How to Make a Sewing-Free Paper Book

Mini Book

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How Do You Make a Paper Book?

I've been obsessed with the Moleskine Japanese Album, which is a folded-paper book suitable for sketching, writing, and other creative ventures. The Moleskine album is made of a long length of heavy sketch paper, folded accordian-style. It folds up neatly into a sketchbook-sized album. While reasonably priced for a quality sketchbook, I wondered if I could make something similar, in a smaller "mini" size. Something more casual and cheap, with paper of my choosing that would be useful for roughing-out ideas for picture books, or for capturing those coffee shop moments in easy watercolor and pen-and-ink.

After some experimentation, I came up with an accordian-folded 32-page paper book, about 3.5"x4" when closed, and made with inexpensive Canson mixed-media paper. I chose the 32-page format because it is the length of a standard children's picture book, which means I can use it to draft a book or try out book page ideas and keep them all together, sort of a personal book dummy if you will. It's never something I would send out for anyone to look at, but it is a useful tool for brainstorming and keeping track of ideas related to one book. Since it is made from mixed-media paper, it can be used for pen and ink, pencil, paints, charcoal or pastel. It's heavy enough to handle light glue as well, so you could do some small collage work, too.

The directions here are for a single 3.5"x4" 32-page no-sew accordian-folded paper book, made mostly by tearing and glueing, with minimal cutting to keep that casual homemade look. You can easily adapt the instructions to make larger-sized or longer length paper books.

Materials For Sewing-Free Paper Book

Materials to make a sewing-free book
Materials to make a sewing-free book | Source

Materials

To make one book, you will need the following:

  • 1 - 14"x17" sheet Canson XL Series 160g Mix Media paper. (Can also use 1 sheet 19"x24" Canson art paper in any color, watercolor paper, or any paper desired.)
  • 1 - 8.5"x11" sheet cardstock for cover (I used navy blue)
  • Pencil
  • Glue (I used Aleene's Original Tacky Glue)
  • Straight edge ruler
  • Scissors
  • 20" length Ribbon (I used Offray 1/4" polyester ribbon)
  • xacto knife (optional)


Preparing Paper

Fold lengthwise into 4 sections
Fold lengthwise into 4 sections | Source
Tear or cut 4 sections, each measuring 3.5"x17".
Tear or cut 4 sections, each measuring 3.5"x17". | Source

Step 1: Prepare Paper for Book Pages

  • Fold the paper lengthwise into four sections. If you're working with the 14"x17" Canson paper, you will end up with four sections that each measure 3.5"x17".
  • Cut or tear the sections apart so that you have 4 separate 3.5"x17" strips of paper. (I tore the sections apart to keep the look casual.)

Fold Paper Accordian-Style

Mark each paper strip at 4", 8", 12" and 16"
Mark each paper strip at 4", 8", 12" and 16" | Source
Fold, accordian-style, hitting the marks at 4", 8", 12" and 16". You will have a short 1" tab left at the last fold.
Fold, accordian-style, hitting the marks at 4", 8", 12" and 16". You will have a short 1" tab left at the last fold. | Source
This is what the strip of paper will look like after it is folded. Note the short tab at one end.
This is what the strip of paper will look like after it is folded. Note the short tab at one end. | Source
All strips, folded accordian-style, ready to be glued together in one long strip. Notice how the "tabs" are all on the same side.
All strips, folded accordian-style, ready to be glued together in one long strip. Notice how the "tabs" are all on the same side. | Source

Step 2: Fold Book Pages

  • Start with one of the strips of 3.5"x17" paper. With pencil, mark lengthwise at 4", 8", 12" and 16".
  • Fold the strip of paper, accordian-style, at each of the marks, so that you have four double-sided "pages" plus a 1" "tab" left over at the end of the strip.
  • Fold each of the remaining strips.

Attach Paper Strips Together

Apply glue to short tab on one strip.
Apply glue to short tab on one strip. | Source
Attach second strip to first strip by glueing tab on strip 1 to page on strip 2.
Attach second strip to first strip by glueing tab on strip 1 to page on strip 2. | Source
Back view shows how the strips attach. Continue until all strips are attached, making one continuous strip of accordian-folded paper.
Back view shows how the strips attach. Continue until all strips are attached, making one continuous strip of accordian-folded paper. | Source

Step 3: Glue Folded Strips Together

  • Carefully examine the photo of all the strips together, after they are folded but before they are glued together. When the strips are glued together, you will want the "tabs" to fall on the same side. This will give you a long length of paper with a "right side," and a "wrong side" where the tabs show. It's not critical, but it can be nice to have a continuous-seeming length of paper to work with.
  • Apply glue to your first "tab" and align the next strip of paper on top of it. Try to get the edge of the full page to butt up against the crease of the tab. Wipe off any excess glue and let dry a bit before preceding to the next tab.
  • Continue to glue strips together until you have one long length of accordian-folded paper.

Make Cover

Make a strip of cardstock 3.5" x8.5" long.
Make a strip of cardstock 3.5" x8.5" long. | Source
Mark where the spine will go, at 4 1/8" and 4 3/8"
Mark where the spine will go, at 4 1/8" and 4 3/8" | Source
Sharply fold the cardstock at the 4 1/8" mark and at the 4 3/8" mark to make the spine.
Sharply fold the cardstock at the 4 1/8" mark and at the 4 3/8" mark to make the spine. | Source
You will end up with a cover that is nicely folded to the correct spine-width to fit the paper.
You will end up with a cover that is nicely folded to the correct spine-width to fit the paper. | Source

Step 4: Make Book Cover

While the pages that you've just glued are drying, make the book cover out of cardstock.

  • Cut a rectangle measuring 8.5" x 3.5".
  • Lengthwise, the center of the rectangle is at 4.25". You will need a book "spine" that measures about 1/4" in width. Therefore, measuring lengthwise, make a mark at 4 1/8" and at 4 3/8".
  • Fold at the 4 1/8" mark, and at the 4 3/8" mark, making the book cover with a nice 1/4" wide spine.

Attach Ribbon to Cover

Draw a line of glue about 3/8" from back cover edge
Draw a line of glue about 3/8" from back cover edge | Source
Center ribbon and press into glue.
Center ribbon and press into glue. | Source

Step 5: Attach Ribbon Closure to Cover

  • Draw a line of glue about 3/8" to 1/2" from the right inside edge of the book cover.
  • Center the ribbon and press into the glue, wiping excess.
  • Set aside and let dry

Make Back Page

Cut one back page, 3.5" x 4" , out of cardstock
Cut one back page, 3.5" x 4" , out of cardstock | Source
Glue the back page to the remaining tab on your long accordian-folded strip.
Glue the back page to the remaining tab on your long accordian-folded strip. | Source
Back page glued to accordian strip, back view.
Back page glued to accordion strip, back view. | Source

Step 6: Make a Back Page

  • You will need to make a "back page" out of cardstock to attach the accordian-folded pages to the cover. Measure and cut a 3.5" x 4" piece of cardstock.
  • Keeping in mind that you will want to glue the "tab" between the "back page" and the cover, apply glue to the tab front.
  • Place the "back page" over the tab, lining up the edge of the "back page" to the tab's crease. Press and wipe excess glue.

Attach Book to Cover

You can attach the pages to the cover close to the open edge of the book.  (Note: the picture shows the pages without the back page attached for clarity.)
You can attach the pages to the cover close to the open edge of the book. (Note: the picture shows the pages without the back page attached for clarity.) | Source
Or, you can attach the pages to the cover close to the spine. This tutorial does it this way, but you can attach to the cover any way you like.(Note: the picture shows the pages without the back page attached for clarity
Or, you can attach the pages to the cover close to the spine. This tutorial does it this way, but you can attach to the cover any way you like.(Note: the picture shows the pages without the back page attached for clarity | Source
Top view - the pages of the book will be attached with the short tab close to the spine.
Top view - the pages of the book will be attached with the short tab close to the spine. | Source
Apply glue over the right side of the cover (on the inside.)
Apply glue over the right side of the cover (on the inside.) | Source
Attach the pages to the cover by laying the back page to the cover.
Attach the pages to the cover by laying the back page to the cover. | Source
Press and hold until glue sets a bit, or apply a weight to hold the two pieces together until dry.
Press and hold until glue sets a bit, or apply a weight to hold the two pieces together until dry. | Source

Step 7: Attach Book Pages to Book Cover

  • Study the photos carefully to see how the book pages will attach to the book cover. The "back page" will attach to the right side of the cover, with the "tab" oriented to the spine. (You can really attach the pages any way you wish, I just like how the pages fold out of the book when oriented this way. Note: the Moleskine Japanese Album has the pages attached to the left side of the cover, with the tab close to the spine.)
  • Apply glue to the right side of the cover.
  • Glue the "back page" of the book pages to the cover, wipe excess glue away. Press and hold for a bit, or apply a weight.
  • Let dry for awhile to ensure that nothing falls apart.

No-Sew Paper Book

Completed paper book.
Completed paper book. | Source

Final Notes

  • Try using your favorite watercolor paper to make a unique and inexpensive practice book.
  • Try not to use too much glue when glueing tabs, as paints and inks may not adhere to glue spots, causing blotches in your sketches.
  • If you're a picture-book writer, you may prefer to attach the pages to the left side of the cover, instead of on the right according to these directions. Attaching on the left helps keep the pages "stacked up" nicely, and you can turn the pages more naturally from pages 1-16, then turn it over for pages 17-32.
  • If you're a picture-book writer, try numbering the pages from 1-32 and using the paper book to draft a book. Pay attention to page turns, and think about how double-spreads might look.

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Comments 2 comments

KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place

This is simply beautiful - this is the first I've heard of moleskine - how is that pronounced? It brings a new flavor to the way we normally look at an open up book... It looks great for a parent/child project. Awesome job, and great pics to assist directions. Voted you up/beautiful - of course. Peace. Kawi.


prokidwriter profile image

prokidwriter 3 years ago from America's Finest City Author

Thanks Kawi! my art teacher pronounces it "Mole-SKY-n" . Basically, mole like the varmint, and skine, rhymes with "nine." I love their product, but sometimes could use different paper or something cheaper. If yu have all the materials on hand, it costs under a dollar to make a book.

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