Paper sewn-journal

Published on March 17th, 2010 | by Becky Striepe


Crafty Reuse: Making Recycled Books from Trash

Confession time: I am sort of a journal fiend. I feel incomplete leaving the house without some sort of notebook for jotting down ideas. It’s fun to buy a journal, but my inner crafter sometimes wishes I’d get it together to make my very own recycled notebook. Here’s some book-binding inspiration to get you going if you’re feeling the same way!

Inner Pages

Since your inner page size will dictate cover size, you’ll probably want to sort this out first. I love the ecclectic feel of journals with remnant printing on them. If you dig that sort of thing, too, you might look to junk mail, old letters, and last year’s calendar pages to fill your journal. Maybe you’d like to throw in a few pieces of handmade paper to boot? You just need to be able to cut the paper to be about the same size.

If you’re a big fan of a fully blank journal, you can hit up your local office supply store for 100% recycled paper to use instead.

Cover Ideas

Like the journal pictured to the left there, a discarded cereal box makes for a simple, recycled cover solution. If you’re not so into seeing all of that branding, you might try sewing a cover for your journal like the one at the top of this post or gluing a design in fabric scraps. You could also just flip the cardboard over, so your cover is “wrong side out.”

I really like how Matt over at Green Upgrader used mailers from packages he’d received to create a cover for his day planner. It sounds like a great, sturdy solution!

Do you guys have any other recycled cover ideas?


Ellen Baker at Alpha Mom has a great tutorial for making a cereal box journal that includes a simple, DIY binding technique. No special book binding tools required!

If you want to get really back to basics, you can use staples or your sewing machine to bind your journal! Just cut your sheets to the width of two pages, and cut your cover the same, adding 1/4″ – 1/2″. So, if you want your journal to be 8 1/2″ by 5 1/2″, you’ll need your inner pages to be 8 1/2″ x 11″ and your cover to be around 9x 11 1/2″. Just fold the pages and cover in half (don’t fold them all at once….do one at a time so they’re uniform), and either staple or stitch up the seam. If you use your sewing machine, make sure to set your stitch length to be quite long, or you’ll just end up perforating the paper which is no good.

Once your journal is all bound, you’re ready to jot down ideas or toss it in your bag for when inspiration strikes! Maybe you’d even like to make a felt journal cozy to protect your creation!

Have you guys made any recycled journals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Image Credits:
Sewn Journal. Creative Commons photo by pipdiddly
Cereal Box Journal. Creative Commons photo by adinges

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About the Author

Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

9 Responses to Crafty Reuse: Making Recycled Books from Trash

  1. Using old junk mail is a really good idea, you could use old envelopes and do some zentangle drawing on them.

  2. I love making recycled notebooks like this. I’ve made one recently using last years pocket appointment diary with all the pages torn out and replaced with office waste paper offcuts and the cover wrapped in reused giftwrap. I’m thinking of making a whole load of mini poetry collections in a similar way on a larger scale and adding in rejected poetry manuscrips….

  3. karen says:

    Hi Becky,
    Great to find you here!
    I made some journals for sale on my shop recently and it was really fun to make them. I used up left over notebook pages from my kids stash. And used up fabric scraps to embellish the covers.

    I made a few with covers from Girls Scout Cookies but I read from Etsy forums that using cereal boxes and cookie boxes are against the copyrights if you sell the journals. It’s OK for personal use but you can’t sell them….although I see a ton of journals on Etsy using commercial boxes.

    This was a great article though. I love using up papers to make pretty journals and notepads.

  4. Hey Karen! Fancy seeing you here. :)

    Maybe you could gluestick two pieces of cardboard together, brown side out? Then, you could still reuse the boxes, just decorate them yourself, and the branding would be hidden!

    Such great ideas! Keep ‘em coming!

  5. Sinclair says:

    I have been making my own journals for years, but just began saving all packaging for this purpose about two years ago. I have been studying binding stitches, and often use the coptic stitch or the stab stitch in my notebooks. It is a fun and easy way to save trash from the landfill while offering something useful in its place. Great post!

    Here is a notebook from Sponge Bob Band-Aids that I made for my teen:

  6. Love it!! This would be great featured in our Blog Carnival, details here…

  7. Pingback: Weekend Roundup: Stashbusting from Week 4 | Dollar Store Crafts

  8. sandra de roubaix says:

    I make journals from ordinary cardboard box and cover them with the tissue wrapper from toilet paper. Scrunch up the paper after covering your card with glue, then put the scrunched paper onto the glued card. Can be made to look like leather ,or whatever! I live on a game farm near Kruger Park and make journals to resemble animal skins like rhino and elephant.

  9. sandra de roubaix says:

    I make journals from ordinary cardboard box and cover them with the tissue wrapper from toilet paper. Scrunch up the paper and apply to a glued journal cover. It can be painted to resemble leather or whatever. I live near to the Kruger Park on a game farm and use the technique to create journals resembling elephant hide or rhino skin. Lovely for dry-brushing with copper or gold .

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