Tutorial: Mixed-Media Recipe Journal

Food and cooking have inspired artists for centuries, so it’s only fitting that we brought art and food together in the pages of Cloth Paper Scissors! For the November/December 2017 issue we asked four artists to translate their favorite original recipes into mixed media, and also include the stories behind them. We were treated to phenomenal artwork, and it’s one of my favorite features in the issue. It motivated me to create a recipe journal of my own!

The article was inspired by They Draw & Cook, an online resource for illustrated recipes created by phenomenal artists from all around the globe. Founded by brother-and-sister artists Salli S. Swindell and Nate Padavick, the site has also spawned several books and a second website, They Draw & Travel. I love the idea of marrying recipes and art; if a dish and its ingredients are interesting, why not interpret them in paint, ink, and collage? If those recipes have a story to tell, even better. For the article, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, Mou Saha, Brooke Albrecht, and Nathalie Kalbach not only included a description of their artwork, but also the back story on the recipe.

I wanted to create a recipe journal dedicated to food stories and memories. Cooking and food have played big roles throughout my life; my mother was a fantastic cook, and I grew up watching Julia Child and Graham Kerr, enthralled with how they made cooking look both fun and fascinating.

I’m filling my recipe journal with both old and new narratives and remembrances, and I encourage you to give this a try. Even if cooking isn’t your thing, there’s lots worth capturing in the pages of a journal: unforgettable meals, your family’s unique food history, and even that perfect chocolate chip cookie you just ate.

I chose to do a spread dedicated to my Luxurious Hot Chocolate recipe. I grew up on Nestlé’s Quick and Hershey’s Syrup, but a family trip to Italy when I was 10 rocked my world when it came to hot chocolate. My mother and I ducked into a local bakery one day and ordered hot chocolate, and when I tasted the thick, rich, decadent concoction, I felt a seismic shift. I had never had anything so amazing. This recipe doesn’t recreate that experience—how could it?—but it’s pretty good nonetheless.

To create the layout, I started with a piece of 140-lb. watercolor paper, then stenciled a cable knit background design with light blue acrylic paint, using a cosmetic wedge and a 6″ x 6″ Crafter’s Workshop Tufted stencil.

Background for a recipe journal page
To create a wintry feeling for this recipe journal page, I stenciled a cable knit pattern on watercolor paper for a background.

When that was dry I cut scraps of paper to create the mug and plate, first creating a rough template on scrap paper. This is why I keep bits of paper from experiments, like trying a new paint or ink color—I invariably need something for a collage or an art journal page. I stamped on the paper with a snowflake pattern (Arctic Sweater from Carta Bella Paper, Cabin Fever Collection) and used the template for the cup. I freehand cut a handle from the same colored paper scrap, the saucer and cocoa from decorative paper, and the whipped cream from handmade paper. I wanted the cup to have a rough, rustic feel, so the wonkier, the better.

Creating a collage from paper scraps for a recipe journal
Use painted paper scraps for collage, then stamp or stencil to add patterns.

I wrote the recipe on another piece of watercolor paper, edged it with paint, then used that to create a flip-up on the page; this allowed room for some journaling about the recipe.

Adding a flip-up for extra journaling
To make extra room for journaling, create a flip-up from scrap paper.

Scraps of the stamped paper were used to create hinges. Everything was adhered to the background paper with glue stick. To lend the feeling of the page being dipped in chocolate, I edged it in brown ink.

Title for a recipe journal page created with hand lettering and alphabet stamps
A title for this recipe journal page was created with hand lettering and alphabet stamps.

I love having this memory rendered in mixed media, and every time I look at the page I’m taken back to my childhood. I also develop an intense craving for hot chocolate.

You can, of course, use any type of book or sketchbook you like as a recipe journal, but I decided to make one from a box of Guittard semisweet chocolate wafers. Its color, design, and hefty construction convinced me it would make a great book cover. Repurposing a vintage cookbook is another great idea.

Recipe journal covers made from a box of semisweet chocolate wafers
This box of semisweet chocolate wafers provided the perfect covers for a recipe journal.

I cut out the front and back panels of the box for the covers, and also cut a piece of washed Kraft•Tex for the 1″-wide spine. The Kraft•Tex was glued onto the covers with PVA, then stitched with three ‘X’ stitches using waxed linen thread.

Recipe journal spine made from Kraft•Tex.
The spine was created with a piece of Kraft•Tex, which was glued and sewn to the covers.

Decorative paper was adhered to the insides of the covers, hiding the stitching. For the binding, I used a five-hole pamphlet stitch, which is super easy. First, I created four rows of five equally spaced holes and marked them on the inside of the spine, poking holes at each mark with a thin awl.

Holes marked along the spine for sewing the recipe journal
Decorative papers cover the stitching, and holes are marked along the spine for sewing the recipe journal.

I also used the marks to create holes in the signatures. For this book, I created four signatures (groups of pages nestled together) with three folded pages each. I used 140-pound watercolor paper for the pages; since I’d be using wet media I needed heavy paper.

To punch the holes in the signatures I created a template from a single folded page the same size as the journal pages, then marked each hole along the fold. The template was folded the other way, so the marks were on the inside, and it was slipped into the middle of a signature. I opened the signature about 45 degrees and, holding an awl parallel to the table, punched a hole at each mark. I removed the template and repeated this for all four signatures.

Punching signature holes
Punch holes in the signatures that correspond to the holes in the spine.

Here’s a diagram for stitching the book; each signature is stitched independently, and I used a piece of waxed linen thread about three times the height of the book, and a bookbinding needle (a darning needle also works). Holding a signature snug along the first row of holes, enter the middle hole of the first signature from the inside, going through the cover, and leaving a 3″ tail. Enter the next hole up from the outside, the top hole from the inside, and enter the next hole down from the outside, trying not to split the existing thread as you go through. Skip the middle hole, enter the next hole down from the inside, the bottom hole from the outside, and the next hole up from the inside. Enter the middle hole from the outside, this time coming up on the opposite side of the center stitch from the tail thread. Pull the threads parallel to the spine to tighten, and tie a square knot around the center thread. Trim the threads to about ¼”. Repeat for the remaining signatures.

5-hole pamphlet stitch template
Binding the recipe journal is easy; each signature is sewn independently with a five-hole pamphlet stitch.

Here’s what the completed stitching looks like:

5-hole pamphlet stitch
The completed 5-hole pamphlet stitch.

And here’s the completed book, ready to be filled!

Handmade recipe journal
The finished recipe journal is finished and waiting to be filled!

I’m eager to create more food-centric journal pages, and look forward to filling this journal. I hope this holiday season inspires you to record some fun culinary adventures of your own!

Do you love making handmade journals as much as I do? Here’s another tutorial for a no-sew folded book that I think you’ll like.

Art journaling and bookmaking go hand-in-hand; here is some great inspiration to get you going! And don’t miss the article “The Art of Food” in the November/December 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors.

November/December 2017 Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
The article “The Art of Food” in the November/December 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine features great mixed-media recipe artwork!
Handmade Book Essentials video with Dea Fischer
In the video Handmade Book Essentials with Dea Fischer, learn basic book forms for beautiful artist books.
Courageous Art Journaling with Dina Wakley bundle
The Courageous Art Journaling with Dina Wakley bundle includes four Dina Wakley videos, plus some of DIna’s signature art supplies!
Upcycled Art Journal video with Kristen Robinson
In the Upcycled Art Journal video with Kristen Robinson, learn how to use unexpected materials to create a one-of-a-kind layered journal!


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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