Studio Saturdays: Create Along Travel Journal, Part 1

Welcome to our first Studio Saturday Create Along! I’m so happy you joined me for this series of three posts dedicated to making a fold-up travel journal. Follow along the step-by-step instructions and techniques for the next few weeks, and at the end you’ll have a unique handmade journal that you can start working in right away.

The book we’re making is based on the one featured in the article “A Travel Journal” by Dea Fischer in the September/October issue of Cloth Paper Scissors (Check out the rest of the issue for more great books.). It features covers made from Kraft•Tex; pockets to hold art supplies, pencils, and papers; an easy long stitch binding; and a wrap-around tie.

Travel journal
This travel art journal has pockets for supplies and is perfect for art journaling on the road.

If you’ve always wanted to make a handmade book, this series is for you. If you love making handmade books and are looking for a fun, new project, this series is also for you. I’ll show you simple ways to incorporate found papers, mixed-media techniques you can use to decorate the cover, and step-by-step instructions for sewing  the binding.

Travel journal with pockets
The book features lots of pages to work in, and plenty of pockets.

This week we’ll go over the supplies you’ll need, which are pretty simple. If you have any questions about the process, the instructions, or the supplies, please leave a comment at the end of the post and I’ll reply.

Mixed-media travel journal cover
The cover features lots of real estate for your favorite mixed-media techniques!
Longstitch binding travel journal
The longstitch binding is easy to sew.

Some of the items on the materials list will look familiar, and some will be new. I’ll introduce you to a few optional supplies that you may want to consider down the road, especially if you get the bookbinding bug.

Cutting and measuring: The basics you’ll need are a metal ruler (B), scissors (F), and a pencil (C). I also recommend a craft knife. I like Olfa blades, but experiment with different brands and see what you prefer. The heavy-duty blade (D) is great for thicker materials, such as leather and the Kraft•Tex cover material we’ll be working with, and the smaller blade (E) works well for paper and cardstock. An architect ruler (A) is not essential, but I’ll show you in the next post why I like it for measuring. I use the metal ruler for cutting when using a blade, and for tearing paper. You can use any pencil for measuring, but a mechanical pencil (I like a .05 lead) never needs sharpening.

Bookbinding tools
Here are the basic cutting and measuring tools you’ll need.

Sewing and folding: The basics include a bone folder (A), which is great for folding paper—you may think you’re making a crisp fold with your fingers, but you’ll make a much sharper crease with a bone folder. You can also use it to score and smooth paper, especially when gluing it. Most of the bone folders on the market are made from cow bone, but you can also find them in plastic and Teflon. Waxed linen thread, (B) used for the binding and the pockets, is super strong and comes in a variety of colors and weights. For this project, 4-cord thread is recommended. You’ll also need a sturdy needle (C). There are needles made especially for bookbinding, but a darning needle works well and larger ones have an eye big enough to accommodate the waxed linen. A lightweight awl (D) is used for making holes for sewing the pockets, and for the binding. Choose one that’s thin and has an even point; a tapered point won’t give you consistent holes. I like using a pin vise (E) that can hold the same-size needle you use for sewing. If you discover that you really love bookbinding and want to devote more time and energy to it, consider getting a drill punch (F), also called a Japanese screw punch. This is a pricey item, but it does make neat, clean holes effortlessly, and you can purchase the tool with a variety of tip sizes.

Bookbinding tools
These tools will be used for sewing the pockets and the binding.

For the pages of the travel journal, Dea suggests using 5 sheets of 11″ x 17″ drawing or watercolor paper (they will be folded and torn into smaller pages). As Dea points out in her article, it’s a good idea to use paper that suits your media—if you like to draw, get good quality drawing paper. If you want to paint and art journal, try a heavyweight mixed-media or watercolor paper. I like using a variety of papers because it encourages me to break out of the white page rut and experiment. I usually combine heavyweight drawing paper with kraft paper and decorative and found papers, including vintage book, map, and ledger papers; store bags; printing rejects; junk mail; and catalog pages.

When we get to the binding I’ll show you how to incorporate odd-size pages, and even how to sew in an envelope. Also, for a book like this I don’t worry about using acid-free or lignin-free paper, but if it’s important to you, use it.

Bookbinding papers
I like using a variety of papers in my books.

Dea chose Kraft•Tex for the book’s cover. Kraft•Tex is a paper product that is extremely sturdy and mimics the look of leather. You can use it as is, or wash it for a more weathered look. You can also hand or machine stitch it, and decorate it with paint, stamps, stencils, image transfers, and inkjet printing. From top to bottom are samples of Kraft•Tex that are untreated (A), put through the washing machine and air dried (B), and put through the washing machine, the dryer, and ironed (C).  The material comes in a variety of colors; I used Natural and Stone. You can also use leather or heavyweight fabric for covers.

KraftTex book cover
Washed and unwashed Kraft•Tex give you lots of options for the book cover.

Not pictured here is a cutting mat; you probably have one, but if not, and you’re going to use a craft knife or blade, you’ll need it.

Note: Most of the tools and supplies mentioned can be found at your local art or craft store, or online. For vintage papers, try thrift stores and flea markets. If you have trouble finding a supply, please let me know in the comments below!

In next week’s post I’ll show you how to create the cover, including how to sew the pockets, and ways you can decorate the cover. Leave any questions or comments below, and I look forward to seeing you next week!

Decorating the book cover
Join us next week, when we’ll decorate the cover and sew the pockets!

Would you like to discover more about bookbinding and book arts? Check out our resources below, they’ve got great information, tips, and techniques!

Handmade Book Essentials: Learn to Make Folded Side-Stitched and Signature-Style Books Travel Journal with Erin Zamrzla
Getting Started: Bookmaker’s Basics Kit
Buy Now
Buy Now
Buy Now
Download Download *Only available while supply last
Art Journals On-The-Go: How to pack, prep, paint, and more Color Wheeling for Art Journals with Pam Carriker Webinar Download Art Journal Kickstarter
Download Now
Download Now
Buy Now


Find more mixed-media resources at the
Cloth Paper Scissors Shop!


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5 thoughts on “Studio Saturdays: Create Along Travel Journal, Part 1

  1. This sounds like so much fun. Can you tell me if the post stays up throughout the week? Saturdays can be hectic and I’d love to be able to look at the post all during the week. Also, can you suggest where to buy Kraft Tex paper? We are limited here to just a couple of big box craft supply stores. Thank you!

    1. Hi, this post will stay up forever, so no worries about coming back to it anytime you like. For Kraft•Tex, you can find it on the C&T Publishing website: as well as online at places like Amazon and Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts. The basic roll, which measures about 18″ x 54″, will be enough for more than one book.

    1. Hi, Maria, I got my pin vise at Talas, a bookbinding supply: That brand is probably available other places as well. I use a Books by Hand Light Duty Awl, made by Lineco: This can easily be found online or in some art supply stores. For waxed linen thread, try Roywalwood Ltd.: They carry every color. Sometimes you can find smaller quantities at jewelry and bead supply stores. If you need anything else please let me know!


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