How To Upcycle An Old Book Into A Handmade Journal


Imagine there's a book in your bookcase with a really great cover. Imagine that book is also an incredibly dull and universally useless read - in fact, you're only keeping it as a cure for insomnia. Surely there must be some other use for it?

If you're absolutely sure nobody else could would find it useful - then it's time to commit one of history's most heinous cultural crimes. In need of a writing pad or journal? Right then - it's time to tear that book to pieces, and use that gorgeous cover to make a handmade journal you'll treasure forever.

Here's what you need.

  • A book with a cover you love, and insides that are of no use to anyone
  • Nice paper for the insides (how about some tree-free hemp paper?)
  • A strong needle.
  • An awl.
  • Some really tough thread.
  • A ruler.
  • A pencil.

Ready? Bibliophiles of a nervous disposition, look away now...

1. Destroy The Book. Oh, you fiend. Get a pair of scissors or a sharp knife and chop the front and the back cover off your chosen victim. The pieces of the book that remain? They're paper, so you can recycle them. 

2. Make A Signature. Your new journal paper needs to be big enough to be folded in half and then fitted between your covers. Take a bundle of maybe 10 or 15 sheets, depending on the thickness of the paper - and fold them in half. This is your first signature.

3. Make multiple signatures. If you're wanting a nice thick journal, you'll need a few signatures, which you'll be stitching together one by one at the end (so don't use too many, or it'll take forever).

4. Binding (1). The toughness of your journal will depend on the thread you're using, so make sure you use the strong stuff. Alternately, dental floss is perfect! So, here's how it works...

5. Binding (2). If you're going with a single signature, ie. one lot of folded paper, options abound - but the easiest thing to do is to get a large sheet of card, place your covers on it, next to each other, and cut around their combined outline. Now fold this piece of card in half & glue your book covers to the front and the back of one side of it. Hey presto - one complete cover you can slot your pages into, securing them in place with stitching down the crease. You're done!

6. Binding (3). If you're using multiple signatures and want to go for what's known as coptic binding, it's a little trickier. Firstly, put all your signatures together in a stack, get a ruler, and mark off a series of 1-inch points at the very edge of the top signature. Now draw vertical lines from these points down through the stack, so all signatures are marked identically. These are your guides for the stitching process.  

7. Binding (4). Now you're stitching each individual signature onto the back cover. Skip to 05:50 in the following video to see how it's done...

8. Write Your Innermost Thoughts In Your New Handmade Journal. This is the really fun bit. Feel free to go nuts.

BONUS: want to reuse a book-cover but don't want the hassle of making a journal? How about using it as a mouse-mat?

Image: watersoluble


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Latest comments

  1. This is a great idea. We were recently talking about growing runner beans from hanging baskets!

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  2. Great to hear bartelmy! Glad you liked it!

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  3. Made this last night, came out pretty good.:) Shame I haven't got my hands on any wild garlic leaves yet!

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