Monthly Mentor

Sarah Krajewski (June)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Krajewski is a K-5 Art educator in Cambridge, WI, and was awarded the 2019 Wisconsin Art Educator of the Year Award. Join in her art room mantra: “I am positive. I am creative. I am mindful. I am amazing. I am an artist.” Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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« The Being of Renewal | Main | Being Resourced in Our Renewal »

January 10, 2019

Being with Art Practice as Renewal

By Brooke Hofsess


As an art teacher educator, I often wonder, How do we prepare artist-teachers to find their way through the inevitable obstacles to renewal? Journaling has always been a way for me to explore difficult questions and circumstances, and it is a practice I share with my students. Therefore, my preservice classes kick off with either altering or stitching a blank book so we can dive deeply into living our unsolved questions (Rilke, 2011).

For me, seeking renewal often happens by way of being with my art practice. Therefore, this post invites you into my bookbinding practice by offering a provocation for the being of renewal-- stitching a handbound journal. I learned to make the pamphlet-stitched journal with woven binding (featured above) from one of my incredible mentors, Dr. Laura Gardner (Winthrop University). Laura generously shared how to make this book form with me a few years ago, and it quickly became my very favorite journal to make for myself and with my students.

Below I take you step-by-step through the process of making the journal pictured above. Let the photographs fill in the information I provide with text, as neither one will make complete sense without the other. I also recommend you read through the entire process before starting.

Step 1: Gather the following materials:

  • 2 decorative papers (old book jackets also work great) for front and back covers
             - In step 3 you will cut to 8.5 x 11 (11 minimum, longer if you want an elegant
             - Please save scraps when you trim covers for next item
  • 3 decorative papers 8.5 x variable (at least 4 and no more than 11)
             - In Step 5 you will use trimmings from front and back covers to make covers
               for inside three signatures.
  • Ruler
  • Exacto
  • 20 sheets of copy paper, sized 8.5 x 11
  • 1 piece of colorful copy paper, cut 8.5 x 4
  • Awl or push pin
  • Bonefolder (optional)
  • Bookbinding thread (or embroidery floss)


Note: Jump in even if you don’t have the same bookbinding tools featured above. You can do this project with minimal and/or makeshift tools.

Step 2: This journal is composed of five signatures (a signature is two or more sheets of paper stacked and folded together). Make all five signatures by dividing the 20 sheets of paper in five piles of four sheets of paper, then folding each stack of paper in half.

Fold the smaller color paper piece in half and set aside. This will be a template to poke holes.


Step 3: Cut front and back covers to size.


Step 4: Fold decorative paper in half and nest signatures inside. If paper is longer than 11, you can make a really elegant fold. My paper was 12 in. wide, so my fold is tiny but hopefully offers you an idea of how this would work.



Step 5: Use trimmings from front and back covers to make three additional partial covers for the inside three signatures. Nest copy paper signatures inside.


Step 6:
Order and stack the five signatures with covers to your aesthetic-- from front to back.


Step 7: Make a 5-hole template by marking the colorful sheet of cut copy paper. Indicate with a pencil where the five holes for sewing will be poked along the inner fold of each signature with cover on. You can measure with a ruler, or simply fold to measure. Put the template inside the signature with cover on, and poke all five holes. Repeat for all five signatures/covers. Do your best to keep the signatures in order so the holes line up neatly for sewing.


Step 8:
Sew each of the five signatures with covers using a 5-hole pamphlet stitch. I sketched a diagram below but don’t hesitate to pull up a video tutorial online if you need someone to talk you through it the first few times.

Holes poked and ready to stitch!


Always start and end inside the signature at the middle hole (station 3).


A curved bookbinding needle can be useful, but any thin needle will do. Too thick a needle might rip your paper.


Moving from inside to outside the book in a figure eight movement.


Finally, tie a double knot around the long thread at the center hole.


Step 9: Use the pamphlet stitch to bind each of the five signatures with covers individually.


Step 10:
Stack all five sewn signatures. Now you are reading to begin weaving the binding using a simple over and under stitch. You will see there are four sections to weave, two long and two short. Be creative with color if you like. To determine how much thread to start with per section, simply stretch thread between your outstretched arms and cut. You can always tie more on if you run out of thread, so just jump in. I find the weaving to be meditative.




Step 11: Tie off thread from first section with a new length of thread to move on with weaving the next section. (Leave tails long and weave them into the binding at the very end- more on that step below).


Step 12:
Be sure to look up every now and again to relax your eyes.


Step 13:
Continue weaving until you complete all four sections. Change thread colors as you like, or use the same color throughout. Again, when you finish-- weave longer threads back into the binding to secure your stitching. Use the needle to weave each loose thread in and trim.


Step 14: Your journal is complete! Grab some coffee, water, or tea and work through the following prompts:

  • Draw or write about your perspectives or definitions of renewal.
  • What are the 2-3 biggest obstacles to your renewal? What would you need to work around or remove these blocks?
  • Think of your most impactful mentor. What have you learned from this person and how does returning to their teachings renew you?


To close, taking the time to make a handbound journal and using it for deep exploration jumpstarts my renewal. In my next post, I will share a profusion of resources (a list of what I am reading and taking in for renewal). As always, I look forward to your feedback and questions. It would be lovely to hear some of your responses to the journaling prompts in the comments.




Rilke, R. M., & Harman, M. (2011). Letters to a young poet. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


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