The Real Scrap Book

Every journaler needs a good scrap book. No, not a scrapbook–the kind you fill with machine-punched out die-cuts and purchased pressed flowers and ribbon. I mean a scrap book–the kind of book you need to practice things in. The kind you can mess up and not worry.

Having recently bought another book on hand-lettering and wanting to practice, I wanted to make a book out of paper I didn’t mind messing up–a book that will show use, and maybe progress.

Rough paper and cover make a good practice book, a real scrap book.

I found some paper at a garage sale. It looked like old paper bags, or soft, thin cardboard. There was something appealing to the surface–both hard and velvety. I moved it twice, so it has aged gracefully. (Leave room for significant pause.) The other day I received a package and instead of packing knurdles, there was corrugated cardboard. Now I had the cover and the pages.

Even holes are best made with a dremel tool. Saves your wrists, too. Hammers can be hard work.

The pages were all loose, but that’s no reason to hesitate. I tapped the pages into place, ran glue up along the long side and let it dry. Then I punched five holes  through the whole stack using my trusty Dremel tool.

I bound it using the traditional Japanese stab-binding method, about half an inch from the edge of the paper. For binding thread, I used a rough packing twine. Some stab-binding tutorials cut the cover, to make turning the pages easier. That wasn’t necessary here.

A real scrap book for praciticing hand lettering. It's ready for mistakes and do-overs.

Now I have a real scrapbook that I can practice hand lettering in. It won’t bother me if my flourishes aren’t fine and even; it won’t annoy me if my letters are a bit lumpier than I’d like. It’s all practice. It’s all creative work.

Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach who will learn hand-lettering if she has to fill many scrap books. But she still remembers the calligraphy teacher who told her, “It’s too late. You are too old to learn calligraphy. You don’t have enough life left to practice.” That was 10 years ago.

Hand-Made Journal: Mutant 2

Mutant Journal 2, cover made with shelf liner

Making your own journal gives you exactly what you want. It’s also fun, keeps you really busy for a while, and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Today I’m starting a series of journals I’m calling Mutants. A few weeks ago, I made a journal from a Trader Joe’s Lemon Cookie box, but I hadn’t thought of the Mutant idea yet.

I’m calling them Mutant Journals because they will all be made out of unusual materials, have different papers, have a theme, or some other odd idea I come up with.

The first Mutant journal is the cookie journal, shown below,  on the right. I owe it. It was the first one and it gave me the idea to make more.

Journal made from cookie box

The second Mutant journal started when I got my Container Store catalog. On the back cover was a photo of shelf liner made out of natural fibers. There were three colors–a pale beige with a stripe, a dark cinnamon, and a dark-and-light mix. I called the local store, and they had them. In two hours, I had three rolls. The paper is stitched, which makes it flexible. It feels like a lightweight placemat, and you can cut it.

It was on sale for about $5.00 for a roll that is 12 inches wide and 5 feet long. That’s enough for several odd-sized journals. I decided to use the fiber to cover both the outside and the inside cover, both front and back.

Natural fiber shelf liner pressed into service as journal covers.

Using a piece of bookboard measuring 7.5 inches x 5.0 inches, I placed the two pieces of bookboard side by side, leaving a small gap. The gap makes the book close comfortably if the signature (the folded pages) are thick. They were going to be.

Detail of front cover

I’m not interested in making complicated bindings, I’m happy enough with a pamphlet stitch. I don’t want to feel pressured to fill huge journals. I’d rather fill one quickly, so I can make another one. That’s more fun.

Once the fiber covered both sides of both covers (this was one piece, the joy of a 5-foot roll), I was going to have a journal that looked the same front and back. Using strips of inked papers I had from another project, I created a weaving for the front. The bright colors make a good foil for the soft-striped cover.

Inside, the paper is largely Arches Text Wove. There is a sheet (two pages, four sides) of a great Japanese rice paper with a brown background and bright red, yellow and gold flowers stamped on it. There is another sheet of braille paper, which makes great texture.

This one was fine. It’s still empty, well, except for the page that already has four dried petals from my orchids in it. The next cover is already made. I can’t wait to finish it.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and artist. She is writing Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art, which will be published in June of 2011.

Tutorial: Envelope Journal

The journals I like to make best are ones with just a few pages. That way, I can fill them up quickly, and make another one. Like most people who make things, I often enjoy the design and creation more than using the actual finished piece. So I always leave room for the possibility of altering my work some more.

Envelope journal, centerMaterials: This tutorial uses simple things you already have: cardboard for the cover (I used mat board), number 10 size envelopes, masking tape, bookbinding tape (it’s expensive, you can substitute gaffers tape), cotton thread, a pointy awl and watercolors.

Purpose: This envelope journal has room to write in and room to keep a note, a concert ticket, or a photo along with the memory.

Envelope journal coverAssembly: 1. Cut black (or another solid color of mat board) into rectangles slightly larger (about one-fourth inch all the way around) than the envelope you will use. Put them next to each other, long sides together, but about one-quarter inch apart. Cut a piece of gaffers tape about 2 inches longer than the covers. Center the tape over the covers and place it down gently. Lift the covers, turn them over and smooth down the piece of tape at the top and bottom. Cut another piece of tape to cover the space in between the top and bottom overlaps. Cut it long enough so you have all the sticky part of the tape completely covered.

2. Lay two envelopes, flap side down, in front of you, side by side. They should be about one-eighth inch apart. Tape them together, the long way, using masking tape. Create three sets of these. If you want to have the envelopes face in different directions, take into account that these pairs of envelopes will nest.

3. Nest the pairs of envelopes and line up the top and bottom. Place them in the centerEnvelope Journal, open of the open book covers.

4. Using the awl, or a self-centering screw punch (you get them from a hardware store) punch four evenly spaced holes in the tape between the envelopes and book covers.

5. Thread a tapestry needle with cotton thread. It should be thick enough not to tear. Starting from the back of the book, come up through the top hole. Go down into the next hole, come up through the third hole, and down through the fourth. If you want to make your book sturdier, come back up through the third and work your way to the top. The needle should exit out of hole # 1. Tie the thread off and trim the ends.

6. Decorate the cover. Paint geometric figures on the plain side of the envelopes. Leave enough space for writing.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. She teaches art classes throughout Arizona. Images: Quinn McDonald. (c) 2008. All rights reserved.