Making a small sketchbook

This is a very small journal or sketchbook that I make a lot.  Some people have asked how I put it together. This tutorial will show you how.  The paper choice determines whether it’s a journal or a sketchbook.    I’ll be making a pdf handout for this.  If you’d prefer that, please just send me a request via my “contact” page.   That way I’ll be the only one who sees your email address.


Tools and supplies needed:
1 cutting mat (not shown), especially if you’ll be using the utility knife to cut papers.  You could just use scissors and skip the mat.  I just think it’s easier to measure and cut several papers at once.
2 11×14 paper.  Any size is fine depending on what size book you want to make.  The is for the 6 inch by 3.25 inch cover size I make.
3 12×12 cover stock heavy paper (usually found in scrap booking section of craft stores)
4 Piercing cradle (on left in photo).  Or you can use an open phone book or other large book you don’t mind damaging with holes.  This small cradle is available from John Neal Bookseller (which is a good source of book binding tools)
5 awl to punch holes.  You could use the needle but that’s rather difficult to hold
6 bone folder to crease paper.  You could use a butter knife or similar object
7 craft knife/box cutter to cut cover stock
8 Tombo or other glue
9 bull clip or similar
10 thread.  I use #3 crochet thread.  Heavy Button hole thread would work.  There is waxed linen book making thread available but it is expensive and I only use it for the more durable books I make
11 Needle(s).  Large eye needle:  either a bookbinding needle or a needlepoint one.  It’s fine if it’s blunt as long as you punch the holes with the awl.

Fold the paper and crease with the bone folder.  Then tear the 11×14 size paper down to 7 x 5.5 and fold that in half.  This is called a “folio” in book making terms.

I put six of them together.  This is called the “signature”.  Thus, the booklet is one signature of 6 folios.

The cover template is 11 inches long by 6 inches tall.  That means I cut off the edge of the 12×12 cover stock and then cut that page in half.

You can use printed or solid color cover stock.  Or glue on a strip of printed paper to a solid color cover.

I clip the paper signature to the cover.  Set it in the punch cradle and punch 3 holes.  I don’t bother to measure… I just do it by sight.

fold and crease

fold and crease

Stitching cover and paper together:  I start on the outside.  You can start on the inside but that means the knot will be on the inside.  It doesn’t matter as it is just personal preference.  Leave a tail on the outside. From inside center, thread back out from top of book, back in through the bottom hole.  Then back out again through the middle hole.  Gently pull the stitches tight.  Tie knot in center back.   This is called a pamphlet or saddle stitch.  See a video.

Fold cover back over.  It can be secured in a number of ways: thread, elastic tie, etc.  I use a hair elastic!

Once you get the hang of it, these go together very quickly.

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Books and Drinking and Drawing

After sketching in Sumner, I drove back north in order to attend the talk and book signing at the Daniel Smith mothership.  Gabi Campanario talked about his books: The Art of Urban Sketching, People and Motion, and Architecture and Cityscapes.  Then Stephanie Bower spoke about her book, Understanding Perspective.  Despite having sketched with USk Seattle for almost 5 years, I don’t think I’d heard Gabi tell the story of how he founded Urban Sketchers.  I feel very fortunate to live where this all started and to have the inspiration and example of so many wonderful artists in our group.

After about an hour they settled down to sign books.

Tina Koyama took the opportunity to sketch as they signed.

As they continued to sign, us sketchers moved across the street for the second part of the event:  the Drink and Draw at Schooner EXACT Brewing Company.

Everyone was busy drinking, drawing and talking.  It was a very fun event.

I used my pocket sketchbook to make some quick pencil sketches. I also had only water as I do not handle DUI well.       (DUI = Drawing under the influence… coined by Tina)

A few more photos are here:

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Santa among the furniture

The holiday sketch outing for Urban Sketchers Tacoma was back to The Old Cannery in Sumner.  We’d sketched there last December, too. There is just so many choices of interesting subjects.  I got there early and wandered around for 20 minutes, trying to choose subjects.

I finally decided to sketch this amusing moose head.  It moves and talks!  It is triggered by someone walking under the arch, so I was treated to the full range of its conversations while I sketched it.

I thought the Santa statue situated in the middle of the recliners and couches portrayed the “gestalt” of this place!   I included the “Mattress Gallery” sign for full effect.

We shared our sketches around one of the dining tables and had a group photo.

A few more photos here:

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A unique experience

This was both the first evening sketch outing for Urban Sketchers Tacoma as well as the first time we’ve been involved in sketching for a cause.  We were invited to sketch last night at an event commemorating World AIDS Day hosted by the Pierce County AIDS Foundation (PCAF).  We didn’t really know what to expect or what there might be to sketch.

This table for “Butterfly Knots” caught my eye.  “The butterfly has stood….as a symbol of transformation.  For those grieving a loss, the chrysalis phase of a butterfly represents the…turning inward.  The healing is reflected in the metamorphosis phase.  Butterfly Knots are written and tied with intention.  It is an act that honors a vow and sets a firm promise…..Write the name of a loved one lost to HIV/AIS.  Write of the loss experienced from this pandemic.  Write a message of hope for our community.  Write an action you intend to take”.  

Next is the “Altar of Remembrance”.

We shared our sketches with each other and with the event attendees after the program finished.  There was much positive response to adding this experience to the event.

Once the event was over, we had an opportunity to sketch in the Washington State History Museum.  I chose this display about “Hooverville” which was a homeless camp in the early 1930’s.  I was still thinking about how sketching can bring attention or focus to the problems of the day.  The stock market crash on Wall Street resulted in massive unemployment in the Pacific Northwest. A squatters settlement of scrap materials was one of the results.  I thought about the parallels with the current issues of homelessness.

Prior to the event, a couple of us checked out the new Artists and Craftsman Supply store which just opened in Tacoma.  They are still putting things on shelves and otherwise organizing the store. It’s going to be good to have a well stocked art supply store in Tacoma.

All photos are here:

Photos from AIDS Day event & the Museum:

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The sketch train

Some months ago I realized the AmTrak station in Centralia was just a block from a McMenamins.  I made a plan to take the train for a sketch outing there. I’ve not been on an AmTrak train since I was a teenager so I thought it would be a new experience. Yesterday I finally got around to it.  A couple sketching friends came with me.

The first half hour of the trip I was alone, Tukwila to Tacoma.  I sketched the woman sitting across from me.  Then I met up with my traveling companions at the Tacoma station.

Me, Frances, Pat at the Centralia Train station

First, we sketched in the old fashioned train depot.  It was small but had the Victorian era details.     It was built in 1912, a bit out of the Victorian period but it still has the details.

Then on to the McMenamins Olympic Club hotel.

If you don’t know about McMenamins, they are a hotel and restaurant company that buys historic old buildings and renovates them into amazing venues.       They serve the communities in which they reside by opening their facilities to the public.  The locations often have a movie theater or a pool, or both, and these are available for the public to use.  All of the locations are unique with art, painting and decor related to the area in which they reside.  Each of them is eminently sketch-able!

From the website: “Our goal is to keep the past in the present, to celebrate and connect us all with the people and events that have helped define each McMenamins property. To that end, we research, interview and compile materials to identify and commemorate our properties and their surroundings. Our best historical finds often come from you!”

It was predicted we would have rain in the afternoon so I made my first sketch of McMenamins outside.  This is the view from the street.  The greenery is hung for holiday decor.

After sketching outside for about an hour, I was happy to sit by the wood stove to warm up.  This heats the dining and pool rooms!  There was a large stack of wood next to it.

We had our lunch there and shared the sketches we’d done so far.

My final sketch was of the large sign in the “New Tourist Bar”.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Greenalls is a brand of gin.

All of the staff of the Olympic Club were delightful.  I was allowed to go into the hotel section in order to complete the scavenger hunt and get another stamp for my McMenamins Passport book!  And they stamped our sketches too!

Now I’m planning a trip to the Spar Cafe in Olympia to get that last stamp in the section!  This will be a drive, though.  I checked into going by train:  in addition to the travel time by train, it is an hour bus ride from the station, which is actually in Lacey!  I only takes me an hour to just drive there.

All photos here:

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It was another Urban Sketcher Seattle Friday Ad Hoc outing today.  We’d planned to go to the Volunteer Park Conservatory as it offered warm shelter from what was expected to be chilly rain.  It was also a long way from any retail location on this Black Friday!

But the weather was a beautiful, blue sky day, though still a bit chilly.  Some sketched in the Conservatory but others sketched outside in the park.  I was among the latter group.

I first sketched the front door of the conservatory.  I am always attracted to old fashioned architecture.  I thought this would make a good Christmas card, so I altered the ribbon on the wreath to make it more festive (from white to red).  (Arches paper; Daniel Smith Watercolors; Platinum Carbon Black ink in a Lamy Safari).

I remembered I’ve wanted to sketch the Black Sun sculpture so I walked over there next.  I positioned myself so the Space Needle was visible in the opening!  (Bockingford watercolor paper; Daniel Smith Watercolors; Platinum Carbon Black ink in a Lamy Safari).

There was just a few minutes before we were to meet back up.  I did a 10 minute sketch of the sentry camel sculptures in front of the Asian Art Museum.  (Strathmore Series 500 Mixed Media paper; Daniel Smith Watercolors; Platinum Carbon Black ink in a Lamy Safari).

We shared our sketches and had a group photo on the patio in front of the Asian Art Museum:

A few of us went to lunch.  That was more of a challenge.  We drove to 2 different areas and tried 3 restaurants before one had any room.  Note for next year on Black Friday… don’t plan to go to lunch unless it’s a brown bag!   John’s “Belgian” Hot Chocolate had an unusual presentation:  a large lump of chocolate on a stick next to a cup of steamed milk.  He was supposed to melt the chocolate into the milk.  Once the task was completed, he said it tasted like he expected.

Since it was close by, after lunch I decided to go see Bruce Lee’s grave.  I’d driven 30 min. north on the freeway so I might as well take the opportunity while I’m near.   There was a respectful line of people waiting for each one’s chance to spend time alone in front of the memorial.

A few more photos:

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Dumbledore in fondant

Every year since 2012 I’ve gone to see the Gingerbread Village hosted by Sheraton Seattle.  It is a fundraiser for Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF).  Every year it is more incredible.  I thought last year’s Star Wars theme could not be topped.   But the animation and detail in this year’s creations on the theme “Celebrate the Magic of the Holidays” (which is Harry Potter) are even better!  These are massive creations done in all sorts of sweets.  They are designed by a team of architects and built by a Chef (probably with a team, also).

edit 11/24/16:  Once I got home, I saw the Seattle Times had an article about this and the statistics were interesting:  1000 volunteer hours; about 1200 pounds of dough; 800 pounds of icing; 200 pounds of white chocolate; 250 pounds of almond paste; hundreds of pounds of candy.  So much sugar raises money for diabetes!  And the money raised last year was $841,000.  This is a free event so the funds are donations.

The stairs moved!

The stairs moved!

The “Friday Sketchers Ad Hoc” outings started in 2012 with our visit to this event.  In recent years we have stopped going as on our usual day and time it has become a mob scene, so crowded it is impossible to sketch.

Today I left before dawn at 0630 to catch the lightrail into downtown Seattle.  I arrived at the Sheraton before 8 am and nearly had the exhibit to myself.  After photographing all six books thoroughly, I sat down to sketch Book V.  It was created by Bailly & Bailly and Chef John Armstrong.

All the photos



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Sit there and you’ll end up in my sketch!

Urban Sketchers Seattle made special arrangements to sketch inside the historic local Stimson-Green mansion.  It is owned now by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.  It is located in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood and was built 1899-1901.  It displays an historically intact interior.

This was the venue for my very first sketch outing with Urban Sketchers, back in February 2012!  I was interested to go back and see how far I’ve come.

My first choice was an upstairs room.  It might have been a bedroom since there was a bath connected.  Today it seems to be a parlor.  I initially wanted to sketch the corner with the period table and chair along with the artifacts on the table.  Just as I was about to start, Natalie sat in the chair.  I warned her she would end up in my sketch!   And then Steve Reddy came in and set his stool in the bathroom!  Both ended up in my sketch.

I had about an hour left so I wandered around a bit.  I went up to the empty 3rd floor, which I had not seen on the previous visit.  The staff person said it was mostly servants quarters.

Then I sketched some details of the huge fireplace in the sitting room downstairs.  Though the lion holds a shield, there are no Arms on it, just a carved heraldic rose.   Hmmmm… maybe the conversation in the room is meant to be “sub rosa”?  (“under the rose” means that anything said there is to be kept secret).

We shared our sketches around the large dining table.   It was a large group today.  Perhaps the good turnout was a combination of the chilly rain and the opportunity to see this historic home.

Some photos but not very many

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Empty Lock

I saw a front page image this morning of the large lock drained at the Ballard Locks.  I knew it had been drained a week or so ago.  The story reminded me that if I wanted to see it this year, I’d better go soon.  Saturday traffic would be less of a problem but it was raining.  I checked the forecast and it seemed the drizzle might stop by 10am so I tossed my sketch bag in the car and headed out.

It was quite a site to see the empty lock.  It didn’t even smell too badly though I’d heard earlier that when first drained, it was really smelly.    It was still drizzling when I arrived.  But it let up just enough for me to get the line sketch done.

looking the other direction

looking the other direction

I planned to attend a demo at the Daniel Smith mothership at noon but thought I had time to stop at McPherson Leather on the way there.  I needed another large piece for the leather bound journals I make for Fort Nisqually.

On the way, I noticed one of the World Day of Remembrance figures I’d read about in the Seattle Times yesterday.      After I parked, I walked back up the street to see it and did another quick sketch.

World Day of Remembrance Nov 20 2016   This figure represents one of more than 200 people who died in Seattle in traffic in the past 10 years.

Oh, I skipped the demo.  There was not a single place to park, apparently due to a big party at the venue next door.

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Tacoma Urban Sketchers had a bit of a hiccup.  We met at Tully’s in the Theater & Antique district to talk and sketch prior to moving to our primary venue, Sanford and Son Antique Mall, at 11 am.  However, it didn’t actually open until noon.  It was a sunny day so I decided right after our meeting at 10 to sketch near the Spanish Steps as I’d missed that outing earlier this year.

This is the former Elks Lodge.  It will one day be a McMenamins facility.  I really can’t wait until they open it as their restorations are amazing.  It will have a hotel, live music venue, 3 restaurants, a brewery and a rooftop garden.  Based on my visits to other McMenamin facilities, it will provide almost unlimited sketching subjects.  But right now it is in poor shape.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  McMenamins is known for rescuing historic buildings.   The Elks Temple was built in 1915-16 and was designed by É. Frère Champney in the second Renaissance Revival style.

Once the antique mall opened, I made straight for the big tooth and called “dibs”.  It’s really rather grotesque but I like it. If you want it, it will set you back $1,655 ! One of our admins missed the outing because of a dental procedure so I thought of him while I sketched it. Beneath it is one of two antique barber chairs that will be in the next auction run by the store. Sitting in the chair, for no apparent reason, is an “e” from a sign. They’ve both been there at least a year as they were there the last time we sketched in this location.

We met up in the lower level of 3 floors to share sketches.

We had lunch at DiLoreto’s Downtown Cafe, also on the lower level.  Very nice people and a good lunch!

More photos

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