Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's a journal, but it's just like a quilt


I'm still making journals.  I'm still obsessed.  But also this is the time of year when I need to compete my continue legal education credits by listening to online legal education programs, and I've found the least painful best way to do it is to have them on when I'm working on something in my sewing room.  
And while I was in there fiddling away, as I do, I was thinking about how I approach making a journal much the same way I approach making a quilt.  So I thought I'd show you the steps as I'm working on the current journal. 

The creative spark can come from different directions -- a theme, a particular recipient.  This one started with some scrapbooking paper I really like.  So I started with one piece -- sort of like a focus fabric. 

From there, I went to my paper stash and pulled out papers that I liked with the starting paper. I usually pick at least 18, as that works for my starting point of 3 signatures of 6 folded pages in each.

So there was my initial assortment.  And from there I went to my scrap paper bin, to pull out scraps that might work with it all.  

You can see (below) what I pulled out, again for my starting pile.

I realized that some of the papers had bright white backs, and this palette seemed to call out for something a bit softer. So I went down to the kitchen...

and used some really strong instant coffee to spray all of the white papers for a slightly vintagey look.  (The first time Miss C saw me doing this she thought I was nuts.)  Some people bake their tea or coffee dyed papers in the oven to get a crispy, crackly texture.  I just air-dry my papers.  I always think baked, crackly paper feels too brittle and fragile. 

While that was drying, I went back upstairs to my bin of jumbly bits to choose more that I thought would be fun for this journal. I throw a bunch of stuff into this bin.  Old book pages.  Vintage postcards.  Sometimes things torn out of magazines.  A lot of the stuff in this bin came from yard sales.

Here's the assortment I ended up pulling for this journal, below:

And from there, I went to my bin of little tiny bits.  I guess this is sort of like choosing the quilting thread color and quilting design, maybe.  These bits tend to be smaller than, say, 4 inches square.  Stickers.  Vintage playing cards.  Little bits of ephemera.  Just fun decorative bits. I always love digging through this bin and usually return to it a bunch of times once I get to the point of decorating the book pages.  (The downside of having a bin like this is that it makes you want to save every tiny bit of paper.  Kind of like how you start saving scraps of fabric and next thing you know, you're saving the teensiest strips because you might be able to use them some day.)

So here, below, is what I started with for this journal.  See what I mean about the quilt parallels? It's all about mixing color and pattern and visual texture.

So, once I have the starting "jumbly" stuff, I start by folding papers and nesting them into the beginnings of signatures. 

And then I start filling and decorating the pages.  I add more, smaller pages between the ones you see above. I use scraps to create pockets and flaps.  This is, for me, the funnest part, although it's all fun.

Here's what my table looks like at the moment. You can see the 3 nested signatures on the sewing machine table. I use my old beloved Elna Super for sewing the papers... my very first machine, bought with money my Grandma gave me when I graduated from college.  That machine is a workhorse and I will never get rid of it.

So, away I go.  This part can take a few hours, or a few days, depending on how much time I have.  Seeing as how I have 4 hours of a program on appellate advocacy left to listen to, this is where I'll be later this afternoon.  You can sew a lot of doo-dads on in 4 hours. 

Stay tuned.  I'll show you how it looks when it's finished.


  1. Brilliant. Thank you for sharing the process, Diane!

  2. Thank you for showing how you sort and store your Journal bits & pieces….looking forward to the next posting.