Friday, October 24, 2014

From Old Book to Journal

I keep saying that I will never go totally digital. I love books. I love the way a hard book cover feels. I love turning the page and feeling the paper. While I do love books, I'm not beyond re-purposing them for another use. One of my sisters, a teacher, says I'm destroying perfectly good books. I beg to differ. I just use old books (that were probably destined for the garbage) for art. That way I can appreciate them even more after they are repurposed.

repurposed book made into journal

See how I turned an old book into a journal.

Tools & Supplies:
Old book
Craft knife
Self-healing mat
Decorative papers, heavy
Tacky glue or gel medium
Piece of thin cardboard
Thin ribbon
12 pieces of non-textured cardstock or watercolor paper
Bone folder or other scoring tool

This journal originates from a used book. We will cut the all of the text pages out of the book and leave the hard cover to use for the journal covers. Scrounge around the house for a hard-bound book you’re finished reading and let’s make a journal!  Just remember to save the text for other art projects.

old book
Step 1:
Choose your hard bound book. 
I was hoping my boys would like to read The Hardy Boys - oh so retro - like I did when I was little. I was wrong! :-(

cut off text pages

Step 2:
Using your craft knife cut the entire bulk of text pages but don’t cut into the spine.

Step 3: 
The bottom left photo shows the covers of the book and spine.  You can see how damaged the spine is. This can be fixed in one of two ways. Either use regular spackle and fill in the hole, or remove the covers from the spine and attach them later. I opted to for the latter. Keep the spine intact if it is strong.
broken spine2

broken spine

Step 4:
If you have cut your covers off from the spine, continue with the instructions below. (If you have kept your spine intact, paper the front and back cover and inside covers.  Paper the spine separately or paint it.  You could also leave your cover or spine without decorating it, especially if it has interesting artwork.)

Cover the front and back covers with decorative papers.  Measure the paper about an inch larger on each side of your cover.  Spread a thin coating of glue with a foam brush on the covers and press firmly so you get out the air bubbles.  I used a thick paper.  If you use a thin paper, it may buckle from the water content in the glue.

papered covers

Miter the corners (cut diagonally at the corner) and glue the edges of the paper around the back inside of the cover.

Cut a smaller piece of a coordinating decorative paper for your inside covers. Measure this to be about ¼” less than the dimensions of your covers.  Glue them in place.

Step 5:
stack signaturesNext you will cut and fold the cardstock/watercolor paper to make your inner pages.  When folded your pages should be just a bit smaller than your cover.  (You can use the text pages you just cut out of the book and measure them allowing for the fold.)  Cut 12 papers to the size you need and fold them to create the page.  Use a bone folder or scoring tool to score your papers and make a good crease.

Stack three folded pages inside each other so you have 4 sets of three pages.  These sets are called “signatures”.

Step 6:
To determine how thick to make your spine; stack your signatures in between the covers.  This photo, below, shows my journal with six signatures, but in the end I used only four so it wouldn’t be so thick.

insert signatures

Step 7:
Measure the height of the covers when the signatures are in place and add two inches.  This will be the width of your spine piece.  One inch of your spine piece will be adhered to each cover.  Cut a piece of thin cardboard and decorative paper to the width of your spine to the height of your book and the width plus 2 inches.

Adhere the decorative paper to the cardboard.  Score the cardboard 1” from the left and the right side.  The spine will overlap the front and back cover by one inch. Glue the spine piece to the front and back cover at the 1” mark.

inside of book with spine attached

spine attached to covers

Step 8:
Tie four pieces of ribbon fairly tightly around the spine.  I tied mine in knots so they wouldn’t slip out.  The second photo below shows two ribbons, but you will be tying four of them, one for each signature.  NOTE: It was a bit difficult for me to slip the signatures under the tied ribbon, so  it may be easier to tie the ribbon around each signature and the spine and then knot the ribbon.  

tie ribbons to spine

ribbons tied to spine

Step 9:

Slip one signature under each ribbon.

finished journal

My once old book has been transformed into a wonderful journal . I love how this has turned out!  It is the right size to slip into your purse so you can write a list, journal about your day or use as an inspiration journal where you add your favorite quotes and poems.

Please share on Facebook or Pin on Pinterest! I'd love to hear your comments. :-)


  1. Great tutorial! I love the idea of turning an old book into a beautiful journal!

    1. Thanks, Sue. Old books are such a great canvas for art and all of it is reuseable, too! Thanks for stopping by!