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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Benson

Sketchbook DIY

Updated: Sep 15, 2022

In my Arts and Visual Technology 595 class, we recently created our own sketchbooks in class. I loved the process so much that I started gathering supplies at home and bought an inexpensive bookbinding kit ( This blog post will be filled with pictures and descriptions of materials and process and even a video!


  • Variety of papers/writing surfaces (I even cut up a mailer envelope to use as a paper)

  • PVA archival glue (

  • Waxed Thread

  • Large sewing needle

  • Bone folder (or large popsicle stick)

  • 2 pieces of chipboard cut to size (sketchbook backing works well too!)

  • 2 pieces of decorative paper for front & back covers

  • Paper awl

  • 2-4 binder clips

  • measured template for marking holes

  • X-acto knife

I have a variety of papers, watercolor paper, photo paper, vellum paper, card-stock,

calendar pages, brown shopping bag


We are going to start off by making 3 signatures. A signature of a book is the outer page that will house several more pages in between. For this project, let's make 3 signatures that house 4 different papers each. ***each signature will be visible on the binding***

Next, using the bone folder, you will fold each paper. The bone folder will help create a crisp crease. Video shows me creasing the papers for one signature grouping.

After you've created your 3 signatures, it's time to mark where you'll be making holes. I created a template that fit the height of my book and created marked points accordingly. You can see I also labeled the top and bottom on my template, so if my measurements are off a little, at least all my signatures will match. I used a binder clip to hold all the papers for each individual signature so when I go to poke holes with the awl they wont shift.

Once you have marked where your holes will go, it's time to poke them with the awl!

Time to start stitching! You will take your waxed thread and measured about 3 shoulder lengths of thread, thread your needle (I used a large curved needle) and start stitching from the outside bottom of your first signature. Continue using the binder clip to ensure the papers don't shift while sewing. Leave a 1.5" tail on the outside of the first signature, clip the tail under the binder clip to hold it in place. Weave in and out of the first signature. You'll notice the inside stitch is the longer stitch. **Make sure you stitches are taut, you don't want pages shifting from a stitch that is too loose.**

Time at attach the second signature! Remove the binder clip from the first signature. Take the second signature, open it up and attach one side to the rest of the first signature with a binder clip.

Time to sew. Take the needle (which should be on the outside of signature one) and sew into the first hole of signature two. When your next stitch comes to the outside stop to see the next picture in the step.

With the needle, take the thread and pull it under the first visible stitch in signature one. This will ensure that the signatures are attached. Once you've secured the stitch you can send in down into the next hole.

You'll continue this process all the way to the end of signature two.

When you get to signature three, see how I pulled the thread behind the first loop on the bottom? That will secure the bottom hole of the three signatures.

Repeat what you did for signature two with signature three. Once completed, I clipped the signatures and set it aside to work on the cover. The cover will be a glued cover. For the cover, you can use chipboard, but I used the backs of 2 store purchased sketchbooks that I had handy. I cut them to size.

You may want to choose 2 decorative papers to cover the front and back of your cover. You'll also need to get your PVA glue and a paint brush to apply the glue generously but thinly. On one side of each cover decide where you'd like the place your decorative paper. If you need to cut the paper to fit the chipboard, it's advisable to do so after if's glued to make sure it's cut exactly to size. If you have an X-acto knife, it'll come in handy at this point. I used origami paper on my sample, so I needed 4 piece of paper.

Start with one cover side, spread the glue with a glue brush, thinly but generously.

Attach your decorative paper to the glued side, take the bone folder and run it along the paper to make sure all air bubbles are smoothed out.

Repeat the process with the other cover, then flip them both so you can see the excess paper that needs to be cut, carefully trim with your X-acto knife.

Time to connect to the signatures. The first page on the top signature, the last page on the bottom signature will be attached to the covers. Have your binder clips ready so you can secure the book until the glue dries.

Repeat the process for the back cover and then binder clip everything together to allow it to dry.

You have a finished handcrafted book, for sketching, scrapbooking, or experimenting mediums on different surfaces! I'm excited to use my book(s) to start experimenting with how different mediums will handle on different surfaces. Stay tuned for my next post about our class room rotational sketchbook.....

If you're interested in a book on "How to make Books" Check out this one by Esther Smith.

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