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Making Watercolor Sketchbooks

I started making my own watercolor sketchbooks when I couldn't find commercial sketchbooks that I liked.  First I taught myself how to recycle old orphan books ($1-2), and then learned how to make case-bound books with black commercial book cloth. 

But soon I developed a way to make my own bookcloth, fusing dyed fabrics to mulberry paper. 

It gives me enormous pleasure to use these 48 page sketchbooks that are made with Fabriano Artistica 140 lb soft press watercolor paper. 

I just took a picture of this group of sketchbooks - all now full of watercolor paintings and/or graphite drawings. 


Last week I made two New Watercolor Sketchbooks:  The first book cover was made by overdying a monoprint.



And this one was made using Tsukineko inks mixed with aloe vera gel as a thickener.  I transferred a drawing to dyed fabric and painted it using small paintbrushes.  I learned this technique from Judy Coates Perez and made a Coptic stitched watercolor sketchbook using the image I painted in her Quilt Festival workshop.




Book made from bug painting I did on cloth at Quilt Festival Workshop.



Recycling Books:  I also still recycle books to use as travel sketchbooks and summer beach sketchbooks.  I just finished recycling a square book that I bought for $2 at the Strand Book Store in New York City and will use it on vacations this summer. 

It was a book of photographs entitled Seeing:Details. 



I was able to use two of the folios as endpapers in my new book. 


I tore my folios from 2 pieces of Fabriano Artistico soft press 140 lb paper (grain short) and some of the folios are folded asymmetrically and others are shorter - making the pages an interesting mixture and minimizing waste. 



In 2012 I recycled a book called Italian Dreams before we went to Venice.  I made a multipart tutorial as I was making the sketchbook and here is the link to those blog posts if you would like to make one.   


I'm interested in learning how many readers would like to continue to see blog entries or more tutorials about making watercolor sketchbooks - please leave a comment.  I would be happy to share what I've learned. 


What a great post with great ideas and how-tos. Thank you for sharing.

That is quite a collection! loved seeing that tsukineko print.

I love your tutorials on sketchbooks and making them - would enjoy reading and learning more

Yes, please keep telling more about making the books! I love it!

Yes, please. Whatever tutorial you feel you want to take the time to make, we will enjoy. The Venice tutorial was wonderful, so complete and organized, easy to follow. Thanks!

Wonderful...and ALWAYS love to see things like this! I'm sharing the link to our Artist's Journal Workshop blog...

I just wanted to tell you how very lovely these sketchbooks are! Beautiful work Shirley!

Love seeing the journals and more about bookbinding.

Great tutorial! I'm following your blog, and would love to see more.

Cathy shared your blog with us! I love it! These are beautiful sketchbooks! I will go back to your older posts & see if it's possible that I could make some! If not, have you ever considered selling them? Or do you just do them for your own enjoyment? In either case, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! Do share more!!! ♥

Came over from Cathy Johnson's Artist's Journal Workshop blog. Would love to see videos or step by steps on making journals. These all look wonderful! I hope there's a way I can follow you by email. I am going to go look. :)

I would love to have a tutorial on bookbinding from anyone Cathy Johnson recommends!


Your books look really good and filled with quality paper too, very inspiring so I'd love to see more!

Oh I would love to see more tutorials on bookbinding as well as pictures of what you're doing!

Your work is incredible!

Yes, Please! I want to make more of my own books and would love easy tutuorials and tips. Also I want to recycle books from sales I have gotten. But need a bit of instruction on HOW?

I'm also from Cathy's mention of you. I'm bookmarking your blog....I checked your tutorials and will be back to actually follow along and try my hand at making some of my own sketchbooks.
Yes please to more of them! And thanks so much!
I do have a request, please....is there a way you could add a "follow by email" link to your posts?

Just discovered your blog from Cathy Johnson's link. I am very keen to learn more about making books in all forms. Thank you for your tutorials.

I came from Cathy's too. WOW! It seems as though your journals fulfill the adage of "the student surpassing the teacher". They truly are special journals! I most certainly would enjoy, and look forward to you making more journal tutorials. Where do I sign up? :D

Thank you for sharing your handmade sketchbooks! I would love to see more posts and tutorials on this!

Yes, more, more. I'm a bookophile too.

yes please keep posting, I love making books.

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