Saturday, April 28

DIY Deco: Moleskine Notebooks

Now, anyone who's read EVERYTHING I'VE EVER WRITTEN EVERYWHERE may have detected by this point that I'm favorably inclined toward Moleskine (MOLL-eh-SKEEN-eh: I correct myself whenever I say it). And I have found there are two Moleskine websites: Moleskine (Europe) and MoleskineUS. Why are there two? I dunno, maybe it's just easier to have a European headquarters that takes care of all nations outside of the U.S.

The Euro Moleskine site has what they call an Artists Marketplace: users are invited to buy Moleskine notebooks, decorate them inside and/or out, and sell them here to a global market. I decided to try my hand and take the plunge, but so far there have been no takers. None from other countries, anyway: my friend Kate met me and, over ice cream, perused my selection and decided which (of the three I'd produced) she wanted.

Let me tell you about these notebooks. I purchased the pack-o-three "large" unlined Moleskine Cahiers with kraft covers. Among my statio is a file of old maps, so the notebooks are covered in a 1965 National Geographic world map. Their covers feature the South Atlantic Ocean (pictured), the North American continent, and the Scandinavian nations and northern Europe.

To cover up the flaps from the map, pasted in the inside covers, I salvaged some material I've collected. Inside the front cover I pasted pages from a Thai comic from three years ago (one page is stamped with the Buddhist calendar system), comics featuring romantic stories or ghost tales. The back cover is plastered with pages from the 1953 text German Through Pictures. I think I chose fairly interesting illustrations to feature in each respect.

On the front, as you can see, I hand-tore a little square of surplus Moleskine notebook paper and hand-stamped "Where my Mind Wanders." I would have liked to customize the cover per customer request, but there was no option to do so. In fact, the Moleskine site doesn't even let you remove merchandise from your collection unless you've sold it through their website. Kate bought one of my books but I can't delete it from my gallery in any way. I think this is not best-practice management, and I have contacted their Help Desk (for all the good it may do).

Today I went to work on some smaller pocket journals, lined pages. I covered them in some extra decorative paper I had, which anyone who's shopped at any interesting scrapbooking or crafts store has probably seem: it looks like Chinese character lessons. It's just what I had around the house, and I thought it would look nice on a cover.

I haven't done anything to cover the inside back flap, but the front cover integrated another past project. Several years ago I managed to score a roll of very long, very fine Japanese parchment papers, a couple dozen sheets, and each one unfurled to a pretty sizable scroll! But it's very thin and prone to dampness with glue stick, so after my first attempt I learned it required a double-layer application. I dug out an old linocut project of which I was pardonably proud: a two-tone print of Soja no Gorô Tokimune, a famous kabuki character. It's difficult to align because it was one of my first few linocut adventures and the two images don't sync perfectly, but with practice I figured out a workable technique and produced three reasonable prints.

Obviously, I'm not entirely pleased with the conflation of Chinese and Japanese imagery, but I wish to stress I really was scrounging for stuff I had lying around. Still trying to think of what I'll use for the back cover.


  1. Use UHU glue stick. It doesn't warp the pages as badly as Elmer's does, and it seems to adhere solidly. Of course, coat both the paper and the surface it's going to in separate applications of glue.
  2. Always use the sharpest X-acto blade you have. A dull blade with grip the paper rather than slice it, a failure made exponentially more likely with glue-damp paper.
  3. Do not glue the spine to the paper! If you flatten both covers to the decorative paper and then close it, the paper will bind the cover and pull it back so it no longer lies flush with the pages and they'll stick out. It looks bad (voice of experience). Instead, glue-up one cover and press it to the paper, then coat the other cover, close the book, and draw the paper over it.
  4. Use the cap of the glue stick, a tablespoon, a baren, or any other small, flat surface to smooth out the lumps and bubbles on the decorative paper. Start in the center and spiral or radiate your way to the edges. It makes all the difference between "obviously homemade" and a really tight job.
  5. Lay the book out flat on your decorative paper and draw a crude outline around the perimeter of the book. On the spine (after gluing): cut a wide-bottom V out of the paper. Carve around the corners, and leave ½-inch flaps on the top, bottom, and sides to fold down and glue into place.


Princeaeneas said...

But, but

Christian Fredrickson said...

Interesting, that must be a new development. They used to have a pretty formal (but friendly) pronunciation guide, but now I can't find this anywhere. It does not surprise me the gently rebranded the pronunciation to be less prohibitive.

Christian Fredrickson said...

Yup, here, from the U.S. Moleskine site:

Moleskine (mol-a-skeen'-a) journals possess a minimalism, style and quality that literally has centuries of experience.