Whenever I head into the bush I make it a point to carry empty pages to fill, especially if I am traveling alone. Being alone in the desert prompts all kinds of thoughts and ideas in me, and I make extensive technical notes along the way on all my treks. Being an ultralight backpacker, I avoid any unnecessary weight. Instead of carrying a heavy, bound journal, or a too-small notebook, or even just some empty sheets of paper from my printer, I create and carry a signature or two of Tyvek covered pages. In bookbinder lingo, a signature is simply a number of sheets of paper folded in half. I turn these folded sheets of paper into a booklet by wrapping them with a Tyvek cover and stitching the pages and cover together. Eventually I will bind these signatures filled with adventures and desert inspired stories into books.
You can use any type or size of paper you desire in your booklets. I prefer paper of a little heavier weight, and not just printer paper, and tend to stick with something close to 8 1/2 by 11 inches in size. My signatures, or booklets, are usually 5 to 7 pages. My wife Mia, a bookbinder, has made travel journals for our family trips by interspersing writing pages with heavier, watercolor quality paper so we can include paintings and sketches of our travels. You can see more of her work at Photo-Mia.com.
Tyvek backpack journals are simple to create. Materials needed are 5 to 7 sheets of paper, a piece of Tyvek at least 1/4 inch larger in both dimensions than the paper you have chosen, and a length of thread. You will need a ruler, needle, awl, and scissors. We use waxed linen thread from our bindery for our books, but heavier embroidery thread can also be used. If you don’t have an awl, you can use your sewing needle to punch the holes in the paper and Tyvek cover.
Instructions for Assembly
Fold your chosen pages in half. Fold three to five lighter bond sheets at a time. Put all of the sheets for the booklet together and make sure they are properly aligned all around. Next you will need to measure out holes for stitching. Four holes is adequate. Measure down the spine- the folded edge of the paper- on the inside and mark your holes in pencil. You can lay them out as you wish, for example measure one inch from each end, top and bottom, and mark for a hole, then divide the remaining space in the center of these holes by three. Mark the two locations in the center of the outside holes. If you are planning to make a series of these booklets for later binding together, be sure to lay them all out the same.
Now you are ready to punch the holes. Hold all the aligned sheets tightly together and punch from the inside, where you have made pencil marks, out.
Next is the Tyvek cover. The simplest way to lay out the cover is to cut a piece that is larger than necessary and trim it later once the booklet is stitched. Fold the piece of Tyvek in half. Place the already punched pages inside. Holding the cover and pages securely, push the awl back through the holes in the paper to make matching holes in the Tyvek. Be sure that the Tyvek does not slip as you punch the holes. You are now ready to stitch.
You will need about 20 inches of thread for an 8 1/2 inch high booklet. Starting inside at one end, push the needle through the first hole outward. Leave about 4 inches of thread remaining inside the booklet. Move down to the next hole on the outside of the spine and push the needle back in. Holding the far end of the thread securely, tug the working end to make sure it is tight. Do this after moving through each hole. Move down to the next hole on the inside and thread outward. Continue this process working down, and then back up to where you began. The two ends of the thread should meet when finished. Remove the needle from the thread and tie the two ends securely. Trim the ends, leaving about 1/4 inch remaining.
The final step is to trim the Tyvek cover. I push the Tyvek firmly against the sheets of paper inside so that it leaves a faint line on the outside of the cover. I will then trim outside of this line, being sure to leave about 1/8 inch of the Tyvek extending beyond the edge of the paper.