I think I first encountered Shimelle back in 2005 when I signed up for her online Art Journal Challenge workshop. That was my first experience playing with an art journal and I came away really, really inspired (need to pull those out again one of these days). Since that time her workshop offerings have grown and expanded to include many more scrapbook-focused classes, including one of my personal favorites: Journal Your Christmas.
Today Shimelle is going to talk you through her process for creating a travel journal before the travel (what I like to call a "scrapbook on the road"). Read on for a bunch of great ideas & tips:
know those stories of what you did on summer vacation? This summer, I
traveled exactly halfway around the world to see a friend I hadn't seen
in ten years. We were best friends at our tiny little university in a
tiny little town in the middle of a big empty field of farmland. In
those days, 'travel' was driving the two hours in either direction to
get to an actual metropolis. That was in Kansas. Now I live in
England and my friend lives in Hawaii. Inevitably, near the end of the
trip we had a discussion of what had and had not changed in those ten
years, and top of the list of what was different about me? "You
travel. Like so much."
I'm not sure what started the travel bug
for me, but I will admit my friend did hit upon the biggest change to
my life over the last decade. If you flip through my scrapbooks, more
than half of my pages are about going places, near and far. We have a
slightly embarrassing habit actually: on the journey home from one
trip, we decide where we go next. By the time we hit the front door,
we know where that will be, and we can start researching and bargain
hunting right away, which is at least half of what makes it all
possible. And a big part of that process for me is creating something
that will help me commit to the next adventure — something that
combines a need for organisation, the energy of creativity and the
documentary value of a scrapbook. So basically what I'm saying is that
I scrapbook the trip before we go anywhere.
Okay, I'm not saying
that at all. I create a travel journal in advance. For me, there is a
difference between a scrapbook and a journal, although it can be a very
small difference sometimes. A scrapbook is made after the fact,
written in reflection (even if it is reflecting on just a day or so
ago), and it's something I would love anyone to come in and look
through if they so wished. Journals are a bit different: they are of
the moment and they are more personal: I reserve the right to choose
whether my journals would be open for sharing or hidden away. Travel
journals tend to fall somewhere in the middle, as they are most
definitely written as the trip unfolds, but I add photos and extra
content after the trip – in reflection. And I can't think of a travel
journal I wouldn't be happy to share with anyone who would sit still
long enough to take a look.
Originally, I just kept my travel
journal in plain notebook form and jotted down notes along the trip. I
had every intention of coming straight home, ordering prints of my
photos and making the entire scrapbook almost instantly. After all, I
had all those notes! And all those pictures! What could be easier?
Well. Um. If you look through my albums you will find several that
are started in that great intention yet remain…unfinished. So I had
to change plans. I needed to take the energy that I had when I was
planning a trip and looking forward to it and use that creatively so I
would have something that was practically finished by the time I got
home…and my mind was already drifting to a new destination. Our next
holiday is a hiking trip in the West Fjords of Iceland, in just a few
weeks, and my journal is ready to go. That's the project I want to
share with you.
I love starting with some sort of existing book
structure that I can adapt as I go, and for this project I started with
the Making Memories Great Escape Portfolio album, which comes with a
mix of pages including page protectors, tabbed dividers, envelopes,
pockets and transparencies. The pages are 8×8 in size, which is a size
that fits well in the bag I carry everywhere on our travels, so that
works for me! With the album chosen, I work out a general outline of
what I will include so I can create it in an efficient
process…otherwise I will never finish the project on time! This is a
seven day trip, so I knew I wanted to have seven pages of travel log. I wanted most – possibly all – days to have something decorative. I
wanted lots of open places to easily add photos when I came home and
lots of pockets to hold bits and pieces from the trip as it
progressed. And I wanted one last practical page that would make it
all work for me (more about that in a bit).
travel log pages are the easiest, so that's where I start. I chose
seven patterned papers that would work together – with no second
guessing allowed – and printed the travel journal worksheet on each
sheet. Three of these were glued straight to the 8×8 cardstock that
came with the album. I prefer scissors to my trimmer, so I just glued
the paper down so it covers the cardstock, turned the cardstock over
and cut off the excess. I inked the edges and added a bit of paper
trim here and there, just punched from scraps. The remaining four were
trimmed to just the box around the travel log, with the edges inked and
just sat to one side for now.
four tabbed sheets came next. These were always going to be the
creative fun part! I tend to do a lot of collage-style work in my
journals, but with an obvious influence from the scrapbooking world.
Clustering items in a collage is just like clustering them on a
layout. I started each of these with an old book page. I like to
brighten the middle of the page with white paint, so I keep a small
bottle of Neopaque white acrylic in my tool kit. Just scribble it
along the page then use a brush to fan it out or just finger paint with
it — it comes off your hands far more easily than most acrylic paints.
the paint is dry, they need a little stamping to spice them up. I used
two different stamps — one is a map of Iceland that I bought in a
craft store in Reykjavík and the other is a woodgrain stamp from the Backgrounds set by Banana Frog, both stamped with brown Distress Ink.
entire point of the book text, paint and stamping? To add some
dimension underneath a transparency. To get the most from one sheet of
inkjet transparency, I created this file in Photoshop before I went any
further It's four digital papers, each stamped with a word brush, then I just ran this file through my printer onto a transparency
sheet and cut it into the four boxes.
one gets attached to a book page, and then the small pieces of the
collage will be added on top. On each page, I held the transparency in
place with a bit of glue somewhere that could be hidden, like under
this strip of fabric at the edge. Then comes the very fun part!
this point I line up all four sheets on my dining table – which means I
am working in pure luxury as my scrapping desk is getting messy by this
point. But no one else was home so let's just keep it our little secret
that I was scrapping throughout the entire house at this point, okay?
Anyway, the entire purpose of lining them all up on the table is
actually to make the collages balanced but unique. So I grab just one
or two items from my supplies at a time, bring them to the table and
figure out how to spread them across all four collages. They each got
a strip of fabric. They each got a piece of a train ticket. They each
got a part of a map. Then I matched up the numbers on the rulers with
the numbered day blocks from the travel journal worksheet, and so on.
Everything gets built up so everything is touching and the cluster
flows from top to bottom, right to left or on the diagonal. Don't be
afraid to cover things up — but don't cover up the things you think
are of utmost importance. I love to leave things that seem random but
are actually quite purposeful on show, like symbolic numbers or words,
but there is a great deal of background that gets covered and I'm okay
with that. It adds to the dimension.
items in the collages are a mix of scrapbooking supplies and ephemera.
The orange train tickets are something I have on never-ending supply
(our train station is old-fashioned and doesn't accept the newer
electronic travelcards used throughout the rest of London) and they
colour-coordinate and they are travel themed, so what's not to love?
The maps actually came from another trip to Iceland three years ago –
of course I saved every bit of paper and packaging from that trip and I
figure if I've been saving it for three years and it's still in the
same envelope that I carried on that trip, this is as good a time as
any to put it to use! Consequently, if you know your Icelandic
geography you'll notice that the locations on the map are not where
we're traveling! That's okay with me. As a total hoarder of supplies
and ephemera, I've decided the only reason to have all this stash is to
use it, so if I pull it out, I'm really going to try to find a place to
include it on my project. And only partially because I prefer to glue
things rather than put them away.
Believe it or not, the
collage look also has the ability to be practical. I've included
addresses of restaurants we are planning to visit, contact numbers for
a few in-case-of-emergency acquaintances…okay, most of the collage is
just pretty bits of paper but there are a few things in there that are
useful, I promise.
Once pretty much everything is in place, machine stitch everything so
it's permanent. It completely changes the look of a cluster of
embellishments, and it's brilliant for a travel journal because
stitching is sturdier than glue for something that is going to be in
and out of your bag all the time. I love how Tara Anderson used her stitching to make this project
go from pretty to just amazing and awesome, and I couldn't help but be
inspired by how she held everything together with stitches. The
stitching really made each of my collage pages feel finished.
All four collages done — the odd days of the week long trip.
of course the back of each of those tabbed pages is blank. Here's
where the travel log pages come into play — with a hefty dose of
paperclips for now! The three travel logs on cardstock go straight
into the page protectors that came with the kit – and the tops are
paperclipped closed. The remaining four are paperclipped to the back
of the tabbed sheets — so the front has a collage and the back has a
travel log. The paperclips serve many purposes: I don't want to glue
these down because I want to be able to write on them, most
importantly. The clips also make it easy to add in extra bits from the
trip without any worry, and clipping the page protectors closed makes
them a bit more durable for backpacking.
last little detail to the tabbed sheets — the tabs needed to be a bit
sturdier for me, so I cut pieces of cardboard, added chipboard numbers
and stitched through all three layers on the sewing machine. Am I
cruel to my sewing machine? Probably. But she still sews just fine and
doesn't complain very often! My advice is to go slowly and make sure
you have plenty of spare needles, as paper and cardboard will blunt
your needles very quickly. Other than that, I don't really sew any
differently on paper than on fabric.
the odd days done, but what about the even numbered days? There are
two envelopes that come with the album kit, and these are perfect for
day 2 and 6. The embellishment is similar, but it needs to be much
smaller so I started with tags instead of full pages. First up — turn
the white tags into aged, brown tags with various shades of Distress
add some pattern with background stamps in the darkest shade. Nothing
is complete without some polka dots somewhere, or so I believe.
cool thing with the Neopaque — make a slightly thicker layer and stamp
into it with a clean, un-inked stamp and it will leave the impression,
which is a little different.
tags fit inside envelopes from vintage View-Master reels, and
everything is stitched or paperclipped in place – including the top of
the envelope, which will hold more things collected along the trip.
Sometimes when we hike, I line an envelope with some parchment or waxed
paper inside in case there is a flower or leaf or twig to keep — then
it can stay inside and not wind up making a mess of the journal or my
Then there's the page for day four. Or rather, there
isn't a page for day four. After making all those embellishments, it
seemed like I should leave something unfinished so I can include some
things that are actually from the trip. So aside from the travel log
sheet, there is absolutely nothing for day four right now. I'll add
that after the trip — I think I can handle one page more easily than
my old 'I'll make an entire album this weekend' hope. Don't feel like
you have to complete the entire project before you go — the trick is
to strike a balance for before, during and after your adventure.
far, everything has been made from the pages that came in the kit (and
in fact there are two 8×8 transparencies I haven't included just yet
– I'll save those for now and see if they fit the finished project
later) but there is one last practical thing I want to add that
requires a something extra: a nice sturdy page that will hold my pens
and keep the pages of the album from getting smashed. The page is cut
from packing cardboard with the edges roughed up just a bit.
the fabric pocket, cut a rectangle of fabric and iron it. (Yes, it is
a pain to go get the iron set up, but I have a secret for that too –
while the iron is warming up, find some chocolate. It's only fair.)
Once the rectangle is entirely flat, start folding over the edges and
ironing them flat. I fold the top long side twice and all the other
edges just once. You can double them all if you prefer.
Sew along the top edge (just to itself – not to the cardboard!) so that edge won't come unfolded. Sew
the left edge to the cardboard. Now place your pen inside so you can
see how much room it will need. Hold the fabric in place with one hand
and use another pen to make a teeny tiny mark on the fabric and the
cardboard where the stitching should be to make a pen pocket. Remove
the pen from the pocket, go back to the sewing machine, line up the two
marks and sew a straight line (or near enough) from top to bottom.
Repeat for as many pens as you would like to hold.
Once your pen pockets are made, sew the right edge and the bottom of the rectangle.
holes to include this in your book — but make sure your pens are
facing away from your pages, not toward them. The flat side of the
cardboard against the pages will help protect the journal. When I pack
my bag, I usually pack the journal in a bubble-wrap envelope cut down
to size and that works perfectly in all weather.
now, I've left the cover very plain, aside from a vintage button card
that is glued inside the window. The cover always gets the brunt of
the damage when you pack an album, so there's no point in decorating it
before packing. Plain for now, pretty for later! Everything is held
together with book rings – nice and simple and easy to add things or
move things at any point.
here's the album, ready to go hiking. Lots of empty space for photos. Lots of lined pages for writing. Plenty of pockets and paperclips to
keep things along the way! We're planning to take this trip in early
September, so I'll post the finished project on my blog
when we return and all those empty spaces
will have disappeared! I am seriously looking forward to that moment
of knowing I actually kept the promise to document everything…not
like the unfinished travel albums that are still on my shelves. Maybe
this means I can get closer to done with those sometime soon? We'll
see. But even if your style is very different to this, the idea of
creating at least some of your journal before you travel, you'll be
more likely to write down the details of your trip (because you always
think you'll remember them but then suddenly you can't remember where
you went which day…or is that just me?) and have somewhere to
instantly put your photos and show off to your friends. Far more fun
than a slide show.
Well, I say that, but I think slide shows would be pretty cool actually.
years ago Shimelle Laine traveled from Kansas to England, and forgot to
catch the return plane. Shortly thereafter she started working in the
scrapbooking industry while also teaching English in a secondary
school. Soon enough those worlds merged and she found herself leading
workshops for scrapbookers and artists who wanted confidence in writing
down their own story — preferably without making it feel like a
classroom. When she couldn't travel to meet with those crafters in
person, she started teaching workshops online at shimelle.com, classes that return every year like Journal your Christmas every December and Learn Something New Every Day every September. Throughout the rest of the year, she teaches a variety of workshops online and in person to encourage others to get their story written down. Find out more on her blog, pretty paper. true stories.
She is the commissioning editor of Scrapbook Inspirations, the UK's top selling scrapbooking magazine and a Garden Girl at Two Peas in a Bucket. She designs stamps for Banana Frog and today marks the launch of her own line of digital products.
and her husband now call London home and also find it a rather
convenient hub for travel. They both suggest you go somewhere soon.
And take lots of pictures.