How to make an Altered Book Journal

First of all, I have to apologize for the delay in this post. I should have put a disclaimer at the end of my last post, “subject to internet availability”. Yes, one of the downfalls of living in very rural New Hampshire is lack of reliable internet access. So bare with me, folks, I may be late, but it will be worth the wait.

So this altered book journal is one that I created using ideas and techniques that I have learned through the years. I LOVE taking an old, discarded book and turning it into something beautiful AND useful. You’ll never look at an old book the same way again! Please email me if you have any questions about techniques or where to find supplies, etc. Enjoy!

Supplies needed: an old hard cover book (smaller ones with decorative or canvas covers are my favorite. The book used as a sample is 5″x7″), various patterned, plain, lined, and recycled papers for pages, (2) 10 inches pieces of ribbon or twill, linen bookbinding thread

Tools needed: PVA glue, awl, exacto knife, paper trimmer, bookbinding or upholstery needle

1) Use an exacto knife to carefully cut out block of pages from book. Make sure not to cut through spine of book. Your book should look like this:

2) Take a piece of patterned paper and cut it the length of your book by about 3 inches. Glue this to the inside of the spine and have it overlap onto inside covers. Make sure covers can still move freely. Set cover aside.

                                                                                  3) I used 6 signatures (groups of pages) for this journal, but any number will work for this type of binding. Cut your paper for your pages: the length of your paper would be the length of your book minus about 1/4-1/2 inch. The width of your paper would be the width of one of the covers minus 1/4-1/2 inches, then double that (pages will be folded in half). For example for my 5″ x 7″ book, my paper was cut 4 1/2″ x 13″ and then folded in half to create pages that were 4 1/2″ x 6 1/2″.

Cut 5 pages for each signature, fold them in half and stick one inside the other.

6 signatures

4) Take a scrap of paper the same length of your signatures and about 3 inches wide. Fold it in half, this is your punch template. Make holes using your awl about 1 inch from each end, then again at 2 inches. Place ribbons along inner side of holes and make 2 more holes slightly farther apart than the width of the ribbon.

5) Cradle this template inside each signature and punch holes.

6)Thread needle.  (I estimate the amount of thread I will need by taking the length of the book and multiplying it times the number of signatures plus a little extra). Stack signatures in order. Start the needle from the outside of the 1st signature using bottom hole. Go through next hole back out of signature, over ribbon, and back inside. Continue up signature, over second ribbon, and out top hole. From top hole go into next signature, continue with running stitch, going over top of ribbon as you sew. When you come out the bottom hole of the second signature, tie it off to tail on 1st signature, and then add 3rd signature.

At the top of the 3rd signature, take the needle from the outside and loop it under the thread joining the two preceding signatures. Then entering signature 4. This is called the Kettle Stitch and it keeps your signatures together at the ends. Continue sewing signatures using a Kettle stitch at the ends. Tie your thread off inside the last signature.

7)Now this is the time when I “decorate” the inside pages of my journal. I stamp images, add tabs and pockets, punch and rip page edges.

8)Now to add your journal pages to your cover. (You can decorate you cover before or after this step) Lay your cover flat and using your hole punching template mark where your ribbons need to come out from each side of the binding. Cut slots using an exacto knife. Feed ribbons through holes and tie on outside of book.

Wow, that seemed like a lot of instruction, I hope I didn’t loose anyone! Some really good resources for bookbinding techniques: Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden,     Re-bound and Adventures in Bookbinding by Jeannine Stein, and Eco-Books by Terry Taylor.

Have a great day!

2 thoughts on “How to make an Altered Book Journal

  1. Pingback: The Scattered Life Collective | Spirit Uncaged

  2. I would love so much to make one of these. I started doing Altered books a year ago and love it. So my love of AB’s combined with a passion for journaling, and my addiction to paper, this is just what I would love to make so… I did fine prepping the book and putting signature paper together, but I got VERY lost in the binding. It made sense until adding the third signature. I am a very visual person so without seeing a photo of things it’s a bit harder. Can you help? And Thank you for posting such a beautiful tutorial and project idea.
    Shannon Robles

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