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:
- A cutting board. You will definitely need this unless you have a work table you are not scared to scratch.
- 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.
- 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 🙂
- Ribbon to use as the attached book mark
- Binder Clips
- 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!
- Glue. Preferably PH neutral. This is the one I use.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!