What I want in a journal is pretty simple, really. I want good drawing paper, I want a way to store a pencil so I don't have to go looking for one, I want it to lie completely flat so it is easy for a lefty to use*, and, if possible, I want it to have pages that I can remove for scanning and then put back.
It doesn't seem like such a terribly long accounting of needs, but not one of those journals you see up there on my bookshelf fulfills the items on that list. So a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd see if I could cobble up something that would make me happy.
First, I took a tablet of bristol board and cut all the paper in half, width-wise, and punched holes in them:
I cut the cardboard backing in half, too, and covered the top portion of one piece with fabric. I attached the fabric using iron-on facing with double-sided adhesive.**
This next bit is the only tricky part. I took another piece of fabric and applied shirt facing that was cut to the size of the cardboard. Shirt facing has adhesive only only one side, and is thicker so it can be used to stiffen fabric. I cut the fabric so that it would be about an inch larger all around than the cardboard on three sides:
I folded over the top of the fabric about two-and-a-half inches and ironed it flat. (In the above photo, the "top" of the fabric is at the bottom, and is the part that has facing all the way to the edge.) I cut out a piece of the double-sided adhesive facing to the size of the fabric and cut the middle out of it, creating an edge of adhesive about two inches wide on three sides and leaving the fourth side (the folded top) free of adhesive facing (this last part is very important):
I attached the second piece of fabric to the cardboard:
When you flip it over, the two pieces of fabric have formed a pocket:
I covered the second piece of cardboard with fabric to create a back cover, put grommets in both for strength, and tied the whole thing together with quarter-inch ribbon. When opened, the journal lies flat, or you can fold it over so that only one sheet is showing. As a bonus, you can add and subtract pages at will:
Et voila', a simple, inexpensive, easy to make and use notebook.
*The natural motion for writing is away from the body, which is left-to-right for right handers, but would be right-to-left for left-handers. To compensate for this (since most of us can't read backwards), southpaws write "upside down," which places a notebook's bulky binding directly under the hand--an uncomfortable position for sketching or writing.
**You can find this at any fabric store, and it comes with excellent instructions on how to use it, so I won't bother with that here. The only tip I would add is that since heat and moisture is involved, the cardboard has a tendency to warp. You can solve this by weighting it down with a heavy book as it cools and dries.