Showing Off My Handmade Journal

When I was a little girl growing up, I loved the Girl Scouts. What I loved most of all was the Girl Scout Handbook that listed all the proficiency badges troop members could earn. The handbook in use at the time was the 1957 edition, and I know I’m really old when I look up “vintage books” and find this handbook now listed as an antique. Ah, such is life!

The proficiency badges included an Arts and Crafts section, and I used to thumb through the pages wishing I had enough artistic ability to earn any of those “arts” badges. I did “dabble around” a bit with ideas from a badge called “Dabbler” — a variety of different art-related activities — but even those simple projects were a bit too much for me.

The one that always caught my eye, though, was Bookbinding. It sounded like so much fun! To earn the badge, a girl had to complete ten of the fifteen suggested activities, including three mandatory activities:

  1. Make one section of a book — fold the paper, cut and sew it into a paper cover
  2. Make some hand-decorated end papers, using any method desired: blockprinting, marbling, finger painting, stenciling
  3. Know the meaning of the following and help make an exhibit: first edition, volume, manuscript, autographed copy, bookplate, end paper, signature, parchment, vellum, sewing in, deckle edge, and headbands.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m typing this directly from the handbook. I still have a copy, and I still love it. I can always find interesting activities related to many different topics.

Lately, bookbinding has been coming up in different places, another of those sort of coincidences that make me stop and pay attention. More and more I’ve been thinking about how much I’d like to give it a try. Then, when I signed up for a program called Sketchbook Revival, I gasped when the first project for the group was to make a handmade sketchbook.

Yes, this was a definite sign. It was time for me to try bookbinding.

I promptly ordered a small set of bookbinding tools, and I couldn’t wait to get started. Using a piece of scrapbooking paper, I made a cover, cut and folded the inside pages (made from copy paper) and then stitched it all together to create my very first handmade journal.

This doesn’t look like much. Really, it’s not much. It’s nothing more than a cover of scrapbook paper with a few sheets of paper sewn to it. But this is also a childhood dream come true, and that makes this very special for me. It took me about sixty years to get around to learning and doing, but better late than never. I am delighted with this little book.

So, don’t ever give up on your dreams, especially not the little ones that seem so unimportant or insignificant. They mean more than you might realize. I never really knew how much joy this little project would bring. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, go for it!

NOTE: Earth Day 2021 is coming up on April 22! I’ll be using a hand-made sketchbook as part of my celebration. Why not make one for yourself? If you need any how-to information, please let me know!


    1. I am having so much fun creating my own journals — in a variety of different styles. It has brought a whole new dimension to my attempts at “art journaling” because it’s now so much more personal for me. I am totally in love with “bookbinding” and creating my own simple little sketchbooks and journals.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wow Judith! I am like you…I have a deep passion for books. It isn’t always only the story that thrills me, it is the tactile touching of its cover, the paper, the fragrence of the book. I could go on and on about this forever…

        My bookcases span my entire lower level. I’ll attach a picture in a bit.

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      2. I love book! I’ve often said “I don’t live in a house, I live in a library” because I have so many books — different subjects, different languages. Later on I have a post coming up about a Sketchbook Revival workshop I did where the artist wants to “re-purpose” old books, and I nearly freaked out! No! You don’t tear pages out of old books! No, you don’t turn used books into notebooks! To me, that would be a sacrilege. Still there was a fun part of the workshop, so even though I’m not about to repurpose any books, I did get a lot out of the workshop. And right now, making my own journals is so much fun! I’m also going to make book covers for different books. I want to play with fabrics and textures.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, I was surprised at how much this little journal meant to me when I made it. I’ve made a few others now using slightly different techniques, and I love them all. This truly makes art and art journaling very, very personal. I love making and using these sketchbooks.


  1. Now I am curious to see what else was on that list of activities to get your book binding badge. I was a girl guide growing up. I loved it, but I don’t recall the British manual having a book binding badge. Congratulations on taking your first step on your book making journey. I look forward to seeing what you make next!


    1. The other activities were knowing a bit about the history of bookbinding, making a simple design for a leather cover, designing a bookplate, binding a series of magazines or sheet music, making a simple portfolio, visiting a book binding company, visiting a professional bookbinder, visiting libraries and museums to look at book bindings, knowing two American book publishing companies, knowing more terminology, and learning how books are mended or preserved. There are a few other badges I see that look like fun. 🙂 Maybe I want to try “Prints” next. “Textile Design” sounds fun, too!


  2. It’s a labor of love type project, isn’t it? I took a class once and made a beautiful journal but can’t bring myself to use it. I have a pile of notebooks with handmade woven covers from Guatemala (when I lived there) and use those when traveling. Somehow the one I made seems like a work of art and I want to keep it as it is.

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    1. I’m keeping mine very simple so I love using them! To me, having my own sketchbook/journal feels much less intimidating than using a store-bought one. My feeling is that if I mess it up, oh, well, I can always make another. I love that feeling!

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    1. Just finished another one today with my granddaughter. We used bright neon paper for different dividers, plus watercolors for the cover. Really fun! Like you said, there is no going back!

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    1. Yes! My granddaughter and I made tri-fold journals yesterday. We made watercolor abstracts for the cover, but for each of the tree sections we made dividers with bright neon paper. It sounds crazy, but it’s really nice. I’ll be using my journal for Earth Day and a long nature walk.


  3. SQUEEEE!!!

    I love handmade journals and repurposed books and all things that involve pages and words!
    I’ve made a couple myself and I use two that my sister made me. Maybe I’ll get around to posting that stuff someday.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, please! I love my journals. I can’t see doing “re-purposed” books just because I could never bring myself to alter an actual book. Books I no longer want to keep are always given away rather than “re-purposed”. I do like seeing what others have done. I just can’t do it myself LOL.


    1. I’m using a waxed thread that came with my little kit from Amazon. I’m sure you can find waxed thread at a hobby store. I think that’s probably the most important thing to keep in mind. Having a good awl for punching through the paper is helpful, too. Good luck with the project!


  4. well done. My sister and I made handmade bound books in a day class at a uni a few years ago and then scrapbooked all over them afterwards. Adding photos and embellishments to make them very special. They are treasured memories.

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    1. Indeed! My favorite so far has been my Nature Journal. It was very small, so next year I’ll probably make a larger one. My grand-daughter bought her own book-binding kit after she saw mine, and she’s gone on now to share book-binding with all of her friends. I want to learn more. 🙂


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