How to make your own simple and beautiful writing journals

I have a confession to make. I am a sort of paper arts wannabe. Ever since Anna-Marie (my blog-mom, by the way), showed me how to make my very first handmade book, we have been making different sorts of journals in our homeschool. This is one of my favorite ones because it is pretty quick to make and it turns out quite elegant with the hand stitched binding.

How to make your own writing journal

What I am going to share with you today is actually a simple form of a traditional Japanese binding technique. Traditionally, it is known as Yatsume Toji, which translates roughly as “four holes.” Doesn’t that sound much cooler and way more intelligent than “four-hole stab binding?”

To get started, assemble your materials. I used a sheet of the large scrapbook paper because we are making larger journals, but the postcard sized paper works really well, too. I pick these up when I find them in a clearance bin and have probably amassed a lifetime supply.

supply list for handmade writing journal

Now, I actually bought myself a Japanese book drill. I count it as one of my most favorite school supplies because it allows me to make holes in any piece of paper without regard to how close to the edge it is. I can punch a hole in the middle of a poster to attach a season’s wheel, I can attach lapbook elements right in the middle of the page, and I can make perfectly sized holes along the edge of a paper to bind them together into a simple journal.

You can definitely get away with using a hole punch for this project. You could then use ribbon to bind it with so the holes don’t seem quite so big.

After you fold and cut your paper down to the size you want, you need to make a template. Measure it off so you can make four evenly spaced holes. This will ensure that all of your holes will line up after you are finished punching holes in all the pages. Go ahead and number the holes 1 -4, starting from the right. I honestly don’t know if that is a Japanese thing or a this-is-just-the-way-the-person-who-taught-me did it thing.

Japanese stab binding template

Next, punch the holes through the cover and the papers. If you are really smart, you will remember to center the template rather than line it up with the edge of the paper. Otherwise, you will realize part way through punching the holes that they are all off because the cover is slightly larger than the papers. Oops.

homemade writing journal

Then, it is time to start stitching. There are a number of patterns you can follow to achieve different designs. I like this one because it is simple and I like the look of it when it is done. Start by pulling your twine up through hole 2.

Japanese stab binding step 1

Bring the twine around the spine and up through hole 2 again.

Japanese stab binding step 2

Pull it down through hole 1.

Japanese stab binding step 3

Then wrap it around the spine and down through hole 1 again. Bring it around the bottom edge of the book and pull it down through hole 1.

Japanese stab binding step 4

Weave it up through hole two and down through hole 3.

Japanese stab binding step 5

Pull it up through hole 4 and wrap it around the edge of the spine and pull it up through 4 again.

stab binding step 6

Wrap the twine around the top edge of the book and pull it back up through hole 4 and then back down through hole 3.

stab binding step 7

Turn the book over and finish it off with a nice knot. You can use a spot of glue to hold it firm so you can cut the tails off if you like. I generally leave the tails and tie a small loop so the books can be hung on a hook.

stab binding step 8

And that’s it! Your very own handmade writing journal. Simple, beautiful and it is just calling out for someone to write in it.

finished writing journal

I use these primarily for poetry journals because each page is perfect for a short poem and a little sketch. We sometimes make them to bring on field trips and use them like small scrapbooks.If it is worth writing, it is worth making it beautiful!

And somehow, just having a cute journal they made themselves inspires my children to fill it up!

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