extremely pigmented. Once this ink dried, it is extremely dark, waterproof, and doesn’t feather. This is definitely my go-to for drawing with fountain pens, as the ink is pretty much indestructible once it dries.

Cons: Because of the carbon particles in the ink, you have to be careful which pens you put it into. It has a tendency to clog up some fountain pens, so I recommend not putting it in anything very expensive. Currently I have it in my Pilot Metropolitan (arguably one of the best writing fountain pens on the lower end, just shy of $15) and it works wonders!


There you have it! I hope this helps 🙂

How Journaling Can Help You and Your Partner Live A Better Life

Most people find journaling to be a very personal, often private activity, and usually they would be right. In the traditional sense, journaling is a way for people to let loose emotions and thoughts not intended for others. However in my relationship, we take a different approach. We like to discuss reflections with one another and apply to them to our lives.

For anyone who has tried bullet journaling, you have likely seen there are many different ways to use a journal for self-improvement. The most recent that I learned is called Level 10 Life. The concept originates from Hal Elrod’s book, Miracle Morning, but has been adapted for the journaling community by Boho Berry. The idea behind Level 10 Life is that you look into 10 key aspects of your life, rate them, and reflect on how you can improve the score. The 10 components are: family and friends, personal development, spirituality, finance, career, romance, fun and recreation, giving or contribution, physical environment, and finally, health and fitness. Kara, the writer of the magnificent Boho Berry blog, adapted this concept to the journal by adding 10 goals beneath each component. Last night I spent a good amount of time thinking through these and ended up with this:

This morning I woke up and asked my fiance if he would have any interest discussing my findings with me over breakfast. It evolved into a larger discussion about how he felt about his life, and how we could work together to improve together. Beneath each of the 10 components, I added notes for the things we wanted to work through (seen by the blue shaded squares). Soon after, we sat side by side and created a routine for ourselves including some habits from our list. (Routing depicted below).

It’s only day one, but taking the time to reflect together really helped us to see where we are lacking in our lives, and how easy small steps to improve truly are. It also had the added benefit of making us feel closer. With the hustle and bustle of life and the constant blare of screens, it’s hard to have uninterrupted time with people. Focusing on discussion and writing made a huge difference. I encourage everyone to consider discussing some of those personal entries with loved ones. It can help you improve your life in ways you may not have expected!

Who Knew Sketching by the Campfire Could be Profitable?

Before you read on, this post doesnt have tips and tricks. This post is just the story of how a sketch that took me 30 minutes has somehow become the crux of my new business. If you’re curious, read on!

About a week ago now..perhaps two weeks ago, I was coaxed into a backpacking trip. Born and raised in Los Angeles and working in technology, you can only imagine how excited I was to carry 40 pounds on my back for a few days (if you didnt catch the sarcasm, excitement was minimal). I did the best I could to pack lightly, but of course, i couldn’t go anywhere without my journal and some pens. I wouldn’t be surprised if a pound of my pack was the journal and all the pens.

While I was out there and everyone was hiking, I opted to sit by the fire and draw. I came up with this before they got back:

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 2.42.32 PM.png

I didn’t particularly love it, but I figured it was not bad for doing while outside without any of my standard materials. I posted it to instagram and facebook almost without thinking. To my incredibly great surprise, someone commented on it asking for a print. A few hours later it became one of my most noticed photos. A few hours after that, I got another request for a print. I had an etsy account that I used to use in college still active, so I decided to throw it up on there just so I could keep track.

A few days passed and I was still getting comments on the image. I thought it might be fun to put them on stickers alongside my instagram tag and leave them in cafes to get some recognition. While purchasing the supplies to make the stickers, I thought I might get some transfer paper and put it on a shirt. I posted these two images online:

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 2.45.44 PM.png .    Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 2.45.35 PM.png

Next thing I knew, I had tshirt requests. And then sticker requests. Within a few days a friend of mine put me in touch with her mother who runs a nature organization. She liked the design so much she asked if I would be willing to share my shirts at an event. I had no idea what I was doing, but I figured it might be time to get in touch with someone who could professionally mass produce stickers and shirts…and that’s where I am now. Frantically trying to figure out next steps.

I share this store with you not to gloat, but to show you how incredibly easy it can be to start a business. It all began with a mindless doodle next to a campfire! Never in a million years would I have thought this is something people would like, let alone pay for.

Stay tuned for what happens next. I have placed my very first tshirt order. Let’s see how it goes…



Let’s Start in the Middle

Hello, and welcome to my brand spankin’ new blog! For those of you who I don’t know personally, my name is Rachel. I’m a bullet journalist, planner junkie, and artist. I’ve been journaling and drawing for years now, but I just got my very first job offer in the industry, so I figured it was time to start a blog. I want to document my journey, and hopefully help to inspire some people along the way.

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As you click through my blog, you’ll likely find a plethora of content, from tips and lessons learned to personal ramblings and product comparisons. Please feel free to leave comments and send messages. I always love to hear feedback and to help anyone who asks!