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DIY Crafts: How to Make a Handmade Book

Updated on January 28, 2014

I have to admit, this craft was kind of difficult. I started with little knowledge of what I was doing, because anything I looked up seemed too confusing. So I took the basic concepts of what I had been reading and went crazy - and in the end it turned out! I'll try to lead you guys away from making the mistakes that I did, and hopefully you'll have some awesome little books by the end!


Paper - I used watercolor paper, because it's a bit thicker. In all, I used 4 sheets, which yielded 16 pages in the book.

Cardboard - Something thick but not too thick - like the cardboard from a shoe box or cereal box.

Decorative paper - This will be for your cover.

Painter's tape - Blue painter's tape worked with my book's colors, but if you don't like the blue you can always paint over it with acrylic paint!

Rubber cement - I didn't have this available, so I used plain glue. Ideally, I'd use rubber cement because it doesn't make the paper wrinkle so much.

A needle and thread OR a stapler - I was going for the traditional bookbinding method, but to be honest a stapler would've been easier. Go with what you like!

Step 1: Preparing the Pages

So like I said, I used watercolor paper. I like the organic sort of edge on it, so rather than cutting it, I tore it. I took each sheet individually (in portrait orientation), and folded them horizontally through the middle. I then folded it back the other way, to make tearing easier. Next, I laid the sheet of paper down flat and tore it down the middle.

Once you've torn all of your sheets, take two and fold them down the middle. This will create one signature. A signature in a book is a group of pages that are all bound together. A collection of signatures creates a book! You can't just put all of your pages in one giant signature, because when they're folded up they won't look even. I used four signatures in my book.

Step 2: Binding

So if you want to do this the easy way, use a stapler. Take one of your signatures and unfold it, leaving the sheets stacked. Grab your swingline stapler and pull the top part from the bottom. Place your unfolded sheets on a hard surface (that can't be penetrated by a staple), and line the stapler up on top of the middle fold. Staple through at the top, bottom, and middle of the fold.

If you prefer the look of a sewn binding, grab your needle and thread. Cut a large amount of thread - you'll want to double it up while you're sewing. I cut a good length of string, threaded my needle, and then pulled the needle to the very middle of the string. After that, I tied the two ends together in a double-knot.

One of my mistakes here was binding with no rhyme or reason. I'll explain what I did, which worked on my book, but then I'm also going to provide you with a link with how a real bookbinder does it!

I started with the top of the first signature, threading from the back to the inside of the middle fold. I continued this to the bottom of the signature, weaving at about 1-inch intervals. Once I was at the bottom, I grabbed another signature and lined it up with the first. I did the same sort of sewing pattern, but I crossed the threads along the spine. My intention was to keep it all holding together, but there must be a better way to do it.

I proceeded the same way, until all of the signatures were added. Then, I tied off the end and cut the excess string.

Step 3: Preparing the Cover

Here's where you need your cardboard. Cut out a piece that is about two centimeters wider and four centimeters taller than your opened book. Cut it in half to create your front and back covers.

Then, take your front cover and glue it to the first page of your book. The cardboard should have a 1-cm border around the top, bottom, and left sides of the page. Repeat this with the back cover!

Step 4: Completing the Cover

Next, take out your decorative paper. I used a sheet of 12x12 scrapbooking paper. Open up your book and lay it on top of the paper, so you can trace how large to cut it.

Cut the decorative paper about 4 centimeters wider and taller than your naked book - 2 centimeters extra on each side. Once you've cut it out, go ahead and cut the sheet in half.

Take one half and glue it to your front cover - you should have a 2cm border around the top, bottom, and left side of the cardboard. Fold these edges over, like you're wrapping a gift, and glue them down! They should just cover the edges of the page.

Do the same thing with the back cover - it should extend 2cm around the top, bottom, and right side of the cardboard. Fold the edges, and glue.

Step 5: Completing the Binding

Find your painter's tape, and cut a strip that is the exact height and width of your book's binding. Then, tear off a strip that's a few inches longer than the binding.

Stick the first strip to the sticky side of the larger strip, right in the middle. Then, place the larger strip right over the binding of the book. It shouldn't stick to the binding, but to the front and back covers of the book.

Since the piece of tape is taller than the book, you'll have some excess tape on the top and bottom. Simply fold it over - though you may have to cut a bit off to do this.

There you have it - completed book, made by hand!

Book Ideas and More

I sincerely hope you enjoyed this craft, and that it wasn't too difficult to understand! Please let me know if you need some clarification on the steps.

Since I used watercolor paper on mine, I was thinking of making it a little watercolor book, kind of like a sketch book. They could also be used as a scrapbook, maybe for old movie ticket stubs. With some more pages, it could also make for a nice journal!

If you're interested in more crafts, check out some of my more recent creations:

Folded Paper Gems
Paper Feather Garland
Valentine's Tissue Pompom Garland

Thank you for reading!


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    • a beautiful mess profile image

      Alex Rose 4 years ago from Virginia

      Great! Glad you understood what I was saying - I wasn't sure if my directions were clear enough, so I just took tons of pictures :) You can of course leave the binding uncovered to make the project quicker, but I prefer it covered over!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Great tutorial - very easy to understand. I've seen these handmade books and they've always looked so complicated, but your directions and photos make it seem easier than I imagined :) Will have to try this! I love pretty decorative paper and this project seems like a great way to use it! Thanks!!