Binding a Journal: The Saga Continues

Old Journal, New Journal
Old Journal, New Journal

Yesterday I bound a new journal and updated my instruction sheet on how to bind a 5.5″ x 7.5″ sewn-signature casebound journal with watercolor paper.  Each time I bind a journal I learn a little more and update my how-to sheet as I work so that the next time it will get easier for me.

I created the instruction sheet as a guide for myself, compiled from many sources* but you are welcome to download the file if you’d like to make a journal like these. I keep it on my website’s Resources page here on because having it in one place makes it easier to find and update.

Last Journal: Aqua Baby
Aqua Baby Journal (with black & gold ink)

I name each journal (actually they seem to name themselves as I’m binding them) and decorate the cover after I’ve filled it with an image fitting the name. My last journal named itself “Aqua Baby” and is pictured above.

New Journal: Scrappy, covered with 3 pieces of bookcloth
New Journal: "Scrappy" covered with 3 scraps of book cloth

I wanted to try (for the first time) to bind a cover made from pieces of book cloth, one for the spine and two for the fore edges. I thought I had a big enough scrap of the purple but mis-measured (as usual). So I had to use some of the turquoise cloth to cover the other side. This journal has named itself “Scrappy” as it’s covered with scraps and was scrappy enough to demand to get made despite everything working against that right now.

Five Casebound Journals Made So Far
Five Case-bound Journals Made So Far

Although I’ve bound other journals using a variety of methods, here are the five sewn-signature case-bound journals I’ve made and here’s another look at their covers. I love the paper, the dimensions, the feel in my hand, the way they’re easy to use sketching standing and for scanning. They are humble and a little plain, but I’ve always appreciate function more than fancy.

I can’t wait to finish the hated Moleskine watercolor sketchbook (which would be fine if it was just portrait, not landscape) that I’ve used since I got behind on binding. Watch for a flurry of sketching to finish it off!

11 replies on “Binding a Journal: The Saga Continues”

I love scrappy! At this moment I have a page block in the press waiting for the glued spine to dry and a cover drying under weights. My book cloth was made with a bright red piece of fabric I dyed. I’ll be thinking of you as I case-in my new journal tomrrow and trying to decide whether to name it or just number it as usual.


Thank Shirley, I was looking on your blog this morning at some of the beautiful books and cover cloths you’ve made. I think I’ll try designing my own cloth next time.

I like using your method to glue the board and drop it onto the fabric instead of gluing the fabric first since it wants to curl up on itself and slip around. But I couldn’t do it that way this time because I used several pieces of cloth for the cover instead of just one. Have you ever done that? I didn’t see any examples of it on your blog. (I thought I did but realized they were existing books you re-bound). I made a paper bridge to glue the spine and boards to first, and then put glue on the black fabric to cover the spine and part of the boards and then gluing the other two pieces of fabric and overlapped the black with them. It worked OK but was extra work. Jana


I have just about decided that whatever the journal is that I have, that will just have to do. Words from Henry David Thoreau keep coming to mind – Simplify, simplify. If I got started on making my own journals I fear I would never draw, paint, or collage again. The obessesive/compulsive part of me knows that I am easily distracted. That said, I am drooling all over my keyboard over your watercolor journals. They are just so cool – and I too like the two colored scrappy journal.


Hey, Jana, Scrappy looks great! I personally like the two toned cover! (Or 3 toned, I guess, including the binding). Thank you for providing the updated resources, too. I went through my old sketchbooks yesterday and the ones I liked best were the ones I’d made myself. NOT that they were particularly well made (one had a cardboard cover, another a cover made of fused plastic grocery bags!) but something about the making them resulted in a better feeling. Anyway, I’ve been wanting to try casebound and now you’ve made it easier for me…..I think I’ll give it a try next weekend…..

Thanks for being so generous with information and inspiration!

Carol C.


I have my husband making me a journal from your wonderful instructions.
I love to watercolor, but, making a book isn’t my “thing” !! He is having a
wonderful time with it, and is a perfectionist to a “T”. This will be soooo
special when he finishes. Thank you so much for sharing your great
talents. Enjoy your blog so much.


Thanks so much for writing Sue. I hope my instructions work for your husband and that they don’t confuse him! But if he gets stuck along the way or has any questions, I would be happy to answer or help in any way I can. I’ve certainly gotten lots of help and information from others and am so glad to be able to share what I’ve learned too. Jana


Hi again….
I have been using my “first” watercolor book, thanks to you and my husband !! However, what and how did you make
your “Aqua Baby” cover? Did you use some special pens
on the cloth ? Just curious. I’m just not sure how that’s
done !!! Thanks again,


Hi Sue, I’m so glad to hear that your book worked out well. The pens I used on the cover were just an ordinary black sharpie marker and a gold uniball gel pen. I just bought some sharpie paint markers and will be trying them out on the next cover (very soon–I’ve filled my book and need to bind a new one). I usually decorate the book covers after I’ve filled them (just my own quirk) because, I think, they’ve sort of come to own their name as I’ve worked in them. Although in truth their names have come to me as soon as they come out of the book press.

Did you or your husband have any problems or find any confusing parts in the directions? If you take a photo of your journal I’d love to see it! Happy spring sketching! Jana


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