Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Six Pack

Here I sit like someone out of the "Stuff White People Like" blog, transcribing stuff into my text editor from my Moleskine notebook. At least it's not a Mac.

Those of you lucky enough to have watched the short, hilarious film from my last entry may have learned that I don't define myself or dictate my happiness through my work, as in the kind of job I have, but through something that will probably never offer me any financial stability -- my hobbies!

I enjoy working in libraries, and I get plenty of satisfaction from helping others with their research and learning bits of trivia in the process, but right now I'm enjoying the fact that my freelancing job, if silly, takes very little of my time while providing me with the financial stability I need to feed myself goulash and tea every day and live in my beautiful, quiet apartment. I briefly felt some shame and guilt in not being able to immediately "work" my Master's Degree, but I'm not alone. The economy is down, and I'm doing what I have to do to make ends meet in the mean time. Actually, I'm doing more than making ends meet. I'm really making mad bank right now, I'm not gonna lie. "Mad bank" for me, as it turns out, is equivalent to like, I'll be up front with you here and could care less if you think this is chump change, $600 a week, but that is way more than I need. I have this amazing power to stretch and save cash, even though I'm one of the last few people around who pays money for (a whole lot of) music. It's magic!

Besides making mad bank, this freelancing gig is also giving me lots of appreciated free time to do a different kind of freelancing -- and that kind of freelancing requires a Moleskine notebook.

Me and the Moleskine have been BFFs since I first discovered it in 2004 as "The notebook used by Van Gogh and xyz important person". Being sort of a modern-day Van Gogh myself, I couldn't resist! Initially, I used the Moleskines to record some of my deepest personal feelings and reflections on my daily happenings. What a waste, right? When people come over to visit and flip through the Moleskine library on my desk, expecting brilliant nuggets of wit, scripts and raw artwork, I silently hope that they'll lose interest before making their way to the older, more emo volumes of yore. I was just a 20-year old kid back then. I didn't know any better.

Now we're in the bronze age of Moleskine. These notebooks are where all my comic scripts are born, and where I sketch people on trains and other public places to inform future, more "serious" drawings. The only thing the Moleskine doesn't do so well is absorb ink. Sure, there's the watercolor notebook, but that's just too precious! I want a notebook that lets me sketch people in pencil, just like in the sketchbook, but also allows me to ink over my drawings with a dip pen. So I'm going to make one!

How To Make a Low-Rent Moleskine Notebook

The first thing I did was cut all the pages for my notebook. I'm using bristol board to fulfill my need for a "cartooning" sketchbook. You can use any type of paper you please, but be aware that thicker paper is more difficult to work with. I used a ruler to measure, then marked off the dimensions of my paper according to the original Moleskine size -- their pages are 7"x5.5". It's a good size. These papers must be folded in half, though, so I'm marking off 11" x 7" pages which will later be folded in half. I absentmindedly marked my dimensions backwards in this visual aid, as I now see. Darn it. I should tell you now that I figured out a lot of this stuff from Michael Shannon's Moleskine tutorial, but mine isn't as fancy as his.

Next, I used an x-acto knife on a hard, unvaluable surface to cut out all of my pages according to the guidelines I drew above. Depending on how thick you want your notebook, you can cut out as many pages as you like, as long as it's a multiple of six. I wanted my notebook to be three signatures thick, so I cut out 18 pages.


What I'm doing in this picture is something called "folding". It is important to fold the sheets you cut out so that you'll have a nice Moleskine-sized book rather than a bunch of sheets of paper stapled together. I "kissed corners," as my first grade teacher explained folding to me, and used a pencil to make my folds sharp. I did this with each and every one of my sheets of paper.

Here's where my blog title comes from. I have "packed six" of the folded sheets of paper together, like so, to make a signature. Of course I've done some sloppy cutting and whatnot, but the most important thing is to align all the spines and make sure the bottom of the stack is flush. It's okay if the top and side edges are a bit crooked, or cattywompus (sp?) as Dr. Lavender likes to say.

I made three signatures in all, each with six of my folded papers.

Who knew that that binder clip would ever see the light of day again? I collected all my signatures together, making sure that the spines and bottoms were even, clipped them, and marked the spine for where they will be sewn later. All the needle holes have to be in the same place for the book's signatures to be even in the finished book.

Then I separated the signatures again. To make holes for the sewing needle, I folded the spine over the edge of my CD case. You can use the edge of any unvaluable surface. I used a pin to poke holes in the markings I made earlier. I did this for all three of the signatures, one signature at a time. Again, make sure that the spine and bottoms of each page are even as you do this.

Check it out! Here are my three signatures with their perfectly placed holes.

And now for the sewing supplies. Needles, thread, and wax.

I waxed a couple inches of the needle side of the thread, since I didn't double the thread like when I sew fabric. Don't double up the thread. The wax will hold it in place (or should, it slipped a few times for me). Thread a long strand, you can cut it later.

Sewing the first signature now. I left a little bit of thread (about 2 inches) hanging out where I started. I just threaded the holes I already punched.

In this pic, I'm marrying the first signature to the second signature. When I finished threading the holes in the first signature, I entered the thread into the first hole of the second signature, then went back and forth between rethreading the first holes and threading the second signature's holes for the first time, to "marry" the two together. Then I "married" the second signature with the third, last signature using the same back-and-forth threading. Isn't this complicated to explain. Does it make sense to you? There was also bloodshed and I'd recommend a thimble if you're using thick paper.

Here's what your spine will look like when you've threaded all the signatures together.

Paste gauze onto your new spine, and cut away excess gauze. I know that my cutting techniques are the best you've ever seen.

When the glue dries, trace your little Moleskine innards onto another sheet of paper, which will ultimately be the inside cover. Trace the spine, too so you'll know where to fold and glue. You'll notice that I've drawn an extra panel on the right there, with some tabs. I like and use the Moleskine pocket, so I made a pocket for my low-rent Moleskine.

Cut out and fold like so...

Now glue the spine of your signature pack onto the spine of the inside cover. Also, glue the tabs down to make a pocket. I sandwiched a ribbon between the signature spine and inside cover spine to make a little notebook.

Isn't this fun? I then traced and cut out the outside cover onto a piece of cardboard, a material of which I have an abundance. You can use something a little more classy if you wish. Just make sure it's sturdy enough to meet your needs, and will hold glue well. To finish, I glued the whole outside surface of that "inside cover" page, and glued all over the cardboard and married them together. To make sure the glue held well, I closed the book and pressed it between my two CD cases. Or dictionaries or whatever are fine.

Now I have a ghetto moleskine!


  1. Congrats on the new job and apt.! you are an Archie fan, tolerant individual, and do you think the new Kevin character will play out in the Archie series?

  2. I read about that new gay character in Archie a long time ago, and I still haven't gotten a chance to pick up a copy!!! I have to!

    Archie Comics were WAYYYY ahead of their time in introducing an openly asexual character (Jughead) all the way back in the 40's, when asexuality is STILL off everyone's radar today.

    I guess it depends on how "subtle" this gay character is. I guess I could see people outraged (from both gay and homophobic sides) if the character is depicted as flamboyant, or is seen kissing other guys in the comic. I think he's supposed to be more low-key, though, at least for now. Veronica initially starts out having a crush on him, I think. Archie Comics are probably ready for it.

    These days, the people buying Archie for their kids are probably picking stuff out at the comic book stores for themselves, and the kids buying Archie have probably been introduced to comics by their parents. It's not so much the case that young kids can go to the corner drugstore and find an array of comics waiting for them to bring home and shock their parents with. Comic book fans, both kids and adults, tend to be either tolerant/accepting/gay, or a little squeamish about gays, but not so much so that they'd demand some Archie book burning or even prevent their kids from reading their comics.

    Gotta go!

  3. Anyway, I had a bit more I wanted to add...I think the trajectory of this character will depend on reader response. I'm sure there will be a lot of praise coming in, and maybe a couple ignorantly worded complaints that probably won't be taken too seriously.

  4. Hey Chrissy. Good to hear that somebody's making the whole writing thing work for them. Is the freelancing thing on a website (I don't think that I'm good/dedicated enough to do that sort of thing, but I gotta admit that I'm curious)?