Making a Handmade Journal

Welcome to 2020! For the new year (and decade), I’m continuing with the trend of creating handmade things whenever and wherever possible. With that said, however, I’ve gravitated over the past few months to making books. It feels like making books and journals combines all the best of the creative arts, and there’s the added bonus of having a finished book at the end; since finished books are one of my favorite things on the planet, this turns out to be a very good thing.

One of my first projects of 2020 was this handmade, handbound journal, so I thought I’d take a minute to give you a rundown on what I learned.

The cover for this journal came from some of the multitudes of scrap fabric I have on hand from too many trips to Goodwill (which has an incredible selection of used fabric). I followed video tutorials on YouTube done by Nerdforge and Bookbinders Chronicle to do the binding, and for this did a kettle stitch using a very crude sewing jig I cobbled together using an old wine rack I got (again) from Goodwill, for $2:

This was hardly the most elegant solution, but it worked for what I was doing and was definitely affordable.

I’ll admit, there were some missteps with this project. For one, I started out by following this amazing video tutorial by NerdForge (whom I love), and it was obviously meant for something heftier, like the grimoire that was being designed in that video.

For this, I should have used simple binder’s tape or cloth to hold things together rather than the heavy jute that ultimately ended up sticking out (a great feature when, again, you’re making a ginormous tome. Not so great for a simple handbound journal). It’s hard to tell that it’s sticking out in the photo, but holding it in your hands it’s pretty obvious.

I would also like to do headbands (a band of leather, fabric, or stitching at the top and bottom of the spine) next time around. I got intimidated by the process for this first project, but I’m finishing up another book now and did headbands for that one – I really love the look, and it’s not nearly as complicated a process as I thought it was. Without the headbands (or any other finished material), it ends up looking like this:

I also didn’t cut the fabric as carefully as I should have, and there ended up being gaps at the corners that don’t look great:

With all that said, I’m actually pretty pleased with how this came out. The fabric I used is something I’ve had forever, and have been waiting for the perfect project to use it on. I used simple black cardstock that I had on hand for the end pages, and the paper is heavyweight drawing paper that I pulled from one of the many pads I got from AC Moore in their going-out-of-business sale. I didn’t trim the paper before using it, and will definitely make sure to do that next time – I’m not crazy about the texture at the edges. The book lies flat well, however, and I really like the way the kettle stitch holds. It seems durable and reasonably well put together considering it’s my first attempt.

So, this was my first creative project of 2020. For my next bookbinding project, I plan to do a nature journal (as created by Nik the Booksmith on YouTube) for one of the main characters in The Haunting, the first book in a new paranormal romance trilogy I’m working on (I’ll talk more about that in posts to come, as well). That will be a longer project, but I’m looking forward to trying several different techniques that Nik talks about in an online class she offers on Teachable. I expect I’ll babble about some of those things here, too.

I hope 2020 is off to a good start for you, and you’re able to take some time out from all the madness that abounds in the news today to be creative. If you have particular projects you’re working on, I would love to hear about them!

Jen Blood is the USA Today-bestselling author of the Erin Solomon Mysteries and the Flint K-9 Search and Rescue Mysteries. To learn more, visit 

This entry was posted in Jen's Posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Making a Handmade Journal

  1. Julianne Spreng says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your enthusiastic dive into book making, warts and all. I just saw Little Women and was fascinated by the book creation at the end of the movie. We only learn by trying, and you obviously learned a lot! Instead of the heavy duty jute cord have you thought of trying something sturdy like waxed dental floss? It’s darn near indestructible and the wax acts as a lubricant. If you ever decide to give one as a gift, keep me in mind…big smile. Where would we all be if we didn’t have so many individuals willing to post all those wonderful tutorials on You Tube?

    • jenbloodauthor says:

      Thanks for the comment, Julianne! I actually use waxed binding thread to stitch the signatures together, and then use the jute cord as a more sturdy agent to bind the whole book together. Re-reading my description, I can see how it might sound as though I used jute cord for the whole process – that definitely would have made for a bulky book! The dental floss is a great idea, I never thought of that. I expect it would be plenty strong, and as a bonus my books would smell minty fresh! 🙂 I haven’t seen Little Women yet, but the mention of the book-making process makes me that much more invested in making the time to see it.

  2. bethc2015 says:

    I enjoyed your discussion of this project from start to finish. I especially like how you used recycled and re-purposed items for the project.

Leave a Reply