Sketchbook making

Sketchbook making

During this period of lockdown I have been making sketchbooks. At first it was because the shops were shut and money was scarce but now it is mostly because I enjoy the making process, love the outcome and can make them exactly tailored to my needs. I thought I would take you through the process of one of the designs to hopefully inspire making in others.

  • good quality magazine paper
  • matt white paint (acrylic, gouach or emulsion)
  • paint brush
  • card for covers
  • awl (or hammer and nail)
  • waxed thread
  • needle
  • cutting mat
  • scalpel
  • button
  • tracing paper (optional)
  • clips to secure the paper

I have been using pages from an Italian architecture magazine I got for free from a book swap near where I am staying, the paper is a good thickness and strength so can take lots of playing with. First of all I painted each of the pages on both sides with a matt acrylic white paint. When they are completely dry fold in half and trim to whatever size you require. Collect together into three signatures. With this batch of paper I made a squarish sketchbook and then a landscape one with the off cuts.

Next take your card (I have used two old school folders stuck together with double sided tape to make it thicker and two coloured) measure and cut your cover leaving extra either end to fold in at the end of the process to create a box cover. Make sure to leave a section in the middle which will be your spine, score either side of the spine and make folds. Measure and mark where you would like holes for stitching up the centre of one signature then use that as a template for the others and the cover. With your awl make holes in the paper ready for stitching. Take one signature and clip in the centre of your cover making sure the row of stitching will be up the middle of your spine. With your needle and thread start in the inside centre and use a running stitch first up to the top then back down to the bottom and back up to the centre where you can tie the thread securely. Trim the ends. For the second signature place it close to one side of the one you have already stitched and clip in place. With your awl make the holes through the signature and into the cover. Stitch using the same process as before. Repeat the whole process a third time on the other side of the first signature then you should have three lines of stitching down the spine of your cover.

The next job is to fold the ends. This is entirely up to you how you configure it. You could just simply cut them off altogether or, as I prefer score the folds to make a neat box shape which protects your precious scribbling inside. For this one I have stitched on a button for a fastening but you could simply have a length of ribbon or string that wraps around the book or anything else you fancy.  A little extra touch I do is to round off the corners which really pleases me but thats completely to taste (and I have a corner rounder which makes it easy!)

As an added extra I use tracing paper for some extra layers throughout the sketchbook but also to create a pocket at the end. I am notorious for collecting ephemera wherever I go so pockets in sketchbooks are essential for me. All you need to do is fold some paper in half and half again. Stitch in wherever you like with the fold at the bottom so all you need to do is add a line of stitch (I use a sewing machine for this bit) hey presto a pocket. Of course you don’t have to use a tracing paper but I like to be able to see what is in there! 

I wish you some happy hours of making something exclusively tailored to your own needs and I’m sure you can come up with some other extras that suit your practice. These little beauties will be coming with me to Iceland next week as I have been blessed with two weeks of drawing time there and I am very excited! Will keep you posted on what comes out of that as I go…

Sketchbook making on a budget

Sketchbook making on a budget

During this last few weeks of lockdown I have been in Germany. I was visiting when everything unfolded and decided to stay put. It was definitely for me the best choice my only problem was that I had very few materials here for making work or money to buy things due to loosing the majority of my income in one go. I love the phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and am very aware that all the best equipment in the world doesn’t necessarily equal quality or good work in some cases it can actually hinder thought processes and make us a bit lazy. I am particularly fond of a challenge and creating something from nothing, with a nod to recycling and minimising waste. So all of this has led me to make a series of sketchbooks that would enable me to draw all the things I wanted to during this time. Currently I have made five…

The first one was made from collecting end pages from some old books picked up from a free book swap box a couple of minutes walk away from where I am staying. One of the books provided the black outside cover and the three signatures of pages were stitched inside. I left most of the edges rough and this book has been for drawings of objects from my surroundings. I love how an object tells a story and sparks memories. In another post I will share some of the drawings.

Next came the ‘Fat Boy’! This one began with the label which I removed from a large bean bag chair thing that was being thrown away due to holes. It is really tough material and seemed the perfect length for a spine, the rest of the book evolved from there. It has hard covers made from off-cuts of board covered with pages from an old Italian book on engineering. The signatures are made from used wrapping paper, magazine pages washed over with white paint and some old card file dividers not needed any more. I am always picking up things when I am out and about so already had a little selection of bottle tops that when flattened made great bookmark ends. Finally I made a pocket inside the front cover and voila a second sketchbook.

After the second sketchbook I was really pleased with the magazine pages washed with white. I used a matt acylic which had created a lovely chalky texture that was working well with all my drawing materials. So on another trip to the book swap box I collected a couple of architecture magazines which had some great images in I was thinking of using for collage. However I realised that the paper was quite thick and might work well painted with white for drawing on. So book three emerged. Completely made from the architecture magazine and white paint. Three signatures stitched into a cover made from two interesting pages stuck together. This one was finished off with my corner rounder just for a little touch of class!

The final two are made in a similar way using a kind of adjusted coptic stitch to attach the signatures together and I left these without a cover. The main difference was the paint used for the white pages. This time I tried a furniture paint using a roller to apply it. The surface is nice and smooth but a bit to slippery for watercolours but good for pen and ink, biro or fine liner.

I am sure as the weeks go on I will keep experimenting but for now I hope this maybe inspires you to use the things you have to hand and that a lack of materials  or money doesn’t have to mean a lack of creativity, actually I think that the opposite is true!