Introduction: Cheap, Quick and Easy to Do, Moleskine-like Notebook With Clairefontaine Paper

How to turn a basic Clairefontaine notebook into a good looking notebook with cool features like a Moleskine but with a good paper such as Clairefontaine's.

Step 1: Get the Right Tools

You will need:

- a Clairefontaine clothbound notebook (or whatever brand you like)
- sturdy, good looking paper (I bought a blue fabric paper for this)
- (optional) good looking paper, for the inside panels
- elastic band (8mm wide, I got it at the supermarket, where you find thread, buttons, and other sewing tools and materials.)

- superglue, or other strong glue
- paper glue (optional, you can use the superglue for everything)
- scissors (**if you're not old enough to use a bladed tool safely, ask an adult to use the scissors for you**)
- good knife (should cut cleanly, don't use kitchen knives...) (**same disclaimer than for the scissors. Depends on your maturity, some 7-year-old kids behave responsibly with a knife, some 40-year-old people don't**)

Step 2: Cut the Paper Sheets to the Right Size

the outside sheet should be at least 3cm (about 1") larger and higher than the notebook itself (open fully the notebook to take the dimensions). this way it should have a 1.5cm (about 1/2") margin on each four sides of the fully open notebook.

the inside sheets should be cut about 2mm less than the height of the notebook. It should be wider than the width of the closed book. If you want to have the inside sheet on the four pages of the beginning and the end of the notebook, you may choose to have it 2 times the width of the notebook, minus about 1mm.

Put the notebook on the outside sheet, and trace the borders of the notebook on it. be careful with the corners.

Step 3: Prepare the Outside Sheet and Cut It

now that you have traced the outline of the notebook on the inside of the cover sheet, you can:

-make holes for the pen holder. be sure to make the holes at the same height for the same elastic band. 2 elastic bands work best with me, but you may prefer to start with only one, or without a pen holder (an example of the same notebook without a pen holder is in the pictures below.

- make holes for the closure elastic band. be sure to make them apart enough that you can glue the elastic band on the sheet.

- make two vertical cuts on the top and bottom of the center, where the cover sheet will be folded on itself later. make those cuts at 1mm from the edges of the spine, so that you have more space to fold the margins inside the notebook.

- cut the corners so that you can fold them on the inside of the notebook. if the corners of the notebook are not sharp but at 45°, like in this case, two zones will be cut out: look at the hatched zones on the corners of the sheet on the first picture below.

Step 4: Elastic Bands

We will now put these elastic bands on the cover of the notebook.

Pen holder bands:
- cut the bands so that they is a very slight tension on them, when they go from edge to edge of the notebook, across the spine.
- glue them only on the last 1cm / 1/2". This way they will have enough free length to stretch over the pen.

Closing elastic band:
- this one is a little more tricky. adjust the tension on the elastic band around the notebook and cut it when the tension is what you want, at the correct length (a full wrap around the notebook if you don't want a pen holder, or minus the total pen holder height if you have it look at the pictures if you don't get it).
- glue them on the inside of the cover, where shown on the pictures

You also have to fold the spine margins inside the cover. Glue them so they won't bother you later.

Step 5: Glue the Cover on the Notebook

Now the cover should be ready.

glue one side at a time, don't forget to glue only the ends of the pen holder's elastic bands, or it won't have enough elasticity to stretch over the pen.

when the two sides of the cover are glued on the Clairefontaine notebook, you can fold the margins on the inside of the book. Look closely at picture 3, you'll see a slight problem: the first two pages are glued together with the cardboard flap of the notebook! So you can't fold the margins over the inside of the cardboard flap without modifications.
One solution I found works best, is to take the three of them and fold the margins over the 2nd leaf of the notebook. For my first notebook (this is the 2nd one) I tried to cut these 2 pages off and the result was a weaker notebook, and pages going over the borders of the cover. (Go to see the 2nd pic of the step #3 to see the pages going over the cover on my 1st notebook.)
having 2 leaves reinforcing the cardboard flap also helps to have a harder cover.

Don't forget to glue the margins before folding them on the inside.

Step 6: Inside Sheets

The inside sheets are a very optional thing, since they are only aesthetic. I found a sheet of this paper in my favorite bookshop, for 0.80€, and I can make 3 notebooks' insides with one leaf. that's 0.27€ ($0.45) per notebook.

Just glue them on the inside, after having trimmed the corners if your notebook doesn't have sharp corners.

Step 7: The End

Now you should have a good looking cool feeling notebook with the features you like.

An additional step you can do if you want is to add a bookmark, like in the Moleskines.
Just glue a ribbon to the cloth spine of the notebook before you glue the cover.

My solution sounds like an clean and easy introduction to bookbinding, the next step would be to bind yourself the leaves of the notebook