Finishing Touches and On to Hand Made Journals!

We’ve been having quite a bit of snow lately but today is sunny–that means I get to have more natural light to work with!

Before I move on to the hand made journal, I want to give a little update on the cats canister from my last post. I added some detail to the cats’ faces with light paint to give a bit more emphasis on the facial features.

teabag on quote

When that was done, I decided I wanted a quote on the other side of the canister. Sometimes I write directly on the surface with aSharpee but for some reason, thistime I wasn’t too confident about doing that. Instead, I chose a quote and printed it out. I made sure the quote would fit on the sheet of teabag paper I had beforehand. Yup, it’s from a used teabag. I remove the tags and strings, open up the bag and throw out the used leaves. Then I rinse the sheet and let it dry.

I used the printout as a guide for tracing the quote on the sheet. If you’re doing this, just make sure you use a waterproof marker. Then I glued the sheet onto the back of the canister. I’m going to coat the painted surface with Polycrylic to protect the design. I do this with most of my projects and I like using one with a satin finish. Sometimes I’ll do a matt finish but for canisters and floor cloths, I like the satin finish.

teabag_over_print Positioning sheet on top of printout.

traced_quote Quote traced onto teabag sheet

quote_glued_on Quote glued on to the canister…

quote_waiting_to_dry and now to wait for the glue to dry before coating with Polycrylic!

Okay, so now we move on to making journals. My fascination with binding books must have something to do with my penchant for “deconstructing” things. I think it began when I was in my school library and I noticed that the pages of the book that were spreads had thread running through the midsection. Of course I didn’t take that book apart because I’d have gotten into real serious trouble but I did begin to take note of how the books I’d be reading from then on were bound.

Years later I saw an article in a home decorating magazine and the lady who was featured explained her book binding process. That’s when I began to make my own diaries. A few more years later, I found the book by Alisa Golden that I keep mentioning and that was that. I started collecting all sorts of paper I could use to decorate the covers, kept cereal boxes, and all sorts of boards that would work as hard covers. Best of all, my husband had a friend who had a whole stock of wallpaper samples that were no longer needed so I actually had several of those heavy books with wallpaper samples!

That was ages ago and now that my passion for making those books has been rekindled (in this day and age when journaling has become a thing to do!), I want to share the process with you. This will be just one type of binding–there are so many! I chose this because I wanted to incorporate collage-work into the project. It also saves you from having to look for binding paper or cloth. It takes a bit of patience, but if you have music or an audiobook on, things should go along nicely. For this project, I had Jeanette Walls’ The Silver Star (the town library sent me an email saying the audiobook was now ready for me–I think I was in line for about a month or more so I actually forgot about it).

To make this journal, you’ll need:

Your choice of paper for the pages. I used a memo pad for this project to free up some time. You can use all sorts of paper. If this is a journal you want to be able to draw or paint on, use watercolor paper or any other kind that can hold moisture without buckling. The memo pad sheets are rectangular so all I had to do was to remove the glue that held the sheets together (I just peel it off carefully).

A cutter that allows you change blades as needed. It’s important to always use sharp blades.

A metal ruler–plastic ones don’t work unless they’re the kind with metal edges.

A cutting mat

Illustration board or a heavy board of your choice for the covers

An awl or a tack for punching holes

Embroidery thread and needle

Paints, brushes, glue, collage odds and ends, old credit or gift cards

Let’s get started!

First thing you have to decide is how many sheets you want per signature. When you put sheets of your paper together and fold them in the middle, that’s one signature.

papersheets_flat_and_folded This photo shows two signatures. I decided on 8 sheets per signature. You can have more or less than 8. Just remember not to go too thick. It gets tricky handling signatures that are too thick. The number of signatures you make will determine how thick your journal will be.

prepping_hole_placements Next step is to mark the folded edges of each signature. The marks will be guides so that you know where to put the holes for sewing. The easiest way for me is to use a scrap sheet from the memo pad I’m using for the journal. I fold it in half so I know where the center is. Then I just fold the strip two more times and mark every other fold.

The thing to remember when making holes is that if you’ll be binding them the way your typical hard cover books are bound, you’ll need an even number of holes so that your thread always ends up on the outside of the signature as illustrated below.


The journal we’re making will not be dependent on the number of holes but it’s good to keep that rule in mind. Our journal will be using chain stitches for the signatures and hem stitches for the covers. In this case, the number of holes you make will depend on how much stitching you want on the spine of your journal.

After you’ve marked your guide, it’s time to mark your signatures. The easiest way for me is to hold the signatures together with the marked strip on top and just slide my pencil down, marking each signature as I go. If you’re worried about keeping the guides straight, you can mark just the top and bottom signatures first then “connect the dots.”


Next step is to put the holes. I used to use a large needle but I found out a tack (for cork boards) worked a whole lot better. If you find it a bit difficult, try putting a couple of foam sheets or a piece of styrofoam under the sheets. The tack should go through pretty easily. Remember too, that if your signatures are thick, getting the tack through may take more effort.


inside_view This is the inside of the signature.

stack_of_signatures Now that you have all your signatures neatly punched and stacked, it’s time to work on the cover.

The size of your cover will depend on the size of your signature and the look you want for your journal. I usually like to extend my covers so that the edges of the cover where the journal opens are a bit longer than the pages. You can choose to make them exactly the same size as the signatures too.

I use illustration board for most of my journals. I use cardboard from cereal boxes if I want the covers to be more flexible or if I have a design that requires the covers to fold out into a spread. Cut your covers to the size you need. Use your metal ruler and take note of the guides on your cutting mat. This ensures that your covers have perfectly angled corners and edges without having to use a triangle. Use the same guide you marked for the signature holes to add holes to the cover. Since you won’t have a folded edge this time, mark and punch the holes close to the edge. I put mine a bit less than ¼ of an inch from the edge.

You can choose to cover the boards with decorative paper (this is where having wallpaper samples come in handy!) or you can paint them and/or do collage work. For this project, I’m going do both painting and a bit of collage.

painting_covers To cover the boards with paint, I squeeze out a bit of paint onto the boards. Then I use the card to spread the paint. The idea is to cover the boards unevenly to create texture and depth. I added a second color and then pulled out some paper napkins that I found at The Christmas Tree Shop a few months back, tore out a few small pieces and added those. This is the part where you can do whatever you like by way of design. Just make sure you don’t completely cover the holes you made. If this happens, though, just mark and punch them out again with your tack or needle.

gluing_papernapkin There’s that bit of the napkin that I’ve glued on. The card helps to remove bubbles and creases.

cover_fronts These are the outer sides of the front and back covers.

covers_inside I chose lighter colors for the insides. Sometimes I end up covering the inside of the covers when I decide at the last minute to use endpapers. What’s an endpaper? Better to show you with a picture.

endpaper_sample Here’s a hard cover book that’s destined to become an altered book. The white sheet you see is the endpaper. It’s the size of the signatures and not the cover so that you can see the red edge of the cover. If you look closely at a hard cover book, you’ll find that the endpaper is actually a spread. That first page or leaf on the right is actually still part of the endpaper. When you turn that page, you’ll see that part of it is glued to the first actual signature page. That’s how the inside of the book and the cover are held together. Now back to our covers!

painted_edge When you’ve finished painting and decorating your covers, make sure to paint the edges of the boards as well. You can use markers or paint. I used a metallic paint marker. It gives a more finished look when the edges are painted. I’ve seen some book artists use washi tapes as well.

At this point, you can brush on some Polycrylic or even some Mod Podge to seal and protect the covers.

On the next post, we’ll put the journal together. Meanwhile, think about the color of the embroidery thread you want to use as well as other decorative stuff you might want to add to the journal.

As always, thank you for stopping by. If you have questions, just put them in the comments box!


Upcycling Part Two

Before I add  more pictures of the canisters, I first want to thank everyone who visited both this blog and my Paper With Everything Facebook page. Thank you so much for the likes! This site is my way of doing my bit for the environment. Like many of you,  my mailbox is inundated with all sorts of mail. When I see the pile I sort through, I multiply the image in my head and think of all the paper that goes to waste. Unfortunately, we can all make only so much upcycled projects, right? Still, think of it as one less pile, no matter how small.

The other reason I like putting up blogs like these is I’ve met so many creatives since moving here in 2009. Many of them, like me, are new at being full-time creatives. Many, too, are seasoned. The one thing I learned is almost everyone is more than willing to help. Artists, crafters, writers, and even entrepreneurs are more than willing to share what they know. It’s my intention to feature these wonderful people on my blog with the hope of sharing the joy of creating. This blog is mainly about paper and other materials that can be used with it. I have another blog where I share all other types of arts and crafts. The third blog is dedicated to the world of mommies and children though with more dads going hands-on, I’d like to think that it’s for them as well. You’ll be seeing the links to those blogs soon as I do some housekeeping!

On to the canisters!


I decided I wanted to put a label on the oatmeal canister. Last Sunday, I went over to Joanne’s and found that their 18 x 18 paper stacks were on sale (and cheaper than the ones on sale at Michael’s!). There was a chalkboard stack by DCWV which I couldn’t resist so it came home with me. I decided to make a label using one of the chalkboard sheets. This would allow me to write the recipient’s name with chalk on the label. The name can be erased later on and if I make sure to include a piece of chalk along with my gift, the canister can then be used to store other stuff and labeled again! Martha Stewart would be proud!

I tore a piece off the sheet and used tacky glue to stick the label on. I secured it with rubber bands–otherwise, I’d have to sit there a while, holding the label in place. Of course I didn’t think of that when I decided to glue on the label so I had to quickly look into one of my stash boxes and pull out rubber bands that turned out to be too small. I ended up looping them together, as you can see in the photo.

Remember though that paper has a grain. It will tear easily one way. You’ll  know because when you begin to tear, the strip will come off easily. Then when you rotate the paper and start to tear, you’ll find a bit more resistance and you’ll see how your tear will curve in the direction of the grain. When this happens, just go slowly and guide the paper. If you look at the photo of the label, you’ll see that the left and right edges are almost straight while the top and bottom edges look more scalloped.

Just in case you’ve not tried using torn paper, here’s something to keep in mind. If you want the piece you’ll be using to have that white edge, make sure you’re holding the part you’ll use on your left hand (if you’re right-handed). The part you’re tearing with your right hand won’t have the white edge.


The photo on the left shows how the right side of the paper (the side I held when tearing) has no white edge. The other photo shows the white edge of the paper on the left hand side.

The coffee canister was up next. I pressed the play button and continued listening to World War Z while looking at the silhouettes I had painted in. The couple I have in mind for this has two Siamese cats. A quick web search on Siamese cats gave me an idea of how I wanted to render the pair on the canister so I painted away. I added a bit of texture by using chalkpastels on the edges and blending them out. I added printed paper and a strip of handmade deckled paper for more texture. When the glue was completely dry, I dried-brushed white paint here and there to soften the images on the printed paper. Then I dried brushed over some areas using metallic copper paint. I added more of the metallic paint around the cats to bring them out more. I’m thinking of writing out a quote at the back so I’ve held off adding more ephemera.

collage_elements1This photo shows the handmade paper strip at the bottom and the printed paper that I tore. The other printed areas you see are from junk mail and a Post-It note that also came with one of those unsolicited mailers.

This is the front so far. I have to add some highlights to the faces so the features don’t disappear altogether but after that and the quote, it’ll be ready for filling.


Meanwhile, I’ve cleaned what I could on my space and removed the plastic sheets that were on top of the cutting mat. Next up will be hand made journals. I’ll take you through preparing your signatures (pages that are sewn together), creating the front and back covers, and putting everything together. Make sure to sign up for alerts so you won’t miss the posts! And if you do try this project don’t forget to share them on the Facebook page.

Finally, if you happen to be a paper artist, please consider doing a guest post on this blog so we can enjoy your artwork! Happy weekend!


Upcycling With What Else?

I have a thing about gift wrapping. I like making them special and unique. When I’m not pressed for time, I do take pains to make the wrapping just as interesting or pretty (depends on the giftee) as the actual present. Since I committed to giving handmade gifts this Christmas (scratch that and add “mostly”), I decided to do the same with some of the containers.

When I was a child, my grandmother used to say I was a basurera. In Filipino, that’s the female equivalent of a garbage collector (basurero if I were male). The better term for it would be pack rat. Any member of the family would tell you that I took after the very same grandmother. Her room was a treasure trove of stuff. No creepy dolls (thank goodness–can you tell I just saw The Conjuring?) but she did have the same habit I did which was keeping odds and ends “just in case.”

I mention that now because a week ago, my husband was questioning a suspicious-looking stash in a corner of our tiny apartment. You’d think with all the other stuff I had it would just about blend in. I obviously chose the wrong corner. When the idea of crafting up gift containers sprouted, I took to keeping empty cardboard canisters. Of course the canisters had to be of a useful size so think Quaker Oats. I explained the intention. Enlightened and assured that I was not merely hoarding empties on a whim, he left me to my devices.

So here’s a nice project for you to do. If you have children, have them join in. Children have the best design ideas!

oats canister

Start with an empty cardboard canister. You can choose to keep the lid or discard it and have decorative tissue coming out at the top.

canisters covered with paper

Cover the canister with paper, the way you would when doing paper mache. The oats canister is covered with packing paper that comes when you get a package from Amazon. The shorter canister (coffee from Whole Foods) is covered with junk mail and receipts. I use regular white glue. If you’re using a brush, make sure to use an old, cheap one. I make sure to wash my brushes well but there were times when I did forget and ended up with a ruined brush.

Make sure your layer or layers of paper dry before moving on. You don’t need too many layers since the canister is pretty stable on its own. If you get impatient, you can always use a hair dryer. Just watch out for the plastic or metal areas if there are any on the canister you’re using. I usually just leave them to dry and work on another project or do some writing.

If you plan to do some collage work, here’s something you can do to make use of paper scraps, junk mail, etc. You can use pages from old books or catalogs as well. Take the sheets you want to use and give them a coat of gesso. I use Pro Art Economy Gesso but you can use whatever works for you.

paper covered with gesso

When the gesso is dry (doesn’t take too long), you can decorate the sheets. This is where you can ask the kids to help. Have them add designs or images using paint, markers, or stamps.

stamped designpainted design

I painted the first sheet with acrylic paint for the background. Then I pulled out a foam sheet I had and cut out a random design using a craft knife. I inked the foam sheet with a circular ink pad (on sale at Michael’s for a dollar) then carefully pressed it onto the paper. I went over the paper a few times without re-inking to get the lighter images. The second sheet was just painted with acrylic paint.

At this point, I had no idea what I was actually going to do but it’s the way I work when I do these things. Then I remembered some artwork done by friends in the Hero’s Art Journey course so I tore both sheets into strips and wove them.

ImageI glued the woven piece onto the canister along with other sheets I had painted and stamped, as well as the extra strips that weren’t woven in. I then decided that I would paint the other canister a different way.


The canister on the right is the same one you saw in the previous picture. I added some light molding paste (Golden Gel Mediums) to soften the edges of the paper pieces that I glued onto the canister. I did the same to the canister on the left and painted in a background color when the medium was dry. I didn’t put on too many coats for the background so some of the text on the junk mail sheets show through a bit.

The canister on the right, in the meantime, was dry brushed here and there with white acrylic paint. You can opt not to do that specially if you want your kids’ artwork to show. When everything was dry, I took a black Sharpie and started doodling (I sometimes do that while watching a sitcom–I did the same thing to a floor cloth that now welcomes visitors).

decorated canister

To give the top and bottom edges a neater look, I added a paper ribbon on the top rim and a grosgrain ribbon in my favorite black and white polka dot print at the bottom. As an aside, see that Plants vs. Zombies sunflower? The hubby made a flower press for me and decorated it with a wood burning tool!

The Quaker Oats canister lid is made up of a cardboard circle with a plastic rim. I painted the cardboard part on both sides. I also painted the inside of the canister but again, you don’t have to do that. Just make sure to wipe it clean and line it with holiday paper napkins, tissue, or even doilies before putting the present inside.

I’ll be showing the process I’m going to be doing with the other canister in my next post. Meanwhile, see what you can come up with. You can put paper dolls, all sorts of cut-outs, fringe or pompom borders. You can even make it a kind of canvas to put a painting on or add paper clay figures (there’s an idea I think I’ll go back to).

Just have fun and don’t forget to send me your pictures so I can post them here!