“Not Too Stabby” Bookbinding Technique for Junk Journals

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I always love to explore different ways to make new junk journals, and today I have a video that shares my latest bookbinding experiment that I’m calling the “Not Too Stabby” junk journal bookbinding technique.

This particular journal combines all the beauty of Japanese stab binding with the ease and convenience of elastic inserts to hold the pages in. 

It was VERY highly experimental but I love, love, LOVE how it turned out! 

laced bookbinding spine

When the book was done I thought, Hey, I really like this…not too bad, not too shabby … and since it mimics the look of Japanese Stab binding I figured “Not Too Stabby” was a good name for the binding technique.

It’s really not too stabby in the literal sense either – I did not poke myself not even once with the needle or the awl! 

While I am going to include step-by-step directions for how I made this journal at the bottom of this post, I don’t know if I would fully call it a tutorial simply because the whole process while I was doing this was super experimental.

One of the reasons I made a video while making this journal was because I thought if it works I’m going to want to remember what I did! There are also some things I will probably want to change and do differently next time.

Hopefully this video and post will give you an overview of the basic concept and process to give you some inspiration to try your own bookbinding experiment. 

Reader’s Digest Condensed Books Make Beautiful Journal Covers

I really didn’t have much of a plan when I started making this journal. I had some Reader’s Digest Condensed Books I picked up at a thrift store for 25 cents each, so I knew I wanted to use those book covers as covers for my journal in some way.

Reader's Digest Condensed Book Cover

All of the Reader’s Digest books like these have these really cute little prints on them. They are so pretty! I love to use them for all sorts of different books I make.

I also got some of the red and green ones because they are perfect for Christmas junk journals. I was very excited there was a whole bin of them on the table at our thrift outlet store.

If you have rough and jagged edges when you cut the covers away from the text block of the book you can always trim and sand them with a fine grit sandpaper. 

The other thing I knew I wanted when I first started out with this was a way to have the elastic bands to keep the pages in place. 

Since I first developed the Elusive Perfect No Sew Journal technique I’ve really become quite spoiled with those elastic bands. It’s so nice to be able to freely move and change pages however you would like!

Cutting The Covers & Marking for Where to Punch Holes

You can see how the cover looks before sewing, along with marks for where to punch the holes in the image shown here.

Where to Punch the Holes

I used a ruler to measure about 1/4″ from the edges on the spine and inside cover. I also drew lines across to make sure the holes I punched on the three different pieces would all line up together. 

To punch the holes, I used this Dasco Scratch Awl I had around the house and a mallet hammer my husband had in the garage. You probably don’t need the mallet to punch the holes, but it does make it super easy without needing a ton of force.

It’s also a very good way to work out some stress as you pound away. 🙂 

Punching the holes into the book covers ahead of time eliminates a lot of the “stabbing yourself by accident” risk that you might get with pamphlet stitching, coptic binding and other methods.

Bookbinding Technique for Lacing Together

With this method I used it’s more like lacing, not so much like actual sewing and stitching. I used embroidery thread and laced a criss-cross pattern, but of course there are all sorts of different ways this could be done!

Close-Up of Binding and Lacing

Any kind of thread could be used for this method, but I love the way the variegated embroidery thread I used looks doubled up. There’s a nice contrast between the light/dark colors.

When I did the lacing I pulled the thread through my needle to double the thread and then tied a knot at the end. This gives you a nice and sturdy thread to work with and you don’t have to worry about losing the end while you go!

double threaded needle

The lacing process might seem a little confusing to watch or explain, but once you sit down to actually lace through the holes it is pretty easy to figure out.

Basically you will want to start on the inside of the spine and lace into each coordinating hole of the cover. 

After you make the first loop to the cover, stitch down to the next hole in the spine. Then lace to second hole in the cover, stitch through the spine and stitch down to the next part. 

While you are lacing between the cover and the spine, it is very important to watch your tension on the thread. You do not want to pull the thread too tightly, or else the book will not be able to open and close easily. It’s a good idea to check as you go while you lace to make sure the stitching is not too tight.

Book Construction

Once you finish one side, you are ready for the other side. This is done the exact same way as the first side. After you finish the second side and the cover is all put together, you are ready to add your elastic bands to the cover. 

After I had the bands in place, I decided it would be fun to do a criss-cross pattern across the back. I started by going from the inside of the cover and across the bands, and then worked my way down.

laced elastic junk journal bookbinding technique

You can also of course opt to use all the same colored threads or change the way you stitch the covers to the spine. Since the covers were yellow I decided to finish the criss-cross pattern at the end with a yellow gradient thread to tie it all together.

It’s very important when you are doing the criss-cross part that you do NOT cross the elastic bands on the inside – otherwise you won’t be able to use them for inserting your pages. You can go under them but not over them! 

Now the Fun Part: Adding Your Favorite Papers

With everything all sewed together, you are now ready to fill it up with all of your favorite papers.

Pages in journal

I created the inserts/signatures by simply folding pieces of paper together in sections. If you’ve watched my previous junk journal tutorials this one was done exactly the same way as the others.

For now, I just used various papers and even some of the old book pages from the original book to fill it up. Need ideas for what to use as paper?  This Junk Journal Ephemera Scavenger Hunt should get you started in the right direction.

Because the size of the cover was a bit small I did have to trim some of the bigger pieces of paper – but this was a great way to use up those little scraps out of my box.

Journal Cover Front

It’s definitely got that fun & funky summertime vibe to it, so I’m hoping to fill up this junk journal with all sorts of things we find during our summer adventures.

I love how it has all the same beauty of Japanese stab binding with the convenience of elastic bands for inserting papers and traveler’s notebooks. 

All in all, this journal is way harder to explain than it actually is to make! I am already thinking of other fun ways to use this basic technique for more journals.


"Not Too Stabby" Junk Journal Bookbinding Technique

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Active Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Laced Elastic Journal Binding Technique

Materials

Tools

Instructions

  1. Cut and Remove Cover From Book. Measure and Cut 1" from the edge of both books to create a 1" piece for the spine.
  2. Measure and mark 1/4" from the edge to create holes along the spine and front and back cover. Punch Holes on Spine and Cover.
  3. Lace the coves to the spine. Add elastic bands to the spine. Lace on the outside of the book in criss-cross pattern.
  4. Create signatures for the book by folding pieces of paper in half. Stack the folded papers together and insert them at the fold underneath the elastic band.
  5. Fill your new junk journal with ephemera, artwork, collage images, writing, and enjoy!

Notes

When lacing the covers to the spine make sure you do not pull the threads too tight! You want the book cover to be able to open and close freely.


Hopefully between these written notes and the video it will not be too confusing if you try to make it yourself!

Have any questions? Comments? Did you make one of these? Tell us about it in the comments below and of course I’d love to see what you create in our Artjournalist Community Facebook group!

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