Artsy Things

Published on July 25th, 2009 | by Jamie Ervin


Making Old Books into New Treasures

Tonight I’ve been pondering crafts involving old books.  Obviously collector books, library quality books and books we just plain love get pampered and kept on our shelves and tables…

What about the rest?  Obsolete manuals, damaged books, those which have only kind of survived the toddler years… where do they go, what do they become?

Disclaimer: If a book is not salvageable (or any parts of it that are beyond reuse), please tear it apart and recycle it.

If books are in good shape and no longer needed in your household, please consider donating them to a hospital or shelter.  A great idea for children is to have a book exchange party or a books for the children’s hospital party (ask everyone to bring their gently used books to donate).

Here are some great ideas I found for making a book into something new.

  • A book wall lamp (actually pretty cool for a study room, library or just a geek like me).
  • Join BookCrossing.
  • Gesso over the pages to create a journal or sketch book.
  • Remove pages and turn them into envelopes.
  • Frame individual pages or collages for inexpensive artwork.
  • Use as wallpaper (think bathroom wall, plenty of reading for guests!).
  • Decoupage a table top.
  • Stack several together (with cement glue in between) and clear coat to make an attractive centerpiece or a decorative column.  Repaint spines and top if desired to resemble classics.
  • Wad up unusable pages for packing cushion.
  • Use for wrapping small gifts.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other ideas… please share yours!

Photo credit: Books and Castle by Nufkin on Flickr under Creative Commens License.

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About the Author

Being green comes naturally for Jamie, a Native Oregonian. Educated at Oregon State University she is now a UofO Ducks fan, but remains true to her Alma Mater, the Beavers. Jamie lives vicariously through her husband, a developer of shoes for little feet, who travels the world over and prays she doesn't blog about him. She is the mother to five children, aged 4-16 and a Registered Daycare Provider. Her long term goals include traveling Asia, completing her first novel, obtaining her Master's Degree in English Lit and Education, in addition, Jamie would love to start a natural household and body product line, or maybe just pour some (organic soy) candles. Visit Jamie's personal blog, Looks Good In Polka Dots where it's not just about mothering, gluten free cooking and socially conscious living.

20 Responses to Making Old Books into New Treasures

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  3. You could always try to make a themed Altered book, using the theme of the book then adding in collages, pasting some pages together, making holes in other pages. It’s very popular with a lot of crafters, but its too much trouble for me in general, though I have used an old book once as an altered book/holiday journal.

  4. Kerry says:

    Don’t forget making a “treasure box” out of a thick book. Old thick encyclopedias or textbooks are great for this. Glue the pages together and then cut out a hole on the inside to hide things. Line with pretty paper or cloth to finish. With really BIG books, you can make a box to hold the remotes on the coffee table. If you don’t like the outside of the book, paint it!

  5. JeanieinNC says:

    I really like the idea of organizing a neighborhood book exchange. My neighborhood has a picnic shelter that is for our use down by the lake. I think I will organize a book exchange one weekend for our subdivision. Thanks for the good idea!!

  6. ecokaren says:

    I have so many textbooks that I can’t seem to find a place to donate. Libraries don’t take them. Even schools don’t take them. It costs more money on postage to try to sell them. These ideas are great but I’d hate to destroy perfectly fine text books. Ugh~

  7. Jaye says:

    ecokaren: don’t recall particular resources offhand, but there are many groups which collect books for prison inmates. They may appreciate the donation of even outdated texts. You could also approach campus bookstores, as some collaborate with charitable groups to collect old materials.

    My apartment building maintains a “free” table for cast-off items, books not least of all. It works beautifully and might be replicated in a local, public place, i.e., a willing coffee shop, religious or clubhouse building, etc.

  8. tremundo says:

    Great article!!!

    I use old books, especially atlas, for signature wraps on handmade journals and then the covers to make new books.

    I like all the ideas suggested here!

  9. Kim says:

    I recently saw a site featuring a table built of books. It had lines of old books drilled through with rods… trying to recall where I saw it. I thought it was very cool. Books from the outdoor bookshop in Hay-On-Wye (in your photo) would be perfect for the task!

  10. cindi says:

    i have had a love affair with books since i could get my little toddler hands on them. now that i am a grandmother that love affair continues. i’m a bibliophile, book lover, voracious reader, or any other name you can come up with. i will be til the day i die. this post brought a smile to my face in more ways than one. thanks

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  15. Gulechka says:

    If someone came across a ton of books to be disposed, then they can stuck them together as a bed base and place a mattress on top. I bet they will have plenty of interesting dreams. 🙂

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  18. Stefanie says:

    Create book sculptures by folding pages, create a book lamp (see, cover a wall with pages of old text books, send paperbacks to troops overseas (

  19. Livie says:

    I roll up old pages and use them as beads on necklaces, bracelets, or earrings!

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