Category Archives: Handmade

Handmade how-to.

This years handmade travel journal

I shared a tutorial on a hand made concertina sketch book earlier this year which was inspired by a trip to my local art store. Just last week I popped in again and came away with an idea for this years travel sketch journal. Of course the art shop had a lovely little number but at $65 it was a bit pricey – I was recovering from a pre holiday trip to my favourite shop for the well endowed woman in need of reinforced swimwear- the bill was still  weighing heavily on my mind ! So instead I bought an $11  sketch pad and headed home. Once there I searched around for cutoffs and scraps and in no time at all had whipped up my own version which will be just right for our trip to Italy ( only 14 sleeps to go!!)

Canson sketch pad

Materials I used

  • purchased sketch pad
  • mat board off cuts
  • pva glue
  • elastic
  • cutting mat
  • metal straight edge ruler
  • pencil
  • craft knife
  • 250gsm kraft card

Step 1. Marking the covers for cutting

Here I’ve taken a piece of mat board which is stiff enough to form the covers. The Front and Back are the same size – the size of the pad. If you want to make your own just adapt the measurements to your sketch pad.

I need to make one of the spines slightly wider – the thickness of the mat board in fact. This will mean the fold over flap will sit comfortably on top of the front cover. I make the fold over flap roughly 1/4 of the front cover width. Now I cut along the solid lines with a craft knife using my metal ruler to keep everything nice and straight.Cutting guide

Marking the covers
Marking up the covers

After I cut this out I decide I want the cover to be slightly larger than the sketch pad because I’m going to add a brush holder next to the pad so I’ll need a little extra space for that . Luckily I’ve got plenty of mat board off cuts so I just cut a new back cover that’s 2cm wider. I do this quite often – redesign as I go – so it’s no surprise to find I have a lot of offcuts!!!

Step 2 Cutting out the front cover windows.

I love having a cover window or two ( in this case three) so I can add some mini paintings later which will hint at the journal contents. I just mark and cut out 3 square windows at equal distance from each other. I leave a larger gap at the bottom as I think it balances out better. You can leave this step out entirely or cut one big window instead if you prefer. This is a great way to personalise your travel journal.

front with windows

Step 3  Centering the covers and glueing to the cloth.

I take a scrap of bookbinders cloth and lay it face down. Now I assemble my cover pieces leaving a small gap the width of the mat thickness between the cover boards and spines. An easy way to do this is use some matchsticks as spacers . I just eyeballed it. This gives flexibility so the covers will open and close smoothly . ( not the eyeballing – the leaving of spaces!) I mark the cloth 2cm wider than the covers all the way around and cut out. Next  I spread pva glue all over the covers and cloth smoothing it out to the edges . Best to put in all on some scrap paper before you do this step but I was in too much of a hurry and so had to clean up the dried glue off my cutting board later! Now I press down firmly smoothing from the centres of each board out to the edges making sure there are no air bubbles.

Glueing in the covers
Glueing in the covers

Step 4  Neatening the edges.

Quickly before the glue dries I turn in the cloth around all the edges and press down firmly making sure it’s snug against the edges. Now I slash from corner to corner in each window frame and glue the triangle flaps to the cover board. pulling tight as I go. Next I glue a piece of thick sketch paper over the windows on the inside of the cover so when I turn it over the windows have little white inserts. At this stage I also use the blunt edge of a knife to run a crease down the gap between the spines and the covers.


Step 5  Adding an elastic closing strap

I wrap a piece of wide elastic all the way around the back cover and cut it 2cm shorter. I butt the ends together and sew with a wide zigzag stitch to secure . I position it 3 cm in from the  spine closest to the front flap with the join on the inside of the cover. If you’re wondering what the black oblong is it’s a piece of fridge magnet I used to try out a magnetic closure but it turned out not to be strong enough. Another redesign on the go!

The elastic could be any colour you like as an accent feature. I initially wanted black but only had white and I think it was a lucky thing as the white looks good against the black cover.

Step 6  Attaching the lining paper.

I cut the kraft lining paper to fit inside the covers leaving a tiny 3 mm edge on the black cloth showing. Smoothing out from the centres again to get rid of any air bubbles. I get out the blunt knife and run it down the creases in the spine gaps. The little white thing is a tiny piece of elastic I glued down to the spine to hold a brush or pen. I just cut a slot in the kraft paper to slip over the elastic.

Lining paper
Adding the lining paper.

Step 7 Inserting the sketch pad.

Lastly I remove the front cover of the sketch pad and glue the back board to the back cover. I push my favourite travel watercolour brush into the elastic holder, fold the flap over and flip the elastic band to secure it. Ready for Italy!!


This travel journal might seem a bit slim for a 5 week holiday but the 50 pages mean I’ve got one a day with a couple to spare. I’ll be using it for my round up each night and be using a small store bought sketch book for my out and about sketching during the day. Let’s see how it goes!


I promised I would show you what I did with some of those hand made concertina art books I made earlier so here are a few pics.


Some of the completed art books I’ve made.

I decided to add some little windows to the basic design so I could have an image on the front when it’s closed. I also experimented with different numbers and shapes of the windows and different types of ribbons and cords for tying the books closed. I’m loving the leather strip just wrapped around the plain book several times ! I’m now offering a custom book making service since I enjoy making them so much.




Here you can see how I’ve used the windows to paint tiny pictures to hint at what’s inside. The open book shows a series of seed pod studies from seeds I picked up in my garden and daily walk.


The books have strong enough covers that you can stand them up on a shelf to display the paintings – this one features colourful Australian birds. I don’t have enough shelves to display all the artbooks I’m making so they’r off to my Etsy shop. where I’ll be offering custom paintings in a custom artbook .

Window concertina sketchbook 2

This is the one I made for The Writer for his birthday – it’s filled with small watercolours of iconic US national parks we visited on our last holiday. He absolutely loves it and keeps it open on the shelf above his computer station.

I’d like to try one filled with flowers for Mother’s Day or some poetry with just a touch of artwork  and maybe one with vintage cars, or cats, or ……..the possibilities are endless!

So that’s what I’ve done with mine – what have you done with yours?

How to make a gift box from recycled card.

As promised here is a quick “how to” guide for making the dragonfly gift box featured in last weeks post. Although I’m making it to hold a small purse you can use this method to make a box to fit any size gift.


  • A sheet of waste card
  • A straight edged ruler
  • A pencil
  • a craft knife
  • double sided glue tape
  • a cutting board
  • a gift to wrap
  • an embossing tool or pair of scissors


Step 1 -measure the gift thickness

Place the gift on the sheet of card with a bit of space around the top and sides and a space the same size plus and extra 1/3rd at the bottom. Measure the thickness of the gift and add 0.5 cm to the measurement. The purse is 2cm thick so I add 0.5cm to give me 2.5cm.  Now I draw a line 2.5cm from the edge of the sheet from just above the top of the purse to just below the bottom of the purse. This will form the side of my box.


Step 2

Now I continue the line to the bottom of my sheet making-Side A. Next I draw a line on the other side from the top to bottom of my sheet and another line 2.5 cm from it.This will make the other side of the box- Side B. To make the bottom side of the box I draw 2 lines 2.5cm apart just below the bottom of the purse.

Now I measure from the top of the sheet to the first line below the purse. I note the measurement and then draw a line the same distance from the second line below the purse. Draw another line 2.5cm distance from this. Now you have the top side of your box.

The last line to draw is the edge of the box flap which can be whatever size you like. I like to use 1/3rd of the box size for the flap.




Step 3

Cut along the outside line of Side A. Now score along each pencil line with an embossing tool  or ,as I’m doing here, a closed pair of scissors. You just want to use enough pressure to dent the card. Lastly cut out the 2 small squares and the sides of the flap as  shown.


Step 4

Once you have the template cut out carefully bend and crease along each pencil line.


Step 5

Fold in the side flaps. Cut a piece of double sided tape just smaller than the side flaps and stick a piece to the outside of the two top side flaps  Don’t stick any to the top flap.


Step 6

Now is the time to decorate the outside  with stamps or other designs. It’s much easier with a flat template than once the box is taped together.



Step 7

Remove the cover tape and firmly press the bottom side flaps to the taped top side flaps. Use your fingers to firmly press the flaps together by putting one hand inside the box and applying pressure from the outside.


Step 8

Put your gift in the box and secure. Here I’ve punched two holes in the flap and the box and threaded hemp cord through to keep the lid closed. You could simply wrap ribbon or string a couple of times around the box to tie the flap closed. You could also get a bit fancier and use sealing wax and a stamp – but I prefer to use a method that doesn’t destroy the box flap when the gift is opened- that way the box can be recycled again.


You can have a load of fun using  left over bits of card and decorative odds and ends to make  any size gift box. Some things I’m thinking of using on upcoming boxes are seed pods and  buttons as closures – I’ll glue on and then attach a loop to the flap by tying through a single hole punch and  have a loop closure. I also like the idea of using gum leaves to print  the boxes.

I’d love you to share a photo of your own gift box ideas. Happy recycling!