December 19, 2011

Last Minute Handmade Gift Tutorial ~ Make Upcycled Book Journals~
(Elmers Holiday #GluenGlitter)

Old Book + Recycled Paper = New Journal!

As part of the Elmer's Holiday Memories Campaign* through Social Fabric, I had the opportunity to create an easy, affordable last minute holiday gift using my favorite Elmer's and X-ACTO products, and requiring only one quick stop at our local Walmart! 


With all the homework, music lessons, karate and dance classes, school performances, cookie exchanges and all the other holly jolly of the season, there's been little time to shop, let alone craft!  So a one-stop-shop was an absolute must for my** handmade gift project, which was inspired by the Ordy & Joon post I had tacked to my "Crafty Inspirations" board on Pinterest earlier this year.

Readers Digest Books have wonderful covers and are plentiful at second-hand stores for $1-$3 = Let's call it $2 per journal.
I started with something most people have around their home -- an old book.  If you don't have an old book in need of a makeover, Reader's Digests, like the ones I used here, can be picked up for a song in second-hand shops.  

Nearly everything else I needed came from a single section of the craft aisle at Walmart:

The tools will see me through years of projects, and only a small amount of the adhesives were used to make my 10 journals.  So, calculating these purchases into the total cost of the project is tricky.  Even if you had to go out and buy each one of these items for the project, at Walmart's incredibly low, prices, you'd only be looking at a $3 "investment" per journal (for a quantity of 10).

Just to the left of the Elmer's Memory Keeping section I found the perfect textured scrapbook paper for binding the journals.

Each pad contains 30 sheets, which will yield 30 journals = 17 cents per journal
Then it was just a hop, skip and a jump over to the office supplies aisle for recycled paper and large binder clips.

One ream of paper yields ten 100 page journals = 42 cents per journal.  Office Impressions large binder clips were $5.00 for 36. You use two per journal = 28 cents per journal

I couldn't find the paint department at our local Walmart, but if yours has one, pick up a few complimentary wooden stir sticks.  I picked up mine from a local home improvement store. I used two per journal.


Here's how it's done...

Upcycled Book Journal
(broken down for 1 journal) 
Actual crafting time:  about 15 minutes
Drying time:  30 minutes + setting overnight

1 Old Book -- I love the old Reader's Digest covers
1 12x12 sheet scrapbook paper (I prefer a textured paper for its bookcloth-like quality)
100 sheets of recycled paper, trimmed to match the size of the original pages of the book
2 wooden paint stir sticks (free at most home improvement stores)
2 Large binder clips
A sheet of newspaper
Optional:  Washi or decorative scrapbooking tape

A pencil

Step 1:  Use the craft knife to remove both the front and back cover from the book. Use the metal ruler to guide a nice even cut.

Step 2:  Measure the height of the book cover, then mark the measurement on both sides of the wooden paint stir stick with your pencil.  Score both sides, along the pencil line with your craft knife.  Stick should easily break along the lines.  Repeat with second stick.

Step 3:  Tap the 100 sheets of trimmed, recycled paper on a flat, hard surface to stack evenly and create and even, flat surface for the spine.  Sandwich in-between the two wooden sticks and clamp between the two large binder clips.

Step 4:  Use the large side of the flexible dual-tip glue pen to completely coat the entire spine of the stack of paper with glue. (This glue, and the combed applicator tip positively shine at this task.).  Allow to dry in a warm, dry place for 15 minutes.  Apply a second coat, then dry another 15 minutes.

Step 5:  While the glue is drying, prepare the lining and binding for the journal.  
Take measurements for the lining:

Width -- Measure 1/4" in from the left side of the inside cover to the right edge.  Take that measurement and double it (for the back cover), then add 3/4" (to accommodate the 100 pages).  

Height:  Measure 1/4" from the bottom of the inside cover to 1/4" from the top of the inside cover.

Take measurements for the spine wrap:

Width:  For the Reader's Digests I needed 1 1/4" per cover (front and back) to cover the old wrap.  So, the total width needed to be 1 1/4" + 1 1/4" + 3/4" (for the 100 pages) = 3 1/4".

Height:  Measure the height of the book cover, then add two inches.

Use the pencil and metal ruler to mark measurements on wrong side of the scrapbook paper.  Use the scissors to cut out the two pieces.

Step 6:  Lay the smaller spine piece, wrong side up on a sheet of newspaper and evenly spray with the spray adhesive.  

Step 7:  Transfer the sprayed piece to a clean tack-free surface.  Set the back cover in place.

Step 8:  Align the front cover on top of the bottom.  Then flip the binding over the top and press in to place.

Step 9:  Immediately open the covers and lay flat.  Fold over the ends and press in to place.

Step 10:  On a sheet of newspaper, with the wrong side of the lining paper facing up, spray evenly with spray adhesive.  Set in place on the inside of the book covers.  Press in to place, then fold covers along all the creases to form a deep channel for the pages. 

Note:  I found it helpful to fold the book backward as well as forward.

Step 11: Gently remove the clips and wooden sticks from the paper stack.  Use the glue pen to thoroughly fill the channel between the covers. Set the pages in place.  Wipe away any glue that runs out of the spine on either side, then close the covers and clamp the book closed with a binder clip.  Dry overnight. Do not be tempted to cheat!

Step 12:  Remove clip and enjoy your new journal!

Step 12 (OPTIONAL):  The glue can sometimes leave the inside covers of the book looking a little unfinished.  I use a decorative Washi tape to cover the seam, which covers any imperfections and helps give the spine/binding extra support.


*This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #ElmersHoliday #gluenglitter #collectivebias #CBias. My enthusiasm for Elmer's products goes all the way back to childhood -- I really can't say enough about their quality and dependability. So, whether it's for pay or not, my love for Elmer's is bonifide and all opinions are my own.

** This project was inspired by the post "1,923,431 Things to do with 1,923,431 Reader's Digest Books" at The Adventures of Ordy & Joon, and I picked up some great tips from the book tutorial at Poppytalk.



  1. Woah, those are way cool! I see my daughter wanting to make some as gifts in the future!

  2. Thank you for the great idea and wonderful tutorial!

  3. I love these! Wow! What a great gift idea!

  4. What an awesome idea! I'm always looking for ideas for DIY gifts. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Fabulous tutorial and a great gift idea!! Thank you so much for participating in our Pinterest Challenge. I can definitely see why you pinned this:)

  6. How well do the pages stay in when you glue them like this? I'm looking through several different tutorials and most of them say to fold the pages in half and make signatures, but I like this idea better. I'm just worried that the pages might fall out if they are constantly being flipped through though.

  7. How well do the pages stay in with this technique? I have been looking through other tutorials and they say to fold the sheets in half and make signatures, but I like this idea better. I'm just worried that the pages might fall out if they are constantly being flipped through.

    1. Hi Jess, thanks for asking! Great question. I made these journals a little over a year ago and I'm happy to report that they've held up very well to wear and tear. All pages are intact, but are easy to remove if you need to (just like a legal pad). Hope this helps.


  8. I get these at work and I'm amazed at how much no one wants them. They are absolutely stunning. I want to make a million journals out of them and share their beauty with the world.

  9. I did this with a couple of Reader's Digest books, then branched out... lol! Any old book cover is no longer safe. I've done some full sized and some cutting one cover into two pieces to make smaller journals. Then I covered them completely with scrapbook paper and did the binding and inside. Without a paper cutter, they're obviously handmade as the paper doesn't match that great one one or two edges... lol! Thanks for this tutorial!

  10. I love these journals! Beautiful job and I agree about those Readers Digest books, they seem really perfect for the project !

  11. I have been looking through other tutorials and they say to fold the sheets in half and make signatures, but I like this idea better. I'm just worried that the pages might fall out if they are constantly being flipped through. computershare login

  12. Hello, I'm just curious....what do you do with the book? You know, the prose....the art of the authors?
    Please don't think of this as a troll entry, I'm just curious. I think your craftiness is awesome and creative, but I must admit to some concern about defacing/destroying books. For me, books are somewhat sacred. Although I must confess to turning corners down when I read and I know some who would be horrified at this act.
    Again, just curious. I appreciate your talent and art.

  13. I love this tutorial so much, those journals are beautiful. I even mentioned you on my blog!!

  14. I agree with Pam Baker - I love the art and craftiness, however, I would not use books, I don't like the idea of defacing / destroying books . . . I am planning on trying cardboard, maybe empty cereal boxes doubled, I'll try it out and I'll try to remember to post again if it turns out. . .Happy crafting!


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