Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Perfect Sketchbook?

I've been doing lots of sketchbook work lately and I've been increasingly frustrated by the limitations of purchased books. If the paper is thick enough for paint it's too thick for rubbings, if it's great for rubbings it distorts when glue is added. I want black and white and coloured paper, I want a binding that doesn't fall apart, I want different types of paper and different sizes in the same book. I want to be able to print and sew on pages without ruining the ones beneath. I want to be able to remove and add pages as I like.

Not much to ask is it???

Today I've been working on making my own sketchbook which I think will be able to do everything I wish for. It starts out as some scrap cardboard. I like Lego boxes as they are thin but strong, and have a smooth surface. I made mine for use with mostly A4 sized paper folded in half to give A5 single pages and A4 double spreads but the book could be made in any size. Here's how to measure out:

First I measured some card about 1/2 an inch bigger all round than my paper, I included a spine about an inch thick. The spine was scored and folded and then reinforced with fabric tape.

Next I cut a slot in the spine so the remaining part is just a tiny bit longer than the height of my paper. This was again reinforced with tape.

Can you see the spine is just a little wider than my page?

At this point you could cover or paint the book cover. I'm going to add a fabric cover so I've just neatened up the inside with some pink paper.

To make the fabric cover I use one of my deconstructed screen prints (see previous posts). I added some batting (no backing fabric yet) and did some very inaccurate free motion stitching around the shapes - I don't think the inaccuracy matters, it doesn't matter to me anyway!

I cut down the quilted front cover so it was about 1/2 inch bigger all around than the cardboard cover. I cut a backing piece the same size. You'll also need an extra piece the same height as the backing and about 8 times the width of the spine.

Clockwise from top left: extra piece, backing, cardboard cover, quilted front cover.

The backing piece needs to be cut in 2 pieces (along the short direction). The 2 pieces are then laid right sides together onto the quilted cover. Fold back a seam on each side.

The spare piece then lays on top of the pile covering the raw edges of the folded seam.

Pin and then sew all around the outside with a 1/2 inch seam, don't leave a gap. Trim the corners and edges.

You can turn the cover right side out by the holes that form in the backing.

Here's how it looks inside, the raw edges all now covered.

Next add some elastic loops to the cardboard cover to hold your pages in place. Cut lengths about twice the height of your book. A simple reef knot on the back will hold them in place. You can always add or remove these as needed later.

Before adding pages slide the book into the fabric cover. You may need to bend the spine right back.

I've used all sorts of paper for my pages including cartridge, copy paper, brown wrapping paper, coloured paper, handmade paper and sheet music. You can also add in extra large fold out pages. I put 4 pages together in a signature and slid each signature under one of the elastics. At any point you can take these out, reorder or put others in.

There are lots of options for making a closure. I went for quick and easy with another elastic loop with a button and beads for decoration.

I'm hoping this sketchbook will ease my frustrations. Pop back soon and see!


  1. Nah... not too much to ask! Haha love your ambition Helen! Looks fantastic, like the one you made Amber!! X

  2. Nah....not too much to ask!! Haha I love your ambition Helen! It’s great! I love the one you made for missy too!