Friday, July 31, 2020

Travel Journal with Flap Pockets by Claudia Neubacher

Isn't it strange how traveling makes us feel and behave differently than when we're at home, leading our everyday lives? It's as if being on a journey and in a different place allows us to set free our more adventurous personalities or aspects of our personalities that seem to get put to the side when leading our normal lives. In new and foreign places with new and foreign people, we act more spontaneously, we are so much more open to what is waiting for us to be discovered, be it a different culture with new food, unfamiliar tastes and smells, different clothing and different ways of transport (I still remember my camel ride around the pyramids of Giza - I was struggling not to fall off the camel's back, but I loved it!). 

But as adventurous as I get when traveling - I still need to feel I am in control of where I am going and how and at which time. So I always carry a little notebook around in which I have written down train connections and stuck small printed out and folded timetables - just so I never get lost (which seems to be something I have a general fear of...but I've developed my own way to deal with it, so it has never become an issue really...only that I get smiled at by my loved ones for my urge to have a non-digital analogous source of all the travel information I feel I need at hand and ready at all time). 

So when I found that this month's theme for the Creative Team is "travel", I decided to create a new travel-journal for future travels. 

I have created a little travel scenery across both the front and back covers...

...and even the flaps that fold inwards are part of it (with the continuing skyline).

What I especially like about this particular kind of journal, is the fact that you can adjust its size to any kind of bought cheap notebooks - I will explain how a bit further down this post - and that you can create it from two A3 sheets of sturdy mixed media or water color paper. The binding is simple and there is an additional flap that forms the pockets on the insides of the covers, so you can tuck in additional notes or tickets. 

My cheap bought notebooks measured 4 1/4 inches (10,5cm) in width and 6 inches (15cm) in height. 

As I wanted to use two of these for my travel journal, I also measured their combined thickness (which was 3/8 of an inch (1cm)) and added about 3/16 of an inch (0,5cm) to that for the spine.

I also added the same 0,5cm to each the width and the height of the journals to get the size of the front and back covers. You can - as always - click on the images for a larger view, but I have also taken a close up of my sketch, so you can see where I've added what. All you have to do is take the measurements of your bought notebooks and replace mine with yours. How many inches or centimeters you add to these stays the same. 

The flaps to the left and right should be about two thirds of the notebooks' width and the flap at the bottom should be about one third of the notebooks' height.

I have placed the notebooks in their later positions so you get a better idea:

Your cut to size journal cover should look like this:

IMPORTANT: don't do any folding yet! First we are going to create a background and then some stencilled layer goodness on top of that!!!

Also cut out two covers for the "signatures" (=the bought notebooks). If you don't want to do any measuring, simply place the folded open notebooks on the paper and trace around them with a pencil before you cut the covers to size. 

Time to start our journal cover journey!!!!

I like to use an easy quick background technique that I call "smudged dots". 
All you need is a collection of colors of your choice and liking (I used DecoArt Americana and Americana multi-surface satin acrylic paints) and a plastic card. 

Apply dots of different colors directly from the bottles randomly across the whole surface...

...and then smudge these with the plastic card.

The secret to not creating mud is that you should not move the card across the same area more than twice! If you do not like the result, let the first layer dry and add more dots on top and smudge these again. You can repeat this step until you are content with the outcome.

Also a good hint is to start with the darkest colors first and then move towards the lighter ones.

After the acrylic paints are dry, you can move on to creating your travel scenery. For mine I used the following StencilGirl® stencils:

- City Stories Stencil by Cathy Nichols
- Clouds & Stars Stencil by Valerie Sjodin
- Wall of Words Stencil by Carolyn Dube
- Open Buildings Stencil by Carolyn Dube
- Map Stencil by Mary C. Nasser
- Cityscape Stencil by Andrew Borloz

The skyline was what I started with. As I wanted to have my background show through, I used DecoArt Vintage Effect Wash paints - these are translucent and come in different colors. My first color used was Turquoise.

As my cover was wider than the stencil, I added one of the two masks that come with it to continue the design.

Mary C. Nasser's beautiful "Map" design had to become part of my journal cover too of course. As I wanted it to only show on the outer covers but not on the flaps, I masked the borders with some tape. I also placed the Cityscape mask on top of the previously stencilled skyline to mask that too. (if you look closely you can see the black border of it below the Map stencil). For the Map design I used Vintage Effect Wash "Patina".

That was the look of my cover so far. The skyline would need some highlighting later during the process, but for now I was still on track to my planned "creative destination".

I added some clouds to the sky using white DecoArt Vintage Effect Wash. 

Then I continued with brown Vintage Effect Wash to add a much needed vehicle to the front cover.
(Remember to leave the bottom flap untreated - otherwise added designs will be upside down on the cover's inside once the journal is finished).

IF you want to add designs to that flap - like I did - simply turn the cover upside down:

By that time I had also added some houses and trees from the "City Stories" stencil.
Time to make the skyline more visible.

For that I used Brown Vintage Effect Wash paint again and the according parts of the Cityscape stencil to mask the sky this time. This way I could sponge on the brown paint starting with the very top of the skyline and creating a fading effect while moving downwards with the sponge, using less and less paint and pressure.

NOW you're finally allowed to fold over all the flaps, the spine and the covers! I like to fold along the edge of a ruler and use a bone folder to get exact creases.

Replace the covers from the cheap notebooks with your smudged-dots-covers. The binding of the whole journal will be explained in a second...

This is how the folded in flaps should look.

At that point I felt I needed some additional texture, so I stencilled some patterns that remind me of city maps onto some linen ribbon.

The two pieces of ribbon were glued to the edges of the flaps using matte DecoArt Decou-Page.

My cover still wasn't grungy enough (actually you can never get grungy enough) - so I decided to add some scratch pattern stamping here and there with brown StazOn stamping ink.

The cover also needed a quote as a focal element - so I stencilled one using the "Wall of Words" stencil, a very small size stencil brush and Americana Charcoal Grey acrylic paint.

The three sponges in the picture below point to the three areas where the bottom flap needs to be glued to the journal covers' insides. By only gluing the spine area and the outer edges of the flap to the insides of the covers we are creating two pockets that can hold tickets, additional notes and small collectables from your travels.

The journal was still not looking worn enough for my liking! So I went in with a palette knife and scraped on some DecoArt media white Crackle Paint here and there. I let that dry naturally.

I also decided to use Walnut Gel Stain to tone down the whole design a bit and highlight the cracks. I simply used a wide soft brush and applied the diluted Gel Stain across the whole cover. Using a soft cloth I removed most of it off the crackled areas while the Gel Stain was still wet.

On to the final stop on our journal journey: the binding! 

I eyeballed a template for the three holes and used a sharp pokey tool to add holes to the notebooks, their covers and the spine of the journal cover.

Using some rough cord and an upholstery needle I did a simple three-hole binding by starting in the middle hole from the inside moving the thread to the outside, then moving the thread back to the inside at the top hole, leading it all the way down and outside again at the bottom hole. From there back to the inside again through the middle hole. By placing each end of the thread on opposite sides of the long inside stitch I could tie a simple double knot to finish up the binding.

I added some final touches by outlining some of the designs with a fine tip black marker.

Destination reached! 

One of the two inside pockets...

...and the flaps help keep ephemera in place and make the cover more sturdy. 

Some close ups: 

What kind of rituals do you perform (or do you need to perform) when traveling? 
I definitely feel safe and free to explore, be in the moment and adventurous as long as I have my travel journal with me. ;) 

Hugs and happy (creative) travels!


  1. Fantastic project Claudia, with a very clever structure and beautiful book cover using only stencils, love it!!!
    Hugs, Corinne X

  2. I love your design and treatment for this travel journal cover!

  3. Claudia - what a wonderful project. I will be following your directions to make one of these for myself. The colors really speak to me and are very calming. This is helpful if I start to feel panic slipping in because I am not in control of everything when I travel.

  4. Thanks so much, everyone, for the love!
    Claudia XXX

  5. I really enjoyed this. As I went through the tutorial, I kept thinking the book didn’t need anything else. Then I was surprised how you kept making it better and better with all the additions. You are very good at grunge!

    1. Thank you so much, Judith! This really means a lot to me! x


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