I am the kind of person who has always kept a diary of some sort. I mainly keep drawing and watercolour books now, as I haven't felt the itch to write down very much in the last few years which is a bit sad. Although when I look at a painting I am brought back to the time and place it was created in and that is just as magical as reading words that do the same thing.
Because I go through them so fast, I make all of my own sketchbooks. I can now knock one out in about 45 minutes to an hour and I get to use really good quality watercolour paper as there's no real cost in making them. I'm going to attempt to explain my process to you Dear Reader, however you should first know that I have never undergone any book-binding training, nor do I know whether what I do is the best way of doing it. I just know that in my 5+ years of making these notebooks, they have stayed intact and kept beautifully.
One old hardcover book (that has an interesting enough cover but is not too precious)
A bunch of paper - I use Arches 300 gm watercolour paper (cold pressed)
A joining needle (for doll-making)
A ball of crochet cotton
A Stanley knife
A good quality glue stick
Some scrap fabric
Decorative paper for the inside cover
The first step is to measure, fold and rip your paper into the size you want your pages. I usually make my pages 2cm smaller in width and length than my book cover. Obviously this measurement is the page size doubled and folded. I say 'rip' rather than 'cut' because I feel it maintains the integrity of the paper, and also looks so cool at the end, like a weird handmade bible.
After you have finished, you should have a lovely little pile that looks like this: I have made 10 pieces of paper which then becomes 20 individual pages.
Take your stanley knife and carefully cut the paper in the book away from the original cover. Make sure not to cut the spine out at the same time!
Measure and cut up your scrap fabric to be roughly 6cm more the width of the spine and 1cm less than the length of the book.
Trace around the edge of the book cover and cut out your decorative paper to create an inside cover. Make sure to cut it slightly smaller than the actual cover, as it need to sit inside.
Glue the fabric to the inside lining- this will help strengthen the structure of the sketchbook.
Fold in half...
And draw one line along the crease, with two parellel lines running 1cm out along either side of the central line. These will be your guide for setting the pages in your book.
Squeeze your pages tightly and mark with a pencil where you want to stitch them together.
Thread your needle, about the length of your forearm, doubled over and knot it at the end.
Line the pages up straight and use your pencil markings as a rough guide for sewing the pages on to your paper and fabric inner-cover. I usually sew twice through each page, but whatever feels/looks right to you, should work well as long as your knot is secure on the back side.
When your thread is getting low, knot it off neatly as demonstrated in this .gif I made just for you
When you have finished sewing along the three lines you marked out on the inside cover, the back should look like this:
There should be gaps left in between the pages like this:
Don't worry, they will serve as a guide for the next pages to be sewn in!
When you have finished sewing all of the pages in and they are snugly nestled together resembling something like a book you can rest assured, you are very close to the end.
Now get your glue stick ready...
And start applying glue liberally to ONE side of the hard cover.
Working quickly, set the pages down on the glue, making sure the spine matches up with the stitched paper. Smooth the decorative cover down, making sure that it matches up neatly with the edges.
Repeat on the other side and you're done!
Disclaimer- wrinkles, uneven pages and scuffed covers are a part of the deal and I think they make your book even more interesting.