NEW: Eco-Friendly Journals and Sketchbooks

by Susan Green November 06, 2018

Eco Friendly handmade journals, notebooks and sketchbooks

Eco-friendly sketchbooks and journals bound with recycled, renewable or sustainable natural materials.

Updated June 2020 with new Sketchbooks!

I've been using a pretty plant-based alternative to leather that supports biodiversity, and a luxurious handmade paper produced from fashion industry waste. And with those, I'm launching my new collection of Eco-Friendly Sketchbooks and Journals.  Here's the story...

Ethical choices at home and in the studio

This year has seen me on a mission to make more eco-friendly product choices. At home we've ditched the plastic-cartoned supermarket milk in favour of local, organic milk delivered to our doorstop in re-usable glass bottles (you know, like in the old days). We've ordered loo roll from Who Gives A Crap and we've favoured bamboo items over plastic.

When supplies have run low in the studio, I've ordered eco-friendly replacements. My business cards are 100% recycled cotton that reuse fashion industry waste. Mini Journals are delivered in recycled and recyclable 'Jiffy Green' padded bags. For larger orders, I use recyclable or compostable boxes and packing materials. Very occasionally there will be some re-used plastic bubble wrap, and I hope you can either re-use this yourself, or recycle it wherever plastic film bags can be recycled (often at supermarkets).

Natural Materials

I already favour natural materials, which goes some way to making my material choices eco-friendly.

Linen - from the flax plant - is one of the most environmentally sustainable fibres and all my books are bound in linen thread. I've introduced unbleached woven linen ribbons to some of my books, too. Every single part of the flax plant is used, so there's no waste. And when grown in its natural environment (mostly Europe), flax doesn't require irrigation or fertilisation and is grown organically without pesticides.

Some time ago I switched my 'standard' paper for Journals and Guest Books to Mohawk Superfine; it's got several eco-credentials FSC certification and is manufactured by non-polluting green electricity produced by windpower. 

So far, so good. But I wanted to find more eco-friendly materials. And they had to meet my usual criteria: tactile, finest quality and fit for purpose. I was really pleased to discover two new materials that are eco-friendly, pleasurable to handle and durable, too. 


This beautiful paper is made from off-cuts of t-shirt material which would otherwise have gone to landfill as waste from the fashion textile industry. Recycled cotton makes fantastic paper; it's long fibre, strong and incredibly tactile. Because it's made by hand, its genuine deckle edges confer a truly authentic handmade look and feel to the books, and its natural surface variations and texture give an extra dimension to watercolours and calligraphy. I've made two new styles of books with the cotton rag paper; Japanese Stab Stitch Sketchbooks and Wabi Sabi Sketchbooks. 


I've been teaching a Japanese Stab Stitch bookbinding course this autumn and had made quite a few samples to show my students. But it wasn't until discovering the cotton rag paper that I decided to bind a Stab Stitch collection to offer my customers. The textured, 210gsm medium-rough paper is ideal for watercolour and ink and they're a good size (A5) to tuck into a bag if you're painting on your travels.  

Environmentally Friendly Stab Stitch SketchbooksFour traditional Stab Stitch styles.
From behind to top: Simple 4-hole, Tortoiseshell, Noble and Hemp Leaf.
Cotton Rag Sketchbook: Japanese Stab Stitch styles from bound by hand

The 'blues' set of Japanese cotton rag stab sketchbooks.

There's more information about the Japanese Stab Stitch books in this blog post and you can buy them here


Bound with a smooth version of the same eco-friendly 210gsm cotton rag paper, these new Wabi Sabi Sketchbooks are really exciting. They turn 360 degrees into a full circle, but also lie completely flat on a table. With exposed spine stitching in white linen thread, they're held closed with an unbleached woven linen ribbon. 

Wabi Sabi Sketchbooks turn 360 degreesWabi Sabi Sketchbooks turn 360 degrees in a full circle - fold back in the hand for easy use, and to display your artwork in a standing book.

Cotton Rag 'Wabi Sabi' Sketchbook with Graphitint pencils and wash.
Wabi Sabi Sketchbooks are also completely lay-flat.  

Unadorned and uncovered, these Sketchbooks evoke a sense of calm simplicity and, thanks to the natural variations of handmade paper, express the Wabi Sabi aesthetic; "beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete". You can buy Wabi Sabi Sketchbooks here.


Eco-friendly, tactile and beautiful, cork ticks all the boxes! Cork textile is produced from the bark of the Cork Oak tree, forests of which are found in Portugal and Mediterranean countries. Protected by law for their contribution to the ecosystem, cork forests promote biodiversity and prevent desertification. Harvesting of the bark takes place in a sustainable manner, after which the trees are left to rest and regenerate. 

Cork Oak Forest after harvestingCork Oaks after harvesting, Alessandro Vecchi 2012. Bosco di querce da sughero dopo l'estrazione nei pressi di Tempio Pausania, Sardegna. Source:

Cork makes for a brilliant vegan 'faux leather'. It shares some of the same useful properties of leather (durable, tactile, water-resistant) but it's entirely plant-based and is naturally renewable. And unlike many vegan leathers, which are petroleum-laden synthetics, it's eco-friendly, too. Win, win, win!


Slipped into a Christmas stocking, a homemade cracker or given at the obligatory office Secret Santa, Mini Journals have been popular little gifts ever since I introduced them for Christmas back in 2008. They've always received rave reviews and I love it when customers get in touch to share how they use them: writing down passwords and meditation prompts, to carrying them around in a pocket for impromptu mini sketches.

"These Cork Minis are just darling! The size is even skinny jeans pocket friendly so I can take it with me wherever I go, and use it whenever inspiration strikes." Erica, Poland.

Cork Mini JournalsCork Mini Journals: Rose Gold & Natural 


I'm making these 'normal' sized Cork Sketchbooks in a variety of fresh colour combinations, with 140gsm cartridge paper that's made from recycled coffee cups.


Cork Vegan Sketchbook with recycled cartridge paper, A5 size in Mint Green.


Cork Vegan Sketchbook in Mint Green, A5 size

The simple but striking Longstitch binding means the pages lay flat so you can write up to the edge. Because they're stitched in linen thread - rather than glued - you don't have to worry about your Sketchbook falling apart with regular use (the magic of handmade over mass-produced).

Cork Vegan Sketchbook: Rose & Turquoise A5 size

Cork Vegan Sketchbook in Rose & Turquoise with recycled cartridge paper

Shop the new collection

I hope this blog post and the new collection solves a few sustainable gift-giving dilemmas. Shop the books by using the buttons below or click here for a proper browse. I've put a few links about eco-friendly materials and products down below, too.

Susan Green
+44 (0)7748 759 371Bound by Hand uses sustainable, recyclable and compostable packaging from Packhelp.


Sustainable packaging supplies (and what to do with them)

Linen - the original sustainable material, V&A accessed 29.10.18

Environmental footprint of different textiles and comparison of cotton and linen (flax) fabric. Dr Adrian Chapman, October 2010. Envormation, accessed 29.10.18 (linen is included within 'natural bast fibres')

The True Cost film - who pays the price for our fashion industry? 

Who Gives A Crap - eco-friendly loo roll, 50% of profits donated to help build toilets in developing countries.

Find Me A Milkman - scroll through the search results to find local, independent dairies rather than opting for Milk & More, which is owned by multinational corporation Müller

Moo recycled business cards - tactile and eco-friendly, it's no wonder I love them!

Eco-Craft - eco-friendly post & packaging supplies ideal for creative small business owners

Packhelp - quality mailing boxes for online sellers, with eco-friendly options.

Susan Green
Susan Green


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Size Guide

Use this Size Guide to check the dimensions of the books you're considering purchasing (dimensions are external and refer to the closed book unless otherwise indicated). If you'd like some guidance with selecting the correct size, feel free to contact Susan the bookbinder: email or call +44 (0)7748 759371

Leather Memory Books, Wedding Guest Books, Journals and Sketchbooks
A4 Large Portrait 12 inches or 305 mm 8.5 inches or 215 mm 1.5 inches or 38 mm
A4 Large Landscape 8.5 inches or 215 mm 12 inches or 305 mm 1.5 inches or 38 mm
A5 Medium Landscape 6 inches or 155 mm 8.5 inches or 215 mm 1.5 inches or 38 mm
A5 Medium Portrait 8.5 inches or 215 mm 6 inches or 155 mm 1.5 inches or 35 mm
A6 Small Landscape 4.5 inches or 114 mm 6 inches or 155 mm 1 inch or 25 mm
A6 Small Portrait 6 inches or 155 mm 4.5 inches or 114 mm 1 inch or 25 mm


Miniature Journals
 One Size 3 inches or 76 mm 2.25 inches or 60 mm 20 mm or 0.75 inches


Marbled Notebooks
 A4 Large 297 mm or 11.5 inches approx. 205 mm or 8 inches approx. 64 pages
A5 Medium 210 mm or 8.25 inches approx. 145 mm or 5.75 inches approx. 56 pages
A6 Small  150 mm or 6 inches approx. 100 mm or 4 inches approx. 48 pages
A7 Pocket 106 mm or 4.25 inches approx. 72 mm or 2.75 inches approx. 40 pages