Monday, 23 February 2009


The long-awaited tutorial is being proofread and will be ready soon. I will e-mail it to those who have posted requests with e-mail addresses.

I am now trying to decide whether to offer it on request only or if I will make it downloadable.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Travel journalling from scratch

My travel journals

I have kept a travel journal every time I have been abroad since I took my very first trip out of the country at age fourteen. Until recently I used ready-made books that should have become more durable and higher in quality as I got older and more fastidious and had more money, but didn’t as I was often in a hurry when shopping for a journal. I would usually just grab the first hardcover notebook I could find, regardless of what it looked like.

At one point I was given a handmade blank book that had originally been intended as a guest book, but which served me fine as a journal and proved to be the most durable journal I had ever owned. Without opening it you can hardly tell it’s been to India and back, most of the time stuffed unprotected into my daypack where it rattled around with all my other daily necessities. It was also the first of my journals to have non-lined pages, which I really appreciated as this was the first journal I made some effort to draw in. The second journal I used on the trip after the first one was full was an even more impressive blank book with a padded cover, metal corner protectors and an attached ribbon bookmark that I bought for peanuts in Turkey and only managed to fill halfway before the trip ended.

My first two really good journals

When I started binding books I decided it was time I started making my own journals. I had always hated the fact that I never managed to fill any of the books I used as journals, while still rarely having enough space left for journalling another trip in the same book. Ever since the increased travel time and airport/border unpleasantness following 9/11 came along I don’t like going abroad for less than a week at a time, and since my writing output varies from day to day, calculating the number of pages I need is not easy. Rather than take the risk of running out of pages when putting a second journal in the same volume, I would buy new a one.

With this in mind, I decided that I would create the journal as I went along, rather than attempt to make one before setting off. That way I could control how many pages I had left over at the end for extra stuff, additional writing, photos, etc.

My first completely hand-made journal. The maps are pages from an old Atlas. I'm on the lookout for an American flag sticker of the right size to cover the text box on the front. The leather is morocco.

For those who want to do the same, I hope my method will give you some inspiration:

I bought several blocks of good quality sketching paper (100 g/sqm) to use in the signatures. Each block contained 25 sheets of A4 paper, which would make 100 A5 pages once folded into signatures. For a 19 day trip to the USA I took 2 blocks, knowing I would have to be very prolific to fill all those pages. I kept the paper in the blocks until I needed it. I stored them in a clear plastic envelope to protect them from dirt. Also in the envelope went some maps and clippings from various travel magazines and brochures that I intended to use in the journal when I visited the places in my itinerary. Some I got before I set off but most I gleaned once I got there.

Since my drawing and sketching abilities are limited, I always supplement the writing with clippings and postcards as well as drawings, and on this occasion I also used some travel-themed stickers meant for scrap books. These also went in the envelope.

I would make up each signature as I needed it, using 4 sheets of paper to make up a 16-page signature. These I kept in a smaller plastic envelope, held together with a paperclip.

I also brought a vinyl travel cosmetics bag filled with journalling supplies: a bone folder, small scissors, a small box cutter, a glue stick, book tape, double-sided tape, paper clips, a variety of pencils, pens and markers in different colours, a putty eraser, pencil sharpener, and correction fluid. These supplies were enough for me to be able to journal to my heart’s content.

Once I got home, I stitched the signatures together, put the boards on, and half-bound the books with leather and maps.

The second book. This one contains 2 journals, bound back to back. The 'front' on the right is scrapbook paper with a map of Europe with my destination in the center of the cover (the trip was to Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina), and the upside down 'front' on the left is the appropriate section of a North Dakota (USA) highway map. The leather is spotted wolf-fish skin.

Finally, I have started making a scrapbook of the India journey. I was planning to hand-make an album, but them I came across such a perfect album that I bought it instead:

Isnt' it lovely?