Bound to Write: Kids Make Journals!


Amandine (age 7) makes a journal.Amandine (age 7) makes a journal.

Even in today’s electronic age, kids delight in making something beautiful and useful with their own hands.

On a recent Saturday afternoon at the Morgan, kids and their families gathered to learn about historic diaries and to build their own blank notebooks, using gorgeous materials and sophisticated techniques. Each went home with something beautiful and useful, made with their own hands! And they took away fresh thoughts about diary keeping.

Morgan educator Bel Mojica began the afternoon with a visit to the exhibitionThe Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives. As she launched into dramatic renderings of the personal stories of a seventeenth-century pirate and a nineteenth-century schoolteacher (Charlotte Brontë!), Bel invited the kids to think about diaries: why do people write them? Should they be kept private? They looked at lots of examples, from lavishly gold-tooled leather volumes to the humble handmade pamphlets of Elizabeth Morgan, who lived in small-town Western Massachusetts in the early nineteenth century, sometimes using old newspaper and straight pins to bind her journals.

Kids then delved into journal-making with book artist Stephanie Kraus, who describes the hands-on portion of the afternoon: “We started the class by creating simple pamphlet-stitch journals with speckled bond paper and patterned fabric paper covers. Then we launched into the more complicated double-signature pamphlet stitch journal with a tied wraparound cover, using creamy Arches paper for the two signatures and once again using richly patterned fabric paper for the cover.

“Students loved the papers—some were almost brocaded, others art deco—a broad range of options, all exciting. Students stitched the two signatures with variegated thread, and secured the wraparound with a colored rhinestone brad. Students got creative with how they used the excess thread (deliberately left while tying off the signatures) to secure the wraparound closed; some used one long thread, some twined all the excess threads together, some used one long thread and twined the other threads around that thread.

“The fabric paper covers, matching threads and rhinestone brads pulled together to create some truly beautiful journals! Students seemed thrilled with their books. I’m sure they’ll have fun filling them in at home. And they probably will remember how to do pamphlet stitch for a while, since they did it three times during class!”

To learn about upcoming events at the Morgan, including family programs, take a look at the Calendar of Events.

Left: Zachary (age 8) and his mom work on journal making. Right: Jeremy (age 9) displays his finished product.

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