Southern Mom Loves: Make a 'Take a Break' Teacher Gift Basket + a Mini Japanese-Bound Journal Tutorial!

Make a 'Take a Break' Teacher Gift Basket + a Mini Japanese-Bound Journal Tutorial!

Friday, August 3, 2018

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PowerToThePen #PilotYourLife #CollectiveBias

Back to school time is here already and we're busy getting ready for the new school year. My daughter is going into middle school at a completely new school and she's super-excited, but also a little nervous. She'll be going to a magnet school in another area, so she's worried that she won't know very many, if any, of the students and has never met any of the teachers. We had a little talk about teachers and how hard, but awesome, their jobs are and she wanted to give her new teacher a gift. Of course, we ended up putting together a great "Take a Break" gift basket that I think any teacher would love to receive, including a handmade mini Japanese-bound journal (tutorial below!)

We have some teachers in our family so I know just how hard they work and just how difficult their jobs can be sometimes; Rewarding, yes, but a teacher's job is never easy, so I think they deserve a break! We filled this gift basket with some fun stuff for a mini-break at any time of day.

We took a quick trip to Target and found a little art caddy that would make the perfect gift basket for a teacher. We then started shopping for some quick treats like chocolates and teas.

We also found the cutest little container of stress putty! I ended up getting a few of these for us, too, because it's so awesome. :)

I am a pen fanatic! I am a note-taking, sketching, planner-keeping mama. A good pen gives me a little happy feeling every time I use it, so I grabbed some of the FriXion® Pens by Pilot Pen. These pens are the real deal for pen lovers who want a smooth-writing gel ink.

I grabbed the FriXion ColorSticks and the FriXion Colors Marker Pens to add to our gift basket because #1: Teachers always need pens because theirs always seem to disappear somehow and #2: These are the perfect pens to go with my fun DIY idea. Why? Because they write smoothly but erase cleanly for infinite do-overs, so you can write, erase and re-write until ideas are just right and they won't tear up your paper. Cool, huh?

You can grab them all at Target online or in-store in the everyday pen aisle or back-to-school section and use this coupon for $1 off FriXion 2-pack or larger!

With these, she can journal or draw to her heart's content in this DIY mini Japanese-bound journal! These make great little gifts because you can make a lot of them at once and they're so stinkin' cute.

Mini Japanese-Bound Journal DIY

  • 1 sheet of 8.5"x11" copy paper
  • 1 sheet of decorative cardstock
  • ruler
  • scissors or a craft knife with a cutting mat
  • an awl, icepick, large safety pin, or something else to poke holes with
  • embroidery floss
  • a large sewing needle
  • a pencil or erasable pen


Making the page strips:
  1. Lay the sheet of copy paper in front of you with the long end towards you. 
  2. Fold the paper in half longways.
  3. Take the top half and fold it back to the center like you're making a paper fan.
  4. Flip the paper over and do the same on the other side.
  5. You now have a sheet of paper accordion-folded into 4 parts. No measuring required!
  6. I'm using a craft knife and a ruler to make more precise cuts but you can use a pair of scissors.
  7. Cut along the first fold to get a long strip of paper.
  8. Repeat with the other folds to end up with 4 long strips. Those will be our page strips. 

Folding the pages:
  1. We want to accordion-fold these pages, so lay a strip out in front of you.
  2. Fold that strip in half long ways.
  3. Open it up and fold one end into the center that we just made.
  4. Fold the top free edge backward to the new right edge. Fold that new right edge towards the back of the paper to the center mark we made in step 2. You now have half of your strip accordion-folded.
  5. Repeat those steps with the other half of the strip.
  6. Repeat with the other 3 strips.

You now have the pages for your Japanese-bound book. We won't be cutting these, instead, we'll be using the folded-edges outward as pages. This will make a nicer page edge and easier page turning. Lay your page stacks with the folded edges to the right and the free edges to the left (they will be bound up in the spine.)

Preparing the pages for binding:
This is where we measure and mark, but it's not hard and we'll use this as a template to mark our other page bundles.
  1. Using your ruler, measure in 3/16" from the left side at the top and mark with a tiny dot. Do the same thing at the bottom and mark. Line up the edge of your ruler with both of those marks and draw a line. This will give you a vertical line that shows how far in from the left side our binding holes should go.
  2. Now measure 3/16" down from the top and make a line towards the left edge.
  3. Measure 3/16" up from the bottom and make a line towards the left edge. Those are our top and bottom starting points for the binding.
  4. Measure from the top mark down 7/16" and make another line out to the left edge.
  5. Do that twice more for a total of 5 evenly-spaced horizontal lines that show us where we need to make holes for the binding thread.

  6. Use an awl or other sharp, pointy object to poke 5 holes at the intersection of those lines. Push it through the paper and twist to open up the holes. This will make binding the pages together so much easier. 
  7. Use that bunch of pages as a template by placing it over another bunch and using a pencil to poke through the holes to mark the other pages. Poke holes through those as well and erase all of your marks.

Making the covers:
  1. Our book is 1-3/8" wide, so make a vertical line 1-3/8" in from the left side of your cardstock. Make a horizontal line 2-1/8" down from the top and mark. Make another line 2-1/8" down from that one and you've marked out your front and back covers.
  2. Cut them out.
  3. Use your pages as a template to mark the binding holes and poke through with the awl.
  4. You now have all of your pages and covers ready to bind.

Preparing the thread:
I'm using an embroidery thread to bind. Embroidery thread has 6 strands, which is a little too thick for our purpose, so I'm using 3 strands. You can just cut a length of embroidery thread and separate 3 of the strands and thread your needle with those.

Binding the bottom corner:
We'll start the binding by squaring the corner off with a thread that comes down around the bottom corner. This will keep the corners of the book looking neat.
  1. Put your needle through the bottom hole going from the back to the front, making sure to leave a long tale to tie the binding off with when we're finished.
  2. Pull through.
  3. Place your needle through the same hole from back to front to form a loop.
  4. Pull the needle through tightening the loop around the bottom of the book.
  5. Place your needle through the same hole a third time from back to front to form another loop. 
  6. Pull this loop tightly around the spine. This will be our first spine loop.

Binding the spine:
Now we'll start lacing up our spine. For clarity, the instructions numbers correspond to the photos below.
  1. Your thread should be on the top of hole #5. Bring it up to go from front to back into hole #4.
  2. Pull it through.
  3. Loop around and bring your needle from front to back of hole #4 again.
  4. Pull through to make a loop on the spine.
  5. Bring your needle from back to front on hole #3 and pull it through.
  6. Loop around and bring your needle from back to front on hole #3 again to make a loop on the spine.
  7. Pull it through.
  8. Bring your needle from front to back on hole #2 and pull it through.
  9. Loop around and bring your needle from front to back on hole #2 again to make a loop on the spine.
  10. Pull it through.
  11. Bring your needle from back to front on hole #1 and pull it through.
  12. Loop around and bring your needle from back to front on hole #1 again to make a loop on the spine.

Binding the top corner:
To finish up the top corner before we make our way back down the spine, loop the needle around again and go from back to front on hole #1 and pull it through, bringing the loop around to the top of the spine to make a square.

Finishing the spine:
Now let's finish by lacing back down the spine.
  1. Bring your needle from front to back into hole #2.
  2. Pull through.
  3. Bring your needle from back to front into hole #3.
  4. Pull through.
  5. Bring your needle from front to back into hole #4.
  6. Pull through.

Tying off the binding:
Now we're at the end with one open section and two loose thread tails. To finish the binding, simply knot the threads together, pulling the knot towards one of the binding holes for a neater-looking finish. Clip the tails as close to the knot as you can.

You're done! Now you have an itty bitty journal, perfect for pocket sketching or a quick journal entry!

Check out all of the varieties of FriXion® Pens by Pilot Pen at Target here so you can write and create fearlessly!

Have fun creating a new teacher gift; I know they'll appreciate it. I hope you have a smooth start to your school year!


Do you know a deserving teacher that would like this basket? Have you ever tried book-binding? I love to hear your comments!

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