Making a hand stitched Garden Diary
A garden diary is an essential piece of kit for any gardener, but make it that extra bit special by creating your own using a nice craft paper and a recycled notebook cover. This is how you make it (instructions adapted from Making Stuff: An Alternative Craft Book (Black Dog Publishing) price £12.64 and The Guardian Newspaper).
1 Cut a front and back cover for your diary. You could use an old record sleeve or a cover from a book you no longer want, remembering to think about whether you want a hard cover or a soft cover to your diary, and that sewing through a hard cover is quite difficult. Obviously a harder cover is more hard wearing and for garden use it’s probably better to have a cover that offers some protection against dirt. The instructions here are for quite a small diary but you could adapt the sizes to make something bigger. I made mine A5 which seemed a more sensible diary size. On the other hand this size makes for a handy little notebook to shove in the pocket. So to begin: its unlikely that you’ll have an exact cover size and you’ll need to cut one to fit. Look at the cover you want to use and using a pencil and ruler, draw two 11cm x 14.85cm frames around your favourite areas. It’ll be pretty obvious what looks good. Cut round and put the pages to one side.
2. Next: prepare the pages of your notebook. I used sheep’s poo paper made locally but any nice craft or recycled paper will do. Cut 30 sheets of A4 paper in half (or not if you prefer to make an A5 size diary). Fold each of these vertically in half and group them into booklets of five sheets. You’ll end up with six booklets comprising five folded sheets each; if you are making the A5 diary just fold A4 in half.
3. Mark out the holes in both covers and each booklet where you will sew all of the sections together. Exactly 1cm in from the left side of the front cover, mark six points, 1.5cm, 3cm and 4cm from the top, and 1.5cm, 3cm and 4cm from the bottom. Repeat the process on the inside back cover. Once you’ve marked out each point pierce the points carefully with the awl (actually I didn’t do this, I just sewed through the paper).
4. Open each of the six booklets of notebook pages and mark the same points (1.5cm, 3cm and 4cm) along each of the booklets inside folds. Pierce through the paper at the marked points with a sewing needle. Make sure you do this before you start sewing because when I started making the diary I missed this instruction and spent extra time marking more points than I needed to. It also makes it easier when you eventually come to sew. When you’ve done this with all the booklets, sandwich them in between the front and back covers. Check the spine of your book to ensure that all the holes in both covers and all booklets line up perfectly.
5. Prepare a length of thread (around 1.5m). Starting with the first hole on the top of your first booklet, use the Coptic stitch (explained below) to bind the first booklet to the front cover, each booklet to the next, and the back cover to the rest of the bound book. Using the needle is quite tough if you’re not used to sewing as you’re liable to suffer a few pricks pushing through the pages. Use a sharp needle. Also when you’re pulling the thread through try not to lose the end of the thread. I found I got into the knack of pinching the two threads together as I pulled them through. This saved a lot of time.
6. Holding the front cover and the first booklet in one hand, stick the needle through the first hole at the top of the booklet. Leave a tail about 8cm long inside the booklet, which you will eventually tie. Then put the needle through the top hole in the front cover and push it back into the space between the front cover and the booklet. Insert the needle back into the hole in the booklet you originally entered through.
7. Now that you are back inside the booklet and have completed one stitch, tighten the book in a bit, making sure the tail does not escape through the hole. Tighten the stitch enough that the tension is firm, but not so tight that you run the risk of tearing the holes.
8. Insert your needle into the second hole down in the first booklet and repeat the same process, sticking the needle through the outside of the second hole in the cover, between the cover and the booklet and back through the second hole in the booklet. Repeat this until you have stitched all six holes along the first booklet and cover.
9. Once you’ve reached the final hole, instead of re-inserting the needle back into the final hole between the booklet and the cover, insert it into the last hole of a second booklet, directly below the first booklet. Continue stitching back in the other direction along the second booklet in the same way you treated the first booklet, except this time when you bring the needle up through each hole in the booklet loop the needle around the stitch holding the first booklet to the cover. I found that this process is quite fiddly and you don’t always get it right the first time. If it doesn’t seem to be working, stop and think, go back, re-read the instructions and try again. I did this a couple of times and it really helped, eventually I worked out what I was doing wrong and carried on.
10. Repeat this same process until you reach the last booklet. At this point, attach the back cover the same way you attached the front.
11. Tie off the two ends inside the first and last booklets with a double knot to the adjacent secure stitches.