Is the paper recycling stack precariously high? Make it into something useful again. Cat How gives a new lease of life to office scraps in a simply bound notebook.
I can’ bear to throw stuff away, especially paper. Print-out errors, scuffed coloured card – as long as it still has some trace of write-able surface on it, it’s spared the recycling bin and knocked up into a notebook.
The great thing about binding your own books – apart from the sheer joyous thrill of making something you were going to throw away into something you were probably going to buy – is that you can make it as easy or as complicated as you like. You can rustle up a coverless, warts-and-all notepad for shopping lists and daily plans in under 30 minutes, or labour away at a work of art with specially-bought paper for a day or more.
Bookbinding is a craft with some truly remarkable outcomes where you can get as creative and as experimental as you like. Short courses (www.bookbinding.co.uk) and books like Angela James’ The Handmade Book and Shereen La Plantz’ Cover to Cover are a good way of seeing just what ‘works of art’ can be achieved… but today we’re going warts-and-all.
How to make your own notebook
How long will it take?
Between 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how much of a perfectionist you are.
What you need
A stack of paper
A thick sewing needle
Strong string or thread
A thick needle topped with a wedge of cork (or mini hand-drill)
A small clamp (if you have one)
A cutting mat
What to do
1. Combine all your papers together. It doesn’t matter if they are different textures, colours or thicknesses – I find this actually makes the book more interesting – they all just need to be cut to one size. This can be whatever you want.
2. With all the papers aligned against their left-hand edge, place them on your cutting mat. Using a ruler, mark a light line with your pencil down the left-hand edge, about 1cm to 2cm in. Mark increments down this line, between 1cm to 2cm apart. Remember the more widely spaced the increments, the longer your stitches will be, and the quicker your book will take to sew. The shorter, the more labour-intensive, but also the more refined.
3. Align all your pages once more on the cutting mat. If you have a small clamp, use this to fix the pages to something solid, like the corner of a table. If not, press down hard on the top of your stack and start pushing through your increments with a thick needle or drill. Depending on how thick your book is you might be able to do this in one go. If not, separate your pages into sections, mark each one up, push through the holes and then combine.
4. Thread your needle. Although this might go against every sewing sensibility you have, tie a knot around the head of the needle (this prevents the thread from escaping when you push it through the paper).
5. Push your needle from underneath your stack at the bottom hole, leaving a good five inches of string spare when you pull the thread through. Don’t tie a knot at the end.
6. Weave your way up the spine of the book, threading each hole. When you reach the top, go back the other way so that each hole has been gone through twice and you have a continuous line of thread up the spine.
7. When you reach the bottom, cut the needle loose and tie the two spare threads together – I like a lavish bow!
And another thing…
You can add a hardback cover to your book by cutting two pieces of card to the same size of your notebook. Placing both on top, cut them again so that the bind is showing – this normally involves lopping off a centimetre or so from the left-hand edge. Get some tough fabric, cut it to the height of your book and make sure it wraps around the spine and covers a good few centimetres of the card. Using PVA, glue it around the spine attaching it to the cards which now ‘hinge’ off the fabric.