Studio Saturdays: Mixed-Media Planner, Part 2

Hello, and welcome to Part 2 of our Create Along on how to make a mixed-media planner. I hope you had fun making your covers, and that you enjoyed the shortcut of working with a repurposed book. In today’s installment, we’ll finish the covers and then bind the book with a very easy stitch that has a big “wow” factor. In Part 3 next Saturday (January 28th), we’ll decorate the pages, and you’ll be on your way to documenting your creative life in 2017.

This planner is inspired by the one Dawn DeVries Sokol made for her article “Creative Days Ahead” in the January/February issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Although she used a Moleskine journal in the article, she often makes her journals from scratch. I love how Dawn’s unique approach to creating a planner makes it part art journal, part planner, and all her. Using her techniques, your planner will reflect your artistic style as well. If you missed Part 1 of this Create Along and want to catch up, you’ll find it here.

Mixed media planner

Here’s what you’ll need for this week’s installment:

• Bookcloth

• Scissors or craft knife and cutting mat

• Ruler

• PVA glue

• Glue brush

• Bone folder

• Book text (optional)

• Collage papers or decorative papers

• Other decoration for the cover, such as labels, stickers, or vintage postage stamps (optional)

• Paper for the pages (see below for specifics)

• Graph paper (optional)

• Thin awl

• Artist’s tape or washi tape

• Waxed linen thread, about 7 yards (you may need more or less, depending on the height of your book). I recommend 4-ply waxed linen.

• Bookbinding needle or darning needle with an eye large enough to accommodate the waxed linen thread.

When last we left our planners, both the front and back covers were done, but the spine was untouched. Although the spine on your book is (hopefully) intact and in good shape, this book is going to get a lot of wear and tear over the course of a year, so it should be super sturdy. That’s why I decided to cover the existing spine with an extra layer of bookcloth. Bookcloth is paper-backed fabric, and it’s often used in bookbinding because it’s extremely strong and wears well, especially for the hinge. The hinge is where the cover and spine connect, and this area gets a lot of use.

Place your covers in front of you, right side up. To cover the outer part fo the spine, cut a piece of bookcloth 1 ½” higher than your cover, and 2 ½” wider than the spine, and the spine of your book should be about 2″. My book is 2″ wide at the spine, 6″ wide from the spine to the foredge (the front edges of the cover), and 9 ¼” high, so my outer spine bookcloth piece measured 4 ½” wide x 10 ¾” high. The bookcloth should be cut with the paper grain running vertically; you can determine this by bending the sheet of bookcloth one way, and then the other way. The way that it bends more easily is the grain direction. Whenever paper is going to bend or fold as it’s being used, the grain should always run parallel to the bend. With the paper side of the bookcloth toward you, spread PVA glue over the entire piece, working from the middle out. I usually do this on top of some scrap paper. Then, place the bookcloth over the spine, centering it. There should be about ¾” hanging from the top and bottom of the spine.

Attach the bookcloth to the spine, pressing it with a bone folder to make sure it’s adhered in the gutters, those little valleys where the covers and spine meet. Pick up the covers and check for good adhesion; if there are edges lifting up, lift up the bookcloth, spread on more glue, and press it back in place.

Covering the planner spine with bookcloth

Cover the spine of the planner with bookcloth to make it extra sturdy.

Flip the covers over, place a fresh sheet of scrap paper under the covers, apply more glue to the overhanging flaps, and adhere them to the inside, again pressing with the bone folder.

Gluing the flaps of the bookcloth to the inside of the spine

Glue the flaps of the bookcloth to the inside of the spine.

Cut another bookcloth piece for the inside of the spine, also with a vertical grain. This piece should be the same width as the bookcloth piece you just adhered, and ¼” shorter than the covers (mine was 4 ½” wide x 9″ high). Glue the paper side with PVA and lay it over the inside of the covers, over the spine, matching up long edges. Press with a bone folder to adhere. Place a few sheets of scrap paper under and over the spine, place everything on a table, and put a heavy weight on top, like a stack of books. This is an important step and prevents the covers from warping. Leave for a few hours to dry.

Gluing bookcloth to the inside of the spine

Gluing another piece of bookcloth on the inside of the spine further reinforces it.

I wanted a little something extra on my covers, so I cut some pieces of book text paper ½” wide and glued them to the seam where the bookcloth and the cover meet, on both the front and the back. I also added a vintage label and a vintage postage stamp to the front.

I chose to collage the inside covers, using a variety of book text pages, some printed napkins, and stamps, and adhered the papers with PVA. You can choose to use just decorative paper, or paint the inside covers—it’s completely up to you. I glued the papers about 1/8″ in from the top and bottom and foredge side, and about ¼” away from the gutter. Don’t apply paper over the gutter, since that will make the book difficult to open and close. When everything was in place, lay scrap paper over the covers, weight them again, and let them dry for a couple of hours.

Collaged inside planner covers

I collaged the planner’s inside covers, but they can be covered with any type of paper.

During the dry time, I cut my inside pages. The type of paper you choose should be based on how you plan to use your planner. I knew I’d be using wet media like paint, gesso, and watercolor, so I used fairly heavyweight (98-lb) paper from a Canson XL Mix Media Pad. Test a few different types of paper to see what works for you.

To determine the page size for your planner, measure the pages from the text block of the book you repurposed, and double the width. If those measurements aren’t available, subtract ¼” from the height of the book, and measure from the flattened spine to the foredge, and subtract ¼”. Your pages will be that height x double the width, and then folded in half. Based on my dimensions, my pages are 12″ wide x 9″ high. You’ll need 36 folded sheets to form 7 signatures (a group of folded pages nested together) of 5 folded pages each, with one sheet left over for a punching template. You’ll be able to fit two months in each signature, and then have one signature left over for notes, drawings, or whatever you’d like. Try to cut the paper with the grain parallel to the height of the pages.

Pages nested together to form a signature

Folded pages nested together for a signature.

I promised you that this binding is easy, and it is. The binding is by book artist Keith Smith, with one variation. One trick that I use when binding books is to create a sewing template using graph paper. I’m comfortable eyeballing certain things, but when it comes to binding a book, I like my stitches nice and even, and I find that using 1/8″ graph paper (8 squares to the inch) makes the task of plotting the holes so much easier. I first mark off the exact size of the spine on the paper, then determine how many signatures I’ll need (in this case, 7). With a 2″ spine, it was easy to plot 7 rows spaced ¼” apart. This leaves a lot of room between signatures, but there’s a reason for that: I want to include a lot of extras in my planner, like small envelopes, ephemera, and maybe some tipped-in pages, so I’ll need room for the pages to expand.

I created 10 horizontal rows of holes, from top to bottom; the first two, which form the anchor stitch, are spaced ½” apart, and the rest are 1 ¼” apart. You can space your stitches any way you like. Each vertical row is sewn separately, and you can mix up the spacing and the thread colors if you want to create a different pattern.

Once I had the sewing template done, I cut it out along the border, and placed the leftover folded sheet of paper on top, centered it, and made a mark along the fold at every hole. I unfolded the sheet, carried the mark across the fold, and wrote a ‘T’ on top, so I wouldn’t transpose the template. I also marked a ‘T’ on top of each signature.

Signature hole-punching template

Use the sewing template to plot the holes for your signatures.

To punch the signatures, place the template, with the marks now inside, into the middle of one signature. Holding it open at a 45-degree angle, hold an awl parallel to the table, and punch through the template and signature at each hole. The goal is to come out right on the fold, but if you’re a little off, that’s fine, it won’t matter. Repeat this process on the remaining six signatures, and remember to remove the template from the last signature.

Punching holes in the signature

Punch holes with an awl at each mark, going through the template and the signature.

Place the covers, right side up, on a cutting mat. Center the sewing template over the spine on the outside. Tape it in place with low-tack artist’s tape or washi tape (don’t cover any marks).

Sewing template attached to the spine

Tape the template to the spine of your planner to hold it in place.

Poke a hole with the awl at each mark. Carefully lift the template off, and re-poke any holes that aren’t very visible.

Punching sewing holes in the spine

Punch a hole with an awl at each mark, going through the spine.

Time to bind! Thread the needle with a length of thread about 2 ½ – 3 times the height of the cover, and don’t knot the end of the thread. Pick up the first signature, place it along the first row of holes on the inside, and take the needle into the second hole from the top, from the inside, going through both the signature and the cover, and leaving about a 3″ tail.

Mixed-media planner

Take the needle through the top hole to the inside, going through the signature and cover, and make the threads tight by pulling both the tail thread and the working thread opposite each other and parallel to the spine. Never pull straight up!

Take the needle back through the second hole again from the inside, and back through the top hole from the outside. You should now be on the inside of the signature, and there should be two stitches between the first and second holes on the outside. If they’re twisted, make them parallel.

Mixed-media planner

Pull the stitches tight again, and tie a double (square) knot at the second hole from the top. You’ve just created the anchor stitch.

Mixed-media planner

Take the needle down to the next hole (third from the top), through the signature and cover, to the outside. Slip the needle from right to left under the double stitches you just made.

Mixed-media planner

Pull the thread downward until it’s snug.

Mixed-media planner

Quick tip: If you have trouble going back into the cover and signature from the outside, re-poke the hole from the inside with the needle; this widens it a bit.

Slip the needle under the double stitches again, going from right to left.

Mixed-media planner

Pull until the the loop you just made is tight around the anchor stitches, and enter the hole you just exited (third from the top), going through the cover and the signature. Try not to split the thread as you re-enter the hole.

Mixed-media planner

Tighten the thread by pulling it parallel to the spine in the direction you’re sewing, and enter the next hole down from the inside, going through the signature and cover. Repeat the process you just did, always slipping the needle from right to left under the double stitches, pulling the thread tight, and slipping the needle under the stitches again. Re-enter the same hole, pull the thread parallel to the spine to tighten, and enter the next hole down from the inside. Repeat the sewing all the way down until you’re on the inside of the signature at the last hole. Here’s how things should look after sewing the first signature. Note how none of the stitches are twisted:

Mixed-media planner

At the last hole, you’ll need to tie the thread off. To create a half-hitch knot, slip the needle under the last stitch, and pull until you get a loop.

Mixed-media planner

Take the needle through the loop, pulling downward, until you create a knot. Repeat, and trim this thread and the tail thread to about ¼”.

Hitch2SM

That’s all there is to the binding. Repeat the sewing for six more signatures, and you are done, my friends. Next up: We’ll decorate the pages, using a variety of easy and gorgeous mixed-media techniques, and we’ll get this planner started. If you have any questions about the materials or techniques, or the meaning of life, please leave them in the comments. See you next week!

Learn a few bookbinding tricks, and you can make your own planners, art journals, and sketchbooks. These resources from North Light Shop have tons of ideas and techniques!

Accordion Book Bundle bookbinding kit

Get everything you need to start making accordion books, including an instructional video, with this great Accordion Book Bundle!

How to make your own planners from Cloth Paper Scissors magazine

See Dawn DeVries Sokol’s article on making creative planners in the January/February issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.

Backgrounds to Bindings video with Kari McKnight Holbrook

Learn how to create unique backgrounds and bind no-sew books in this Backgrounds to Bindings video with Kari McKnight Holbrook.

Art Lessons: Custom Sketchbook with Spirograph Designs by Sandrine Pelissier

Discover how easy it is to make a stunning custom sketchbook cover with a variety of mixed-media techniques in this Art Lesson by Sandrine Pelissier.

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