Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Mini Sketchbooklets Hit the Big Time

No, that's not my bag shown in the photo. If I had known they wanted to show the
sketchbooklets in a bag, I would have offered to send a photo of my beloved
Rickshaw Bagworks bag!
The instructions for making my pocket-sized sketchbooklets have been published in the Fall 2014 issue of Paper Art magazine! Here’s how the article begins:

As an urban sketcher, I never know where I will be when the urge to draw hits: running an errand, riding public transportation, or waiting between appointments. To prepare for those times, I wanted to have a small, lightweight sketchbook with me. I tried using premade pocket-sized notebooks, but most couldn’t hold up to wet media. I realized that if I wanted a wet-media sketchbooklet, I would have to make it myself.

Here are the steps for making them (the published article shortened the steps somewhat; appearing here are the director’s cut, unabridged edition):

  1. Note: The dimensions of my sketchbooklet were based on the 8 ½" x 11" cardstock I had on hand. If you are using paper or cardstock of a different size, you may want to change the dimensions of your booklet to avoid waste. Cut one sheet of cardstock, 8 ½" x 5 ½", to make the cover. Fold it in half to 4 ¼" x 5 ½".
  2. Decorate the cover as desired.
  3. Cut five sheets of sketching paper, 8" x 5 ¼" each. Fold each in half to 4" x 5 ¼".
  4. Optional: Use a corner rounder punch to round all corners on the sheets and cover. (Rounded corners are not purely esthetic; they also keep the sketchbooklet from becoming dog-eared and ragged.)
  5. Place one folded sheet of paper on a catalog, and open the folded sheet. Make three marks for holes along the crease about 1 ¼", 2 5/8" and 4" from one edge. (Tip: I never measure – I just eyeball it.) Using the awl, punch a hole at each mark.
  6. Use the paper you punched in the previous step as a template: Place the template sheet over one sheet, align the sheets carefully at the folds, and punch through the template holes to the sheet underneath. Repeat with each remaining sheet. (Tip: You can punch all the sheets at one time, but it’s harder to keep them aligned at the fold.)
  7. The cover is slightly larger than the pages. Align your template sheet over the cover at the folds so that the margin of exposed cover is the same on either side of the sheet (again, I just eyeball this rather than measure). Punch the cover holes.
  8. Stack all sheets together at the folds. Be sure to keep all the sheets in the same orientation as when you punched them so that the holes align. Place the cover around the sheets.
  9. Cut a 10" length of bookbinding thread, and thread the needle.
  10. From the inside of the stack, sew through the center hole of all sheets and the cover to the outside, and pull the thread until about 2" remain inside the book (you will tie this tail later).
  11. The needle is now outside the book cover. Sew into either of the remaining holes through the cover and all sheets. Pull until there’s no slack in the thread, and then sew back through the center hole from inside to outside. Pull the thread taut.
  12. The needle is now outside the book cover again. Sew into the last hole that has no thread in it yet. Pull taut. Tie a square knot with the thread and the tail you left in Step 10. Trim the threads.
The Fall 2014 issue of Paper Art magazine


  1. Congratulations on your feature article! It's true, however, your Rickshaw bag is unparalleled. I guess they'll just have to feature it in the next article. ��

  2. Don't you have problems holding/sketching with a book without a stiff cover? I've tried using one of the thin Moleskine books and it was just unworkable for me. What's the secret?

    I agree that most of the small commercial notebooks have very poor paper. I'm always searching for the right solution to the small sketchbook problem.

    Cheers --- Larry

    1. Larry, I usually fold the cover and pages backward, and then it's stiff enough to sketch on. I think it helps that the notebook is pocket size. . . if it were larger, folding it back might not be stiff enough.

  3. Congratulations on another article published! Thanks for the director's cut on the directions.

    Larry: if you like a hard cover, there is always the pocket watercolor Moleskine. The paper, though, is just "OK". Unfortunately, one of my favorite sketchbooks, the Stillman & BIrn Beta, doesn't come in a small size. They do have the Alpha in 4x6 in but that's lighter paper only suitable for "a light wash".

    There is currently a Kickstarter for "the Perfect Sketchbook" which is small but with good paper. It's getting close to the end and has not reached its goal

    1. Thanks, Kate! I had seen that "Perfect Sketchbook" on Kickstarter a while back, but I decided it was not perfect enough for me because it looked like it was available only in landscape format. I've tried using several small landscape-bound books, and I find them awkward to hold.

  4. Congratulations on the article! I remember your post about making the sketchbooks. I may give it a try. It is so frustrating to try and find a sketchbook with the right kind of paper.


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