Japanese Ledger Binding

Learn how to create a beautiful art journal with a quick and easy binding. The Japanese Ledger binding looks impressive but it’s very simple and can be made with an endless variety of papers and binding materials.

Kimberly Jones

If it’s vintage, rusty, tattered, or torn, Kimberly Jones is there to rescue it for creative reuse! Though she focuses mainly on collage and book arts, Kimberly is an artful adventurer who dabbles in supplies and techniques of all kinds. Her latest obsession is slow stitching on paper and fabric which provides the perfect excuse for digging through those tempting piles in antique shops and thrift stores. If she’s not in her studio, that’s where you’ll find her!

Have you ever wanted to create your own art journal but felt intimidated by the bookbinding aspect of the project? If so you will love the Japanese Ledger Binding method! This quick and easy binding requires only a handful of supplies, and is so versatile. Ledger journals have a very interesting history.

This type of binding has been around for centuries and was often used as an account book for merchants. A long ribbon or cord at the top allowed the book to be hung in a well for safe keeping in case of fire. These books were also used as a guest registers at inns, or as travel journals. The ledger book is generally longer than it is wide but it can be made in any size you prefer. I’ve listed the papers and binding ribbon that I used for this journal under supplies, but feel free to use your personal favorites. The possibilities are endless!

Supplies

These are the supplies I used in creating my book – feel free to choose similar supplies to what you have on hand.

  • sturdy paper for the cover (I used Shizen Pastel Paper that is 200 gsm/135 lb. You can use any sturdy material that you like such as cardstock, watercolor paper, or mixed media paper.)
  • paper for sheets
    • Tea Stained Khadi Paper
    • Kraft Paper
    • Tracing Paper
    • Old book paper
    • Vellum
    • Handmade Papers
  • Lace Trim
  • Sari Ribbon (2 pieces about 24 inches in length each)
  • Small Label
  • Uniball Signo White Pen
  • Uniball Signo Gold Pen
  • Sharpie Mean Streak
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Wooden Ruler with Metal Edge
  • Hole Punch
  • Glue Stick (or your favorite adhesive)

Process

Cover

  1. Cut your front and back cover to size – 4 x 10.5 in
  2. Score the cover sheet at 1 inch from the top
  3. Tear cream handmade paper to size
  4. Tear vintage book paper slightly smaller than handmade paper use gold pen to create a botanical line drawing
  5. Layer the papers on the cover

Lunaria

I love seeds and pods of all sorts, but Lunaria or Money Plant seeds are one of my favorites! I love how translucent they appear and that you can see the seeds inside.

  1. Draw lunaria on book paper
  2. Trace the lunaria on vellum
  3. Cut out both sets of Lunaria images
  4. Sandwich 3 gold sequins between the book paper and vellum
  5. Staple the layered papers together mimicking the lines found on Lunaria pods
  6. Glue the Lunaria pods to the front cover
  7. Write a title on a label and glue to cover as shown

Inner pages

  1. Cut all papers, fabrics, and trims to 4 x 10.5
  2. For the fabric and lace pages cut a 1.5” x 4” piece of kraft cardstock for each piece.
  3. Punch holes to match other pages
  4. Staple one piece of lace or fabric to the bottom of one of the punched cardstock pieces.

Collage on kraft cardstock

  1. Use a white pen to write a poem or scribble some words on one of the kraft cardstock pieces.
  2. Go over the words with a gold pen
  3. Draw leaves on a piece of vintage book paper with a white pen
  4. Cut out the leaves
  5. Add additional lines with a gold pen

And now it’s time for the binding!

Ledger Binding

Punch 2 holes in the cover and use it as a template for the rest of the pages punching the holes one at a time.

I used single sheets of kraft paper to demonstrate the binding so it is easier to see the simple steps.

  1. Layer the punched pages, fabric, and trim between the front and back covers.
  2. Clip the pages together with a binder clip if desired.
  3. Cut 2 lengths of sari silk ribbon (or other binding thread) 24 inches long
  4. Thread 2/3 of one of the ribbons through the left whole of the pages and wrap to the left side
  5. Pull the ribbon around to the back and and thread back through to the front
  6. Tie both ribbon ends in a double knot being sure to leave the ribbon loose enough to move around the pages
  7. Repeat the binding on the right side
  8. Tie both sets of the ribbons together at the top in a square knot close to the top of the ledger

Bonus!

Create some fun additional pages to add your ledger using vintage book pages, a Sharpie Mean Streak, and a gold pen.

Draw leaves on other botanical images on the book paper.

Use a Sharpie Mean Streak to add blossoms.

The Sharpie Mean Streak will go on a bit sticky, but it dries quickly and is waterproof once dry. Use a light touch for thin transparent layers, or press harder for opaque ones.

Here are some more photos of the binding:

Action Steps

Gather your favorite papers, binding threads, and art supplies and create your own Japanese Ledger journal!
extra credit: for more binding techniques, explore Basic Bookbinding