Introduction: Homemade Notebook From 100% Upcycled Materials
My job had a common problem – one of the printers could not print double-sided. This bothered me on a daily basis as I stood by to watch TWICE AS MUCH paper being used as was necessary.
But then I got an idea from my girlfriend’s librarian, and I decided to turn them into notebooks! All it took at first was to save those printed pages that were blank on one side, fold them in half, and put them in a neat little stack on the back corner of my desk.
With those pages I made some beautiful notebooks, which I would like to share with you here.
Step 1: Gather Materials
These notebooks are great because you can make them from materials that would have otherwise been thrown away (or put in the recycle). Also, each page in the finished notebook is unique because you can see a faint hint of what was on the used side.
Here is what you'll need:
Paper – Save your papers that have only been used on one side. Fold each piece of paper so that the blank side is on the outside. (I used 40 pages for this notebook)
File Folder – I used a file folder from an old project for my notebook cover. It’s nice, thin cardboard for a cover, and it already has fold lines on it which you can use to set the width of your notebook!
Sewing Machine (or thread and a way of punching holes)
Glue – Any paper glue works fine. I used super glue so it’s extra robust.
Step 2: Cut Cover to Size
Cut the file folder down to the size of your paper pages. It can help to make the cover slightly larger than the pages in case things shift while you’re sewing. Then the excess can be trimmed off once it’s bound.
(Tip: You may be thinking “Wouldn’t it be easier to cut the cover after I bind everything?” WRONG! For one, it will be harder to cut the cover after binding. Second, when you sew it is very helpful to know exactly where the edge is so you can stop one stitch short of the edge.)
Step 3: Sew the Binding!
With the pages in and the cover cut to size, put the whole thing in the sewing machine and [carefully] sew. The fold-lines on the file folder help on this step too, because it gives you a straight line to sew on. Go slowly, and as straight as possible for a strong binding.
I used a Juki sewing machine with a walking foot, which is pretty heavy-duty, and I still had to use my hand on the wheel to manually punch the holes. After I’d punched the holes I went back through them, with thread this time. Sew back and forth 3-4 times to make the binding strong.
If you don’t have a heavy-duty sewing machine, you may need to punch the holes by hand (for example with a hammer and a small nail), or punch holes in a few pages at a time and line them up later.
Step 4: Finishing the Binding
At this point your notebook is functional! But there are still those unsightly stitches, and it could look a whole lot better.
First, cover the stitches. With some of the cardboard scraps you have from the file folder, cut a strip that is wide enough to wrap around the spine and cover the stitches. When you fold the strip, it helps to lightly score the line you want to fold with a razor blade. Then when you fold it, it will fold easily and in a straight line. Wrap this around the spine and glue to all 3 sides.
You may want to go around the whole cover and trim off any excess allowance you had so it’s flush with the paper pages. But, this is not necessary if you like the look of it already.
Step 5: Personalize
For a final finishing touch, add some color! This is the same concept as the cardboard spine you just added to cover the stitches, but instead you add colored paper to cover the cardboard spine! Cut a strip of colored paper that is wide enough to wrap around and go past the cardboard spine.
(Tip: Leave some extra width of the colored paper to fold under itself, so the edge of the colored paper is straight and smooth. Notice in the first picture of the orange paper – the left side is already folded and glued onto itself, and the right side is folded but not glued yet.)
At this point it helps to “break in” the binding. Simply fold each cover over, and maybe leaf through the pages and gently fold them back to break them in as well. This also will give a nice looking crease on the cover binding.
Step 6: Experiment!
These notebooks look great, feel great, and are quirky because each page is a little different (given the slight see-through quality of the paper). However, you have tons of room to explore! Some things you might try:
- Different paper colors inside
- Different paper sections (plain, lined, graph, hexagonal, artisan paper, etc.)
- Different cover materials
- Different sizes
- Different bindings
- Add pockets / folders inside
- Add tabbed sections
- Print pages with actual content (landscape, 2-column) to make a real book
- Make a thin notebook and use staples instead of sewing (this is very easy to do and works quite well)