Books...and their parts

Books...I have lots of them...old, falling apart books...books that survived a fire or a flood...books with wonderful illustrations... books with beautiful binding and covers.  The books pictured above are a stack of old Reader's Digest books - I picked up a huge box of these old volumes with beautiful patterned covers for free at an estate sale...I removed the covers to make journals...and then bound the remainders with jute twine for display.

photo from Ballard Designs catalog

Recently I saw in the Ballard Designs catalog that they are selling such bound books...mmm, what a concept!

As I was cleaning up my studio, I compiled quite a stack of book covers - most from a fire-damaged set of 1908 encyclopedias that were falling apart.  I decided that I would make garden journals with these remains...so here is the process I followed...

Step 1 - gathering materials

Here's a book cover separated into two halves - I don't use the center spine piece (which will most likely be incorporated into a future collage).  I use two mat board strips to make the book hinge.  The journal paper is any combination of paper scraps found in my studio.

Step 2 - embellishing the covers

I comprised a collage on the front and back book covers.  I also lined the inside of each cover with a page from a vintage dictionary.  The above photo shows the layout of the covers with the mat board hinges.

Step 3 - constructing the hinge

The hinge is made by attaching the mat board to the book cover, leaving a 1/8" gap so the covers can open and close.  Commonly, book binding tape would be used for this step but I found this indestructible reinforced tape at the Boeing warehouse/surplus store which is ideal - its strong but very lightweight.  I tape the front portions and then turn it over to tape up the inside.

an aside - The Boeing warehouse/surplus store shut down a couple of years ago...I miss it...it was the perfect place to get all that stuff you didn't need but found a use for.  I first picked up a roll of this tape five years ago...when I visited the warehouse right before they closed, I bought several rolls of this tape to see me through many years of bookbinding!

step 3 and one half

The completed hinges - the book covers are a tad thicker than the mat board so there's a little unevenness but the strong tape holds it all together.  I burnish the edges to ensure a tight seal.

Step 4 - the inside pages

I like to use a variety of papers for the inside pages - this assortment combines old school-ruled paper with dictionary pages, unbleached writing paper and a few numbered page dividers.  In past projects, I've included wallpaper samples, music sheets and even paper bags (which are great for storing small bits in your journal).

Step 5 - putting it together

I used to hand-stitch my journals using the Japanese bookbinding stitch.  I don't remember the exact eureka moment, but one day it occurred to me to use pronged paper fasteners instead...maybe it was seeing the two-hole legal punch in The Southern Man's office...its so much easier to construct your journal this way...and the biggest plus is that you can add/subtract/rearrange your pages whenever you want.

Step 6 - the finale

Here's my completed journal...I've colored the binding tape with a bit of gray crayon to dull down the white.

another aside...children's crayons are one of my favorite art tools - they really get short shrift!  They come in a variety of colors, are inexpensive and add a textural element that I really like...I encourage you to try it out yourself and re-discover how much you enjoy coloring!

I'll be making quite a number of these journals, in all different designs, for my space at Faded Elegance.  I'm also thinking it would be fun to offer a workshop...I'll keep you posted on both accounts!


  1. I love your journal. I have been destructing books too for various things. I keep thinking I want to make a journal but it's been on the back burner. I have however made book marks out of the spines, which of course depending on the book appeals to different people. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. Oh to be so inspired... and to see the value in something old and ratty. Can't wait to bump into you again at an art show. Keep inspiring.

  3. Erin - I plan to add a calendar page soon to my blog - that way you can plan in advance when you can bump into me!

  4. oh, hon! these are wonderful...i want twenty! i need to get a real job! teehee. oh, let's make a bunch o' them! sigh!


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