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Bookbinding Doesn’t Take that Long

Well, it shouldn’t, but it did for me and not for the reasons you might think. I started my handmade sketchbook adventure back in January when I decided that I wanted one with all different types of paper in it. That’s not something you can zip over to the art store and buy (why not??), so I took it as an opportunity to make something really personal. I thought I did that last year when I converted an old (and meaningful) art book into a journal, but after a year of filling it up it still isn’t quite what I want. 

What Happened?

So I started the book months ago with plans for three types of paper (drawing, multimedia, and watercolor) and a cover made from my son’s old jeans that were too holy to donate. Of course, it all had to be filmed so I could make a video out of it! Everything was all set up – lights, camera, computer, and bookbinding supplies took over my dining room table. During the first session I cut all of the paper to size and gently creased and stacked it into signatures of one of each type of paper. 

And there it all sat. The whole time I wondered what it was, why I wouldn’t just sit down and work on it. It’s pretty obvious now though, right? It was that extra step of making the video. Rather that just sit down and put all the effort into making the book, the video was what really had priority. My excuse was what a pain it would be to get set up and get going even though most of what I needed was left out. And because of that dinners at the table didn’t happen for months. Family crafting didn’t get done at the table. There was an eyesore in the middle of my house! 

Last week I finally took the camera set up down and put the bookbinding project away in its own special box. Guess what happened? We ate some food at the table and did some projects together. Then I finished the book – in two days. Mistakes were made, but I feel like since they’re baked into the book already that there’s no point in worrying too much about what goes into it. That first page of a sketchbook is always the toughest!

How I Made the Book

The tutorial I followed can be found below. It’s really easy to adapt your own measurements and I found the whole process to be very relaxing, except for the very end where I realized the cover was too big and I already put glue down. I snapped a few pics along the way, because it still needed to be documented, so rather than make you read more of my rambles, let’s go on a little photo journey together!

A pretty stack of signatures ready to be sewn!
This is a beautified version of what my table looked like for MONTHS, except without holes punched in the signatures. How long did it take to measure and punch those holes? Maybe 10 minutes. At least I was able to get any bitterness about it over with right away. 🙂
The signatures all stitched and ready for glue.
I thought sewing the signatures together would be tedious, but it was very relaxing! It was kind of my favorite part. <3
Signatures glued and clamped.
I have no control over where glue goes. It’s a miracle that none of it got on the pages! That’s a paint stirrer cut in half and two-inch clamps to keep it all together.
Signatures glued, clamped, and drying.
I set them out to dry like this. I forget why. Maybe to make sure they dried evenly? It must have worked because they did. 🙂
The cover pieces all laid out.
The cover is made out of my son’s old jeans and chipboard.

The Result!

There aren’t any pics of the fiasco that was gluing all the things together, but this is how it looks now. I sewed denim strips on and left the edges out so it would fray over time and have a nice distressed look. Plus it’s kind of relaxing picking at the little strings as they come loose. I finished it off with a patch from Alex Pardee. 🙂
At the end of the day, bookbinding is fun!

The tutorial I used:

If you don’t know him, now you know him. You’re welcome. 🙂

Thanks for reading! Until next time!

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Impressart! Metal Stamping is Hard!

impressart metal stamping jewelry making kit blanks block hammer stamps

**Before we get started – this post contains affiliate links!**

Ok, metal stamping isn’t THAT tough – but it’s harder than it looks. This week I picked up a metal stamping kit by Impressart to try my hand at it. I have some ideas about how I can use it with my copper pipe jewelry so now you get to read all about my test run! I also thought that maybe, just, maybe, I could use the stamps on the copper pipe itself, but NOPE. Good thing that wasn’t the only plan I had…

impressart metal stamping jewelry making kit blanks block hammer stamps
Side note – I got this because I totally needed another project. Side side note – I’ve had the materials to make a sketchbook from scratch for two months. Somebody please yell at me about that.

The Impressart kit includes the metal block, a special little hammer, practice blanks, and an upper case alphabet stamp set. I also picked up some handy little sticker guides to keep things  nice and neat. Full disclosure: this isn’t actually the first run, but since I’m not going to put the names of people I know on the internet you get to see my second try. Let’s just say the first one, which also used a sticker, was pretty bad. Crooked, poorly spaced, stamp not hit evenly – you name it. But don’t worry – I have other fails for you!

This practice run is for a tag for my dog. His name is Chewy and he doesn’t mind if you know that. You see, Chewy has a bad habit of chewing his dog tags. All it takes is a few minutes of leaving him hime alone with his tags on and they will be unrecognizable. He also ate lights off the Christmas tree one year and he loves to eat paper. We named him Chewy for other reasons, but clearly lives up to the name!

dog piggy snuggle impressart
He likes to snuggle his piggy. <3

The tag started off great! By great I mean I got the very first letter crooked. It became more apparent as I kept stamping. It’s also off center. Not by too much, but on such a small piece any mistakes are WAY more obvious! 

Impressart metal stamping blank fail dog tag
I don’t know if I can live with that E…

When it was all done it didn’t look too bad. Then I took the sticker off… 

impressart blank tag mistake fail metal stamping stamp
It’s too high!

Definitely not customer quality, but I don’t think Chewy will mind. Pro tip: measure the blank and put the sticker in the right place to start with. I just eyeballed it and for customer-ready pieces that won’t fly. It was at this point that I realized I can’t stamp the back with our phone number. Why? I don’t have number stamps! 

impressart metal stamping stamp blank dog tag enamel pen
This thing also leaked all over my table! I wish I had a pic, but at least it doesn’t leak anymore…

To make the letters stand out I used the Impressart enamel pen. Just scribble the stuff on, let it dry for a couple of minutes, and wipe it off. It also makes those pesky mistakes stand out even more. Pro tip: don’t forget about the stuff after you put it on. If it dries completely, it’s a pain to wipe off and rubbing too hard can take it out of the impression. 

impressart enamel pen blank dog tag metal stamp stamping
It kinda hard to see because all my close ups came out blurry. Trust me, it’s totally more defined!

I picked up a few tiny blanks and extra stamps to play with and let’s just say that the smaller you go, the more precise you need to be. The first one was supposed to be a single heart. Easy enough, right?? No. Not even a little bit. I scrutinized the placement of that stamp. Agonized over it! Contemplated the meaning of my existence until I was absolutely POSITIVE that stamp was dead center of that blank. It wasn’t. But adding another heart to it would hide that, right? RIGHT?? My very existence depended on it! 

No. It didn’t do that at all. It doesn’t look awful, but it’s still off. So I tried again. The heart was much closer to center, BUT… I wasn’t holding the stamp evenly. Augh! So I did what any normal person would do and pounded hearts into that tiny little blank until I felt better. It looks kinda cool… sorta… not really… Ok, third time’s a charm! I have this cute little tree stamp and it came out *almost* in the center. Pretty darn close actually! The impression still wasn’t totally even either, but at this point I’m not sure if I need more practice or if I just suck at this. 

impressart metal stamping stamp blanks enamel fail
I’m still going to try these with some copper pipe. I love experiments!

Is there a market for intentionally bad stamped jewelry? It might be time to find out! Stay tuned to see how these look with some copper pipe. See you then! Thanks for reading!

P.S. This was not a paid promotion, just my own experience. 

P.P.S. I’m totally ok with being sent stuff to try out. 🙂

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Stickers! Stickers! Stickers! [Making a New Journal]

stickers paper sketches projects

Now that the outside cover was all done, it was time to figure out the inside cover for the journal. I had no idea what I wanted to do, except that there should be color. So I took one of my staple color combos – indigo, turquoise, and magenta – and dripped the paint around the inside of the front cover. It was looking… ew… so I closed the cover to try to get an ink blot effect. It *sort of* worked. I figured it was going to be mostly covered with stickers anyway, so I let it dry and pulled out my big ole stash of stickers. Yay STICKERS!!!

Did you know you can get packs of 100 or more vinyl stickers on Amazon for about ten bucks? Not promoting anything here, but when I need to make the free shipping (I REFUSE to get prime), those sticker packs are just the best!

I went ahead and picked out my faves. I’m talking the stickers I liked so much that I would probably never put them on anything, ever. Well, if ever there was a place to put said stickers, it would be on the inside of my journal. After picking out all the good ones (omg what are you gonna think about all the ones that I thought were good??),  I separated them into piles of black and white stickers and color stickers. Then I sort of figured out which ones would go in front and which ones would go in the back. Sort of, because we both know whatever plan existed was going to change part way through anyway.  

I thought it might look cool to transition from the black and white cover to a more colorful inside. So I put the black and white stickers toward the edges and the colorful stickers in the middle. I’m not sure if that translated, but that’s what I did.

journal making stickers inside cover
Transition! Or another hot mess… STICKERS!

When I moved on to the back inside cover, things got a little sticky – pun intended. I used WAY too much paint. When I closed the cover to smoosh it all up, it didn’t really want to let go. Then it started to run, so I dabbed it and smooshed it again. Eventually I got it to some kind of a happy place where paint wasn’t running and pooling everywhere, but it took a long time to dry. Seriously, it felt like FOREVER. 

journal making inside cover
Not only did it take forever to dry, parts of it stuck shut after the book was closed for a while. There are a couple of rips in there now. 🙁

It was actually more like I had to leave it overnight and stop working when I didn’t want to (*stickers!*). The next day the paint was still a bit tacky underneath, but that ended up being for the best because I had an idea. I was going to add A POCKET. Not just any pocket. A pocket made out of one of the pages I ripped out! It was another one of those singing angels moments and I’m pretty sure the entire room started to sparkle. 

After a bit of cutting, folding, and gluing I had a pocket! I put some of my leftover sketchbooks scans around it and proceeded to sticker away! 

journal making inside cover
I’m pretty proud of that pocket. I may or may not have glued it shut at one point.

All that was left at this point was prepping the inside pages, which would probably make for some boring pictures, except maybe for the first and last pages. I had two things that absolutely had to go in the journal. First, there was this big fairy sticker I bought at Hot Topic at least ten years ago. I have no idea why I got it, but I had it for so long it was time to finally give it a home. Onto the first page it went! I thought it would be a nice representation of all things past, since by the time I started the journal everything at the beginning would be in the past. 

journal making inside page
This sticker was just the COOLEST THING EVER.

Then there was the last page. That was filled with strips of pink unicorn duct tape because how could I NOT use pink unicorn duct tape? Buuuuuut, if I’m going to assign it some meaning it does represent a lot of change since I bought that fairy sticker. Back then the only color I really liked was black and everything all whatever and stuff, but I’ve worked at moving away from that and been through lots of life decisions. So I guess we can say pink unicorn duct tape represents change and moving forward while still being myself because I bought that on a whim, too. 🙂

journal making inside page
I had to do it! The unicorns told me to!

For the rest of the journal I just divvied up the sections, glued some stuff in, added drawing and watercolor color paper where it was needed, and that was it! I closed my freshly made journal for the year with pride and-


journal making craft diy
There’s just too much love packed in there!

Remember where I said pages needed to come out to make room? Protip: Make sure you take out *enough* pages. Watercolor paper especially can be pretty thick. Even though it doesn’t close all the way, I still think it turned out pretty sweet Plus, it’s one of a kind, with plenty of other quirks built into it already!

If you want to watch me put this thing together in super sped-up time, you can check out the video here: 

Thanks for sharing this little journey with me. If there’s another project you’d like to see me take a crack at, let me know! Until next time!

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Overcoming Fear and Failure [Making a New Journal]

Where did we leave off? Right, we’re all set up and about to thoroughly destroy a perfectly good book! No worries – it’s all in the name of art! Let’s make this journal!

First thing’s first, we need to start ripping out pages. I know, I know. It. Is. Scary. It’s especially scary if you’re the type of person that doesn’t like to write in books or even dog-ear a page when there’s no bookmark handy (*cough cough*). However, if you’re adding paper to your journal, some pages have to come out in order to make room. Otherwise your book won’t close all the way. 

So I sat there looking at the book, counting out the pages over and over again (read: procrastinating because I was scared), trying to decide whether it would be better to cut or tear the pages. Finally I just started to rip – and it was terrible. I was thinking that it would be this nice, smooth rip, and it would have been if I had been smart enough to use a straight edge as a guide, but I rarely plan that well. The first page ripped out was looking pretty bad and there seemed to be too much of it left. I knew I didn’t want to rip too close to the spine because of the risk of losing pages, but it looked awful.  Then I did the worst thing I could have done and started picking at it. 

journal making book recycle pages
Disaster! (not really)

I tried ripping one more page after that and switched to scissors. My cuts were a little rough at first, but once I got into my groove they got better. Every sixth page was gone in a couple of minutes and by the time I got to the last one it was actually kind of cathartic. I want to rip out more! Give me more books! 

journal making book recycle
She turned me into a newt. It got better. Just like my cuts! Does anyone remember when they learned how to use scissors?

After this I turned my attention to the cover. I gave it a light sanding to make sure all the things would stick to it, then painted the front and back with a thin layer of fluid acrylics – black around the outside blended into white in the middle. Dab, dab, dab with a sponge and it was painted in a few minutes.

journal making book recycle
Ready to paint my future journal!


journal making cover paint
A little base paint to get that green covered up!

Then I started laying out the decorations. I had neatly cut strips of decorative paper and neatly cut prints of drawings from my sketchbook.  An obscene amount of Modge Podge was used to secure each one and I dabbed paint around the outside of each one to try to blend it into the paint.

journal making cover
I think I should have seen the problem at this point.


journal making cover fail
Even more so at this point. Hindsight, right? But that’s what happened when you cling to an idea instead of recognizing that it’s not working…

I had this vision in my head of the images looking like they were emerging from the cover – or something. Let’s just say it didn’t turn out that way AT ALL. It was just the front cover that got to this point, but it was bad enough that it stalled me for a week. I didn’t even pick up all the things – I just left it there. I walked by the book every day, sulking about the terrible outcome. It looked awful. My idea was terrible. I ruined my book for nothing! WHAT HAVE I DONE?? Oh the DRAMA!

journal making cover fail
This is what haunted me for a week (I cleaned up my paint though).

Technically, since I used Modge Podge, I could have wet the cover and peeled everything off. However, exposing the cover to that much moisture would probably have damaged it. Plus the layers of paint were a pretty big wildcard. So when I started over I just went right over the top! My approach was similar to the original idea (it wasn’t bad after all!), but rather than being meticulous in cutting and placing everything, I just ripped it. The edges of the decorative paper and the sketchbook scans were all ripped and I did not use the paint to try to tie it all together.

journal making cover
It’s kind of poetic that my mistake is lurking under there. Not that I had much choice! 🙂

This let everything sort of blend together on its own. I loosely planned where everything would go, but ultimately it happened in the moment. I also included a colored piece on the front and the back, because as much I love me some black and white, it had a depressing look about it. 

journal making cover
Maybe it still looks a little messy, but that’s me. Organization is for the birds! (Do birds organize?)


journal making cover
This is the back cover at a dramatic angle. Because dramatic angles are what all the cool kids are doing.

Collaging the back cover was smoother than the front because there wasn’t a snafu to hide, but with both I continued slopping on the Modge Podge (not really the way you’re supposed to do it) to get some neat textures and wrinkles. I added a little doodle on the bottom of the spine and the outside cover was done! 

On to the inside!

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What’s Old is New [Making a New Journal]

Not too long ago, I made a journal out of my very first ever art book. It was given to me by the one person that encouraged me to pursue art – my elementary art teacher (Shout out Mrs. P!). When I was a kid I didn’t think I was good at anything in particular, and whether I was actually any good or not, I felt like I was when I was in the art room. That’s the best gift a teacher could ever give a kid. So this book has been on the bookshelf of every place I have lived since then, through many moves and lot of life. Now after a couple of decades I have to admit – it’s been a while since I even flipped through it.

So let’s look back to just a couple of months ago. I was coming to the end of my last journal, which I started following this book as a guide. It worked as a first journal ever and as an exercise to see if I could really stick to it for a year. The year went by quickly and I completed all (*ahem* – the vast majority) of the exercises from the guide. The thing is, I was never really happy with what I used for the journal. It was one of those kits you get from the local art supply store and for the second time around I needed something more personal. 

I did some poking around about bookmaking, thinking that you can’t possibly get more personal than making something from scratch! And really, bookmaking is still something I want to try, but it wasn’t feeling right for this project. Then I found some stuff about repurposing old books. I had that angels-come-down-from-heaven-singing moment even though I’m not the least bit religious (which is saying something). Anyway, the ideal candidate for a book-reusing project has to meet certain criteria.

First, it has to be a hardcover. That one is kind of a no-brainer. Second, the pages should be thick enough to withstand whatever you need them to do. If they are a little thin, they can be glued together, or other paper can be added in, but some books have crazy thin pages that I would never use (except maybe for ripping them out for a collage – not that I go around arbitrarily destroying books).

journal making pages
Those are the stitches you’re looking for!

Third, and this was something I hadn’t thought about, the binding has to be stitched. The reason is that in making the book strong enough to stand up to drawing, painting, collaging, and so on, pages need to be ripped out and glued back together (you’ll see what I mean later). Pages that are only glued in might hold up, but exposure to moisture (like ink and paint) means you run the risk of pages falling out.

Stitched pages reduce the likelihood of losing pages as you destroy a book in the name of art. (Of course, if it’s going to be more of a “light duty” journal and pages don’t need to come out, then a glued binding might be ok). The tricky part is, you don’t see many stitched bindings these days. Go take a minute to flip through some of your hardcover books. How many are stitched? Guess how many of mine were. Zero. Even some of the books that looked old were just glued.

journal making
Copyright 1978. When they knew how to make a book to last.

So I stood there looking at my bookshelves thinking – this is all the books I have? Mind you, having moved these books across the country and back and between many different apartments, I have long had the opposite sentiment. But there were a couple of books in there that I guess I’ve had for so long that I sort of didn’t see them any more. There was an early printing of The Stand, and obviously that wasn’t even a consideration. Can you imagine?? Then of course, there was the art book. Cue more angels. 

journal making
This is it! A little worn and very green.

It was the perfect size and had the perfect number of pages. It had history. This would make a journal that would be infinitely more personal than buying a bunch of materials and making a book. So I picked out paint, stickers, and paper. I thought about what kind of cover I wanted and scanned and printed out doodles and drawings from my sketchbook. I found a bottle of Modge Podge that is so old I have no idea when I bought it (it’s still good!). When I had everything together, I set up a camera and got to work. 

journal making stickers paper sketches
All the things will go into my journal!

I think that’s enough exposition for now. Next time, I’ll show you the transformation!