Old Book= New Sketchbook!!




About: I am an Adrian College Graduate living in southern Michigan and teaching art and computers at a low-income, rural school. I love origami, drawing, and Photoshop and am fluent in Etch A Sketch Drawing :) Chec...

Ever wanted a unique sketchbook project for your high schoolers? A new journal for yourself? A gift for a family member or friend? All without spending a lot of money? Then this project is for you!!

Students creating this project will learn how to recycle/ reuse an old discarded book, how to use sewing (coptic/chain stitching) to link pages together, and how to create a sketchbook that is unique to them and that can be used for so many things!

Materials needed:
Old book
Exacto Knife/ Box Cutter
Computer Paper
Strong Thread/ Waxed Linen
Embroidery Needle or Curved Needle
Sharp Object (Seam Ripper, Safety Pin, Paper Clip, etc.)
Spray Adhesive or Rubber Cement
Paint or other art materials to decorate cover with

Step 1: Find a Book!

Find an old book!
I found a bunch at an old book relief sale, but you can find them in your own house, at library sales, thrift stores, or garage sales.

Step 2: Cut Along Binding

Using an Exacto Knife or Box Cutter, make a slit along the first page of the inside of the book. Repeat with the last page.

Step 3: Remove Pages

The pages should come out very cleanly, all connected!

Step 4: Measure Pages

Measure the height of the pages you removed. This will be the height of the pages you will need to cut. Measure the width of the pages, and multiply that by two (since our new pages will be folded in half), this will be the width of your new paper.

My pages were 8 inches by 5.5 inches, so my new papers will be cut to 8 inches by 11 inches.

Step 5: Cut New Pages

Cut computer paper to the height of you old pages by double the width. I used blue computer paper, but you can use any color! you can also use thicker paper, just know that you will need less than if you go with regular copy paper.

Again, my papers are being cut to 8 inches by 11 inches because my old pages measured 8 inches by 5.5 inches.

Step 6: Fold New Pages

Fold all of your newly cut pages in half. If you do this individually, the folds will be crisper and more exact.

Step 7: Make Signatures

A signature is a section of book pages that makes it easier to sew!
With copy paper, I usually like to fit 8 folded pieces together to make a 16 page signature.

Step 8: Trim Signatures

Since you are fitting so many pages into a signature, your edges will probably not be very even. I always trim them up on a papercutter.

Step 9: Cut Cardstock

You will also need a little bit of cardstock. I cut mine to one book pages size 8"x5.5" to start, and then cut that in half longways, leaving a 8"x2.75" piece.

Step 10: Make Template

Because we want our signatures to be sewn together evenly, we need to poke some starter holes that are in the same spot in each signature. To make our "hole template" we have to fold on of our cardstock pieces in half longways.

Place the ruler on the fold and make a dot 1/2 inch from each end, a dot in the center, and two dots between the center dots and 1/2
inch dots on each side.

Use your sharp object (I used a seam ripper) to poke a hole at each dot.

Step 11: Prepare Your Signatures

Open up your first signature and place the template into the fold. Use your sharp object to poke holes through the template and through your first signature.

Repeat for each signature.

Step 12: Create an End Paper

Because we will be using the coptic/ chain stitch to sew our signatures together, we will need and end paper to hold it all together. Make the same measurements as you did on your hole template, and poke holes on those dots as well.

Step 13: Sewing Part 1!

Tie a knot in the end of your thread and insert the threaded needle into the first hole from the inside of your first signature.

Step 14: Sewing Part 2!

Place the end paper on top of the first signature and insert the needle and thread from the top down.

Step 15: Sewing Part 3!

Go back through the first hole and back out of the second hole, both inside the first signature.

Step 16: Sewing Part 4!

Go through the second hole in the end paper from the top like you did in the first hole. Continue this stitching process until you get to the final hole. When you go through the end paper from the top on the last hole, do not go back through the last hole in the first signature.

Step 17: Sewing Part 5!

Instead of going back through the last hole in the first signature, put a second signature under the first, and go into the first hole of the second signature.

Step 18: Sewing Part 6!

Bring thread out of the second hole of the second signature, and (like we did with the first signature and the end paper) insert the needle between the first signature and end paper and go back through the second hole of the second signature.

Step 19: Sewing Part 7!

Continue this pattern until you get to the last hole in the second signature, and instead of going back through the last hole, go through the first hole of a new signature. (when on the third signature, you would thread the string between the 1st and 2nd signature each time, on the 4th signature, you would go through the 2nd and 3rd signature, and so on.) It gets easier the more you sew!

Step 20: What If I Run Out of Thread?

Good question! If you run out of thread, simply stop sewing once you are on the inside of a signature. Take a new piece of thread, and tie it to the end of the previous thread, as close to the hole as you can. Trim the ends and you are ready to go!

Step 21: Finish Your Sewing!

Once you are on the last hole of your last signature, simply reenter the last hole and tie the end of the thread off in a knot. Trim the excess and see how you did!
If you look at the seams of your signatures, you should see a sort of "chain" by each set of holes. This is where the nickname of "chain stitching" comes from!

Step 22: Want a Book Ribbon?

If you would like a book mark or book ribbon for your book, simply glue the ribbon (I used a piece of lace) along the inside of your book cover before completing the next step.

Step 23: Almost There!

To reattach your new pages to your book's hard cover, either coat the first and last page with rubber cement or spray adhesive (I used spray adhesive). Align your first and last pages with where you want them to sit on your front and back cover, and make sure the chain stitchings are snug in the book binding.

Step 24: Have Fun!!

If you have a boring book cover, why not decorate it with acrylic paint, magazine collage, or glitter? I used pencil erasers and other circular objects to make an aboriginal dot art design on one of my covers.

Step 25: Enjoy!

Enjoy your book, give it away, or use it in a classroom project! It's hard to stop at just one!



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    21 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I'm going to use this to make a totally customized Bullet Journal type thing! Thank you so much for this tutorial, as I've been searching for weeks on how to do this exact thing. I'll add pictures when I'm done with the whole thing.

    Random Gadget Hacks

    2 years ago

    why do you make so hard I haven't even done it and feel tired

    Book Girl

    3 years ago

    I have been lookin for a way to bind books because there are crafts that require cutting out the pages of books and I want to be able to read them still.

    Love this. maybe I'm dim but i couldn't see what you did with the slip of slim paper, also sewn... stick down into the curve of the original binding? I love the explanation of the coptic chains... sound soooo mysterious, which it should be, as this was such an esoteric art, often linked with secrecy due to the fact that the average mediaeval John Smith couldn't then read... interestting linguistic slant there, must google.... thanks

    1 reply

    You aren't the only one who couldn't figure out what to do with the cardstock...I guess I'll just glue it down under the back piece. Other than that, this was an awesome tutorial....I loved it!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi mcmichaelart, thats a really cool instructable! You could come and work for me, our company About Blanks does exactly that ;) We sell sketch- and notebooks made from old book covers!

    1 reply

    5 years ago

    You should check out the journal I made! I've made a few since then, and everyone keeps asking me to make them one. Good inscrutable, by the way!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I love the design on this one. I want to use this idea for a gift for a friend. Easy, cheap and fun! Thank you for uploading!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! The coptic is a tricky stitch at first but with practice anyone can master it. And it's so strong! Nice instructable.

    Would have been even cooler if you integrated a few of the original pages of some of the books among the drawing pages, for a bit of character.

    1 reply

    The third or fourth book i made like this, I actually did use some of the original pages... the only thing that is a little tricky is that the old paper is very fragile and tears easily, so I ended up gluing some pages to my new signatures and it turned out great!


    6 years ago on Step 10

    Does using the seam ripper on paper affect the use of the SR on thread not related to this project?

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    i haven't noticed any wear and tear on the Seam Ripper, actually! i think the paper does less damage than thread does! :)

    I love this instructable. re-using old books for your own personalized sketch book, nice work. I do alot of art esp. drawing, and the shop art books aren't cheap! once again, great stuff!

    1 reply

    thank you!! i am planning on doing this project with my upper level drawing class i teach at a rural high school... we have NO money for any supplies, so anything i can do really inexpensively is great! :)

    Wow this is great! I draw ALOT and buying those art books are alot of munny, with this it seems cheaper than a 24 dollar drawing book.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice... brings back memories of my bookmaking class at the MIT library.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome work! My kids would have LOVED this. (Our yarn and construction paper books were not a resounding success.)