Introduction: Better Cloth-Bound Binders

Are you sick and tired of living under the metaphorical thumb of your binder? It's a weak, ugly, vinyl-and-cardboard thumb. Crawl out and make your own binders. With cloth!

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Step 1: Materials

You will need:

Mine was stolen from an old, ripped-up binder.
A 3-ring binder clip
Also stolen from an old binder.
I used a fairly rough cotton cloth, which worked nicely. I recommend a color other than white, but I was making this out of scraps, so I had no choice in the matter. I think canvas might also work well.
Copious amounts of it. Used to fasten the cloth to the cardboard.
A brush
To ensure even glue distribution.
Two nuts, two bolts, and two finish washers
Used to hold the 'clip' to the binder's body.
So you don't see your binder's cardboard skeleton. I used card stock. Perhaps patterned paper would be nice?

A stencil
I used a daisy!
Stencil paint would be preferable, but any is OK.
A Sponge
To apply the paint.

If you don't have nuts, bolts, and washers, or are feeling foolhardy, you can attempt to attach the 3-ring clip using pop rivets. I do not recommend it. Unless you're a master pop-riveter, it will be far more trouble than it's worth. And, chances are, if you're the sort of person to have a pop-riveter, you're probably the sort of person that has some nuts and bolt laying around. 

Step 2: Glue and Cloth

Lay out your pieces of cardboard. Make sure to leave some space in between the pieces, so that when the 'hinges' are formed, there's enough room for them to close. Look at some other binder for a guide. 

Slop some glue onto each piece, and spread it evenly with a brush.

Once you've got the pieces exactly as you want them, drape the cloth over them. Spread it evenly, and pat it down. We're trying to avoid any wrinkles or bubbles.

And now the waiting begins... allow it to dry thoroughly. 

Step 3: Cut, Fold, and Glue

Now that it's dry, flip this cardboard-cloth conglomeration over, and cut off any excess cloth. Leave about an inch of cloth sticking out from the cardboard, all the way around.

Evenly drizzle glue on the cloth, and then fold it all over onto the cardboard.

Make the corners neat by this process:

First fold over the long end, including the bit that will overlap with the cloth of the short end. Make sure it's all evenly stuck down.  Now fold over the short ends. The result will be what's shown in picture three. Glue down the overlapped square.

Step 4: Add the Hinge Cloth

Cut your hinge cloth to a length that's ever-so-slightly less than that of the binder. The width doesn't really matter, as long as it's appreciably wider than the middle strip of cardboard.

Spread glue evenly wherever it will be touching the binder, and pat it down. Avoid creases or bubbles. Now, wait for it to dry. Go read a book or something.

Step 5: Attach the 3-Ring Clip

Place your 3-ring clip as it's going to be placed when it's in use. Mark where the holes are using a pen. Now, create two identical holes in the cardboard. I just poked through-- you may with to drill or use some other method. Put the finish washer over the hole, and bolt the 3-ring clip in, as shown in the pictures.

Step 6: Endpapers

Take your endpapers and evenly spread glue on them. Place them on your binder and gently pat them down. As always, try to avoid creases and wrinkles. The goal is to hide all of the cardboard.

Step 7: Optional Stenciling

Apply the paint to your binder by way of a stencil.

If I may digress for a moment here...
A musician is standing on a street corner. A confused-looking man clutching a map walks up to him and asks "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" The musician chuckles, and replies "Practice, practice, practice!"

...Get it? Maybe it was my delivery... Anyway, this applies to stencils as well. I always seem to put too mush paint on the first couple of times, and it wouldn't do to ruin your nice new binder with an bad stenciling. So warm up before you paint on the real thing.

Step 8: Enjoy!

Touch up any loose bits with a dot of glue, and you're ready to be stylishly organized.

Be prepared to have people ask you where you bought it, and revel in their amazed expressions when you tell them that you made it.

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