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**disclaimer: all 16 “pages” of this journal are not the same size/some are not really big enough to actually be considered a “page,” but we will get back to that later**

starting monday i will be teaching an “artist study” camp, and my little sister tori will be my teaching assistant. (look forward to a series of posts about our projects!) i will have kindergarteners through fourth graders. first we will learn about an artist’s life and their methods, and then we will try our hand at their style.

before doing this, i want the kids to each have their own personal art journal…and not a huge sketch book from michael’s craft store that is not unique at all, and they will never fill, but a small one that they can customize and will hopefully be overflowing with their awesome creations by the end of the week.

mine is not 100% done yet, and i don’t usually like to share incomplete work, but for the greater good of this post, it will have to do for now, and i can always update later. (please excuse my weird quirks.)

but i’m getting ahead of myself…i originally got this idea from teesha moore, an amazing collaging guru, who graciously shared her technique in a two part tutorial on youtube. here are the links to her lessons, followed by my step by step directions, along with useful tips/tricks learned through my trial and error.



first of all, i must admit that i am a bad student. there is only one “real” art store close to me…it’s no surprise that i did not plan ahead with enough time to order any specialty items. so, even though she clearly states what materials NOT to buy, coincidentally, that’s all my art store seemed to have. (sorry miss t!)

if you chose to forgo watching her tutorials, and are sticking solely to mine, teesha warns that if you use a certain brand of paper, it will “crack” when folded, if that makes sense. yep, that does happen. but it doesn’t tear all the way through or anything, and these kids have an average age of like 7, so i’m not too worried about it. this paper is about $7 a piece, and good enough in my book, and they won’t know the difference either way.

ok, enough chit chat, let’s get started. you begin with one 22 x 30 piece of paper. it is supposed to be watercolor paper, 140 pounds, and hot press. the difference between the “presses,” is that hot is nice and smooth, whereas “cold” tends to have a “rougher” texture. it’s really a matter of personal preference. i have made both and like both for difference reason. you know i do a lot of mixed media/collage, so perhaps the hot press (smooth pages) are best for that. if you sketch, watercolor, etc. than you may like the cold press (textured paper) more.

when i made mine, i only purchased one sheet. but now i have to make 13 more. when i went back to the store (many months later), they did not have enough of the single sheets i needed. luckily they had packs of 5. i bought three packs. this gives me 2 extra sheets in case i completely screw up. it also saved me like $7 i think. that’s a whole nother sheet! (yes i’m aware that’s not a real word, but you know you all use and love it too so poo.)

friday was the last teacher work day, and luckily, because i’m so super efficient at my job, i didn’t have any work left to do, so i was able to start preparing things for my camp. i’m glad i brought these supplies to school in the off chance that i may have time to work on them, because this task is very huge and daunting and even though i have a lot of the process already done, i still have what seems like miles to go. the real blessing about starting these at school is that my dear friend in the art room had a nice, large paper cutter, because these do NOT fit in a normal sized paper cutter.

the first step is to turn these bad boys hamburger style. one side is a good 4 inches larger than the other side, so it should be pretty obvious which one is the long side. if you recall, the long side is 30 inches. we will be cutting it into 3 strips of 10 inches each. should be pretty simple huh? if you do not have a large paper cutter, you can do what i had to do the first time, which was to use a “tear bar,” aka a large heavy duty metal ruler used as a sharp edge in which to tear your paper. or you can just be old school and cut it. it depends on your stash of supplies i suppose.

after that you will  fold 2 of the 3 pages, but you need to mark where you will be folding them first. something teesha moore and i have in common is that we aren’t going to be ocd about measurements when it comes to art. which i know weirdly contradicts with my freakish perfectionistic personality any other time.

the marks will be at 8 inches, and 16 inches. the ruler i was using at the time was not very long, so i just slid the ruler over and made a mark at 8 inches again.

fold your pages at these measurements. you will notice that one of the pages is smaller than the others and that is okay. remember that this started as 22 inches, so two of the flaps are 8 inches, leaving only 6 inches left. wow i did math 🙂 haha

**you want nice crisp edges. i use a bone folder. if you don’t have one of those you can just use your fingernail, the handle of scissors, anything that can be used to apply pressure and crease those folds.

(first fold)

(second fold. notice the smaller 6 inch page on the right.)

(remember to only fold 2 of your 3 pages this way. i also uploaded these pictures because i wanted you to see that the edges on the right hand side don’t line up perfectly, and that’s ok. it won’t negatively affect the journal in any way at all. it’s also mainly due to the way the paper is made, they leave it with “natural” edges, and also if you use a tear bar as she recommends, the edges are meant to look this way.

this is the part where i messed up on my first attempt, so i made sure to break it down for you with a very helpful picture, and you have to promise to pay attention! the next step is to place the two “leafs/leaves” (yes i just used real bookbinding lingo, haha) into the cover, and fold the cover around them. however, it is VERY important to make sure your two small “flaps” are on opposite sides/alternated. this helps even out/level the book. if you don’t do this, your book will be lopsided and thick in the wrong places, like mine is 😦

fold the cover exactly in half, and line up all of the “spines” or creases. tightly hold them in place, while folding one side of the cover over them. this will give you a very skinny strip.

(if you notice in the background this time i did it RIGHT in front of the computer to make sure i did it correctly, lol.)

then repeat on for the other side. you will end up with a skinny strip (approximately 3 inches) on each side. i believe ms. moore considers these little flappies as pages too? i’m not sure how she gets the 16…i guess i really should go back and count lol.

now all of your folds are complete. time to sew. yikes.

absolutely positively make sure your edges are all lined up before attempting this next step. this is another mistake i made the first go around, and it wasn’t nice. pretty sure bound books don’t have holes and strings poking out of the back cover 😦

that paper is pretty thick and stiff, so in this next picture i am laying the back cover and the right half of the book/pages on the table, while allowing the left half of the book to stand upright. this assured me that all of my pages were lined up nice and evenly.

teesha’s a pro and doesn’t mark where she is going to poke her holes, but i wanted this part to be a little more regimented. she does tell you where to measure though, if you are like me and want to do so. you will poke three holes. the center will be at 5 inches, and the top and bottom hole will be 1.5 inches from the edge of the page (1.5 and 8.5)

teesha uses an awl to poke her holes. i’m not sophisticated enough to have one of those, so i just used a size 18 tapestry needle. i will say that i think the holes came out a tad too big, so perhaps i’ll stick with 16 from now on. you could probably even  hammer a hole with a nail. but REMEMBER to make sure the edges are lined up while doing this or your holes will not go nicely through the seam only. you have to poke through all the pages at once, so it is kind of tough. and i also think the cold press is harder to puncture than the hot press. i guess you don’t really have to poke through all of them at once, you could measure and poke each page individually…but if you are making 13 like i am, i’m assuming that would be mighty tedious and tiring.

alrighty, let’s see here…cutting? check. folding? check. what’s left? ah, that’s right…sewing.

i can’t remember what obscure type of string she suggests using, but of course the only thing available at the store i went to was what she recommends not using (wax coated). haha. oh well. i am resourceful and will work with what i’ve got. here is a shot of the needles and string i used. they had brown and white string, but i wanted to be different so i got brown. it has actually come in handy while writing this tutorial for you to see it better 🙂

the next picture is me demonstrating the length of one book. she says to measure out enough string for the length of three books, but the second picture is to show you how much string i had left over when i did it her way. that way you can decide how much you want to use. i think next time i will use just a bit over 2 lengths.

i’m getting very antsy, so i’m going to try to wrap the rest of this up in double time…thread your needle and go into the middle hole from the inside of the book toward the outside. pull through, leaving a “tail” of about an inch or so.

apparently i didn’t take pics of the next step, but if you all really need it i will be making 13 more of these and can always update. (have i said that enough times already? lol) at one point in time i even put up a status on facebook asking which of my friends would like to help me with this…needless to say i did not get one volunteer 😦

anyway, from the back, come back up through either the top or the bottom hole, it doesn’t matter which. then, go all the way to the opposite side (whichever one you did not choose) and go out again through that hole, toward the outside of the book. finally, come back up through the middle hole, into the center of the book. make sure all of your strings are pulled taut. remember, this is a handmade book of sorts, and the purpose of sewing/the string is to hold the book together. if you have loose strings, that defeats the purpose.

now, make sure that the long string running down the book is in the middle of the tail and the string that’s still attached to the needle, like so:

i forget the name of the specific knot, i wanna say box? but it’s super easy. simply tie the knot one way, then the other. if that does not make sense, if i tie the knot with the right string on top first, i tie the second knot with the left string on top. this makes a nice “x” persay, instead of two of the same kinds of knots piled on top of each other. i sure hope that made sense.

cut both strings to the same length, about 1/2 an inch.

and there you have it! if you have followed these steps correctly, hopefully you now have a wonderful art journal that cost roughly $8…much cheaper than a moleskin, and more meaningful too because you put the work into it.

if your journal turned out to be a hot mess, that’s ok. my first try was too. just remember to try try again. if i am a crappy teacher, that’s ok too…just watch teesha’s and see if you can understand it better from her. this probably was one of the more complex projects i’ve done thus far. but enough chatting, i need to start folding. ay yi yi…please send me lots of virtual hugs, lol, and i will send you lots of patience for this project as well, because it really is worth all the work in the end. truly the possibilities with this thing are limitless. hmmmm, i wonder if people would like these for gifts? look at me, always gifting…

(ahhhh, much better this time! practice really does make perfect in this case.)

whew. i’m pooped just going through all the step again.

until next time

me, cb 🙂