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These handmade Temari Ball journals are kind of meta-handmade, because not only is the Chiyogami cover paper handmade in Japan, the colorful toy balls on the cover are also a depiction of a beautiful Japanese handicraft called Temari (手まり) Balls. Temari translates as “hand ball” and supposedly were sometimes used in games, but the idea of tossing them around seems outrageous. These stunning works of art are hand-wound with colorful thread in intricate patterns around a yarn (or nowadays styrofoam) core.

Temari Balls made by Judy Tepley

Do you see them now? I bet you thought they were beach balls, right? Now you know they’re insanely intricate hand-wound string balls:

I sew my journals using waxed Irish linen thread, which is essential if you want a coptic binding that isn’t all wiggly. There will still be a little bit of wiggle in a coptic binding, but way less than if you use unwaxed thread, or thread that you waxed yourself. You can find spools of 4 ply waxed Irish Linen thread on Amazon. Pricey but worth it. You can also find smaller quantities on Etsy.

Temari Balls handmade by Temari Twins

I totally want to learn this!! Looks like the artist above, Jen Weber, teaches Temari 101 classes at Red Stone Glen Fiber Arts Center in Pennsylvania. Who wants to sign up with me?? haha. I sincerely believe in my heart that there’s no such thing as too many hobbies! (good thing my husband agrees, one of our friends commented in awe, “your house has more specialized tools per square foot than anywhere I’ve ever seen”)

These journals can be found in my online etsy shop: Temari ball Journal

You can read more about it in this article Brightly Embroidered Temari Balls are a Kaleidoscope of Geometric Design.

I found some DIY temari ball kits on Amazon. (oh. my. goodness.)

Here’s a great you tube video I found on how to make  a “simple” temari ball. Wow. I can’t even.:

Oh also, of course there is a very adorable type of handmade sushi in Japan called Temari sushi that you can bring to your outdoor cherry blossom viewing picnic. Here’s a tutorial onhow to DIY your own temari sushi (I love the Internet):

Google helpfully translated the page for me:

“This idea was thought to be easy to find where people gather, so it is useful not only at the time of cherry blossom viewing but also at home parties, so please try it.”

Thanks for reading my post! If you love looking at handmade journals, visit my Instagram, and check out my Pinterest board Handmade Books + Journals (which as of this writing has 10,659 followers! I love Pinterest, so please feel free to pin any of my photos!). Sign up for my newsletter if you want to be the first to hear about new journals I’ve made:

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This post contains affiliate links, which means a small percentage of your sale goes back to me (there is no increased cost for you), and helps me support my site. And buy temari ball kits.

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This gorgeous crane paper is one of my new favorites! A big flock of white cranes flies across clear aquamarine sky, with golden swirling clouds. The aqua color perfectly compliments the other paper I used here, a vintage chiyogami pattern of golden clouds on a peach sunset sky. If you look closely you can also see a floral pattern underneath the clouds. I’m not sure if it is intentional or not (maybe this was a test sheet that they printed more than one design on?), but it adds a beautiful effect.

You can see if I have either of these available in my online shop here:

Blue Cranes and Golden Clouds Journals

I sew all of my coptic stitch journals with waxed irish linen thread – it’s essential for a tight binding, and is very durable. It’s not cheap, just to warn you, but you can find it on Amazon by the spool: Waxed Irish Linen Thread 4 Ply

Thanks for reading my post! If you love looking at handmade journals, visit my Instagram, and check out my Pinterest board Handmade Books + Journals (which as of this writing has 10,643 followers! I love Pinterest, so please feel free to pin any of my photos!). Sign up for my newsletter if you want to be the first to hear about new journals I’ve made:

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Don’t you just love how the cherry blossoms coordinate on the two pieces of paper I used on the covers of this “twin journal” ? If you use chiyogami or yuzen paper as often as I do, you start to see trends and themes emerge. (All of a sudden I just pictured someone talking about the “trends and themes” of balloon and cake imagery on American wrapping paper, hahaha!) Those beautiful jagged-edged blossoms with five petals are cherry blossoms, or “Sakura” in Japan.

Cherry blossoms are an important symbol of Japan, and Hanami is the traditional Japanese custom of flower viewing, dating back hundreds of years. Folks set out a picnic under the blossoms, picnics that can get quite crowded in the city! Detailed flower forecasts on the news tell people when the cherry blossoms are blooming best. Here in the USA we have something similar up North in autumn when the leaves change color – we call it “Leaf-peeping”.

Look at this beautiful image from 1894 by Japanese woodblock artist Toyohara Chikanobu of ladies going to a cherry blossom viewing:

I thought I’d share this amusing quote from the Hanami wikipedia entry:

The teasing proverb dumplings rather than flowers (花より団子 hana yori dango) hints at the real priorities for most cherry blossom viewers, meaning that people are more interested in the food and drinks accompanying a hanami party than actually viewing the flowers themselves.

We also have some beautiful waves – I suspect they reference the very famous woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (seen below via Wikipedia).

I imagine during the March-May cherry blossom season you can often see flowers floating on the water. The white dots of the dark blue paper reference an extremely detailed and painstaking stencil making technique called Kiribori Katagami, where tiny holes are cut with a chisel and hammer, (not poked through with an awl). If you want to know a bit more about Japanese stencil cutting, there’s a great Google Arts and Culture slideshow about Ise Katagami.

These papers are made with a modern photoemulsion screenprint technique, but the original patterns were most likely based on hand-carved persimmon paper stencils. You can watch a video on how the stencils were originally carved here.

I love how the sakura blossoms in both of these different types of paper were almost the exact same size. Also the blue ink used in the blue and white paper is the same as the dark blue ink on the waves paper. This is a pretty amazing coincidence about the colors matching since I bought the papers years apart. Maybe they came from the same workshop? Without further ado, here are some beautiful photos of the blue waves and cherry blossom journals I made – you can see if I have any left in my online shop here:

Twin Journals Handmade by Ruth Bleakley

Thanks for reading my post! If you love looking at handmade journals, visit my Instagram, and check out my Pinterest board Handmade Books + Journals (which as of this writing has 10,532 followers! I love Pinterest, so please feel free to pin any of my photos!). Sign up for my newsletter if you want to be the first to hear about new journals I’ve made:

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Feast your eyes on the rich, saturated colors of these beautiful lay-flat coptic stitch journals that I finished last week. In addition to Japanese Chiyogami paper, I also made a couple journals using some of my favorite new papers featuring hand marbled and hand stamped designs. While their patterns are totally opposite, something about the colors makes them a beautiful pair. One journal features mustard yellow handmade paper from Nepal, hand-printed with pink and gray flowers that remind me of Queen Anne’s Lace. The other journal features swirling handmade marbleized covers with paper made in Thailand. Each journal contains 160 pages and lays flat when open for easy writing or sketching.

The great thing about these blank journals is that they don’t have any lines, that way no matter how large or tiny you like to write, you can be accommodated – no more cramming two tiny rows of text in one line. Also, if you’re a visual person like me, you can add sketches to your journal entries with ease! You can skip writing altogether and do landscape style sketches all the way across the page spread. The versatility of blank pages wonderful. I use 100% recycled inner pages, too, and they’re thicker than standard paper so that your writing or drawings don’t show through.

If you’re interested in buying a journal from me, for yourself or as a gift, check out my handmade journal etsy shop, but be aware that my journals are often one of a kind or limited edition, so when they sell out, they’re gone forever! If you see one you like, be sure to get it, all journals you see in my shop are finished and ready to ship, and I even offer free gift boxes, so what are you waiting for?

Pink and Yellow Flowers Handmade Unlined Journal

Marbelized Handmade Unlined Journal

here’s some text about this book


Thanks for reading my post! If you love looking at handmade journals, check out my Pinterest board Handmade Books + Journals (which as of this writing has 10,511 followers! I love Pinterest, so please feel free to pin any of my photos!) and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter:

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Here are some of the beautiful journals I created using the skills I learned in two of the workshops I took in 2018 – Shibori Tie Dye workshop at Aya Fiber Studio in Stuart, Florida, taught by fiber artist Jane Callender and the Making Book Cloth Workshop in Asheville taught by bookbinder Sara Brooks. I love challenging myself to learn new things!

Each of the journals pictured here is covered in a paper-backed cloth that I created myself using detailed stitching patterns and indigo dye. The variations in blues that you see all come from the indigo, and the white is from where the fabric was bound tightly with thread and resisted the dye.

This post is mostly photos, I invite you to scroll through and enjoy! If you want to read more details about how I made the fabric, check out the workshop post I linked to above. You can see if I have any shibori journals for sale in my shop, but keep in mind that each piece of fabric is hand-dyed and one of a kind, so once I sell out of one, I probably won’t be able to reproduce it.

If you’re interested in learning how to make any of the indigo patterns shown below, check out Jane Callender’s book Stitched Shibori: Technique, innovation, pattern, design.

This one is my favorite, a beautiful stitched hexagon shape from Jane Callender’s book Stitched Shibori:

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This lovely blue waves french link journal combines two of my favorite things: fancy stitching and decorative paper! I combined four different types of decorative paper in this book, a blue and gold florentine pattern made in Italy, a blue waves pattern and white flower pattern both made in Japan (this pack of five chiyogami papers on Amazon is similar and very pretty), and a faux woodgrain pattern made in Nepal. It’s a global celebration of paper!

I stitched the book together on tapes (the blue bands you see) using French Link Stitch, a type of binding usually found on the insides of traditional hand bound books, but that is now revealed in a decorative fashion on the spine of this book.

It took me a little white to figure out how I wanted to lay out the papers on this book. I had fun mixing and matching combinations for the cover. I ultimately decided to have the paper with the gold ink at the top, similar to the sun. I place the waves in the middle as a dark blue contrast, so that from far away it would look like a blue stripe, and then the white and blue flowers at the bottom. The gold, blue and white also makes a sort of abstract landscape, like the flowers are growing on the “shore” of the beach.

I stitched the book together with a combination of French link stitches and regular straight stitches, and decided to enhance the text block by weaving in gold thread, which I found by unplying some gold and white baker’s twine that I had on hand for packaging up orders. I untwisted the white and gold twine and used just the gold parts, weaving it over and under the white waxed linen thread binding. The end result is a gorgeous, shimmering gold and blue journal that I’m really proud of! You can see if I have any available here, but I make pretty limited editions of my journals, so it may have sold out:

Blue Waves Florentine French Link Journal For Sale

Journals are great gifts for the writers in your life, the English majors, the artists who would like to sketch inside the unlined pages, or anyone who is going through a new phase in life: new moms, recent graduates, empty nesters, friends who are moving, folks who are grieving… You can see all of  my handmade books for sale here: Ruth Bleakley’s journals for sale on etsy.


Thanks for reading my post! If you love looking at handmade journals, check out my Pinterest board Handmade Books + Journals (which as of this writing has 10,304 followers! I love Pinterest, so please feel free to pin any of my photos!) and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter:

Do you like reading posts like this? Stay in the loop! Sign up for Ruth’s email newsletter:
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this post contains affiliate links

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One of my favorite things about living in Florida is how bright and colorful everything is. No one blinks twice at an aqua or coral colored house, or my crazy purple hair. It’s interesting then, that one of my all time favorite bookbinding materials is this super colorful and vibrant Japanese Chiyogami paper since having over the top and colorful hair or flashy clothing isn’t really something that people do in Japan. I had folks literally walk around the store aisle twice so they could see my hair, haha.

This bright and colorful Chiyogami paper  (also sometimes called Yuzen Washi) is based off of gorgeous colorful silk kimono patterns, and was originally developed as paper gift wrap for the royal court during the Edo period. Each sheet is hand-printed using silkscreen techniques, and often incorporates shimmering gold ink. It feels and looks luxurious and I bought SO MUCH of it when I visited Tokyo last year that the airline attendants thought I had bought a carpet.

Did someone say “business expense”? hahaha.

Recently I’ve been going through my collection  with an eye out for pattern combinations – when I was describing this project to my friend Rachel, she said, “That’s funny, I’ve been trying to do that more with my clothes – be adventurous but not look like patterns puked on me”. Hahaha – well I’m no pattern-combining expert, but here are some tips.

How to Successfully Combine Patterns

1. Look for one (or several) colors in common between the two patterns

2. Try to mix large and small pattern elements 

  1. 3. Choose colors that are opposites on the color wheel (like orange and blue or purple and yellow) or colors that are right next to each other (like red and orange, or green and blue)

Don’t know what a color wheel is? It’s a handy circle that shows all of the colors that’s used by artists and designers to mix paint and see nice combinations of color. It works like magic! There is a dial in the middle that you turn and it changes the “mix” colors shown below each of the main colors. I ordered one because I’m taking a watercolor class and I think it really helps take some of the mystery out of color mixing.

Let’s see how I mixed patterns in these books – I call them “Twin Journals” because they are the inverse pattern of one another. My friend Ellen suggested that they look envelopes when they’re closed – envelopes containing letters to yourself! I love that visual. When They are displayed open, the triangles form a diamond shape around the spine. They would be a fun gift for your best friend, for someone who is moving away, maybe a mother-daughter gift, or perhaps for your long distance love. Each of you would have the matching version of the other’s book!

On this colorful pair of journals I’ve combined red-orange and blue-green colors (opposites on the color wheel) as well as purple and gold (also opposites) and we have a narrow stripe pattern combined with a round pattern, so that adds some visual interest because the two shapes contrast. What you can’t really see in the photos is that all of the gold ink on the aqua paper shimmers in the light! You can see if either of these is available in my online shop here:

Aqua and Orange Twin Journals for sale here

Moving on to this lovely blue dots and orange florals combination:


On this floral and blue dot combination I chose complimentary colors (orange and blue) and chose one large pattern (the flowers) and one small pattern (the white dots on the blue paper). I also chose a  blue colored paper that was similar in tone to one of the blue flower colors.

Floral and Blue Dot Journals for sale here

Goldfish and Waves Journals for sale here

These goldfish and waves journals use complimentary orange and blue colors as well as thematic similarity to pull two patterns together – waves and fish! It’s like you’re looking into the water and spotting the fish under the waves. The dots of the fish and the lines of the waves also compliment each other because they have contrasting shapes. The color that ties the two books together is the color blue – light on the fish side and dark on the waves side. This breed of goldfish (“kingyo” in Japanese) is called Tamasaba and is the result of hundreds of years of selective breeding – I always thought these were called “koi” but those are a much larger, different species. The blue pan is how they are shown for sale, and it’s also the background color for this popular goldfish paper! There is a huge collector’s market for these fish, some of them fetching hundreds of dollars at auction. They can live from 6-20 years and grow to be the size of a baseball!

Last we have these fun gold and red cat journals – I don’t speak Japanese so I’m not sure what they say, if you do, please leave a comment! I think they say things like “having fun at the festival!” like postcards. For this pattern matching I did gold and white paper with a simple pattern to complement the busy gold and white pattern on the cat paper. I pulled the red color out with the stitching in waxed linen thread. I love how sparkly these are in real life!

Gold and White Cat Journals for sale here

If you REALLY want to improve your pattern-matching skills, or just want to keep your brain sharp, try this pattern-matching card game called “Set”. I really like it, and I hate games! (one of my friends asked me, “do you like board games?” and I replied “well I’ve been bored by games…” haha) The neat thing is that everyone plays at the same time, and whoever picks up the most sets of three cards that match wins. My friend Blair is a master at this game, she will just clean the floor with you. Don’t play against anyone named Blair. Anyway, you get better at pattern recognition the more you play and it also doesn’t take up much space so it’s great to take along on a trip.

 
Thanks for reading my post! If you love looking at handmade journals, check out my Pinterest board Handmade Books + Journals (which as of this writing has 10,301 followers! I love Pinterest, so please feel free to pin any of my photos!) and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter:

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I created these wonderful laser-engraved journals featuring a fearsome grizzly bear and Wiley coyote almost exclusively from recycled materials. The covers are 100% recycled book board, and the inside unlined pages are 100% recycled. The only thing that isn’t recycled is the waxed linen thread that I used to stitch them together, but even that is a natural material made from the flax plant, so you could even quickly compost your journal if you shredded it up finely enough. Not that I recommend that.

If you avoid burying it in the ground to enhance your soil, this journal should last many, if not hundreds, of years because the traditional style of binding I used doesn’t involve any adhesives, which are often the first thing to brittle with age (I’m talking 100+ years). This style of binding is called “Coptic stitch” and is named after the ancient Christians in Egypt who used the same braided-spine techniques to bind their biblical manuscripts, some of which still survive today!

This style of binding is remarkable because it is not only beautifully decorative, it also allows the journal or book to lie open completely flat which makes it easy to write in.

I created these particular journals with my laser cutting machine, please check out the video below – if you want to read more, please see my post about laser-engraved watercolor sketchbooks:

I sold my very first bear journal to a woman named Marie who lives in France! What an honor to have my book travel halfway around the world to become a part of someone’s home there. Isn’t the internet amazing?

If you’d like to purchase a bear or coyote journal, please visit my online shop by clicking the links below – I create my journals in pretty limited editions so if you see one you like, don’t wait until it’s sold out!:

Handmade Bear Journal

Handmade Coyote Journal

Thanks for reading my post! If you love looking at handmade journals, check out my Pinterest board Handmade Books + Journals (which as of this writing has 10,298 followers! I love Pinterest, so please feel free to pin any of my photos!) and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter:

Do you like reading posts like this? Stay in the loop! Sign up for Ruth’s email newsletter:
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this post contains affiliate links

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They’re back! In 2015 I had the privilege of having my handmade journals included in Charlotte River’s book Little Book of Book Making: Timeless Techniques and Fresh Ideas for Beautiful Handmade Books.
Doubly cool was that one of my journals was featured prominently on the cover of the Spanish-language edition called Cómo hacer tus propios libros: Nuevas ideas y técnicas tradicionales para la creación artesanal de libros. Yep, that’s me on the cover! I made that red and purple striped Washi tape book in 2012 or so using tape that my Japanese friend Yuri mailed to me in exchange for one of my journals! Also, if you’re wondering how I got featured in this book, I am not exactly sure! Charlotte contacted me directly via email, saying she’d seen my work online. Keep in mind I’ve been blogging intermittently since 2007…so keep blogging & Pinning!

The funny thing was, even though this book was on the cover, and sold on Etsy (to someone in Sweden!) I didn’t make another journal with that unique ladder back stitching afterward, not for years! Last month I had a few text blocks where I accidentally made the wrong number of holes, and I was wondering what to do with them when it occurred to me that I could try my hand at those Coptic/Ladder Back journals again!The learning process was a little steep but through trial and error I remembered the correct way, and took notes this time. Basically, it’s a single-needle coptic stitch combined with a buttonhole stitch. You can find instructions for both in Keith Smith’s book Non Adhesive Bindings Vol. 1 . If you are serious about wanting to improve your bookbinding and you don’t have this book you MUST get it, I would consider it required reading! It’s thick, almost like a Bible, and packed with great stitches like Caterpillar, Single Needle Coptic, Longstitch (all those leather travel journals that you’ve been admiring on Pinterest) and buttonhole stitch. Very text-heavy but it has some great diagrams, especially of stitch patterns, which anyone trying to make a tutorial knows are really hard to draw!

So onto the books: As some of you might know, I have a bit of a Washi Tape obsession. “Washi” means “paper” in Japanese, so it’s basically decorative masking tape. When I had the chance to go to Japan in 2016, my passion was only inflamed by the sight of hundreds of rolls of MT (the brand of Japanese masking tape that’s the best – you can find MT tape on Amazon and Etsy fairly easily – just try to find the real version and not a knockoff). My only regret is that I didn’t buy more…MORE! But I digress. Now I have to figure out ways to use the masking tape before it gets really old and doesn’t stick anymore! I often use it as plastic-free packaging for my stationery business. (see my blog post “Using Washi Tape instead of Packing Tape“)

One popular way to use washi tape is to make a collage by putting several of your favorites together (check out this adorable blog post “Washi Tape your Pencils and Notebooks” by blogger Lia Griffith). That’s what I did on these journals, laying my favorite combinations of tape side by side into geometric patterns. After taping, I sealed with several coats of artist-grade Liquitex acrylic varnish. It’s expensive but worth it because it doesn’t get sticky in humidity the way that Mod Podge does, but if you live in a dry place (meaning…NOT Florida haha) then Mod Podge would probably also work fine. After sealing the covers I allowed them to dry completely, added sewing holes and stitched them together!

These washi tape journals are available for sale, they make a great gift for the planner-obsessed writer in your life (most people who do daily or weekly planners like to decorate them with washi tape). You can see what I have available in my etsy shop here – but these are one of a kind and I usually don’t remake the patterns, so if you like one, grab it while you can:

Washi Tape Journals For Sale

Scroll on for lots more photos of these handmade journals:

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