Sunday, 1 February 2009

Journaling with paper napkins

I first started using paper table napkins to embellish my travel journals about two years ago, selecting designs that ‘spoke’ to me – juicy dark elderberries or flaming clusters from the rowan in autumn; delicate white narcissus with blue muscari (grape hyacinths) in Spring; feathery parrot tulips and voluptuous roses in summer – and almost anything in winter that lifts the spirit on a dull day when the journaling mood hits me yet again. I collect and hoard paper napkins, and am continually adding to my collection. 

Yesterday I discovered a beautiful antique napkin (see pic), perfect for a French travel journal – indeed I am working upon one at the moment. Serendipity for this find – at a bring-and-share luncheon, a gathering of elderly ‘old scholars’ from my husband's school, back in the early 1940s. I spotted the napkins (wrapped around individual table settings of knife, fork and spoon) as soon as we walked into the meeting room. Never mind the food – NAPKINS! Mine went straight into my bag and after the meal, I collected up those that had barely been used. “Where did you buy these?” I asked Jeannie, who was organising the event. “Oh, I’ve had them in the drawer at home for ages,” she replied. So not something that could be replaced; a find indeed.

I digress. I have never met anyone else who uses napkins in the way I do, so I was intrigued and delighted to read Sharon Tomlinson’s informative article on creating a ‘Paper Napkin Garden Journal’ in the current issue (no 22) of ‘Cloth Paper Scissors’. Sharon uses matte gel medium (she recommends Golden) to adhere selected motifs, whereas I use ‘HeatnBond Lite’ iron-on adhesive to fix motifs direct to journal pages, or to the paper bags from which I create some of my mini-journals. I use the more fragile ‘Bondaweb’ where the napkin and decorated paper bag will be mounted on muslin; this creates a flexible background which can be stitched by hand or machine.

The illustrations in this posting are as follows: first the newly acquired ‘French Café’ napkin, then a page from my ongoing French Travel Journal which covers our visit to France and the Loire valley last October – this page uses bright orange rowan berries off an autumn napkin, and describes part of our journey to the ferry (for me a journey is as important as arriving, and I nearly always start my travel journals in this way; a sort of unwinding). Next is the page from my working notebook detailing experiments relating to napkin motifs (a cockerel) that are to be stitched into a small (12” x 12”) quilted wall-hanging, entitled 'Crowing my Cockerel Colours'. Finally a dish of easter eggs, so quick and easy to decorate. Please double-click on any of the images to view them at larger size.

I am happy to post step-by-step instructions for my fusible-web methods of napkin journaling if I receive any requests via ‘comments’. As for my pva-glued napkin easter eggs: instructions for these will be appearing in the April issue of  ‘Organic Garden & Home’ published at the end of March, so I won’t jump the gun and post details until my article has appeared. Right now I am going to try Sharon’s gel-medium method, particularly her use of overlying text; that sounds right up my street.


  1. The French cafe napkin is definitely beautiful as are these journal pages. I love the eggs too. I use gel medium for most of my paper "gluing" and AM interested in your fusible web method if you want to take the time. I think they have had articles about this in CPS which I subscribed to last year. I I even bought some of the stuff but have not yet used any.

  2. It will be my pleasure to offer some tips on the way I use fusible web - shortcuts as much as anything. As soon as I have a moment, I will post this. A.

    (P.S. I must check back all my copies of CPS for I would hate to offer as mine what someone else has written about; though I have been using 'my' method for more than twelve months.)

  3. I love these journal pages using the napkins. I use Sharons method of applying my napkins, but would love to hear of your fusible web method also. I love what Sharon does using serviettes/napkins and really love what you have done here too.
    Gorgeous eggs too. Will have to keep that in mind for Easter. I dont know if we get that publication here in Australia, but sure I could have a play around with that.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Your colorful journal pages are a treat. I'd like to read your instructions.

    I've long been a fan of Sharon's blog. We've engaged in some napkin swaps. It is easy to put a few in a regular env. and it doesn't cost much to mail. Let me know if you are ever interested in swapping.


  5. A napkin swap sounds good; lovely in fact. How shall we do this? Should I take photos of some of the designs I have and add them to my next journaling post?

    Fusible web napkin application instructions will follow when I have a spare moment to write them. Thanks for asking. Ann

  6. I actually accumulate napkins because I love the designs. Generally though, they just go into a drawer and I never really do anything with them. I'd love to learn your fusible web method of adhering them to journal pages.

  7. Thank you for the comment(s) today! I am happy to discover your blog and cool techniques, I love the napkin/ journal.

  8. Pattie - my napkins are stored in a shopping bag, two stacks of them. Yesterday I bought a pack scattered with butterflies, I thought they would make wings for little fairies, the next time some fly my way - at least I always have plenty of napkins to suit any occasion when guests arrive.

    jgr - thanks for following my blog; I hope you will enjoy my postings.


  9. These are beautiful!!

    What a creative idea! It is amazing how many creative things you can do with ordinary items we often discard!

  10. I love your Art. I had heard about Sharon's technique - and after searching the Web - I found your blog. The Paris Cafe napkin is beautiful. What a find!

    I laughed when I read about your ongoing hunt for napkins, specifically at the luncheon. I actually thought I was the only person who loved and saved beautiful paper napkins.

    I would be interested in more information on your fusible bond technique. I have only tried Golden Gel with the napkins. Have a great day!

  11. cinnamonpink - thankyou for visiting my blog and I am so glad you like my art. I will be posting an entry re the fusible bond method at some time but am snowed under with work at present. It's really easy anyway! Bear with me - and good to say hello.

  12. How lovely to find someone here in the uk who is a papercrafter! So many artists are in the US. I am also interested in a napkin swap, and your fusible interfacing method. Also worth a look is using cling film and a warm iron to adhere to card at