How to turn an Old Book into a New Journal!

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Being able to make something useful out of something forgotten is one of many joys in my life.  Such as this new trend of turning old books into new journals.  It is a terrific idea, however I am not a fan of these spindly spines people are using.  The spirals fit awkwardly on shelves, in bags, and generally look tacky. A perk of having an old book is also having its old spine to really enhance the character and give it an element of mystique, which brings us to why I have taken this book converting craze one step further:


The process is really quite simple, and a great learning experience.  I created this at-home version of book binding by looking over some books to see how they were bound.  I have broken down the process into 3 basic steps, and included pictures and texts to help you along the way.  Best of luck, have fun! Or skip the hard part, and buy a custom book from me on Etsy!

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BEFORE YOU BEGIN gather the following supplies.  Attainable around the house or any office supply store ever.

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 STEP ONE is making your new pages. Gather the 50 pages of blank paper (more or less is very acceptable) They will soon become 200 pages, because you are folding them in half, and can write front and back. Separate the 50 into groups of 10.  You will be working with 10 pages at a time.
Fold the group in half “portrait” style if you are an adult, “hamburger” style if you’re a child, and get out your ruler and push-pin.
Align the ruler next to the crease you have just formed and make 6 holes down the center of your bunch.  I started at the 1/2” and poked at 1,1/2” intervals until I reached the end.Note:  Be sure your pages are the right height for your book, you may need to cut off an inch or so, do this carefully or with a paper-cutter to get good crisp lines.  I had to take my pages to Staples where, for a small fee, they will cut paper for you using a machine.
You want to repeat the folding, the creasing, and the hole-poking for the other groups of paper.  Keep the space between holes consistent among each group for a clean finish.

Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 10.38.28 PMSTEP TWO  Cut two new spines out of the thin cardboard to match the same height and width of the book’s spine. Set aside one cardboard spine for now, this will be the backbone.

Take the second piece and use your ruler and push-pin to create the holes where you are going to sew your pages to the cardboard with needle and thread.  As you can see the book spine looks like the neck of a guitar.

Sew your pages into the spine, this will make a very sturdy book.  Start in one hole and work your way up and down the spine, closing every gap, and tie off on the outside.  Start with the first group of pages and work your way right to left until all 5 group are secured to the cardboard.  The tighter the better.

Now that you have a cardboard spine and 200 lovely pages to write on, you can attach this spine into the old book.

Carefully remove the old pages from the book.  Use sharp scissors or an exacto knife. Take extra caution when removing the spine from the back as not to tear the cover where the layers are very thin.  I made this mistake and tried taping it back in place.  Lesson learned.

Once you have the old pages out, recycle them, throw them in the air, burn them, fold them into 500 paper cranes, you do not need them anymore.

Now use your permanent double-sided tape, I used 3M squares. You can also use a glue gun. Tape the single cardboard strip to the spine, press it down. Do the same thing with the spine that you sewed your pages too, press it down.

Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 10.38.44 PMSTEP 3 involves glue and precision.

You have a book, but you want to seal it. Use some paper with a heavier weight, decorative scrapbook paper, wrapping paper…  anything that fits your desired look.  I used my favorite silver resume paper. You can find some fun styles on, or any local office supply or craft store.

First use your glue stick to glue down the very first page of your book to the inside of the front cover. Use lots of glue and seal it with your hand.  Do the same thing with the last page and the inside of the back cover.

Second, use your “fancy” paper to cover the inside of the front cover and the second page.  This decorative page should lie flat between the two pages beneath it.  Glue it down, press, and crease it. Repeat on the back side.  Cut back any paper that extends past the edges.

You did it! Congratulations.  You have created your very own book.

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I personalized the journal even more by glueing an open envelope to the back page for my friend to keep mementos in.  I also wrote  a note on the front, since it is a gift.

Be as creative as you want with your pages and content!  This is your creation, be proud that no one else has a book like yours.

For more helpful how-tos and musings, subscribe to my blog or follow my accounts @itsa_Lisa on Twitter Pinterest and Instagram!  I’m here to help you, my fellow creative friends!

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8 thoughts on “How to turn an Old Book into a New Journal!

  1. Pingback: Journals for the New Year | timberjune

  2. Pingback: Turning an Old Book into a New Journal | Do It Daily

  3. Pingback: Journal Your Way (part II) | Domestic Science Workshop

  4. Really good instructions! Thank you. I have been looking for instructions on how to make the pages for the inside of a journal, for some time. Now I know how. That’s great!

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