Tearing Watercolor Paper for My Handmade Journal

Making the Signatures

This is the third post in this series of making my own journal.  This week I will show how I tore down watercolor paper to make the signatures for my journal.

Finished Signatures
© Annie Glacken

If you missed the two previous posts of this series, click for part one: Painting Paper for Journal Covers and part two: Making Covers for My Journal,  

Before tearing down the watercolor paper, I needed to determine which side of the paper ran with the grain.  The reason this is important is because you want the fold of the signatures to be smooth and not cracked. Roz Stendahl has a great post on how to determine grain direction here.

For this journal I decided to use Lanaquarelle.  This is a long grain paper as the grain runs along the long side (30″) of the paper.  On short grain paper, the grain runs along the short side (22″) of the paper.

Next, I made a guide to follow when tearing my paper.  This is a very important tool to use so you don’t “lose your place” when tearing the paper.

Below is my guide.  By following this guide, I would have 6″ of waste along the long edge of the paper.  (I ended up cutting this strip into 6″ x  9″ pieces for paintings that would fit an 11″ x 14″ frame.)  My signatures would end up 8″ x 10″ when folded.

Tearing Guide for Long Grain
© Annie Glacken

I wanted the paper edges for this journal to be deckled.  In order to achieve this, I had to tear the paper using a bone folder.  I learned how to do this by watching this video by Roz Stendahl.

First, I marked a line on the short side of the paper up 6″ from the bottom.  I curled the paper to that line, creased it using the bone folder, and then tore off the long strip of paper.

Creasing 6″ up along 30″ Side
© Annie Glacken

Tearing along 30″ side
© Annie Glacken

Next, I made a tick mark on the long side of the paper every 10″.  I curled the first ten inches over and creased with the bone folder and then tore it.

Creasing a 10″ x 16″ Section
© Annie Glacken

Tearing A 10″ x 16″ Section
© Annie Glacken

I repeated this step two more times with the other 10″ marks on the page.  This gave me three pieces that measured 10″ high x 16″ wide.

Next, I curled these 10″ x 16″ pieces in half widthwise and creased with the bone folder.

© Annie Glacken

Creasing Last Fold
© Annie Glacken

Fold in Half
© Annie Glacken

This finished piece measured 10″ high by 8″ wide when folded and has a pretty deckled edge on the three open sides.

Final Fold
© Annie Glacken

Since watercolor paper is thicker than other paper, I used two folded pieces per signature–placing one inside the other.

Two Folded Pieces in Signature
© Annie Glacken

For this journal, I needed eight signatures.  Here is a photo of the signatures stacked up.  I placed some heavy books on this stack overnight to allow the pages to relax and nestle into one another before sewing them together.

Signatures Ready to be Weighted
© Annie Glacken

Finished Signatures
© Annie Glacken

My next post will show how I sewed the journal together using French Link and kettle stitches.

These tutorials are for your personal use only. Thank you so much!





17 Replies to “Tearing Watercolor Paper for My Handmade Journal”

  1. Thanks for telling us your experience. Really beautiful ! I saw the video some years ago and began a watercolor journal but I didn’t like the way I ‘ve done it because of too much sheets in each signature. You are right, just 2 are enough. Instead of finish it, I made an other one by folding a full sheet of watercolor paper like Cathy Johnson shows in this video.
    I like it a lot because I can use it two ways (upside down) and some sheets are double hight ( I hope I’m clear) so I can paint bigger landscapes for example. I’ll follow your tips and begin another sketchbook, I like the edges ;))

    • Laurence, thank you very much for sharing the link for Cathy’s folded journal. I had seen that video several years ago but forgot so I am glad you brought it to my attention. I learned the hard way about not using more than two pieces of watercolor paper in a signature. I had to take my coptic stitch journal apart and then sew it again using only two sheets. Here is that journal: https://www.annieglacken.com/making-my-coptic-stitch-sketchbook-journal/ However, I have since learned that I should put a kettle stitch 1/4″ from the top and bottom in order to make it more stable. So I will be taking it apart a second time and resewing with a kettle. I would love to see a photo of your journal when it is finished. Thank you for always being a faithful reader and for commenting each week. I appreciate it.

      • You are welcome. By the way, I’m sorry to don’t understand the term “kettle stitch”, I can’t find it anywhere. I think it’s a special point you will explain next time? Your coptic sketchbook is very pretty and looks “professional” but so personal also. My sketchbook has some paintings, doodles, etc.. but not finished. I’ll try to take a pic for you. Good evening !

        • Yes Laurence, I will be showing the “kettle stitch” in my next post. By the way, be sure to use the contact link at the top of my blog page when you want to send the photo of your journal. That way I can let you know where to send it!

  2. This is a clear and informative step-by-step, Annie. I ran into the same problem as you and Laurence the first time I made a journal using watercolor paper and learned the hard way not to use more than two sheets per signature. But it was a valuable lesson to learn, and I’ll never make that mistake again!

    • Hi Susan! Yes, you only need to do that one time and then you won’t do it again! I am glad the directions are clear. Sometimes it can be difficult to think of the best way to describe a process. Thank you also for your comment! I appreciate it!

      • I’ve made my own journals from full sheets Lanaquarelle paper using just folds and two cuts so I’ll be awaiting your instructions how to stitch!

        • Agnes, this was the first time I used Lanaquarelle for my journals. I actually tried a couple paintings on some leftover 6″ x 9″ pieces and I was thrilled with how it performed for landscapes. I may do a post on that in a few weeks. Thanks for you comment.

    • Rosemary, I am glad you liked the post and do hope this series of four posts on making your own journal will proove helpful to you. This blog is one way I try to “pay it forward!” Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. Were you using a sheet of wc paper that had straight (not deckled) edges on all four sides to start Did you have to tear off a small piece on the one long side and the two short sides to get a deckle on all four sides

    • Hi Sandi! I was using Lanaquarelle. I first tore off a 6″ piece off of the long side at the bottom. This left me with a sheet of 16″ x 30″. I then tore that into three pieces: 16″ x 10″ each. Then I folded those in half giving me a folded piece measuring 8″ x 10″. By tearing in this way, I had deckled edges on all sides except the folded side which will be sewed later. Hope that helps explain it a bit further. Thanks for the question!

  4. Pingback: Sewing My Journal with French Link and Kettle Stitches – Sketching and Painting the Moments