Monday, August 13, 2007

Make Your Own Travel Journal (a Tutorial):

Travel journals, what can’t you use them for? I am a big fan of little notebooks and have tried all kinds, spiral bound, waterproof, handmade, etc. I use them even when not traveling. When I am traveling I use my journal to jot down ideas or thoughts I don’t want to forget; I use it as a memory book or diary, sketch pad, address book, scrapbook, and photo album. They are perfect for slipping that beautiful postcard or bar napkin into. When you make new friends while traveling you can have them write their info into it and even show-off the pictures of your home, friends and family that you have tucked in there. Sometimes the best souvenirs or mementos I have from trips are the journals I kept. It’s amazing to go back years later and review your actual thoughts and feelings word for word rather than just through pictures.

I first made a journal like this one (which eventually morphed into a photo album) a few years ago when I was traveling from where I lived in Hawaii to Phish’s last shows in Coventry, Vermont. Since it was the last weekend my favorite band would be performing together, I wanted a special little book to carry with me to jot down any notes or feelings or new friends while I was there. I also brought my (now defunct) i-zone camera so this little journal was a perfect place for those little pictures (which, by the way, aren't in my picture on the right).

Now, why don’t you make one?
(This tutorial is adapted from a post I found on Craftster a few years ago).

Travel Journal:

You will need:
-thin cardboard (2 pieces large enough to be the front and back covers of your book)
-hole punch
-hair band/ponytail-holder/rubber band
-1 chopstick or kebab skewer
-sandpaper (optional)
-utility scissors, small saw, or steak knife
-glue (optional)
-any collage materials or paints you chose to use to decorate the book’s cover (optional)

First, determine how large you’d like your journal to be. For this project I’m making mine 5.5” by 4” (because that is the size of a ¼ sheet of computer printer paper which I will be using). Then, measure 2 pieces of your thin cardboard (it could be from a food/drink package, or even a thick envelope or folder. Here, I am using thick cardstock). Cut the 2 pieces to the same size and set aside.

Follow this same procedure to cut pieces of paper to the right/same size--these will be the books pages. I like to use a nice variety of paper since I never know what I’ll want to write or sketch on while traveling. I tend to use a lot of recycled papers. I use brown paper bags for different texture, construction paper, ruled paper, sketch pad paper, etc. As for other recycled papers, old photocopies are great (photocopies of pictures of your friends and family are cool to use because they are nice to look at if you’re missing them and you can show them off to the new friends you make while traveling).

Second, you will be punching holes into one end of the covers and papers. Holes should be centered and about 1” away from each other (not too close but not so far that the band that holds it all together stretches too much). You can choose to use a plain round hole punch or one of those fun novelty shaped hole punches, it doesn’t matter. Set these papers aside.

Third, take the chopstick and cut/break it in half. Usually my utility scissors won’t cut all the way through, but can sort of perforate the chopstick making it easy to smoothly crack in half by hand. You could also use a small hobby saw or even a steak knife. Once the stick is in 2 pieces you can smooth it down with sandpaper (or even paint it if you’d like). You will only be using one half for this project, so you can set the other half aside for the next journal you make.

Then, starting with the back cover, string the hair band (or rubber band, etc) through both holes. One end of the band will go into one hole while the other end goes through the other one. Now, slide the
chopstick through one of the loops and string the (hole-punched) paper onto the other loop. I think it’s best to do this a few sheets at a time, then slip the chopstick out and into the loop with the paper, and slide the other hair-band loop through the other hole. Continue this until all the paper is on both loops.

Now you can chose to decorate the cover of your journal before putting it onto the hairband loops, or you can add the cover and then decorate the book. You will put the cover on the same way you put the paper onto each loop. However, once you get the cover through both loops you will then slide the chopstick through both loops to secure the binding. And, there you have it!

You may want to add extra security to your journal with a few drops of glue near the chopstick and hairband on either side, and even a few drops spread on the spine of the book can help.

Some other ideas for this type of book:
-use ribbon, rope, or hemp to secure the binding rather than a ponytail holder.
-paint the chopstick, or use part of a pencil or twig instead
-paint the cover rather than collage
-seal your cover’s collage or paint job with Modge-Podge or a clear finishing
-glue an envelope into the front of back cover so that you have a place to store any papers or ticket stubs you’d like to keep from your travels
-buy a small set of watercolor paints (one of those cheap plastic sets for kids that usually have about 3 colors and a paintbrush that’s about 2” long) to paint any unforgettable moments. (You could also get a small pack of crayons).
-glue a small flat mirror (usually available at craft stores) and/or a nail file to the back cover of your journal, “just in case.” Your travel journal can become more of a “Swiss Army Journal.”
-reinforce the covers with clear contact paper
-if you come up with any other awesome ideas, please share them with me!

Take it light and Happy Travels,