Back to School Ideas DIY School Supplies: How to Make an Upcycled Notebook

Published on March 16th, 2015 | by Julie Finn

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How to Make an Upcycled Notebook

How to Make an Upcycled Notebook

Those little notebooks at the Dollar Store sure are cute, but even cuter are the notebooks that you make yourself.

These personalized notebooks that I made for the kids in my Girl Scout troop are upcycled from Girl Scout Cookie boxes (of course!) and stash paper. If you’ve already made all your Girl Scout cookie boxes into bookmarks, however, you can use any cardboard for this project.

You will need:

1. upcycled cardboard. The particular notebooks in these photos were created using cookie boxes for the front cover and stash mat board for the back cover. Any food packaging would work just as well (cereal boxes would be really cute!), as would any shipping boxes. Even corrugated cardboard would work, and would be nice and sturdy!

2. stash paper. I bought WAY too much wide-format handwriting paper for my kids when they were younger, so, loathing to waste anything, I tend to cut that up for all my upcycled bookmaking projects. I interspersed these papers with some stash scrapbook paper and brown paper bag cut to size.

3. embellishments. If you can hole punch it, you can put it in this upcycled notebook. The kids in my troop will find photos of themselves from various Girl Scout events bound into their notebooks; other options include book pages, magazine images, wrapping paper, kids’ artwork–anything that can be hole punched!

You can also add any embellishments that you like to the notebook’s cover, so collect whatever you’ll find cute.

4. bookbinding tools OR hole punch and spiral ring. I use a Zutter Bind-it-All to punch and bind my homemade books. If you don’t have a multi-purpose bookbinding tool like that, you can hole punch the pages by hand and then thread in the spiral ring taken from a used notebook.

How to Make an Upcycled Notebook

1. Cut the notebook cover to size. I like to let the notebook’s size be determined by the size of the cardboard that I’m upcycling for its cover. This was actually kind of a pain in the butt for these Girl Scout cookie box notebooks, because they’re all different sizes, which made it more annoying to cut the stash paper to fit them, but you’re probably not making nine of these notebooks in four different sizes, so you’ll be fine.

A paper cutter will make this project go WAY easier, and will make the smoothest cuts. Use it to cut away the top, bottom, and sides of your box, leaving only the front and back:

How to Make an Upcycled Notebook

2. Cut stash paper to size. Cut down stash paper to the same size as the notebook covers. I don’t have a number for the amount of pages that you’ll want in your notebook, but since you’re going to all the trouble to make it by hand, you might as well make it nice and thick so that it’ll last a while.

3. Add any special pages. If you’ve got photos or scrapbook paper or vintage pages that you want to include, cut them down separately and then intersperse them where you’d like them to be within the regular pages. Now you should have a stack of paper and cardboard that almost looks like a notebook!

How to Upcycle a Notebook

4. Embellish the notebook cover. Do this before you bind the notebook, so that if you happen to mess up, you can simply replace the cardboard.

Protip: Know how to spell someone’s name BEFORE you begin to personalize something for her. I can’t tell you how many last-minute texts I had to send out, double-checking if a kid’s name had an A or an E, an H at the end, or what-all. Kid names can be hard, y’all!

Fortunately, everybody got her name spelled correctly in the end (I hope!):

How to Make an Upcycled Notebook

5. Bind the notebook. If you’ve got a bookbinding tool, all you have to do is follow its instructions to punch and bind your notebook.

If you don’t, however, this step is tedious, but still do-able. Simply punch all the holes by hand with a regular hole punch, then thread in a spiral ring upcycled from an old spiral-bound notebook.

Since these notebooks won’t need a whole spiral coil, measure it off first:

upcycled notebooks (5 of 6)

Clip off what you need using a pair of wire cutters.

And that’s it! I plan to tie a ribbon to each of these notebooks and attach a pencil, and if I have checklists or scavenger hunts for the kids, I can bring a glue stick and let them paste the page right into their notebook to use. The kids can journal during down-time at meetings, and bring them along on field trips as field journals.

What will you do with YOUR upcycled notebook?

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.



One Response to How to Make an Upcycled Notebook

  1. LaTourStudio says:

    Thank you for this tutorial.
    I have and take notebooks everywhere: on the desk, in the car, in my handbag, and so on. They also make nice small or thank you gifts.
    I particularly like the idea of personalizing the notebok with personal pages (like pictures) or scrapbook paper, that you put inside the pages.

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