Repurposed Book Artist

I recently came across this piece in the NY Times about artist Lisa Occhipinti. I had unwittingly seen her work (or copycats of it), mainly the mobile that is on the cover of her book (below), The Repurposed Library. It was fun to read through this and get a better feel for her, her style, and what she is about.

This grabbed my attention for two reasons: one, the name of her book is strikingly similar to the title of this blog; two, she is so creative and fun! I really enjoyed looking through her website and seeing the beautiful things she has done with books. I definitely scooped up some inspiration.

A sweet piece of art from a repurposed book.

This is a lovely piece called “Flora Frieze.” There is an amazing amount of detail, and it looks so organic.

art piece from a repurposed book

Mostly I got excited because I’ve had some books sitting around that I picked up at thrift stores, intending to repurpose them. And while I probably won’t be doing anything as extensive as Occhipinti’s work (yet), it has put a fire under me! I spend so much time focused on book arts as bookbinding and making, that I forget it can also go the other way—taking an existing book and turning it into something new, useful, and intriguing.

How about you? Working on anything new and interesting lately?

How to: Simple Pamphlet Stitch Notebook

Make a simple notebook by hand

Today I’m going to (attempt to) show you how to make a single-signature, simple notebook. This is called a pamphlet stitch, and is also known as a saddle stitch. It’s simple and easy, and you probably already have the supplies around that would be needed to make one!

Thing’s you’ll need:

Book making supplies

  • a crewel needle or binder’s needle
  • craft blade (or scissors)
  • 1 1/2 ft. of Linen thread (you can also use embroidery floss, in a bind)
  • 4 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • 1 pc of cardstock or scrapbook paper
  • ruler
  • cutting mat

1) Cut 8.5″ x 11″ sheets in half.

An easy way to do this is to fold the paper in half. Then, slip a knife in the fold, sharp edge facing into the crease, and push it through the paper. It will split it right along the fold!

2) Cut your cardstock.

Add about half an inch to the dimensions of your text paper to get a 9″ x 6″ piece. Carefully measure and cut to these dimensions.

3) Stack your text and cover pages and fold.

Line up the eight sheets of text paper and center them on the cover paper. Slowly fold it all in half width-wise (hamburger style), keeping the edges straight. Line up the two halves, making sure they are equal. Keep an eyes on the edges to keep them lined up as you crease the fold.
Folding for making a saddle stitch notebook

4) Poke holes in the fold (spine).

Hold your papers open and together firmly, with your thumb on the inside, kind of how you would hold a paperback you were reading. With your other hand, take your needle. Holding it firmly, push it from the inside of the fold out to the spine, being careful to stay aligned with the crease. Make sure you have an odd number of holes. For a project this small I would poke three, five or seven, but you can do however many you like. You can space them evenly or unevenly, as long as there is an odd number of them.

5) Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end.

It may take a few tries to thread your needle; waxing the thread may help. After it’s threaded, I usually just tie a slip knot at the end so there’s a little loop at the end of the thread, to keep everything in place.

6) Sew it up.

So, this part can be a little tricky, so I’ve made a diagram that I think will help. It corresponds to the letters that follow. The arrows are the same-ish color as the letters they correspond to.

diagram for making a saddle stitch notebook


  1. Start with the second-to-last hole — marked in the diagram as hole 2. Sew out to the spine and pull it taut, until the tail is inside the fold.
    sewing a simple notebook by hand 
  2. Sew in through the closest, outermost hole, 1, and then out again through hole 2.bookbinding a simple journal 
  3. Sew back in through hole 3, then out againg through hole 4.
    a pamphlet stitch notebook 
  4. Sew back in through five, out through 4, then in through 3 again. When you’re done, it should look something like this:

    binding a notebook

    Thread should run between each hole, on both the inside and the spine

7) Tie it off.

For your last step, sew underneath the stitch that runs between holes 1 and 2. Using your needle, tie a knot and tighten it until it lays flat, aiming to get it as close to the hole as possible. Then just trim the tail to the desired length.

finishing your handmade notebook


8) Add Pizzazz.

Stamp it, color it, cute it up!

For my notebook, I cut a window in the cover and gave it a title—”Menus and Groceries.” Throw it in my purse, and the next time I’m planning a trip to the grocery store, I’m set!

how to make a notebook

Ta-da! You have yourself a handy-dandy notebook. Now go record some clues or something.

Happy Bookmaking!

Tips & Tricks: Keep your blades sharp

Replace your crafting blades often! Pazzow!

Anyone who has watched more than two minutes of the Food Network has heard Rachel Ray excitedly yelling extolling the virtues of a sharp knife. A sharp blade, she screams at you, is actually safer than a dull one.

It seems counterintuitive, but if I had my own TV show about cooking or bookbinding, I would be doing the same. But all I have is this crummy blog, so I’m screaming it here:


Using a dull blade means that you have to work harder and exert more force to get a clean cut. The more force you are exerting, the more pressure is on your blade–pressure that has got to go somewhere, and too often straight into your finger.

Using a fresh crafting blade will keep your projects neat and your fingers safer.

I use a few different blades: X-Acto knifes, rotary cutters, and scalpels. The lifespan of any blade depends on what I’m cutting. When I cut book board, which is heavy and thick, the blade dulls quickly. For cutting single sheets of paper, however, a blade will last a lot longer. If you notice that you are having to use more force than before, it’s probably a good time to move on to a new blade.

The cost of replacement blades varies, depending on the tool you are using, but buying in bulk can save you some serious dough. I usually buy mine from Amazon, just because it is so easy. Some of my favorites (all with free Amazon Prime shipping) include:

  • 100 pack of #11 scalpel blades. These are razor-sharp and pretty tough, not to mention dirt cheap at about $.20/blade. Just make a one-time purchase of a handle and you are good to go!
  • X-Acto Blade Dispenser, 15 count These blades come in set of 15, for those who aren’t ready for the commitment of buying/using 100 blades. The dispenser is also great for keeping spare blades neat and ready to use. You can also get a set of 100 blades.

I also buy my rotary cutter blades off of Amazon, but the price and amount depends on what brand you use. Fiskar blades do seem to be cheaper and Amazon Prime-friendly, but I haven’t tried them and can’t recommend them.

Not only will keeping your blades fresh mean cleaner cuts, it will also save you a lot of swearing and anger. There is nothing worse than bleeding all over the book you’ve been so lovingly crafting.

I’ve had more than my fair share of nicks and cuts, and I have to say that Rachel Ray, girl, I am behind you. And that is a proclamation of agreement, not of my bodily location. Believe me, hun, if I was behind you, you would be able to tell from all the heavy breathing.

Recycle it! — 3 Bookmaking Materials You Already Have

I’m always looking for ways to reuse and recycle, because it’s the cheap green thing to do! Seriously, it saves so many bucks resources and is great for my wallet the environment. So do the miserly socially-concious thing and follow these tips.

And you won’t feel bad about the environment OR your budget.

board games coptic binding cover

Use old game boards, such as these thick bingo cards, as covers for a coptic bound book. Courtesy of flickr user Vitarlenology.

1. Board Games

Let’s face it—your beaten up version of Candyland is missing too many pieces for you to be able to donate it to Goodwill in good conscience. And you’re pretty well past the stage of needing to build up your color-matching skills. But, that board! So beautiful and colorful! And still intact! Though there is that corner that’s kind of bent from when you hit your sister over the head, but we all know she was cheating and totally deserved it, anyway.

A great way to reuse old board games is to use them as book covers. They are about the same thickness/stiffness (weight) as book board or box board, so they work great. Plus, they’re already snazzy looking so you don’t have to cover them! Use them in a Coptic binding with some lovely colored thread. Or, glue some book cloth in between to form the spine and make some regular ol’ covers. It’s a great look, and easy, too!

2. Gift wrap

Granted, you don’t want to become your mother, who insists you open all your gifts carefully so that you don’t rip anything. I’m not suggesting that you crazy with this.

But every once in a while, at my birthday or during the holiday season, I get one of those gifts. You know, the one from that person you secretly think about hating sometimes because they’re such a perfect over-achiever, that looks so beautiful you’re afraid to touch it.

If I see some gift wrap that strikes my fancy, then I’ll be careful in its removal. It’s great for folded book covers or to cover your ugly book boards. Be aware, they aren’t super durable and will hardly be archival, but it’s an inexpensive, easy way to get cover material (and recycle!).

3. Scrap paper

If you’re like me, you end up with a lot of scrap paper. Whether it’s from a bad run-in with the printer (who knew that it would print eight copies when I only needed one?) or leftover handouts from some social function, save these.

While you’ll probably never use scrap paper to make a super-functional book, they are great for practice. And practice makes perfect, right? And I’m light-years from perfect, so I need all the practice I can get.

If I’m planning a project that will use expensive materials, I might make a smaller practice book called a dummy. The dummy will let me practice the technique and get familiar with it. It can also help me iron out any wrinkles so that I go into the project knowing what I’m doing.


And now, I want to apologize for my weeks of absence. Life has gotten a little crazy lately! My husband heard back from graduate programs he had applied to, so there was a lot of thinking, number-crunching and ultimately, decisions to make, and that has been taking up a lot of my time.

Aside from that, I promised you a couple of things, specifically a video tutorial of how to determine paper grain and a how-to. I have worked on both intermittently, I promise, but it turns out that my video shooting/editing skills are not all that they should be. I appreciate your patience and continued support of this blog.

This crafting station is now fully operational

My Husband is a super patient man. And by super patient, I mean the kind that sees the huge messes I left on the living room floor after a book-making frenzy and manages not to freak out. In fact, he managed to endure that mess (in varying degrees of catastrophic) for a whole week, which is how long it took me to get my projects finished and put away.

I can be a messy person. I have this creative momentum that leaves a destructive trail in its path. And since I am also easily distracted, it means that once my attention breaks for a second, I move onto something else—leaving a mess that I will totally clean up, real soon, I promise.

This happened a few more times and my husband was still patient, but I was feeling guilty. Mostly because since he’s a blogger and internet man extraordinaire, and the living room is where his desk and computer stuff are housed, it’s sort of like his office. And I was unceremoniously and obnoxiously taking over.


Also, he may have stepped on a crewel needle. Luckily, he just bent it and it didn’t go into his foot, but I felt terrible.

The Hubs, being the best man alive and all, suggested that I figure out what I needed and that we get those things.

So I took inventory, and decided that of the things I needed, first and foremost would be some drawers and a table top that I could adjust the height of. I dug out some drawers gifted to me from my mother, and the Hubs was good enough to take me on a trip to Ikea for a table with adjustable legs. And I thrifted the most perfect stool—not to tall or short with a nice wide, padded seat.

Sigh. So clean and organized (for now). I still need a larger cutting mat, but it’s almost perfect. Squee!