Introduction: Notebooks From Old Canvas

As an acrylic artist I use a lot of canvas, I mean, so many. I have stacks of pictures laying about in piles. I use and reuse old canvases but they are bulky to store and I have SO many of them. I also create junk journals so staring at a pile of my canvases conveniently placed on the top of my fridge got me thinking.... If I could bring myself to cut the canvas off of the frame, paint or line the back, could I make cute notebook covers covered in crazy art? Of course I could, and demolition being something I enjoy above all things had me reaching for a box cutting knife and a canvas with a gleam in my eye.


Old canvases (or new ones if you have the urge to create something new right now)

A sharp box cutter kind of knife thingo

A metal ruler

A paper cutter (optional)

Paint or pens or fabric or something to add colour to your canvas

A sewing machine or a sharp needle and heavy thread

Paper you can cut to size to fit your cover once it is made (I use coffee dyed or eco-dyed papers, old dictionary or book pages, old wallpaper, wrapping paper, anything I can find laying around really)

Step 1: Revisit Old Art or Create New Art

I take old canvases and a pile of stencils and acrylic paint and just go too it.

I usually partially obscure the previous picture with blobs of colour here and there then begin to stencil various patterns where ever the fancy takes me. Sometimes I let it dry in between, sometimes I don't. I tend to work on multiple canvases at once, flat on a table so I can keep working while some things dry a bit. Its all about layering paint until I get something I like. Many of my canvases have texture, paper, moulding or modelling paste, coffee grounds, I leave it all there and just paint over it. It may not be the easiest thing to get through a sewing machine in the end but I find if I go slow over the lumpy bits we manage.

Once you are happy with the front of the canvas let it dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 2: Demolition of Art Works

Here is the bit that you might find difficult. Cut your canvas off of the frame. It goes against the grain, even for me, but it is kind of fun once you make yourself complete the first cut.

I do it by flipping my canvas on to the front (hence why it needs to be dry) and slicing along the edges of the frame, avoiding the staples. Then I just peel the canvas off the frame. It is so soft and pliable when you release it from the frame, I like that bit, it always surprises me.

After I finish marveling at my soft canvas I take it to my paper cutter, if you don't have one then the box cutter and a metal ruler will work (probably better for larger canvases) and I slice of the side pieces and cut whats left into manageable pieces, big enough for a notebook, not too big, not too small. I cut my papers to fit the covers, not the other way around so it doesn't matter to me what size they are just so long as the edges are straight and they are rectangular. You can be more precise if you like, I don't live my life like that...

Step 3: Decorate the Back/inside of Your Book Cover

I do this after I cut the canvas off its frame, you can do it before, I don't care, I'm not your Mother. When you paint your canvas on the back it will roll up like a pretzel, you can tape it down to prevent this or not, I don't, I prefer to struggle because thats just how I am. I use whatever acrylic paint I grab and just scrub it into the canvas until it is all covered, you can make it pretty or not at this stage, it doesn't really matter to me as I am going to stencil the thing to death once its dry anyway. I let it dry (it takes LONG at the moment because it is winter here) then flip it right side up, flatten and stick it under something, usually a file folder full of stencils because its handy but anything with some weight will do.

Once it is flattened for a bit I pull it out and begin stenciling. It doesn't roll anymore after the first coat so that is a non issue at this point. Again I use acrylic paint, pens, whatever I have grabbed. I often use a liquid paper pen for white doodles as my gel pen isn't fond of working on canvas, paint pens would work too I just don't have any.

Once you decide the inside of your book looks as awesome as the outside, you are ready for the next step.

Step 4: Sewing, or Not

This is where the sewing machine comes into it for me. You could hand sew if you want to or not sew at all. I like to zigzag around the edges and often create a bit of a pocket in the front and back covers. Mainly I do this to hold down any papers that I have used as texture previously and now cut when I sized my covers, sometimes they start to try and come away at the edges and sewing them down is the quickest way for me to fix this problem. if you don't have stray papers to secure then it isn't really necessary unless you like the look.

I use a really old needle for this, I sew paper a lot so keep separate needles for that job as they get blunt very quickly. Sewing fabric requires a sharper needle to work properly (found that out myself by trial and error, lots of error). I treat the canvas like it is paper because mine often have a lot of paper attached.

Step 5: Making Your Pages

Find a bunch of paper. I use about 9 sheets, folded in half which gives you 18 pages in your little notebook.

I measure my cover and make my sheets a little smaller than the cover so they are protected by the cover when it is closed. It doesn't matter if they are odd sizes, just so that they fit inside. I use a variety of papers because I like the look but you can use the paper of your choice.

Step 6: Sewing in Your Pages

You can now bind your pages into your little book cover. I do whatever takes my fancy. I was surprised to find my machine would sew through all 9 sheets of paper and the cover stacked together so sometimes I do that (it kind of perforates the paper too so its easy to tear out if you want to leave a note or something). You can use a simple book binding stitch or a Japanese book binding technique or whatever you enjoy the look of. There are tons of tutorials for that around, I have examples of a couple of them here on finished books but I'm not going to re-invent the wheel and go into it all in depth.

Once you have decided how to sew in your pages and completed this step you have a cute and very personalised notebook. Great to give as gifts or keep in your back pocket.


Step 7: All Finished... Enjoy!

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