The idea to make these journals evolved from finding a concept I didn’t really like! I kept encountering junk journals, but found them to be too fussy and messy for my taste. I don’t like messy sewing and dangling threads, and don’t really want to include junk paper from irrelevant mailings. That didn’t sit well with me. I also found the idea of using paper or light card covers to be a bit impractical. It seemed as though they wouldn’t survive many uses, and wouldn’t cope with having extra bits and pieces added to the journal. During a bout of bronchitis last winter I let my mind roam around and think what i would do differently… Pretty much everything it seems!
The cover conundrum got solved first. As a long time dress maker it frustrated me no end to find a fabric design I liked but in a color or size I didn’t really want for that project. When I learned of Spoonflower, a fabric print on demand company, I felt as though all my fabric design dreams had come true! I have created many designs and projects using them to print the fabric for me. At present only my purple fabrics are publicly available, but have also created tea towels, embroidery kits, and latterly, these journal covers. It dawned on me that if twill fabric was sturdy enough for a tote bag, then it would withstand being carried around and opened and closed repeatedly. My sewing background suggested that interfacing would further strengthen the fabric, and an extra heavy strip down the spine would help protect the stitching.
As journal concepts came to me, I researched old books and image repositories to find related ideas and images. Gradually the direction for each journal would evolve, and I’d select and image for the fabric cover and inside cover, adding text and overlays as I felt they were needed. It takes anywhere from a week to 10 days for the resulting fabric to arrive, which gave me time to design the page layouts. With so many images to choose from, I had to determinedly curate them to collect a selection that had a common theme, even when it meant ditching a beloved image because it didn’t belong. I began to lay out the pages, leaving blank pages, creating all lined pages, as well as making specific journaling areas on other pages. As I worked on the page designs, the look and feel would evolve, helping me decide what to keep and what to leave out.
The pages completed, I created templates for making the little pockets and ‘tuck spots’ for holding the ephemera. I would select two to four images that had a good color palette and which would look OK from different directions. Often I had to manipulate them so that text or flower stems didn’t randomly appear upside down. After printing these pages out, I would cut out all the shapes and store them. I then set about selecting the images to use for the ephemera or journaling cards. Here I allowed myself a bit more latitude, adding in quirky or slightly offbeat images because they amused me, and hoped they’d also amuse the person who bought the journal. I made the decision not to include images of anything frightening or potentially triggering. Everyone has their own sights they dislike, but there is nothing in any of the journals that should offend either your grand daughter or your elderly great aunt.
Again, after laying the images out, I printed and cut them out, sometimes rounding the corners or adding a tinge of sepia to the edges. By now I had a humungous concertina file to hold all these bits and pieces while I waited for the fabric to arrive. Once the fabric arrived, some of the designs hadn’t rendered quite as expected, so these have become my sample journals, and testing grounds for the making processes. I cut out the cover pieces, ironed on the interfacing layers, then sewed around the edges leaving a gap to turn them through. This was more fiddly than I anticipated as the fabric was surprisingly stiff and disinclined to cooperate with me. After turning them through, I hand sewed the opening closed and ironed them smooth.
Finally I got to the book making part! I use heavy Irish linen bookmaking thread, run through beeswax to make it slide through the pages more easily. I designed a template for the sewing holes, which I then transfer to the spine of the cover, and matching holes in each of the four ‘signatures’ mini books within the journal. I sew each signature in from back to front, pulling the threads tight to secure the pages. The next task is to stick in all the corners and tuck spots, usually deciding I need more than I had created at first. When they are dry, I add the journaling cards. I create two square envelopes that I also stick together, and into one put a series of journaling prompts to help you decide what to write. I also cut out a series of tabs and file tabs to use to make your journal your own, and so you can find sections more readily. Lastly I sort through the little charms to find four that seem to reflect the topic or user, and attach them.
Before the journal is ready to leave, I add a card at the front to explain what the aim is of the journal – in case the journal was given as a gift. I have written a letter to the new owner, explaining that the journal is now theirs, and they can use it however they see fit. I explain what the elements can be used for, but leave it in their hands to decide what they want to do. As a dyed in e wool romantic, that letter is put in an envelope and sealed with sealing wax.
So that is how a journal is made, and why it takes so long to create. It is a mixture of graphic design, curation, bookmaking and sewing skills, so my journals, while still technically ‘junk journals’ are very different from the others you will find.