Making your own Journals

Last week’s blog ended with an amazing piece of creative writing by Dr Sheree Mack. It inspired me to look back at some of my old notebooks and diaries that have been somewhat replaced as memory joggers in recent years by my Facebook and WhatsApp messages.

So this week I’m hoping to inspire you to capture your memories in a slow, deliberate and personal way by making your very own book before you even start writing.

Jazz up bought journals

There are some beautiful notebooks and handcrafted journals available to buy but I’ve found that I’ve been put of actually writing in them as I don’t want to spoil them! Why not compromise and cover a cheaper hard backed notebook with something that makes it unique to you? Old maps are a great choice for a few reasons. Maps have grids which provide easily followed cutting lines; they can quickly go out of date so are ideal for repurposing; if you don’t have any of your own they can often be sourced from second hand shops.

Perhaps best of all, picking a map with known routes and landmarks on is an instant reminder of a favourite walk. You might even get really ambitious with maps like I did and upcycled a set of drawers to keep all your journals in, but I think that’s a future blog! I used PVA glue for the draws but a spray glue, glue stick or even tape is an easy option when covering your bought book.

Make your own Zine

I’m going to cheat a bit here and send you to another website for clear instructions. I can tell you this is really easy to do as we have used this method in Sill workshops and in school sessions so it works for lots of different ages. Here we can see a youth group who took part in a Sill residential making zines capturing their climate change campaigning.

A close up photograph of hands creating a journal

Simple Book Binding

This is something else we have tried with young children as an introduction to bookbinding.  It is so simple but gives results to be proud of.  Simply take 3 sheets of drawing paper, and a different colour of paper for the cover (I’ve used old wallpaper cut to the right size for my cover for added strength).

Three sheets of paper

Fold each one in the middle then open them out again, lay them on top of one another with the cover on the bottom and fold them in in the middle to form a six page booklet.

Sheets of paper folded together

Now for the binding. You will need a needle and strong thread for this bit as we are going to use something called saddle stitch. Lay your book as if it is open at the centre pages and mark it with 3 or 5 equally placed pencil dots along its ‘spine’ and centre fold. These dots will guide your stiches.

When you thread your needle do not knot the end of thread and when you make your first stitch leave a long tail of thread on the inside of your book. Then you are just taking big stitches to each marked place on spine. The picture below shows each needle entry point in order. ‘Down’ means the needle is going from the inside of your book to the cover side, and ‘up’ means the opposite. Use the same holes more than once.

Marks on a sheet of paper indicating where to sew

At point 9 you should have a trail of thread on the inside and a threaded needle on the cover side of your book. To complete your saddle stich binding you need to knot the thread attached to the needle then make a final stitch through to the inside (see illustration). Now both threads can be tied off neatly.

Your book is now ready to use! Draw in it. Stick pictures or natural materials such as leaves in it. Or simply write in it. Here are some examples from a school project with Bellingham Middle School.

Children's illustrations in a handmade journal