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How to Make a Sewing-Free Paper Book
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
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)
- Glue (I used Aleene's Original Tacky Glue)
- Straight edge ruler
- 20" length Ribbon (I used Offray 1/4" polyester ribbon)
- xacto knife (optional)
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
- 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.