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Custom Sketchbook

Make the ultimate sketchbook for the artist in your life this Christmas. Filled with a selection of high-quality fine art drawing, printmaking and watercolour papers, this project is a hand-crafted sampler they will love to explore. The perfect gift from one artist to another.
Materials:
  • A selection of fine art quality drawing, watercolour and printmaking papers
  • Utility knife
  • Metal ruler
  • Bone folder
  • 2-inch bulldog clips
  • Awl
  • Waxed linen bookbinding thread
  • Needle
  • 2 meters of ribbon
  • Cutting mat
  • Heavy chipboard
  • Decorative paper
  • PVA glue
  • Glue brush
  • Pencil
Instructions:

How to craft the ultimate sketchbook

Step 1: Choose a variety of large format drawing and watercolour papers for your sketchbook. For this project we chose 9 different fine art papers suitable for drawing, printmaking and watercolour to make it a true mixed media experience. Cut each large format paper into four 9 x 12-inch sheets and fold them in half. Use a bone folder to make the folds crisp and flat.

Prepare your signatures! You can either make each signature the same paper or mix and match. Stack 4-6 sheets of folded paper inside one another. Because the spine is visible on this book, you can add some variety by choosing different coloured papers as the outside paper on your signatures. Make 7 signatures in total.

 

Step 2: Using a scrap piece of paper, measure and mark where you will make your holes. Along the edge of the paper, draw marks at ¾ inches and 2.5 inches from either end. Draw a 5th mark at the mid-point of the paper. Place the ribbon you will be using over the 3 middle marks and mark points on either side of it. As you will be sewing around the ribbons, you only need to make holes on either side of where the ribbon will go. There are 8 holes in total.

Stack your signatures together with your scrap paper template. Hold it in place with bulldog clips and mark all places you will make holes along the spine with a pencil or pen. It’s important to make sure these marks are in a straight line. Make holes through all signatures where indicated using an awl.

 

Step 3: Cut 3 ribbons. 2 short ribbons, roughly 10 inches long, and 1 long ribbon that is long enough to tie around your book and make a bow. Place the longest ribbon in the center of your signature over the spine and the shorter ones on either side.

Using waxed bookbinding thread, sew your signatures together. The French Link stitch is a decorative bookbinding stitch that adds character to your spine while being loose enough to allow your bound book to lay flat. Be careful to stitch around the ribbons and not through them! To secure the ends of the signatures, make a kettle stitch at each end before inserting your needle into the next signature.

 

Step 4: Cut 2 book covers out of a heavy chipboard ½ inch larger than your sketchbook pages. For a 6 x 9-inch sketchbook cut 6.5 x 9.5-inch covers. Using PVA glue, cover your book covers in decorative paper, folding over the corners on the back and gluing them down. Press your covers as they dry so that they remain flat.

 

Step 5: When you covers are dry, lift the middle ribbons out of the way and glue the covers and the shorter black ribbons to the first and last pages of your book. Place a sheet of parchment paper or glassine under the first and last papers of your book to protect them from glue. Press your book flat while it dries.

When your book is completely dry, remove the glassine sheets and tie a bow around the book with the middle ribbons. Slide the ribbon along the spine if necessary to adjust the length.

  • If you don’t have an awl, use a pushpin to make the holes
  • Repurpose a 9 x 12-inch sketchbook for your signatures instead of cutting large sheets
  • Whenever possible, try to fold with the grain of the paper, not against it
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