(A quick note: Hello to everyone who has found me via Crescendoh! Please have a look around my blog, there are more tutorials. Thanks for stopping by!)
I started making these journals as a way to do something with the vast amount of stuff I collect, from vintage Bingo cards to cabinet card photographs to postcards and even cereal boxes. They are fun and easy to create, since the covers are already done! They also make great gifts. If you're going to be making several I suggest you do them assembly line style: Cut all the bookcloth, text paper, etc., then assemble. If you're doing a very large number, say for party favors, you can recruit a couple of friends or family members to help.
Here are the materials and tools you'll need. Information will be given later on how to size the bookcloth and text pages for different size covers. The pocket is optional--I like it because I always need someplace to keep business cards, fabric scraps, etc., but if you don't like it, leave it out and add another two sheets of text paper.
Materials and Tools:
Two vintage Bingo cards for covers. The ones I used are 7 1/4" high by 5 1/2" wide and made of fairly heavy chipboard. Bingo cards come in a variety of styles, and most are made from thinner chipboard. This is fine--when you glue the cardstock to the inside covers it will made them stronger. I rounded the outside corners, but that's optional.
Two pieces of bookcloth: one 8 3/8" x 1 5/8" and one 7 1/8" x 1 5/8". Bookcloth is paper-backed fabric, and it's found online and in some stores (resources are at the end of the tutorial). Make sure the grain runs long, or parallel to the spine. To check grain direction, take two ends of the bookcloth and gently bend them into a "U" shape. Do the same with the other two ends. One should be easier to bend than the other--that is the grain direction.
11 text-weight sheets of paper 7 1/8" x 11". Grain should run along the 7 1/8" side. Round the corners if desired. Reserve one sheet of paper for the punching template.
Two pieces of 7" x 5 3/8" decorative cardstock for the inside covers
One piece of 12" x 12" double-sided decorative cardstock for the pocket (information on how to cut it to size is below).
One 20" piece of linen thread. You can use waxed or unwaxed, but I prefer unwaxed for this. If you used waxed linen, the thinner 2-cord kind is best.
Scrap paper for gluing
Tools: bone folder (teflon if you have one), scissors, ruler, pencil, needle, awl, cutting mat, paper trimmer or craft knife, PVA glue and a medium-size glue brush. PVA is polyvinyl acetate and a great bookbinding glue, since it won't yellow or crack. When I teach this in workshops I sometimes use UHU glue sticks--heretical, I know, but much less messy. It's a good glue and the books I've made with it have held up, but whenever possible use PVA.
OK, let's get started! This is a little picture-heavy, so bear with me!
On the 8 3/8" x 1 5/8" piece of bookcloth draw a lengthwise pencil line 1/2" from each side. Here I've done it with a Sharpie so you can see it, but use a light pencil line because the Sharpie will show through the bookcloth. Don't draw the squiggly line--that's to show you where to put the glue.
Glue up one side of the bookcloth up to the line with PVA (it's OK to go over a little) and place the front cover on top right up to the line, leaving an equal amount of bookcloth showing top and bottom. Make sure the cover is facing the right way. If your corners are rounded, they will be facing out. Flip the cover over and press the bookcloth with the bone folder, making sure it's adhered. Regular bone folders may leave shiny marks on the bookcloth, so that's why I prefer to use teflon. If you have a regular bone folder that's fine, just don't press super hard. One note on gluing: I always have plenty of scrap paper for gluing. Once you've gotten glue on the paper, remove it--I usually just toss it on the ground and retrieve it later. The last thing you want is glue on your project. Also, PVA will stain bookcloth, so make sure your work area is glue-free. And just FYI, I do recycle my scrap paper!
Let's make the pocket. I used a 12" x 12" piece of double-sided scrapbook paper, but you can also make this from heavyweight art paper, such as Canson. Cut the paper to 12" x 10 1/8", with the grain running along the 10 1/8" side. Score it 3" from the bottom and fold that part up to make the pocket. Next, cut 1/2" from each side from the score line up, then cut the tab at a slight angle (the photo shows you where those cuts were made) and round the top edges if desired.
Fold 11 text pages in half and nest 10 together, reserving one for the punching template. When you do this you'll have what's called a signature--a set of pages nested together. You'll also notice that the edges are creeping out--this is called the foredge creep, or just the creep. This is totally normal and one feature of a handmade book. If you don't like this look you can trim the edges flush with a good guillotine cutter or use a metal-edge ruler and utility knife to hand-trim the edges.
Fold the 7 1/8" x 1 5/8" piece of bookcloth lengthwise, right sides together.
Make three marks on the fold of the punching template: Two 1" away from either end, and one in the middle. Open the sheet and carry the marks across the fold, then fold the paper the other way so the marks are now on the inside.
Assemble as follows, from the inside out: punching template, text pages, pocket page, bookcloth. One little trick I found helpful was to run a little bit of gluestick along the spine of the pocket page before wrapping it with the bookcloth piece. Since the bookcloth is so narrow it gets a little fiddly while sewing, so this helps hold everything in place.
Let's punch the signature. We do this because it's easier to sew a book if the holes are punched first. Open to the middle so you can see the template. Hold the signature at a 45 degree angle (I'm not quite 45 degrees above, but I had to open it a little more to show the template. So do as I say, not as I do!). Hold the awl parallel to the table and punch through the signature. This will take a bit of muscle, but it's not that difficult. Your goal is to come out on the fold, but if you don't, don't worry about it. No one will see it and for this book it won't affect the structure. If you have a punching cradle you can use that--it makes the task a lot simpler. Remove the template.
Thread your needle--single thread, no knot at the end. In bookbinding the thread is never knotted as in regular sewing; we knot as we sew. A knot could easily pull through a hole, and if you made a knot large enough to not go through the hole you wouldn't be able to close your book. So do not knot!
I find binding instructions easier to follow if they're drawn, so the above diagram shows you how to sew (figure A). Come through the middle hole from the inside, leaving about a 3" tail (#1). Come through the top hole from the outside (#2). If it's difficult getting through the hole, poke the needle through from the inside to open it up a bit. Skip the middle hole and come through the bottom hole from the inside (#3). Come through the middle hole again from the outside (#4).
When you come through the middle hole, make sure the needle comes up on the opposite side of the center stitch from the tail thread (figure B). There should be one thread on either side of the center stitch, and you'll see why in a minute. Remove the needle and pull the thread ends parallel to the spine in opposite directions. Never pull up--you can rip your signature that way. How do I know this? Because I've done it. And it's not fun. Once threads are tight, tie the ends in a double knot (or square knot), capturing the center stitch. This is why it's important to come up on either side of that center stitch--once you've made that knot, that binding is super stable. Trim the thread ends to about 1/4".
Close the signature and crease it one more time with the bone folder. Now, open up the bookcloth so it's flat. Place scrap paper underneath, then slip another piece of scrap paper under the flap that's over the signature--this will protect it while gluing. Glue the whole thing--it's OK to get glue on the thread.
Have your covers ready, and adhere the bookcloth to the inside of the covers. Make sure everything is facing the right way before you glue it in place! Since the two pieces of bookcloth are the same width, it's easy to line them up. Leave about a 1/16" gap between the top and bottom of the bookcloth and the top and bottom of the covers. Press the bookcloth down well with your bone folder--you can see in the photo how I'm really making sure it's adhered.
We're coming into the home stretch now! Glue the back of one of the decorative pieces of cardstock and adhere it to the inside front or back cover. It should be flush with the three edges of the cover and allow a little bit of the bookcloth to show. I cut these a tad smaller than the covers so I don't have to trim them later if they're too big.
If you look at your book from the top or bottom the spine probably looks like this--a little square-ish. It's not the worst thing in the world, but here's a trick to give your book a nice finish: Hold the signature firmly with one hand and push it into the spine. As you do this, run your fingers along the spine, gently squeezing it so it becomes more rounded, like this, shown at right.
Place some scrap paper between the front and back covers and the signature and press it under a heavy weight for about an hour to make sure the covers don't warp.
When everything is dry you can add a label (the one shown on the cover is from Paper Source), some punches (the bird is from Stampin' Up!), or whatever makes you happy. All that's left to do with this book is fill it!
Here are some general rules for cutting paper and bookcloth to size: For the text paper, I usually cut the height 1/8" smaller than the height of the covers, because I like a small square. The square of a book is the distance between the text block (or pages) and the edge of the cover. For the width, I double the width of the cover. Since the book extends about 1/4" beyond the left edge of the cover, that usually takes care of the creep issue. However, if you're using a lot of pages, or heavier paper, your creep might be longer and may need to be trimmed. Just a note: for these little journals I generally use about 10 to 12 sheets of text-weight paper, which will give you 20 to 24 pages in your book. For the decorative paper that covers the inside of the front and back covers, I cut the width and height 1/8" shorter than the cover.
Cut the bookcloth 1" taller than the height of the book. To determine the width, place the sewn signature in between the covers, allowing it to peek out 1/4" from the spine edge (the left edge). Hold a piece of paper tight across the spine and mark the distance from the front cover to the back cover.
Open it up and measure it--this will be your spine width. Add to that however much bookcloth you want to show on your front and back covers. So, for this book, my spine was 5/8", and I wanted 1/2" of bookcloth showing on the covers, so my total width was 1 5/8". Drawing those two 1/2" lines on the back of the longer piece of bookcloth at the beginning helped me ensure it would be placed on the covers evenly. Boy, that's a dirty ruler.
At this point you're probably wondering, if I measured the spine width using a sewn signature, how would I know what width to make the shorter piece of bookcloth that gets sewn to the pages and the pocket? You don't. So I make that piece of bookcloth extra wide and then trim it when I know the width.
I hope all of this makes sense. Please let me know if you have any questions or something doesn't make sense. Also, send me photos of your books and I'll post them!
Here are a couple of other books made using the same technique. The one on the left uses old book covers for covers, and for the one on the right I covered bookboard with Cavallini map paper and added a grosgrain ribbon accent.
Some resources for you:
Vintage Bingo cards: Ebay and Etsy (also try flea markets and thrift stores)
Next up: An easy wedding guest book!