Alright, here's how I do it...
Before you get started, you'll need:
• Paper (I like to use all-weather copier paper to make cheaper waterproof journals for backpacking)
• Box Cutter or X-Acto Knife with a nice sharp blade
• Sewing Needle
A thick upholstery needle would be great, but I just use the thickest sewing needle that came with my sewing kit and it works fine. I use heavy-duty polyester outdoor thread. For glue, I use a glue gun, but you can try it with whatever glue you have that is suitable for paper and plastic.
To make the cover out of plastic grocery bags, you'll need:
• Plastic Grocery Bags (Trash bag, Plastic Sheeting, or an old throw-away poncho also works)
• An Iron
• Wax Paper
Step 1: Pre-Print
Since I use mine for backpacking, some things I might print are:
• Trip itinerary
• Trail information
• Flight, bus, or train information
• Graph paper lines
• Important phone numbers
• Trail food recipes you want to try out
• Instructions on how to tie a bowline knot to hang your new hammock
• A few Sudoku puzzles for when you get bored
• Photos of loved ones
Step 2: Cut Paper
Eight pieces of copier paper will make this 64-page notebook.
Step 3: Fold Pages
Step 4: Make Signatures
One reason for making three signatures rather than just folding all the paper together into one, is so the book will lay nice and flat when closed. The fold also helps prevent pages from tearing out of your notebook, unlike just gluing them all together at the spine.
Step 5: Measure Holes
Step 6: Poke Holes
Step 7: Sew
Start by cutting off about 18" of thread and tie a knot about 2" inches from one of the ends, to stop the thread from going all the way through the first hole. Now thread your needle on the other end and sew into hole 1, then out 2, then into 3, and so on in the numbered order on the photo. Keep the string taut as you go, but not so tight that you tear the paper.
When you go out of hole 10, you're going to tie a knot with the loose piece of thread hanging out of hole 1, and then continue sewing into hole 12. When you get to the end, feed the thread coming out of hole 17 through the loop created between holes 4 and 5.
If you want more pages, and so have more signatures, just keep this same pattern going until you're done. When finished, trim off the excess thread and you'll have something that looks like the second image attached.
Put it aside for now, and next I'll show you how to make a cover by fusing together plastic grocery bags with an iron.
Step 8: Get Plastic Grocery Bags
A big reason I use plastic grocery bags is because they will otherwise become waste. Try to avoid taking extra bags at the store to make covers if you can, otherwise you're not really recycling anything. If you don't have any extra bags, I'm sure one of your neighbors will.
Step 9: Cut Plastic Bags
If you have bags that have colors or designs that you like, even better, get creative. I made the cover in the second photo with a yellow Dollar General bag layered on top of a bag from Target.
If there is any ink on the bags, make sure that it is not on the top or bottom of the layers, or the heat from the iron will smear it and make a mess. Either turn them upside down, or put a layer without ink on top.
If you do mix bags from different stores, or use bags with lots of ink, they may not fuse as well, but it has worked well for me most times.
You can also use markers to draw your own patterns onto the bags. On this notebook cover, I decided to draw an Appalachian Trail logo (see third photo). Just remember to place the ink upside down, or put one layer on top of it.
If you look at the last two photos, you'll see that I used this same method on one of my journals to embed the "recycle plastic bags" logo that I found on one of the grocery bags. You could also write something like, "Volume 1" or "2013 Yosemite Trip," to keep multiple notebooks organized.
Step 10: Sandwich Plastic in Wax Paper
Set your iron temperature to medium-high, or about the same setting for silks. All irons are different, though, so you may have to adjust if it's not hot enough. It doesn't have to be perfect, as you'll see, but if it's not hot enough, it may take a long time to fuse the plastic together. If it's too hot it could melt or shrivel up the plastic too much.
Step 11: Iron Plastic
Step 12: Test Plastic
Step 13: Bend Plastic at Spine
If longevity or archiving is important to you, use an acid-free glue.
Bend the plastic where the spine of the notebook will go It's okay if the plastic is bigger than the pages, cause we're going to trim it all up at the end anyway.
Step 14: Glue Notebook to Cover
Step 15: Trim Notebook
Step 16: Glue First and Last Pages to Cover
Step 17: Other Tips
• The fused plastic grocery bags can be sewn together on a sewing machine to make reusable shopping bags, wallets, clothes, or whatever. To give you an example, I sewed pockets in the notebook on the second photo above, to store a credit card and ID. Also, the paper can be taken out so the cover can be reused.
• You don't have to use grocery bags. Trash bags fuse together well also, and have a fake black leather look to them when done. For you fellow backpackers, you can also fuse trash compactor bags with this method to make custom-size plastic bags for pack liners or waterproof bags.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, check out my blog, "A Backpacker's Life List," at ryangrayson.com.