Studio Saturdays: Create Along Travel Journal, Part 3

Hi, and welcome back to our three-part Studio Saturdays Create Along series! We’re making a travel art journal by Dea Fischer’s book featured in the September/October issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. In this third and final post we’ll create the book pages, punch holes in the pages and the cover for the binding, and bind the book. Then you’ll be ready to take this journal on the road and make some art!

I have a little bonus content for you, too—but first, I want to say hello to those who are joining us for the first time. If you need to catch up on this Create Along, click here for Part One, which covers materials; and click here for Part Two, which features instructions for making and decorating the Kraft•Tex paper fabric cover.

Travel journal bindings
You can sew this book with a longstitch binding and an easy variation.

Today, let’s start by making the pages. In her article, Dea recommends using paper that suits your artwork. If you plan to use this book mostly for drawing, choose good-quality drawing paper. If you plan to use paint and wet mediums, mixed-media or watercolor paper is best.

Here is how she recommends creating pages for the book: Gather 5 sheets of 11″ x 17″ paper. Working one at a time, fold a sheet neatly across the width, using a bone folder to make a crisp crease. Fold each sheet across the width again, crease, and tear on the fold. You should have four equal-size sheets, each having two torn and two cut edges. Rotate the sheets so that the torn edges are on opposite sides, then stack them and fold across the width. Repeat with the other 4 sheets, and you’ll have 5 groups of pages.

Quick tip: To create a faux deckle edge, line up a metal ruler along the fold line, or along the line you’re measuring. Hold the ruler firmly with your non-dominant hand, and tear with your dominant hand.

Faux deckle edge
Tearing paper against a metal ruler gives a faux deckle edge.

I’ll be using a bit of bookbinding lingo as we make the book: A single folded sheet of paper is called a folio; several folios nested together form a signature, as shown below. This book has 5 signatures.

Book signature
Folded pages nested together create a signature.

I love making funky books filled with all types of paper, like book pages, junk mail, catalog pages, and handmade paper scraps. For this book I started with 10 sheets each of white mixed-media paper and kraft paper, each cut to 5 ¾” high x 8″ wide. I then went into my stash and grabbed whatever I could find, and cut them to various sizes. If the pieces were large enough I cut them to the full size, but if they were smaller, I placed them randomly in the signatures, so that each signature had 3-4 sheets of scrap and/or decorative paper and 2-3 sheets of mixed-media and kraft paper. Because I used different weights and sizes of paper, I incorporated 5-6 folios per signature. (If you’re using heavyweight paper, I recommend sticking with 4 folios.) Don’t make your signatures too fat—keep in mind that when the book is sewn, the waxed linen thread adds bulk to the spine. So what seems like a nice, flat signature will get much fuller after it’s sewn to the cover.

Paper for book pages
I like to fill my books with all types of paper, including book text, maps, and shopping bags.

This book includes vintage book and ledger pages, printing waste sheets, decorative cardstock, shopping bags, maps, and a paper doily. This eclectic mix ensures that I’ll have fun challenging myself to use these pages in different ways.

Quick tip: Don’t throw away extra pages or scraps—use them to make another book.

After I assembled my signatures I wrote ‘T’ at the top of each in light pencil, and numbered them, so I wouldn’t forget the order. If your pages are all the same, or you don’t care about the order, just write a ‘T’.

Book signatures
The signatures are prepared ahead of time and arranged in order.

Before binding a book, holes must be created in the pages. If the pages are being sewn directly to the cover, as we’re doing here, the cover holes must be punched ahead of time too. Before punching holes it’s a good idea to make a jig.

Cut a piece of scrap paper 1″ wide by the height of your pages. Mark a ‘T’ at the top, and fold it in half along the length. Open it, fold down 1″ from both top and bottom, and reopen it flat. Fold again 2″ from the top and bottom, and open.

Signature punching jig
To make a punching jig, simply fold a piece of paper into equal sections.

Nest the jig in the middle of one signature, with the ‘T’ at the top. Hold the signature with the ‘T’ at the top in front of you with your non-dominant hand, and open it to about 45 degrees. Hold the awl in your dominant hand so it’s parallel to the table, and punch through the entire signature at each hole. Aim to come out right at the fold; if you’re a little off it’s perfectly fine, don’t stress over it. If the jig or the pages shift as you’re punching, replace them, re-punch the first hole to line everything up, and continue punching. Remove the jig and punch the remaining signatures. If you have smaller folios in your signature, punching the signature helps keep them in place.

Punching signatures
Use the jig to punch holes in the signatures.

The goal is to have the awl come out right on the fold, but it’s okay if it’s a little off–for this type of binding it won’t show.

Punching signature through the fold
Aim for coming out on the fold, but it’s fine if it’s a little off.

Bonus content: For an extra pocket, you can sew an envelope into a signature. I created a small envelope using the We R Memory Keepers 1-2-3 Punch Board, but you can use any envelope template. Before you close up the envelope, line up and center the bottom fold into the middle of a signature. Place the punching jig on top, and punch the holes.

Sew the signature the same way as the others, keeping the flaps open.

When the book is sewn, glue up the flaps and use the envelope to store business cards, ephemera, dried leaves, or other flat bits.

Envelope sewn into signature
It’s easy to incorporate an envelope into your signatures.

Use the jig to punch corresponding holes in the cover. Open the cover, measure 4 ¼” from the left edge, and draw a light pencil mark from the top to the bottom (I drew mine heavier so you can see it.). Using the jig, mark 4 rows of 5 holes at each station, using the awl. Make sure the ‘T’ on the jig is at the top of the cover. The rows should be straight, and spaced about 1/8″ apart. If they’re a little off (mine are), don’t worry—when the book is sewn you don’t really notice it.

Punching holes in the cover
Using the jig, punch holes in the cover.

Quick tip: When you make a hole with an awl, the material gets pushed out on the other side. After making your holes in the cover, turn it over and punch through the opposite way with the awl through all the holes. This pushes some of the material back inside, making neater holes.

Punching holes in the cover
Punching the other way with an awl creates neater holes.

I’m going to show you two bindings; one is a slight variation on what’s in the article, and the other is a slight variation on that. Both are very easy, and first-time book makers will do very well. To measure the thread, multiply the length of the spine (I do a generous measure) times the number of signatures, then add two extra lengths. This ensures you’ll have enough thread to complete the binding without having to add more thread mid-way. In bookbinding you always use a single thread, and you never knot the end; you knot as you go.

Thread the needle and take it through the bottom hole in the second row of just the cover, leaving a 3” tail. Then take the needle through the bottom hole in the first row from the outside. Tie the ends in a square (double) knot, but not too tightly so as to crimp the cover material. Trim the tail end only to about 1/4″.

Tying the first knot
Tie a knot between the first and second rows.

Add the first signature, going through the bottom hole from the outside. Push it snugly against the spine, and take the needle through the next hole up from the inside. As you sew, keep the thread taut by pulling the thread parallel to the spine—never pull up. Also, check to make sure the thread isn’t kinked up as you sew. Take the needle into the next hole up from the outside, and go through the last hole from the inside. Tighten the thread.

Tightening threads
Always pull threads parallel to the spine to tighten them.

To make the first chain stitch, take the needle through the top hole in the first row, then slip it into the top hole in the second row, going through the cover only–don’t pick up the next signature yet. Before pulling the needle all the way through, wrap the thread around the needle. Pull it through, and you’ll have a chain stitch.

First chain stitch
The first part of the chain stitch happens between the first and second rows of stitches.

Go back through the top hole in the second row from the outside, picking up the second signature. Sew all the way down this row, just as you did the first one, sewing the signature snug to the cover.

Come out the last hole and slip it under the small stitch between the first and second signatures. Then make another chain stitch just as you did at the top of the spine, going through the second hole in the bottom row, slipping the needle under just the cover and coming out of the third hole, wrapping the thread around the needle, and pulling it through. Take the needle through the bottom hole in the third row, pick up the third signature, enter the bottom hole in the signature from the outside, and sew up the row of holes as you did before.

When you get to the top, slip the needle underneath the double stitches between the first and second signatures and pull it through, tightening it just a bit. This creates another chain stitch.

Chain stitch binding
After sewing the third signature, pass the needle under the double stitches.

Then take the needle into the top hole in the third row, going through the cover only, and coming up through the top hole in the fourth row from the inside. Slip the needle under the double stitches at the top row between the second and third signatures, making a chain, and enter the top hole in the fourth row again, picking up the fourth signature.

Chain stitch binding
After making the chain, slip the needle through the cover into the fourth hole.

Continue sewing down the fourth row, and at the bottom, slip the needle under the double threads that bridge the second and third signatures, go back into the last hole in the fourth row, going through the cover only, and exiting through the bottom hole in the fifth row from the inside. Slip the needle under the double stitches between the third and fourth signatures, go back through the bottom hole in the fifth row, pick up the fifth signature, and continue sewing. When you get to the top, slip the needle under the double stitches that bridge the third and fourth signatures, and go back into the top hole in fifth row, this time going into the signature. To knot the thread, slip the needle under the topmost stitch until a loop forms, take the needle through the loop, and pull to tighten. Repeat, then trim the thread to ¼”.

Knotting the thread
Slip the needle under the nearest stitch inside the signature and knot the thread.

Bonus content: For the binding variation, instead of making one long vertical stitch between the rows of chain stitches, break it up into two by creating two more holes in each row. Begin the sewing as for the original binding, sewing a long stitch from bottom to top. On the second row, instead of creating straight long stitches again, slip the needle under the previous stitch before going into the next hole. Repeat for the next long stitch.

French stitch binding
Slip the needle under the stitch before going into the next hole.

On the next row, slip the needle under the previous stitch again, close to the next hole you’re about to enter. When you pull the thread taut you can start to see the pattern emerge.

French stitch binding
As you sew the binding, the beautiful stitching pattern emerges.

Continue this pattern for all rows, forming the chain stitches the same way. This is called a French stitch or link stitch, and it’s a fun variation that creates a beautiful design on the spine.

French stitch binding
The French stitch binding is an easy variation on the long stitch.

And now…drumroll please…you are the proud owner of a fantastic handmade journal! I’ve been using mine—here are a few recent pages. It’s so lightweight and portable, and I can just slip it into my bag and go. I’m thinking of making a few of these for friends for the holidays…do you plan to make more and change up the cover design or the binding?


Art journal pages
Shorter pages offer opportunities for collage.
Art journal pages
You can use any art journaling techniques in your book!
Sketchbook pages
This journal makes a perfect traveling sketchbook.

Please post your books in our Member Gallery so we can all be inspired by what you’ve made. Thanks so much for joining me for this Create Along, and go make more art! Here are some great DVDs and books that will give you lots more inspiration and instruction to make more books and do more art journaling:

Stitch This Book: Long, link, and Coptic binding for beginners and beyond Art Journal Courage Mixed-Media Storytelling Book Collection
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Buy Now
Download Download *Only available while supply last
Art Journal Prompts At Home with Handmade Books Backgrounds to Bindings: Beautifully easy handmade books and art journals
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Buy Now
Download Now
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4 thoughts on “Studio Saturdays: Create Along Travel Journal, Part 3

  1. I will start making this journal this weekend. I love all the variations you offer and appreciate the technique tips. I want to try the mixed pages and binding variation. I looked forward to Saturdays even more to see the next post! I would love to see another bookmaking series.

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback, and glad you liked the series! These posts will stay up indefinitely, so come back as many times as you’d like, and if you have any questions let us know. And please post your book in the Member Gallery when you’re done!


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