Sunday, June 24, 2012

Try or Die Vintage Notebook DIY

I know that there are book loyalists out there that cringe at the thought of dissecting a book - any book. But I cringe at the thought of the millions of books that end up in dumps and landfills around the world each year. That also helps to explain why I'm particularly partial to projects that give books a second chance.

I recently checked off another 'try or die' project from my ever-growing board over at Pinterest. Sometimes I'll try them 'as is', and sometimes I try to add my own little twist. My last 'try or die' project was one of Lucy's dragonflies and a butterfly. My twist included butterfly wings covered with bits and bobs.

This time around I made my own adorable notebooks from vintage books inspired by these I saw on Pinterest. Some of the books were actually left with our house when we bought it and others were picked up from from thrift stores.

What do you need to make your own vintage notebooks?  Start with a few of these. Mine are Swedish (which makes sense given that I live in Sweden).

I choose my books based on the covers and sometimes even the subject, like these above that translate to "Proper Swedish", "Carnival in Alvnas", and "Story and Truths". I'm also quite partial to vintage kid's books - they have the best covers, and sometimes the best titles.

Grab your handy exacto knife and splice along the seam where the inside covers meet the book spine.

And don't forget to stop and enjoy the hidden goodness you'll find every now and then when you cut away the body of the book.

I also love to think about the occassion when the original recipients received these books - this one was given for Christmas in 1942 to Rolf in Sweden (the previous owner of our house).

Take the exacto knife and slice directly down the center of the spine (not pictured) and then take a good all-purpose glue (I used Tacky glue) and glue the half spine around to the inside cover. This one was linen, so you'll see it looks pretty beat up - but as long as it covers the very edge and goes inside somewhat, it will all work out fine.

While going through the same process on another book, I stop again to think about the original owners. This one is from Buster to Britt-Mari for Christmas in 1945. And it had a special little bookmark still left inside.

Grab some book rings and grommets. With smaller books, I actually preferred using 2 book rings. I tried one with 3 rings, but it seemed a bit extreme compared to the book size.

I also used some scrap wallpaper.

I used some recycled cardboard to make a template to cut out the wallpaper scraps that would then be glued to the inside cover of the books. Just make sure cover the edges where the spine wraps around and is glued.

I also like to pay homage to the story of the book by incuding a page as part of the new book creation.

This one is finished. After using a drill to drill holes in the book for the book rings (be careful for the glued wallpaper on the opposite side. Sometimes the drilling created a little extra tear on the backside where the drill exited). Just be slow and steady. We added some recycled notebook paper on the inside, cut with a paper guillotine and had measured the 2 holes drilled in the book covers to match a 2-hole paper punch. My friend is a doctor and she's going to use it at her office.

I liked the colors in these vintage Swedish children's books.

My friend M made one with me and she's using some of the pages from the book that have limited text on them as the notebook pages. Love!

I'm already planning on making more of these little cuties. Just think of all the possibilities. Vintage notepads that quietly make a statment, a brag book of photos to send to Grandma, gifts for friends, and more! Gotta get ready for Christmas!

Until next time...


  1. That's such a cute idea! I love the children's books most of all, they're adorable.
    Probably will have to try that too - I've only made notebooks with cardboard, fabric, paper, and thread so far.

  2. What a great idea...I love finding new ways to use old books too, some of them have such lovely covers it really seems a shame to throw them out- this is something I will definitely try!

  3. This is such a lovely idea! I love too that you used pages from the books for decoration - and also for some of the notebook pages too!!

  4. Fantastic! Love it! Now I know what to look for on my flea market tour.

  5. Love it love it. I've been using trash, old paper, etc. for years now on just about every book project I can think of. I love your choice of paper, composition, everything is awesome. Great job.

  6. bsolutely lovely idea! i made notebooks out of thinner cardboard that i sew onto the blank pages and then drew on :)

  7. Thank for sharing this clever tuto. I add it on pinterest

  8. These are adorable. Might try my hand at this!

  9. Great way to salvage a book that's beyond repair! Being part Swede myself, I particularly like the Swedish covers.

  10. very very nice thank you so much
    happy nice day

  11. I love this!! I am going to have to make one!!!

  12. Adorable! Lovely! I want some! But I dont have the enrgy to make them myself. Can you make some and I´ll buy from you? :)

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  14. Such a cool way to recycle - as an artist who lusts after artist books this takes it to a whole other level - thanks for all your blogs I have just discovered them - WoW!!!!

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