Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A simple journal for left-handers who like to keep their pencils handy. (And for other people, too.)

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.


  1. As a left-handed person, I say thanks! I have often grumbled at the spirals(or rings or whatever holds the papers together) for making writing uncomfortable. Reminds me of the "left-handed" scissors I never got in kindergarten. I ended up with the right-handed pair and always had jagged edges on my cutting projects...very frustrating. I don't know who the genius was who invented ambidextrous scissors but hallelujah! And thanks for your journal, a worthy contribution to the lefties arsenal of needed products.

    Christine in Alaska

  2. Interesting! I never knew why left-handers' arms/hands looked so funny when they wrote.

    I have two leather bound Mead journals that I always carry with me (they're super cheap at Wal-Mart) and they have a pocket inside them (I don't put unpaid bar tabs in them though) and a ribbon to hold my place. I like them for those reasons and because they can fit into my pockets, but I like your idea better with the pocket in the front for pens - and I bet I could make it small/add in a ribbon.

    I always buy pens in bulk and end up with zilch left by the end of the semester, so it would be helpful to have a pocket with a designated journal pen in it.

    I also like that your journal can lie down flat. Because my mead journals are so tiny, the left page when the book is open lies at a super weird angle --- and I don't need any help making my handwriting more illegible than it already is.

    Thanks for the new project

  3. I tend to go to great lengths to insure that my left hand does not smudge what I just wrote or drew. It usually involves putting the hand in a awkward postion or holding the pen or pencil at a greater distance from the hand. When I was taking landscape design classes, I would often lay down another piece of paper to act a shield while I was adding new elements to the drawing. Oh what we go through, but the troubles are worth being able to see from the right side of the brain.

  4. Ooh that looks good! An added bonus for British users (aka idea copiers) is you could also use waterproof paper, thus enabling you to continue to take notes in the inevitable pouring rain!


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