Project Poetry Journal


My recent obsession with black out poetry inspired a return to my old hobby of creating handmade journals, (See Project Art Journal and Project Spirit Journal).  After creating more than 50 black out poems, I realized I needed a better place to store them than a plastic sheet protector. It’s tough to enjoy them when they are stacked in a pile and shoved inside a pocket!

A quick search on bookbinding offered a number of choices, but one really jumped out at me – The Coptic Stitch. This stitch works great for thicker journals and it allows the journal to open flat at any given point. However, my favorite part is the ease of attaching a hard cover.

Thus, Project Poetry Journal began! Before I knew it I had a beautiful book full of black out poetry:


Front Cover

Here’s how I did it:


  • cardboard
  • printed paper
  • card stock
  • brown paper sack
  • alphabet stickers
  • assorted ephemera
  • paper piercer
  • glue stick
  • double sided tape
  • thick thread
  • scissors
  • needle

The Cover:

I cut two pieces of cardboard to size and then wrapped them in a brown paper bag to create a smooth finish. Brown paper lunch sacks are the best for this process because the paper is thin and pliable once slathered with a glue stick. It’s almost like fabric and it doesn’t take much to create a wrinkle free finish.


A smooth paper bag finish softens the edges and corners.

For the front cover, I layered a piece of printed paper that looked like an old newspaper. For the title I applied alphabet stickers that blended in nicely with the background. The letters look like they are part of the newspaper, but they jump out at the same time. To add some strength to the binding, I added a thin strip of decorative card stock to the edge.

On the inside covers, I used a brown paper sack covered in antique advertisement graphics. This served to hide the initial cover flaps and folds, while also giving the interior a little personality.  Once again, a glue stick made the paper pliable and easy to smooth out.


Inside front cover


Inside back cover

The Pages:

To keep my black out poems from crumbling, (I used a 1940 falling-apart novel to create my blackout poetry, so the pages are very fragile!), I decided to use card stock for the pages of my journal.  After cutting the sheets to the correct size, I created five signatures consisting of five pages folded in half. I used a bone folder to create a strong crease so the signatures would lie relatively flat when stacked.

I didn’t trim the edges in order to create a deckled edge. I like this edging because it creates a more rustic feel and it makes turning the pages a little easier.


Deckled edge pages


I punched six evenly spaced holes along the center fold of each signature using a paper piercer. The process can be a little slow, but it’s worth taking the time to make sure the holes line up perfectly. I created a template and simply laid it over each folded sheet and put my paper piercer through the template and the page beneath at the same time.

Using the same paper hole template, I pierced six holes along the sides of the front and back covers. The holes are a little more than a .25″ from the edge.

With my signatures and covers hole-punched, it was time to stitch. To guide me in the process of sewing a Coptic Stitch, I found a great tutorial on youtube.

It took a few tries, but I eventually got the hang of it! The result is beautiful binding that holds everything together.


Coptic Stitch Binding

The Content:

Once my book was bound, I could fill the pages with content. First, I created a title page to pay homage to the source material of my black out poetry. I cut apart the title page of the original novel and attached it to a discarded library book pocket. In addition, I added my author credit to a discarded library due date card, along with a symbol associated with my source material. The use of discarded library materials is a nod to the idea of found art and upcycling.


Upcycled title page


Inside the pocket

From there, I added the poems. Due to the fragile nature of the poetry pages, I used double stick tape instead of a glue stick. I made sure the tape was very close to the edges so no part of the paper could lift off the card stock when pages are turned.


Black out poetry affixed to a page

I had so much fun with this project, another poetry journal is already in the works to house the haikus I wrote for the 2014 November PAD Chapbook Challenge.

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Special Note: Three poems from this book have been posted, (See Black Out Poetry) and I will continue to post more. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2015


Project Chapbook


In December of 2013, I found myself in the middle of two challenges. First, I was tasked with editing and organizing twenty poems into a chapbook manuscript.  The next phase of the Writer’s Digest 2013 November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge  involved submitting a manuscript and I didn’t want to miss the deadline. Second, Christmas was a week away and I couldn’t decide what to give a good friend of mine. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, yet I wanted to give him something special.

It turns out the first challenge helped solve the second challenge. With a completed (and submitted) manuscript, I realized I could turn my work of art into a one-of-kind gift. Thanks to a new bookbinding technique I learned last summer, it was a snap to turn my chapbook manuscript into a handmade book.


Front Cover of “Finding Gravity”

I made the cover using standard card stock in navy blue. The cover design was made using only one layer of a contrasting color and two black and white embellishment pieces. The title, along with the poetry pages was printed from my computer.

Inside the front cover, I included a decorative page that continues the black and white pattern theme.


A decorative page gives this book a little personality.

The poetry pages were a unique challenge in that I had to make sure each poem was placed in the same place on every page, no matter the length or width. Through a little trial and error, I figured out the margins. Then, I measured each page to be a hair smaller than the cover. This was the tricky part because it’s incredibly important for the pages of a book to fit inside the cover and stack evenly. A lot of patience and a paper slicer made it possible to cut out each poem page with spot on precision.


A beautiful page of poetry!

To bind the book together, I used a Japanese side stitch bookbinding technique. A simple tutorial for hole-punching and stitch order can be found here. Once I had the holes punched, I stitched my book together using thick beading thread. I coated the thread in beeswax to give it more strength and to make it stick in place as I sewed the book together.


Japanese side stitch binding.

Before I knew it, I had a handmade poetry chapbook! My friend got a unique gift and I got to live the dream of seeing my poetry in the form of an actual book. As nice as it would be to see my chapbook published, I wouldn’t mind making another handmade version of Finding Gravity for myself.

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c.b.w. 2014

Project Art Journal


A few years ago, my aunt taught me how to make an art journal out of brown paper bags.  She is an incredibly artistic person who always inspires me to be creative and try new things.  I’ve made more than a few paper bag journals since, but one stands out as my favorite – an art journal dedicated to travel quotations.

I thought it might be fun to share the process of the project from start to finish.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some of my favorite pages and techniques.  I am by no means an expert, but  I do enjoy creating and inspiring others to do the same.

The construction of the book is pretty simple and only requires a few supplies.

  • 4 brown paper bags
  • Paper piercer (or an ice pick)
  • cotton string (DMC Pearl Cotton is my favorite)
  • needle (a large embroidery or crewel needle works well)

Step 1: Gather four brown bags and fold them in half.  Stack them so that the open (top) and closed (bottom) ends alternate.  When the book is complete, the open ends double as pages and pockets.

Step 2: Poke five evenly spaced holes on the fold line.

Step 3: Thread needle with thread and stitch in the following pattern:
Down through #1 and leave a long tail of thread.  Either tack it in place or hold it with your thumb.

Up through #2 and down through #3


Back up through #2 and down again through #1.  Hold onto that tail!

Up through #4 and down through #5


Back up through #4

Grab the tail coming out of #1 and the tail coming out of #4 and tie them together with a good knot.

All done!  You’ve got a hand-stitched book!

Usually, I save the cover for last, but the idea came so quickly I had to act!  The cover is constructed in three layers of paper collage and embellishments.

Layer 1: I cut out a square of black card stock so I could mount a collage of postage stamps from around the world. Most craft and hobby stores sell bulk bags of stamps for around $6.00.  To add some sheen, I used some gold nail polish to paint a thin coat over a few of the stamps.  It’s a subtle touch that gives the stamps a little ooomph.

Layer 2:  I took some gold thread and wrapped it around the entire square at a variety of angles.  I didn’t plan the route of any thread, I just let them land where they may.  At multiple points, I taped the thread down on the back to keep it secured in place.

Layer 3: I added three textured fibers along the left side.  Each strand has a charm, bead,  and a word tag at different intervals.  I created the word tags with a set of alphabet stamps, ink pad, and eyelets.  To give the tags a distressed look, I ripped the edges, crumbled the paper and ran a translucent brown ink pad over the top.  After the creating is done, all it takes is a few strips of double-stick tape to attach the collage to the cover of the book.
Note: The postal string on the right is simply a tie down so I could get a good photograph.

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Pages and layout ideas are on the horizon.  Stay tuned and stay inspired!

Want more creative inspiration?  Visit  Salmagundi Arts,  a fantastic blog about bookbinding, knitting, making handmade soap, and other amazing craft projects.

c.b. 2011