How to Make and Sew Signatures into a Junk Journal

How to Make and Sew Signatures into a Junk Journal main article image
Posted on March 16, 2021 by Julie Richards
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Signatures in junk journals are groups of pages that are sewn into the cover just like any other book. The difference is the types of papers used in a junk journal and how the journal maker sews the signatures into a junk journal. The two most common ways to sew signatures in a junk journal are with a three-hole or five-hole pamphlet stitch. Both are very easy once you learn the process. This article explains how to do a three-hole pamphlet stitch.

Selecting Signature Papers

Each signature is made up of 10 to 20 papers of varying styles, sizes and colors. There are no rules when it comes to selecting the papers. You may choose printed pages from a digital junk journal kit. You might want blank coffee-dyed papers that are decorated after they are sewed into the cover. Furthermore, you can sew in an entire signature of greeting cards you received for the holidays or other special occasions.

First, you must decide the size of your junk journal when selecting the papers to use for the signatures. A favorite size of junk journals is a 9-inch by 6-inch cover with a 1- to 2- inch spine. The process explained here can be used on any size junk journal you choose to make. I will use smaller dimensions for this article.

Junk Journal Cover

You need to gather 20 pieces of paper, so you can make the signature and sew it into a junk journal. These papers need to be, at the most, 8 ½ inches tall by 11 inches long. It is perfectly fine to have smaller size papers for the signature. A variety of sizes adds more interest to the junk journal. You can even add envelopes into the selection because they can easily be sewn into the junk journal along with the other papers.

Choose a variety of colors, designs and patterns. You can use old junk mail, magazine pages, pages from a dictionary, other book pages, ledger paper, graph paper; the list goes on forever. If it is made of paper, you can add it to a signature. Paper doilies are often sewn into the signatures of junk journals.

Prepare the Papers

You must decide how you want the papers to be in the signature. I stagger the sizes and patterns of the papers I put in my junk journal signatures. I love the variety it adds to the junk journal. It’s like looking at a photo album when you turn the page and each one is different from the rest.

Once you have the papers in the order you want, you need to fold them, so the center crease is very defined. Remember to keep the pages the direction you want when you fold them. It doesn’t matter if the pages are not even with each other. You may prefer the design or pattern on part of the page but not the other. Make the fold where your favorite part will show when sewing the signature into the junk journal.

Each paper is folded individually and then tucked all together to make the signature. Make sure the folds are straight. To do this put your finger in the middle of the fold and then run your hand up to the top of the paper and then down to the bottom. Use a bone folder or the handle of your scissors to train the paper and define the fold. This gives a clean, crisp fold and makes the paper hold its folded shape.

Put the folded papers into the order you chose and line them up where you want them to be in the signature. For example, if you chose a paper that is shorter than the rest, decide whether you want it closer to the top of the junk journal cover or the bottom. I stagger mine to add more interest to the junk journal signature.

Papers for Junk Journal

Cut the signature to size

Now that you have made the signature for the junk journal, you need to cut it to the confines of the junk journal cover. I use binder clips or paper clips on the folded side of the signature to hold the pages together so they do not shift when I cut them to size. You can use your scissors, but you take the chance of the papers shifting or the cut not being straight. A ruler and a utility knife or exacto blade works best to perform the cut process.

Bind the papers together, so they are secure and stay in place. Lay the junk journal signature on a self-healing cutting mat or hard, flat surface. If you do not have a self-healing cutting mat, put a piece of cardboard under the signature, so the surface underneath is not damaged from the cutting process.

Put a ruler, T-square or other straight edge along the top of junk journal signature. Cut through all the papers at once with a utility knife. Do this to the bottom and open side of the signature. You are ready to sew the signature into your junk journal.

Cutting Down Papers

Sewing the Signature into the Junk Journal

Sewing a signature into a junk journal is actually the quickest and easiest part of making a junk journal. You will need an awl (sometimes referred to as a “pokey tool”), wax coated thread, and a rather large needle for this process. You can use embroidery, jewelry or upholstery thread. I sometimes use unflavored dental floss. The great thing about creating a junk journal is you can use what you have on hand. Regular sewing thread is not strong enough to hold the signatures in place for very long. The rule is if you can break the thread easily with your hands then it is not good for sewing signatures into a junk journal.

Binding Tools

You must measure the amount of thread needed to sew the signature into the junk journal. A good rule of thumb is the rule of three. Hold the end of the thread at the top of the journal cover, unwind the thread to the bottom of the journal, back to the top and back to the bottom again. Cut the thread. You now have three book lengths of thread for which to sew in the signatures of your junk journal.

Open the journal cover and lay the pages open to the middle of the signature. Position the signature so that ½ inch of the inside cover is exposed and the fold of the signature lines up with the fold of the junk journal cover. Secure the signature pages to the cover with paper clips or binder clips in this position. I use two binder clips at the top and two at the bottom of the junk journal.

Poking Holes

Poke a hole straight down with the awl, directly in the middle of the signature fold. Measure 1-inch from the top of the signature and poke another hole directly in line, from top to bottom, with the first hole. Measure 1-inch from the bottom of the signature and poke another hole directly in line, from bottom to top, with the middle hole.

Thread the needle with your chosen thread and pull the tails of the thread together so it becomes two strands of thread with one side slightly longer than the other. Push the needle through the middle hole and out through the back of the journal cover. Leave about 6-inches of thread inside the middle of the signature. Push the needle through the top hole of the cover and signature. Hold the tail end of the thread and pull tightly to keep the thread tight. Push the needle back through the center hole and pull the thread tight while still holding onto the thread tail that is still inside the journal signature. Push the needle through the bottom hole and back inside the junk journal.

Sewing In Signature

Now that you are back inside the junk journal with the needle and thread, pull the tail to one side of the signature and loop the needle underneath the thread that goes from the middle hole to the top hole. This leaves you with the tail on one side of the signature and the threaded needle on the other side of the signature. 

Cut the thread from the needle as close to the eye of the needle as possible. Pull each end of the thread tight, so the junk journal cover and signature does not move or shift. Tie the two ends of the thread together in a double knot. You have now sewn the signature into your junk journal.

Tie off Thread

Decisions…Decisions

You can cut the threads shorter if you wish. Some junk journal makers keep the threads longer because they like to hang charms or little paper tags on the ends of the threads to give the junk journal more interest. The choice is yours. I like hanging little paper hearts or inspirational words from the thread dangles.

A single signature junk journal is good for carrying with you as a daily planner. They also make wonderful handmade gifts. You can sew more than one signature into a junk journal. The process is a little different because you need a template to keep the signatures evenly spaced and lined up in the junk journal. For now, you know what it takes to make and sew a signature into a junk journal.


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