I've been admiring other people's beautiful bullet journals for years but always assumed it was out of the realms of possibility for someone like me who can't draw or letter and rarely writes a birthday card without a spelling mistake or pen smudge! I'm not entirely sure where my change of heart came from but it was almost certainly a combination of:
- Seeing @cyclesandsatchels's Archer & Olive journal on Instagram
- Doing a little freelance admin work for Nikki McWilliams / Nikki's Supply Store* and seeing EVEN MORE beautiful stationery!
- Really bloody needing to get organised
- Craving a relaxing evening hobby to break my Instagram doom-scrolling (I've since become obsessed with Animal Crossing but that's a whole other post!)
I mean COME ON - how lush is Archer & Olive's branding? I hoped splashing out a fancy journal would help keep me motivated and so far, so good!
I totally succumbed to the bewitching beauty of this Archer & Olive kraft paper journal which in retrospect isn't super practical for someone as clumsy and careless as me as it's harder to cover mistakes, but I love it anyway! I stuck to functional minimalist spreads for a while but watching so many talented journallers on YouTube left me craving something a bit fancier.
That's when I realised the secret to a neater and more stylish journal had been under my nose the whole time: My Cricut machines**! I started small and cut self adhesive vinyl letters to cover up my terrible attempts at drawing and hand lettering:
Yep, I also cover my mistakes with tiny squares of paper as Kraft Tipp-Ex doesn't exist!
That soon turned into cutting titles and little vinyl stickers for my monthly habit trackers, which was also a great way to use up my iddy biddy scraps of vinyl:
I hadn't quite got the hang of using masking tape as transfer tape here and the page is a little ripped!
I liked the idea of jazzing up my weekly spreads, but cutting vinyl borders seemed a little wasteful. I'd seen some bullet journal stencils online, but nothing in quite the style I was looking for. Once again, my Cricut came to my rescue! I bought these mylar sheets on another crafter's recommendation - I avoid Amazon when I can but as this was unchartered territory, I wanted to stick with something I knew would work. I've since received a recommendation for these sheets but am yet to try them.
There's loads of stencil designs on DesignSpace, so I made a couple to test the mylar and have a go at using them in my journal:
Thankfully, all went to plan and I set to work designing my own. I originally tried making rectangular stencils by cutting out the central spaces entirely, but this made the templates very wibbly and hard to use. I realised I needed to keep the central spaces intact, held in place with little tabs:
Fancy making your own?
1. Decide how big you want your shapes to be. I use 6cm x 9cm boxes for my standard weekly spreads so I drew a 6cm x 9cm box and a 5.6cm x 8.6mm box to nest inside it. This gives me 2mm on each side of the box to draw. This is just the first spacing I tried and it worked for me, but you could make this wider or narrower to suit your preference or pens!
2. Centralise your shapes using the "align" tool. Send the larger one to the back if it isn't already:
3. Slice your design to create your box border. London Craft Girl has a great video on using the slice tool if you aren't familiar with it. Her video taught me, so I'm sure she explains it better than I could!
4. Next we're going to add the little tabs that hold the central section in place. Draw a rectangle that's 2mm wide (the same width as the border) x 2cm. The length doesn't really matter as we'll just be using this to slice into our border but it's easier to position if it's a bit longer. Rotate it by 45 degrees:
5. You'll need two like this, and two rotated 135 degrees. Position them at the corners of your border - I've changed the colour to make them easier to see. They need to go across the corners, but the height placement doesn't matter as we'll just be using them to slice:
6. Select and slice one corner piece at a time with the border. Once you've done all four, you should have something that looks like this and you can delete all of your "working pieces":
7. Copy and paste as many boxes as you want on your stencil, and align and space accordingly. You'll also need to add your stencil edge - you could cut the same size or bigger or smaller than your journal pages. I cut mine slightly smaller than the page so that I can hold them in place with low-tack washi tape while I use them:
8. You can either attach or weld the boxes to your stencil outline or slice them out, depending on whether you think you'll want to alter the design in the future.
9. It's cutting time! I used a fine point blade (the one it comes with!), a standard mat and the mylar setting on my Cricut Maker. I used a brayer to thoroughly adhere it to the mat.
For the Explore, you'll need it to set your machine to a cut pressure of 292 and 2x multi-cut [from Cricut website]. Cricut haven't included mylar in the list of materials the Joy can cut, but apparently it works on the faux leather setting with added pressure (credit: Nikki Hutchinson via UK Bullet Journal Group on Facebook). I wouldn't want to recommend anything that may void your machine's warranty so please do your research and make your own judgement call here!
10. To use them in your journal, simply hold in place with clips, tape or Blu-Tack - or your hands if they're steadier than mine - and get stencilling! You could fill in the corners once you've removed the stencil or leave them as they are.
Stabilo metallic 68 marker | Sakura Pigma Micron 05
For the shaped border:
I used image #M432A8 from DesignSpace. This design features a border but it was a little thicker than I wanted, so I began by welding it, and then repeated the process as above. As with the squares / rectangles, you'll need to "unlock" the ratio to re-size it to your specifications. I added the tabs at the top, bottom and sides rather than the corners for this design.
I've also made a couple of lettering stencils for pages that feature regularly in my journal, e.g. freelance time sheets:
My writing has never looked this neat! Biscuit washi available here
I considered making days of the week stencils, but I stocked up on days of the week washi tape when I started journalling, to save me from my messy handwriting:
I hope that was helpful! This was just me experimenting and making it up as I went along, so there may be more efficient ways to achieve the same result. This post is a bit of a departure from my usual content, so please let me know if you have any feedback.
Next on my list of ways to trick people into thinking I'm a stylish bullet journaller: print then cut stickers! My girl Paige Joanna recently uploaded a YouTube vid about this so be sure to check it out if you'd like to have a go!
Thanks so much for reading my blog! While you're here, why not check out my range of sewing-themed gifts, accessories and stationery?
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* Whilst I do a little freelance work for Nikki's Supply store, I was under no obligation to mention or link her products and all items were bought by me (although she does sometimes give me a cheeky discount or extras with my orders!)
** My Cricut machines were previous PR products although I was under no obligation to write this post.