Crafty: DIY Notebooks for the new school year


Photos by Frankie Schneckloth

When it came time to shop for school supplies, I never chose the super splashy Lisa Frank folders and notebooks. Ever the organizer, I always went for plain colored folders and notebooks that color coordinated to make changing subjects a breeze. I knew if they ripped or I needed a replacement I would always be able to easily find one. This practical approach to school supplies carried through my entire student life of 16 years—and then all of a sudden, it just vanished. Gilded notebooks, patterned folders, rabbit-shaped paper clips? Give ‘em to me! Colored pens, notebooks and tape? I want it all! If you can relate at all, read on. I’ll show you how to make your own fancy notebook to satisfy your school-supply urges!

These easy steps allow you to customize it to suit your personal needs and tastes. You can make a thinner notebook (quick and easy) or a thicker, more substantial book (a little more involved).

What You Need

  • Paper (I used regular bond paper, but you could experiment with different stocks)
  • Two pieces of cardboard or poster board, 6-by-9 inches
  • Linen thread
  • Binding needle or a darning needle (Available at most arts and craft stores)
  • White glue
  • Wax paper
  • Coordinating cover stock for spine
  • Decorative paper, tape or paint for cover

Step 1: Prime your paper

To begin, fold 10 sheets of paper in half, so that it makes a “book” that measures 5½-by-8½ inches. Next, poke five holes evenly spaced along the fold, with the first and last holes about ½ inch from what will be the top and bottom edges of the paper.


Step 2: Sew it up

With the needle and thread, sew in and out of the holes, starting from the outside of the fold on a hole nearest the top or bottom edge. Leave about 6 inches of thread trailing out of the first hole. When you have reached the fifth hole, turn around and start sewing back toward the hole in which you started. You should come out with the string on the same side as the trailing string which you left. Tie those two strings together and cut off the excess. These sheets of paper sewn together are called a “signature.” Put the signature aside for now. You can make additional signatures for a thicker book, or stop here. You choose. If you don’t make more signatures, skip the next step and hop back in at step four.


Step 3: Add your signature touch

I made three more signatures to make a 160-page book. After making your additional signatures, you’ll want to join your them together. Stack them on top of one another, being sure to align the spines. Slip a long section of tape under each of the stitches so it runs across the spine on the outside of the signatures. Pull all the signatures tightly together, taping the entire length of the spine.


Step 4: Create a Cover

Glue the backs, corners and edges of the two sheets of decorated paper (if you’re using) to the cardboard. Cut a piece of cover stock measuring 9 inches long and the width of the spine of your book plus an additional inch on either side. Make folds 1 inch in from each side. Glue the first page of the signature to the front cardboard cover. Repeat with the last page of the signature and the back cover. Place wax paper between front cover and first page of the book to protect paper from excess glue. Do the same on the back cover. Glue folded cover stock to front and back covers. Carefully place your notebook underneath a stack of heavy books and let it dry.



Frankie Schneckloth needs a pen.