Category Archives: Handmade

On creativity and the gift that keeps on giving

Last year I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a beautiful inspirational book about creativity – how to make time for it in our busy lives and how the act of creation can be so beneficial to us as human beings. I loved the book, it spoke to me on so many levels and it made me think of ways in which I can bring more creativity into my daily routine and get rid of that “I don’t have time” mantra that threatens to take over my life. I think this thought was lurking at the back of my mind the minute I saw the package and it sprung up the minute I saw the wrapping paper.

The package was a Christmas present from my blogging friend, Vishy. It traveled all the way from India and came to me just as I was beginning to think that maybe it got lost somewhere in the deep dark recesses of a storage room, there to die a lonely death. I’m so glad it didn’t. Thank you so much, Vishy!


Inside was this bubble wrapped package with a card. Oh, the suspense!


And inside the package, a book I have been looking forward to reading for years – The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts, which is the sequel to Shantaram, a book I read and loved five years ago. The sequel only came out in October last year. That’s a long time between books…I can’t wait to see if this is as good as the first one.


As soon as I saw the beautiful wrapping paper I knew it was perfect for my next notebook cover. Luckily, given the size of the book, a large section of the paper was in good shape so I even had enough for a bookmark. The timing was perfect, as the notebook I usually carry with me has only a few pages left, so this new one is ready to take its place in my little backpack. I always carry a notebook and a pen with me – I find it so much more comfortable jotting things down on paper rather than fiddling around with my phone.

It took me a few days to finish it, working an hour or two a day when I had time. It’s a lot easier to glue paper in the dry, cold weather we’ve been having here, as opposed to the stifling humidity of Bangkok. I’m definitely going to miss this when I get back there. The little string bookmark I used came from a jar of jam. It was wrapped around the lid as a decorative item. The colors – red, yellow and blue, symbolize the Romanian flag. So now not only do I have a new book (and chunky, too at nearly 900 pages!) but also this notebook and a lovely paper bookmark. I can’t wait to use them both.


Posted in Handmade | Tagged , , , , , , | 22 Comments

How making notebooks is a lot like writing and how it isn’t

H1 I have done little writing these past few weeks but that’s because I’ve been busy with other creative pursuits. Writing has been replaced by a more tangible occupation, making notebooks. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – there is a story behind that want but that’s for another day – and finally decided to go for it.

When I started doing this, I was more in love with the idea of having the finished product in my hand than actually  making it. If you look online, there are so many gorgeous handmade notebooks made of paper, leather and fabric, I could spend days just looking at them and asking myself how did they do that?
But when it comes to the actual work, the beginning was not easy. And while I was cutting (not so straight lines) and gluing (with too much glue), and folding the wrong corners and many other clumsy things, it suddenly hit me that making a notebook is a lot like writing a book or a short story, because:

  • No matter how fancy the paper or beautiful the color, or how much you fantasize about it, the thing won’t make itself. You’ll have to go home and do the work.
  • Fancy utensils may seem like the right motivator in the beginning, but this won’t hold for long. My favorite story is the one about Stephen King who, at the height of his career and his addiction, bought a fancy desk but in the end got rid of both the desk and his addiction. Simple things are the best. Paper and pen or a computer, needle and thread, and paper.
  • Work space is important – a place where you can go and be creative and where you can keep all your tools, including the needles and that sharp cutter that nearly sliced off my fingers.
  • You have to make time for it because if you won’t nobody will and sometimes you have to give up other things – like I did (partially) with writing and reading lately, because all I can think about now that I’ve pretty much solved the mystery of making a paper covered notebook is how to decorate a cover by myself. I’m not great at drawing but I do have a few things in mind.
  • Using too much glue is like using a lot of unnecessary words in your story – you may think they would be able to hold the thing together better but in the end it creates a mess you’ll have to throw away and start again.
  • A good cutter is like a great editor – it’s important that both of them are sharp because they can get rid of unnecessary parts.
  • Practice is essential. It’s the only way to get better and there is no alternative. The first couple of notebooks I made were OK but the ones I am making now are definitely an improvement.
  • It’s all a question of taste – different people will like different things and they’ll point out details you never thought about.

And it isn’t because:

  • When making a notebook, knowing what you want from the start is important because there are measurements to make; with writing the most important thing is to start and finish – you can go anywhere and do anything with the part in between.
  • Once the notebook is finished, that’s it. You can do minor changes, like add a pocket at the back, but if you forgot to glue the ribbon bookmark, well, hopefully you won’t forget it next time. With a story, you can edit as much as you like.
  • What has been glued cannot be unglued – unless you’re very quick and the paper cooperates and it’s your lucky day (that’s three big ifs right there), but you can go back and unsay as many things as you like in a story.
  • Making a notebook is a lot faster than finishing a book you are comfortable showing to the world. With a notebook, you already know the mechanics, you just need to decide on the size and color. With a book there’s the first draft, and the second, and the third and so on. It may take weeks, months, even years. A notebook is only a matter of days, and that’s because you have to wait for the glue to dry. And the only thing you have to “agonize” over is the cover paper.

H3 H4




Do you like handmade notebooks?
What makes a great notebook – the pattern, the size, the color, the details (embellished corners, back pocket, bookmark)?
Do you prefer blank paper or lined paper?

Now, almost every trip to the city includes a stop at a stationery store and yesterday after visiting such a place I went to my favorite bookstore which is right next door to it, and bought some of the latest Stephen King novels. I wanted to buy the paperbacks but the writing was so tiny I could not see myself looking at hundreds of pages with that minuscule font so I decided to go for the hardbacks. To my surprise they had a discounted price that I was more than happy to take advantage of. I think I’ll start on Revival soon.


Posted in Handmade | 10 Comments