The New Year Essential: make your own notebook for 2019


As the new year approaches there is one thing that nearly everyone needs – a beautiful, fresh notebook or diary. So, we asked Alexandra Bradley to have a go at making her own – here are her thoughts as she embarks on bookbinding for the first time:

For Christmas this year my 8-year-old daughter asked us to make her a writer’s kit. She described a wooden box in which she would like special writing equipment (including a fountain pen) and a nice notebook to write in and make notes. So when the opportunity came up for me to test out the Bookbinding Kit from Learn Bookbinding I jumped at the chance.

I’ll admit, before I opened the box, I was a little worried: I had never attempted bookbinding before and was concerned that I would not have certain tools or items necessary to complete the bookbinding project. Upon opening the box I was immediately reassured – it contained EVERYTHING: from the beautiful paper and ribbon through to scissors, sewing needles, thread, brushes and much more (even cleaning cloths!)

The kit

All I had to have on hand was some tins (the baked bean/pulses variety), scrap paper and a chopping board. And who doesn’t have those?!

Next I downloaded the step-by-step pdf on to my kindle (you could also print it out if you prefer) and stood it up next to my work area: I laid everything out on my dining table and that was plenty of room.

Now one thing I will say here is that I would definitely recommend reading at least one or two pages ahead before ploughing straight into the instructions – there are some really important bits of advice and guidance that it is useful to know before embarking on certain stages. I would even go so far as to say that ideally you should read the whole guide first, but if you are impatient (like me) a couple of pages ahead would be fine.

You begin with creating the book of internal pages (the bookblock) – which involves measuring, making holes and sewing.

There are great hints and tips throughout including how to evenly fan out pages (wow! I never knew – one to impress the children with, it is like a magic trick), drying glue with a hair dryer (again, great if you don’t want to wait, needless to say I ran for the hair dryer!) and how to join threads if you run short while sewing. I used a piece of thread 110cm long and that did the whole job of sewing the bookblock together, but you can use less if you find it more comfortable like the guide suggests.

There were points where I got a little nervous such as the application of the glue, and it showed! Basically the quicker you work with the glue the better to avoid the paper going soggy and curling – so a bit more speed and a little less precision here was a quick lesson.

Book end

The best bit though was pulling the final cover together – the book cloth is gorgeous and finishing it off with the patterned paper sidings is very satisfying, especially folding in the corners to a neat inside finish using the bone folder tool (I might even try it on gift wrapping if I am feeling particularly fancy!).

The kit comes with everything you need to make two hard-bound cloth books, approximately A5 in size, so I am looking forward to making the second one as a gift to myself for the new year. The first one took me just over 3 hours to make, but now that I have some practice I should be able to do the next one in about 2-2.5 hours. We’ll see.

It got me thinking of ideas for future books that I could create. I think I would like to try making my own marbled paper as a covering – taking me back to Tuscany where I first started to really appreciate the beauty of a well-made book when I fell in love with some leather notebooks with marbled inside covers. So I may need to learn a bit more about paper making and designs  and even leather bookbinding in 2019 too!

Finished book

Overall conclusion:

This kit is brilliant if you are interested in book binding and don’t have time to attend a bookbinding course (or don’t have one in your area). It really does have everything you need. The step-by-step instructions have visual guidance throughout which is invaluable, and you get an enormous sense of pride as you complete the final stages. Once you are done with the two books in the kit you can simply order replacement elements to make more – as you already have most of the equipment you need.

As well as making the perfect gift to give to loved ones, the bookbinding kit itself would be a fantastic present for a crafty friend or relative.

Learn Bookbinding have given us a special discount code for anyone wanting to purchase one of these kits – simply use offer code CraftCourses at checkout when you buy a Bookbinding Starter Kit to receive £5 off per kit.

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