HomeNature JournalHow to make a beautiful hand-sewn, hardcover journal

How to make a beautiful hand-sewn hardcover journal using fine papers and linen threadMy daughter’s eleventh birthday was this week, and I decided this was the perfect occasion to fulfill my promise to make her a journal with the paper she loved.

The dancing bunny paper is chiyogami–Japanese screen-printed paper–that I ordered from Paper Source.  This is the paper she fell in love with. It is easy to fall in love with chiyogami! It comes in an infinite array of patterns and colors. The rose petal paper, turquoise canson paper, and golden Rives paper (the very underneath) I purchased from True Blue Art Supply, a local art supply store.

I cut all the paper to the same size 12″ x 9″–so that folded each signature (a signature is a grouping of four sheets of paper) will be 6″ x 9″. Each signature has a sampling of different papers.

Here are the signatures before they have been sewn together. I alternated the outer sheets to make this pattern of turquoise and cream that plays off the chiyogami covers.

Punching the holes with my handy center-finding ruler & awl. You don’t need a ruler like this, just measure carefully so that your holes all line up in each signature. I do not excel at measurement, so I need tools to make up for my lack of precision. I made my holes an inch apart, starting one-half an inch from the edge of the paper.

Five signatures total, ready to be sewn.  Time to make the covers!

I cut some thick board a quarter of an inch larger than the signatures–6 1/4 inches by 9 1/4 inches. You can use mat board, but I use a board that is a little thicker than that. I got my (100% recycled) board here.  With a simple nail file I filed the corners down so they were slightly rounded, which helps them to not wear through the cover paper. Then I evenly smeared Yes! paste over one side of the board.  This paste is appropriately named, and I always keep a bottle on the shelf.

I cut the chiyogami paper into two sheets approximately 9″ x 15″ so that I had about an inch and a half of overlap to cover the boards. Note how the corners of the paper are cut away. This keeps the corners tidy when you fold the paper over.

Next you will need to punch holes in your covers to match the holes in your signatures.  (Don’t Forget! Your covers are one-quarter inch bigger that your signatures. You will need to add one-eighth inch to to the holes at the top and bottom of your boards. For example, on my signatures my top and bottom holes are one-half inch from the edge. So on my boards, my top and bottom holes will need to be five-eighth inches from the edge. Here are the covers, wrapped with bunny love, holes punched to match the signatures, and ready to be sewn!

And here is the thread I used.  Linen thread, preferably waxed, is a must in my opinion, because it is so much stronger than cotton thread. You can get this brand in a wide variety of colors.

Now, instead of trying to demonstrate how I sew my journals, I will simply refer you to the video that I use.

Here’s a view of the finished binding.  The last thing to do is to glue the front and back pages to the inside covers with paste. Don’t worry if your book isn’t perfect! I make books for my own pleasure (or my daughter’s).  Besides, if I made them perfectly I might not want to fill them up with my ramblings and scribbles!

I felt the book cover needed a focal point, and also discovered a blemish that I wanted to hide.  I had some adorable fabric & lace scraps that would be the perfect compliment to the bunny chiyogami.

I cut a heart from the fabric and a slightly larger heart from the turquoise paper scraps. I pulled the dark blue lace out carefully from the seams.  Zoë loves lace!

 Then I sewed the lace onto the heart and embroidered the heart onto a piece of stiff paper.  I glued the paper backing to the cover with the aforementioned Yes! paste.  I am not a seamstress of any sort, and some fabric stiffener would have been a nice addition, but….

the final product was lovely all the same….

my daughter showing off her new journal

and much loved by the birthday girl!
She promises she will write and draw in it.


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