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.

About redharparts

Born in Michigan. Attended undergrad and graduate universities there. I've lived in England, Germany, Southern California and now Washington (state). I'm a retired Medical Social Worker with a past specialty in Oncology. I've enjoyed exploring historical re-creation through the SCA. I costume in several fandoms. Lately I've returned to Art and have taken up Urban Sketching, a version of en plein air painting.
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3 Responses to Making a small sketchbook

  1. Good “how-to”, Kate. I’ve made these with one of my art groups and have used different papers…sometimes wc paper and sometimes just sketching paper. Will be taking a coptic stitch class at the end of the month.

  2. miatagrrl says:

    Nice tutorial! Very similar to how I stitch my sketchbook signatures together. Have you been using that Tombow Mono tape glue for a while? I ask because I really like it for the convenience and lack of mess, but I’m lately starting to wonder how long it lasts. I use it to stick stuff in my journal, and a couple of things have eventually fallen out.


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