All of us have some level of sentimentality, even if only a little. We cherish our memories, hold onto keepsake items, and experience nostalgia for seasons of life that have long since passed.
For crafty people, we’ve developed ways to hold those memories for years to come in the form of scrapbooks, photo collages, and now junk journals.
So, what are junk journals? Similar to scrapbooks, junk journals are handmade books created for memory keeping, daily journaling, planning, and more. To make one, simply combine hard pieces for the covers (such as old book covers, cardboard, or cereal boxes), then add in whatever paper or craft materials you choose.
A junk journal is the kind of craft that has no limits. There’s an endless world of possibilities in the themes, use, and creation of junk journals. In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you could ever need to create your own junk journal.
Whether you want it to be a memory book of a special event or trip, a daily journal for thoughts and scraps, or a gift for a loved one, we’ll help you get started in the creation of your very own junk journal.
What Is A Junk Journal?
A junk journal is a handmade book made from found or recycled materials, created for a variety of purposes. Because junk journals are highly unique to the individual, there’s no one specific example of what exactly a junk journal is.
Junk journals can be made with a theme in mind such as flowers or Christmas, to record memories of specific travel, to doodle and write in on a daily basis, to plan your weeks or months, or even just as a decorative art piece.
You can create junk journals to gift people; either ones that are already filled of memories with that person, or a blank junk journal just waiting for their creative input.
Junk journals sometimes incorporate envelopes for paper memorabilia, often referred to as ephemera in the junk journal community. They can even include stickers or washi tape.
Junk journals can be made entirely from scratch or built from an existing book or notebook.
The goal of a junk journal is simply to bring you joy. Let your imagination, creativity, and nostalgia run wild to craft a junk journal for whatever way you want to use it.
How To Make A Junk Journal
Making a junk journal can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Some people enjoy the time and work that goes into a craft like this. Others may want the focus to be more on what’s inside the journal and less about how long the journal itself took to make.
To make a junk journal from scratch, you’ll need to start with at least two hard pieces for the covers and a base set of papers for the inside.
The covers can be made from cardboard, cereal boxes, or old book covers. You can decorate the cover in any way you want – painting, drawings, stickers, photos, stamps, or even using dried and pressed flowers or leaves. You could also take a look at our list of the best bookbinding boards.
You’ll need to bind the cover together in some way. This can be done with a couple different methods, such as sewing, gluing, or using binder rings. We’ll go into those methods in detail later in this article, but we also have an article listing the best glues for bookbinding and another explaining the absolute best bookbinding stitches for you to check out.
When binding the cover, be sure to add your papers. This can be scrapbook paper, paper taken from old books and painted over, found pieces of paper, regular copy paper, or simple notebook paper. Adding in this initial bunch of paper is more important with sewn bindings than binder rings.
With sewn bindings, you won’t be able to add more papers to the binding as you go. With binder rings, you can always add more paper by using a hole punch on whatever new piece of paper you want to add in.
Once your covers and paper are bound together, you have a junk journal!
Junk Journal Ideas
When it comes to a craft as whimsical and free as a junk journal, there’s no end to the ideas you can use to create one.
To make things easier, we’ve divided our list of ideas into specific categories. We’ll give you some ideas on the themes, uses, materials, and bindings for your junk journal.
These ideas are just meant to get you started. You can take one of the ideas listed below and run with it, turning it into something totally your own.
Although it isn’t strictly necessary, junk journals are best created with a theme or color scheme. Why? Because without a specific focus for your junk journal, it might get away from you. You may be tempted to add in so many things that they no longer fit in your journal.
A theme also helps to tell a cohesive story. When you go to share your junk journal with others, it can be special to have a specific theme that runs throughout the journal, sharing a small piece of your heart with a loved one.
The great part about choosing a theme is that it can be anything you want it to be.
A few of the most popular themes for junk journals are flowers/gardens, and vintage. These themes are common for those who make junk journals as a form of art and decoration, rather than for memory keeping.
You could also do a holiday theme, like a Christmas junk journal.
You could choose to do a theme centered on a specific travel experience. Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or extended vacation exploring new areas of the world, trips have a way of creating an extensive paper trail.
With a travel junk journal, you could use receipts from gas stations or restaurants, tickets from shows or tours, hotel room key cards, and printed pictures you take on your journey.
You could choose to do a theme centered specifically on a type of ephemera, such as one devoted to just receipts or event tickets.
- Simple “Junk” Journal
Junk journals are specific to each individual. For people who love to make junk journals and have created several of them, they’re even specific down to the theme or purpose.
There are many different ways to use junk journals, making them even more versatile aside from just their theme.
One of the more popular uses is a true-to-name “junk” journal. This involves simply adding small pieces of what would normally be considered trash in the journal. At the core of each use of a junk journal, this will be the underlying goal.
Things like receipts, coffee sleeves, leaves, flyers, and other often thrown-away items would be added to the pages of your junk journal.
You could add small details or captions next to the items explaining their importance, where you found them, and the date you found them; you could also simply collect the junk, letting it come together and speak for itself.
- Daily Journal
Another use would be to use the junk journal as a daily journal. This would be a way of not just collecting junk, but recording information about your day in the pages.
Aside from just simple captions that explain what a receipt is from, you would write a whole story about each day, referencing the collected items.
These types of junk journal require more open pages and space to write, so you’d want to make sure you create it with enough pages for not just your ephemera, but your words.
- Planner Journal
A junk journal can also be made as a type of planner. Whether you use it to plan each day, week, or month at a time, you can print out calendar pages and stick those in your junk journal.
You may notice that each type of use for a junk journal tends to go hand in hand with one another.
This planner use tends to lend itself well to the daily journal and junk collection uses, as you’ll likely be jotting down notes about your days and adding various ephemera to the pages along with your schedule.
- Memory Keepsake
Another use would be as a memory keepsake.
You can choose to use the memory junk journal as a record of a specific time, relationship, or event in your life.
You can use pictures and tickets, or you could simply use mail. Filling a junk journal with handwritten letters, holiday and birthday cards, and postcards could be a fun way to cherish memories of relationships built over distances.
- Travel Journal
We’ve mentioned before the use of a junk journal as a travel record, so we won’t go into much more detail on that category.
The main goal of a travel junk journal is simply to record the journey through whatever ephemera is picked up along the way.
A junk journal could be made as a gift to present to a loved one. You can choose to either fill the pages with your memories with that person, or give them a blank junk journal ready to be filled with their own creativity.
This type of gift is generally better received by someone who shares a love of crafts and sentimentality. Consider who in your life may appreciate the time and work you’ll need to put into a junk journal to make it a great gift.
- Art Piece Or Coffee Table Book
A final suggested use for a junk journal, (though there are many others since the possibilities are endless), would be as an art piece or coffee table book.
Just like a tattoo, not every junk journal has to mean something. You could use a junk journal simply to be a piece of art or decoration in your home.
Whether you display it on a bookshelf, or leave it on your coffee table for guests to flip through, this type of junk journal is meant to be displayed.
These types of junk journals are the ones that typically have a theme focused on an aesthetic rather than specific memories, such as florals or vintage.
You may have noticed an extensive list of possible materials to be used for junk journals. From the covers to the pages to the ephemera that fill those pages, there’s an endless supply of ideas for materials.
Below is a list of some suggested materials to put into your junk journal. This isn’t a comprehensive list of your options, but rather a launching pad to get you started.
You can create several junk journals and use every item listed, or you can select a small number of the materials to save money and give your junk journal a more focused look.
- Envelopes (either colorful or plain brown, depending on your theme)
- Tickets from events or shows
- Newspaper clippings
- Tags from purchased items
- Illustrated images or pictures
- Washi tape
- Paper (scrapbook paper works great)
- Handwritten letters
- Holiday or birthday cards
- Coffee sleeves
- Leaves, flowers, or other pieces of nature
- Airline or train tickets
- Flyers or brochures
- Business cards
- Fabric scraps
- Assorted ephemera theme packs (such as vintage, love, travel, Christmas, floral)
If your journal ends up so stuffed that its pages stick out, then you know you’ve done a great job! Most junk journals have so many items that their pages puff out rather than lay flat.
You’ll also need other supplies to create your junk journal, such as whatever you use for the covers and bindings. It’s a good idea to have plenty of tape, glue, and a good pair of scissors on hand, too.
You also have some great options when it comes to bindings for your junk journal. If you’re making it yourself, your two best options are to sew the binding or use binder rings.
A sewn binding may sound complicated, but is actually an easy and straightforward process as long as you have the right tools.
We recommend purchasing a bookbinding kit like this one. It has every tool you’ll need to create a sturdy and cohesive book binding, preventing your pages from falling out or tearing away.
You can also choose to forgo a traditional book binding and use binder rings instead. Simply punch holes in every paper you plan to put in your journal, as well as in the front and back covers.
Once everything has the proper holes, you can add them to your binder rings. This gives you more freedom in size, too, since your journal can be as tall as four rings or as small as two rings.
We recommend purchasing a set of binder rings like this pack of 45 rings. This will keep you busy making junk journals for several months or years to come!
If creating a book from scratch seems intimidating to you, there’s no reason to let this be an obstacle to making a junk journal. Instead, try picking up an already made journal or notebook.
You can secure pieces of scrapbook paper in place of the provided paper by using tape or glue. That way, you still get the beautiful effect of varied pages.
Depending on the journal you choose, you can also redecorate the cover in whatever way you like. This can help personalize it and disguise the original look of your junk journal.
Above all, have fun and get creative!
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