Binding up a Year

Journal_ threading strips through spine

My annual journal follows its own idiosyncratic year, not the calendar. But each journal is more or less a year. Last year I had prepared the signatures, but due to a dramatic reversal in my life I was not able to bind them right away. Instead I filled one section at a time. This spring I decided it was time to bind the year, both pages and events.

Journal_dos a dos from above

I’ve been exploring the dos-a-dos format (French for “back to back”), so I decided to also bind the journal this way. I discovered a few different orientations to bind two books into one, using a common back cover. Since the journal was sequential I chose that flow, rather than flipping over and beginning again from the other front cover to end at a common middle. If this sounds confusing, it is, and my mind was bending around the possibilities. In a sense, the binding represents an “about-face.”

Journal_first workspace

For the cover paper, I painted some heavy paper, one side yellow and the other purple, for the bright and dark halves of the year. At the start, my work area was neatly organized.

Journal_piercing holes

After piercing the holes in the signatures, using a sewing cradle, I stabilized each signature with clips so the holes would stay lined up.

Journal_signatures clips

When I unclipped them to be sewn, I put T-pins through each piercing to keep the holes aligned.


I have a long habit of recording my dreams upside down in a journal so I can find them. This year I’ve been writing every which way on the page. When I pick up the book now, I momentarily cannot tell which way is up.

My work table during the process of binding the text block became more cluttered. At top is a mockup of a dos-a-dos binding.

Journal_sewing workspace

I stacked and stitched the signatures onto the paper strips, watching my scattered thoughts coalesce into a more complete form.

Journal_sewing signatures

Preparing to attach the cover, another set of tools came into the work space.

Journal_cover tools

Cutting the slots on the cover paper was made easier by a sharp blade and a good awl.

Journal_inside cover

I used the sewing strips to weave the cover paper onto the text blocks. For a closure, I reversed the middle strip’s direction to wrap around each half of the book. The paper strips would not hold up for a year’s opening and closing, but for archiving they serve just fine.

Journal_purple cover

Having kept journals off and on since I was a teenager, I sometimes second guess myself. Why journal? Joan Didion explained, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” She described keeping a notebook as a place to catch “bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.”

Journal Fragile

My journals have sometimes been incubators for ideas which have found their way into book art. I used to collect quotes in them, and sometimes still do, for it is pleasurable to write them out by hand. I may record bits of body wisdom or travails. The journal is my altar and my memory.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Jane Brenner 06/02/2015, 5:22 pm

    Thanks, Cari, for showing this process. Hope to see your work at Kalligraphia 14.

  • Jacqueline 06/02/2015, 10:57 pm

    Your work is an inspiration…thank you

  • Anne 06/03/2015, 7:58 am

    Exquisite and lovely at the same time — the pages breathe! Thank you for your continuing inspiration, dear Cari! What a great gift you are.

  • prano 06/03/2015, 8:55 am

    Nice to hear you are moving on to a new year. Hugs!

  • Susan 06/03/2015, 9:33 am

    I really enjoy your writing Cari. I was at a meeting and heard that someone labeled a box, “bits of string to short to keep”. So I enjoyed your use of, “bits of the mind’s string too short to use”.

  • Ruth Temple 06/03/2015, 2:06 pm

    Thank you for showing the process and your thoughts around binding – and keeping – your journal, dear heart.
    I like the dos-a-dos form, and the split of light and dark sides of the wheel of the year.

  • Jolee 06/03/2015, 8:51 pm

    Such beautiful artistry.

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