Fat Journal: Solving The Problem

When you glue ephemera into your journal, add gatefolds, flyers, photos and found objects, the journal begins to expand. A little expansion is fine, but when you get a lot of expansion before you are halfway through the journal, you may be creating a problem.

Vertical journal view of already-stuffed journal.

Many journals aren’t made for stuffing, and the stitching that holds the pages in can give way, leaving you with separate folios (sets of pages) and an empty cover.

Yesterday, when I added a gatefold, I realized that the journal was going to be too stuffed before long. There are several ways of solving the problem. I’m going to show you two of them.

The first way is to compensate for the fat pages by removing pages entirely. You will want to remove one sheet (two pages or four sides) to keep the folios in place. Page through the book (it can be any location) until you find two pages (four sides) that are one sheet. You will want to remove the entire folded sheet. If the stitching is sturdy, simply pull the inner corner of the page out and away from the gutter (spine). Do not lift, that just puts strain on the stitching. You can also open the book flat, use a craft knife to slit along the fold. Stop before you come to the stitching. You won’t want to cut into the stitching. Most stitched books have three stitches. Remove the pages from all of them. You can save the pages for another project or discard them. I love the paper, so I keep it for another project.

Page being removed from journal.

That’s all there is to it–page removed, more space for the book to breathe.

The other method of journal-girth reduction is to cut out two pages, leaving a stub. I find this aesthetically unpleasing, so I add a thin page between the two stubs, creating a page, yes, but a thinner one that the combined two I remove.

When I was working on the blue/green/purple page insert for yesterday’s post, I used a paper towel to catch ink over spray and mop up. I don’t throw out those paper towels as they are often colorful.

Yesterday’s towel looked nicely colored (the color continues to soak and spread till the towel dries) so I decided to make it the additional page. Paper towels are tougher than you might think.

Paper towel colored with over spray from ink experiment.

Still, I wanted something more than a paper towel. Some tissue paper applied in chine collé style. I tore white tissue paper into pieces, pounced glue on with a bookbinder’s glue brush, and applied the tissue, continuing brush use to put down an even layer.

I glued just one side. The other side remained the colorful paper towel. The entire piece is fragile when glued, so allow to air dry on a non-stick surface like freezer paper or parchment.

Once the tissue was glued and dry, I ironed the tissue and paper towel to get a nice flat surface. This paper towel was 2-ply, and the plies are held together only by the decorative patterns. To keep them together, I used my new sewing machine and a decorative stitch. This is a bit tricky, as a satin stitch can tear the towel. I also learned how to pull out a mess of bobbin thread out of the machine.

To attach this thin page, again, choose a single folded page that makes 2 pages (stitched in the center) or four sides.

Put a cutting mat under the second page. I used a tough but thin piece of plastic cutting board for kitchen use.

Using a craft knife and ruler, cut away the 2 pages about 1/2-3/4 inch from the gutter (spine) of the book, leaving two stubs.

Position the insert page between the two stubs. When it’s just where it needs to be, I  lifted the edge of the paper towel and put down a bead of glue, and spread it down with my fingers. Once the paper towel was glued to the bottom stub, I glued down the top stub.

Using a Sakura gel pen, I drew a sewing machine design on the stub and glued a colorful image on the page. The prose poem is by Wade Davis. It says:
“The world into which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”

Because I put the thin page between two stubs from the same piece of paper, the page is easy to turn and much thinner than the original two pages.

Have fun with your journal!

Quinn McDonald is a raw art journaler and certified creativity coaches who helps clients work deeply and explore their life’s journey.