You'll be surprised by how easy it is to make your own note books from bits of scrap paper, and you don't really need any special tools. Skinny notebooks are great for travelling, when you don't want to be weighed down, and these make for really sweet personalised gifts (which is what mine ended up as). You can make these entirely out of recycled paper and/or use up all the cute scraps and clippings you've been hoarding.
The key to these notebooks is that because they have relatively few pages they are easy enough to bind using the very simple "pamphlet stitch" (details later). So that they don't look out of proportion and really tall and skinny, I made these as A6 size when closed, which means they open up to be A5. The basic idea is to use card for the outer cover, and normal paper on the inside, which you can intersperse with decorative pages.
Tools and materials needed:
For each book:
- 1 A5 piece of card for the outside cover
- 5-7 sheets of A4 paper (more if you use thin paper, less for thick)
- Binder's awl (or drawing pin/kebab skewer or anything spiky for piercing the paper for binding)
- Blunt tip book binding needle (or any fat, sturdy needle like an embroidery needle)
- French Linen thread (this is a sort of waxy, stiff white thread; I reckon you could replace this with any thick thread like embroidery thread.)
- Stanley knife/scalpel
- Steel ruler (or other ruler #yolo)
Now gather your decorative paper and think about where it will be placed in the book. I think it's quite nice to have a fancy decorative first and last page, and maybe a colourful middle page.
I have a hard time throwing out pretty paper and so I have piles of envelopes, product labels and vintage ephemera which could finally be put to use. For the decorative pages I used some washi tape, doilies and wrapping paper, and vintage sheet music, stamps and children's book pages. For the plain, writing pages, I used paper from an exercise book with ruled squares on it. I call it Maths Paper because we used it exclusively for maths throughout primary school, and so it has quite retro, nostalgic look to me.
2. Once you've trimmed all your pages to size, stack them and fold the stack in half, creating your book.
3. Now to bind the stack of pages, begin by making 5 evenly spaced marks in the central fold to indicate where the stitches will be. Begin by making a pencil dot in the middle and then two dots on either side of it:
4. Next is the tricky party, which is piercing your pages at each of the dots so that you can thread your thread through. If you have a professional awl this will be very quick. If you're using a drawing pin like me you just have to have a little more patience and pierce fewer pages at a time. It isn't that much work considering how few pages there are.
5. Once your holes have been made in the spine you can begin stitching the stack of pages together. I found this really satisfying. Thread your needle but don't tie a knot, just leave a little tail and hold onto it as you go. Start at the central hole and push your needle from the inside out, then follow this guide below using only the 5 holes you've already made. You should end coming back into the central hole, and now you can neatly tie both ends of the thread together, possibly encasing the the third thread that runs over there. I think it looks neatest to have the knot on the inside so make sure to start and end on the inside.
After sewing you should have 4 neat segments of thread holding it all together, with no overlaps. Clever hey?
6. Bend your bound book closed and flatten it out as much as possible. Now it's time to neaten up the edges by cutting off any bits that are sticking out, and making sure that all the pages line up. In theory you could do this step with scissors, but a sharp scalpel and ruler will give it a much cleaner finish. Having a metal ruler helps to guide our scalpel here because you can cut into a plastic ruler, as does having some kind of cutting board or protective surface underneath so you don't have to worry about ruining your table.
7. All that's left to do is add decorative touches like washi tape and little stamps. Done!
|Book cover made of card, vintage text, grey-striped washi tape, bird wrapping paper and an old stamp.|
|Inside cover of the book: blue card, bird wrapping paper, paper doily, vintage bird stamps.|
|More book details like gold-striped washi tape and a glittery paper flower cutout.|
|Book cover made of blue card, vintage book illustration, red-patterned washi tape and cut out vintage text, ransom-note style.|
|Inner cover with card, paper doily, striped washi tape and vintage illustration page.|
|Some random sentences from the vintage book|
|Back covers of the books|
PS. How do you like my new blog header and doodle: