How to Make an All-Recycled Sketchbook
I think blank books are always great gifts, and if you have a friend who's into all things green and recycley, this all-recycled book will be the perfect thing! Not entirely blank but with plenty of space to write, sketch, brainstorm, etc., this notebook/sketchbook/journal/whatever label you want to attach is completely unique and hopefully those bits of recycled book within will be inspirational to the user.
- One large book with lots of white space on most pages
- One smaller hardcover book
- Paper cutter (scissors will do but will take much more time and effort)
- Sewing machine and needle and thread
- Woven fabric piece as big as the smaller book when opened
- Hot-glue gun
- Optional Mod Podge sealer and brush
- Materials of your choice for decorating the cover
When shopping for your books, big art books are usually best for maximum white space, like the one I found with paintings all along the tops of the pages and white beneath. Thrift stores are the best place to find these books cheap—used bookstores can be a bit pricey for something you're just going to cut up.
The smaller book, which will be the cover of the sketchbook, needs to be not much taller than the amount of white space on most pages in the big book and not too much wider than the width of the big book pages folded in half lengthwise. The sketchbook pages will be the large book pages folded in half like this, so the difference in width shouldn't be more than about an inch.
Your first step in making the sketchbook is to rip out all the pages of the small book—find how the pages are grouped together and rip out in sections.
Now do the same for the big book—rip out pages in the sections they are bound in, but be careful not to tear the pages themselves. You probably won't need to take out all the pages, just enough to fill your sketchbook. My sketchbook ended up using 30 sheets of the pages. Use the paper cutter to chop the pages a little shorter than the height of the smaller book, cutting as many pages at a time as your cutter can comfortably handle.
If there is glue from binding on the sides of the pages, you'll need to neatly trim that off, as the side of the pages that were bound will be on the outer edges of the sketchbook pages. Once all the pages are neatly cut to the same size, separate them into stacks of 10 sheets, as many stacks as you need to fill your cover when they are folded. Then fold each stack in half to make book-sized sections.
Now you'll sew the sections together at the seams—I use a machine for this part and it works great, but you can choose to do it by hand. Use a straight stitch with a wide stitch length, sturdy thread, and go slowly, helping guide the paper along. If it sticks and the needle goes through the paper several times too close together, it will cause ripping at the seam. My machine (which is very simple) had no problem going through 10 sheets, but if you're nervous about it, you can cut down the number of sheets per section.
Once all the sections are bound together, it's time to bind them to the fabric. Cut a piece of woven (nonstretchy) fabric a little smaller than the cover when it's flattened open. Vintage sheets work great and keep with the recycled materials theme, so I suggest finding a sheet with a cool pattern when you're thrift-store shopping for the books!
Now hand-sew the sections of pages down the center of the fabric. Start with the center-most position so you can work your way outward and keep the pages all centered; find the exact center of the fabric by folding it in half. Using a sturdy thread, or double-stranded normal sewing thread, start by bringing the needle up through the back (wrong side) of the top of the fabric.
Then bring the needle up through a hole in the binding of the pages, making sure the tops of the fabric and the pages are aligned. Now you'll bring it back down through a hole below. These stitches can be spaced super far apart, since the pages are already well-bound together and there will be glue securing the fabric to the cover, which will help the book stay together even more.
Bring the needle back down through the fabric, then back up through the layers, repeating down to the bottom. You'll need to end with the thread coming out the back of the fabric. You can keep the stitches loose as you sew in order to see the holes in the paper and keep everything straight; then when you reach the end you can pull both ends of the thread to tighten it all up.
Repeat the binding with each section of paper, sewing them as close together as you can and keeping them centered within the fabric. Tie all the thread ends together at the top and at the bottom to tighten and secure the binding.
Once they are all bound together, it may be helpful to stack a bunch of heavy books on top of the pages overnight to flatten them better before gluing into the book cover. Next is the gluing step, so heat up your glue gun and protect your working surface. Put the pages/fabric into the cover to line it up—decide how you want the pages facing.
Now, with a generous amount of glue, hot-glue the center seam of the fabric into the cover.
Once that center is dry, glue one side of the fabric onto the inner cover, stretching it smoothly out to the edges.
After the first side is dry, repeat for the other side. Then inspect the binding at the base of the paper, and stick some hot glue in there for extra security. You might also want to glue a bit between the sections of paper at the base as I did.
The inner cover may look great and feel secure now, in which case you can choose to be done with the binding. Or you can seal the fabric to the inner cover with Mod Podge. I went with the sealer. Covering the fabric with Mod Podge will harden it, giving it a rough feel, but it will be very secure and the book will probably hold up better.
When dry, all you need to do is decorate the cover, which is completely up to you! You may choose to paint, stencil, collage, glue on photos, whatever...make it personal for your recipient!
And I'll show you an example of the book in use—way plenty of space for lots of brainstorming!