Life Documented-Handmade Journal Tutorial by Suz

Hi all!  When I told you I would do this post in the middle of the week, I realized it IS the middle of the week.  :D

So I got it done but it's not fancy.

My first encounter with mixed media and cardboard food boxes came when I found Jennibellie online.  She was the first one I ever saw recycle everything in her path.  I love this woman so much.  She is very generous of her time and knowledge.  She has a ning site which is free to join.

If you keep all your discarded cardboard like me you should have something that will work for this.  I chose a cracker box that is a little bigger than my paper.  For the paper I use old files and mistakes I've made on printing things out on copy paper so they are 8.5 x 11.00 inches.  You can use any size you like.  I just find there is an abundance of this size paper in my stash.  You can also cut your box down more if you want.  Make this a size that is good for you. 

Cut the ends off your box.  The ones that were folded in on each end then cut the side opposite of the spine, off.  If you want to leave a flap on your journal just cut down one side or the other and don't cut it out.  Either edge.  Whichever you want.    

I usually pick a box that will have a spine width of 2 to 3 inches.  If you make it a little bigger like this you can get three or four months worth of calendar in here if you have a tendency to want to stuff it full like me.

Open your box up and start slapping some collage down.  It doesn't matter what you use.  I do this as the boxes are usually shiny and smooth and don't take paint well unless you do this step.  I had some magazine pages I had used part of so I used the rest of them.  I used watered down PVA glue but Mod Podge or Gel Medium or about any glue will do.  

After you get your collage down, fold the box and stand it on end spine up so that you can be sure the edges of your spine are smooth.  Let this dry for awhile.  Just so you can touch it and lay it down without it sticking.  

Gesso inside and out.  I don't usually collage the inside, just use gesso.

If you want to leave some of your collage showing or have used nicer paper go lighter on the gesso.  I use a disposable brush, but I clean it good and it has lasted me a long time.  

I made my own gelli plate several years ago and I have cut off the end of it and painted it and pressed it into my cardboard, over the gesso to give it a gelli plated look.  You can even press the whole surface of the cardboard into a gelli plate, Just have fun and give it a coat of color.  You can go back and make marks and stencil later or now if you want.  I'm always too excited to work on the inside to mess around much with the outside.  I got the recipe for my gelli plate from The Frugal Crafter.  The recipe that is in the drop down under her video.  She tried several things.  

I used what paint was left on my brush and brushed it over the inside.  I usually adhere an envelope to the front or back or both that is almost the size of the inside box cover to add receipts and things in so I don't worry about making it look pretty.  My last one I covered with scrapbook paper on the inside so do that now if you want to do that.

Let that dry really well then gather up your papers.  I use 15 to 17 sheets of scrap paper.  At this time if you want to add any bits and odd sizes so you can stick them in as well.  Each of these groups of paper is called a signature.  

The reason I am drawn to this style so much is because it lays pretty flat for the most part to work in until it starts getting really full.  Get you some twine or something that has some strength.  Cording, or even ripped ribbon would work.  You could tie each signature in individually or just wrap your twine around and around all the signatures.  I liked this technique because I could loosen the twine enough to take out papers to sew on. 

When you start, leave yourself enough tail to tie it all together at the end.  I leave about a spine and a half length or more if you think you might want to add another signature later.  Pull your string under and up through the middle and back down the spine and slide your next signature in and bring the string back up again through the middle, just wrapping your signatures into the spine.

When you get them wrapped in then pull everything snug.  It doesn't have to be super tight.  Cross your twine under all three pieces of twine that are there and just tie it.  It doesn't have to be a knot if you add a button.  I add a button threading the twine through the holes and tie a bow on top of the button to keep it from coming loose.  It's also easier to undo if you want to loosen your twine at a later time.  

And there you have it.  Sometimes I sew a button on the front with an elastic for a closure, attached to the inside back.  Mostly I go to the dollar store and buy dollar headbands and slip them around the whole book.  

I hope you like this.  It's a lot of fun to work on.  Last year I used collage and gesso on every sheet of paper before I put it into the signatures.  If I did it again I would just collage and gesso as I go.  You may want to do this as it reinforces your pages but if you use scrapbook paper or a heavier paper like construction paper you wouldn't need to do any reinforcing.  I just feel like I used a bunch of stuff that would contribute to a landfill and it's cute too.  Go me!  


  1. This is very good. Surprisingly we buy very little in Boxes but we get enough in the mail to find something. When I started DLP I bought a case of binders from Guided products, there are 4 left. I plan to use them next year. You covered the cover with collage, where do you find magazines that are not shiny?
    Ah well, need to get on with everything.

    1. I used some shiny pages Monica but I had a couple of Real Simple magazines and their pages are not shiny.


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