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Learning to Make a Sketchbook

December 8, 2007

I really never thought I’d even try to make a sketchbook, but when my friend Marta came to Paris and gave me a beautiful one that she had made, I began to wonder if maybe I could….! My friend Dominique, a qualified bookbinder and teacher, offered to show me how.

First I had to order the paper. I chose Fabriano Artistico 300 lb (ok, stop laughing, all of you experienced sketchbook makers!) When Dominique saw how thick it was, she paled a bit, but quickly came up with a solution. Here are some pictures to take you through the first part of the process :

First, we decided on the size of the sketchbook. The paper I’d bought was 1/4 imperial, and I thought half that size would be good – a little larger than the watercolor sketchbooks I’ve used before. So we chose 16 sheets which we cut in half, after Dominique had looked carefully at the paper to make sure it was all in the right direction, and then she carefully trimmed it to make sure every sheet was identical (yours truly had done most of the cutting, and precision is not one of my strong points)

The next step was to find some end papers to glue onto the watercolor paper, as 300 lb watercolor paper is way too thick to fold or sew. She rummaged around in her workshop until she found some paper scraps that matched in color, and measured with calipers to determine the exact size they should be.

This was based on the thickness of the paper, which we tried to match by folding the end papers several times. Dominique has an instrument just for this purpose.

She then scored the watercolor paper to show me where to put the paste (I used old magazine pages as a guide and painted it right on.) She generally uses a mix of flour and water in bookbinding, but she decided to add a little acrylic glue this time to add extra strength :

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the pasting process, as I was concentrating so hard on seeing the scored line – hmm, it might be time for glasses!

Once the little end papers were glued on, she showed me how to fold the up once, and then again, giving a four-fold thickness :

After each fold we flattened them down :

This is what the pages looked like when we’d finished :

In the first picture above the end paper is a bit longer than the watercolor paper, but Dominique trimmed them at this point:

Next week, we’ll sew the pages together and start the cover. She has a wonderful piece of furniture (which she designed and built herself!) full of all sorts of beautiful papers, some of them handmade, and she’s letting me choose from them :

Well that’s it up to now – I hope this was comprehensible, and I’ll post another installment next week.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. December 8, 2007 9:45 am

    Thanks so much for posting this Casey. Like you I can’t see myself doing it but I’m very interested after all I’ve read on EDM and I would if only I knew how. How lucky you are to be shown and get to pick from those beautiful papers!

  2. December 8, 2007 12:33 pm

    This is great, Casey. I’m pulling up a chair to watch.

  3. December 8, 2007 12:52 pm

    Thankyou for sharing your process along with so many wonderful photos Casey. You’re a star post!

  4. December 8, 2007 3:59 pm

    WOW. It’s so much fun to see the different ways of doing this, and you’re going to have a treasure when you’re finished! I can’t wait to see what you do in it.

    I actually like the slight variation in page size, and tear, now, rather than cut, to suggest a deckle on all sides–the wonderful DVD I bought on bookbinding suggests trimming like that, though.

    INGENIOUS solution to the 300 lb. paper! Can’t wait to see how you sew it! (I usually use 140 lb, which is still a bit thick–signatures are usually only 3 pages folded together.)

    Oh what FUN to get to work with a pro, and to choose from all that gorgeous paper, you lucky girl! I’ll be watching your blog for the next installment, and thank you so much for sharing this with us!

  5. December 8, 2007 4:59 pm

    Fabulous photos and directions. I am bookmarking this and waiting for the next one. Making these books seems to be the rage and I am getting a bit antsy to try it too. Thanks for posting this.

  6. December 8, 2007 4:59 pm


    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a nice comment.

    This is great! I’ve been procrastinating on making my own sketchbook, I have all the stuff except for the leather I want to use for the cover. I’ll get around to picking that up one of thes days. I love the photos, thanks.

  7. de Foucaud permalink
    December 8, 2007 9:21 pm

    Bien reçu. A Lundi

  8. December 8, 2007 10:32 pm

    This is MOST comprehensible and very interesing. Great post. I’m taking a book binding class starting in January so this is a lovely preveiw!

  9. December 9, 2007 3:13 am

    Casey, thank you so much for sharing the steps with us. I’ve never made my own sketchbook but it is something I would like to try. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next instalment. Thanks again ~ 🙂

  10. December 9, 2007 3:29 am

    great step-by-step. waiting eagerly for the next steps 😀 thanks for sharing.

  11. December 10, 2007 8:59 am

    Fascinating, Casey. I fear I’ll never get around to something as sophisticated as this but I am tempted to try a simple book with 140lb paper. Looking forward to your next post. And yes, that looks like a treasure chest of beautiful cover paper.

  12. December 13, 2007 2:45 pm

    what an amazing process… btw; I have flat file envy for your paper storage

    stopping by today from lake trees blog; checking out the top art blogs. congratulations to you!


  1. Learning to Make a Sketchbook, Lesson 2 « rue Manuel bis

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