DIY Journal Binding - Make Your Own Paperback Notebook

DIY journal binding

Spring is such an inspiring time of year. Right now the cherry blossoms are out and white magnolia trees are blooming all over town. Plus, we’re even getting a few sunny days here and there, which is saying a lot for the PNW! It’s like Oregon has finally decided to grace us with a much needed reprieve from all the rain.

With my extra free time right now, I’m making the most of my inspiration buzz. In the past few weeks alone, I’ve painted my bedroom, DIY’ed a garment rack, and made a home wreathe for my front door. Still, I wanted to do another DIY this week.

DIY Journal Binding

A couple of months ago, a new friend of mine decided to do a craft teaching swap. I would teach her how to knit and she would teach me how to bind books. I had never really considered bookbinding before. The idea was exciting though because I love journals! I usually go for moleskins journals or the cute ones that Rifle Paper Co. design. Yet, creating my own cute design was definitely an exciting idea.

My friend had a huge stash of materials she picked up from all over town. With her supplies, she taught me how to make a hardback journal using coptic stitch. For today though, I’m going to show you how to make a paperback journal using a simple backstitch method.

Step 1 - Gather Your Materials

You probably remember from my post last week that I heard about the practice of mise en place. If you haven’t heard about it yet, it makes projects likes these so much easier. Mise en place literally means “everything in its place.” For this project, that means gathering up all your DIY journal supplies before you begin crafting.

DIY journal cover

DIY paperback signatures

I went to a total of three craft stores to find all my supplies. I’m serious, it actually took me all afternoon to find everything I needed. I think the craft scene must be pretty small here in Beaverton or something.

At the end of the day, I found my most of what I needed at Craft Warehouse. The rest I picked up at Target, Michaels, and Blick Art Materials

What You’ll need

DIY journal materials

  • Decorative paper for your journal cover
  • Notebook paper or printer paper
  • Embroidery thread
  • Tapestry needles
  • Scissors
  • Krylon spray adhesive (not pictured)
  • An X-ACTO knife
  • An awl (not pictured)
  • A pen
  • A ruler (not pictured)

Step 2 - Cut Your Paper Signatures

paperback journal

For my journal, I grabbed some college ruled paper from Target and just cut off the margin line on the front of each sheet. I did this for 26 pieces of paper. Note: I definitely recommend using about 15 sheets of paper for your own project. My journal turned out a bit over-stuffed but still lovely.

Step 3 - Create Holes for Your Stitches

If you’ve seen a traditional paperback journal from Rifle Paper Co., for example, you’ll notice that they use backstitch along the spine of the journal. The stitches are also spaced out about every 1/3” or so. To do the same, take your awl and begin creating holes for your needle to go through along the center fold of each of your sheets of paper.

Step 4 - Trim Your Journal Cover

paperback journaling

Grab a sheet of printer paper and cut it to the same size as your signatures (the paper you just poked holes in). Then, take your sheet of decorative paper and cut it so that it’s 1/2” wider than your signatures on all sides.

Step 5 - Complete the Cover

craft your own journal

Grab your spray adhesive and coat the back of your decorative paper with a thin layer. After that, carefully center your printer paper on the back of the decorative paper.

Step 6 - Put Holes in Your Journal Cover

sew your own paperback journal

Grab one of your signatures and use it to make holes in your new journal cover. The holes should align exactly the same as your signatures so that you can sew your signatures and cover together.

Step 7 - Backstitching

bookbinding stitches paperback bookbinding

Now, here’s the fun part! Take your embroidery thread and double thread it through a tapestry needle. Tie a slip knot on the end. Then, place your signatures all together as if there were a little book of their own.

After that, place the signatures inside your journal cover. From the inside (the center) of your signatures, begin sewing using backstitch. Don’t worry if you run out of thread before you make it to the end of of your journal’s spine. You can just make a knot at the end of your thread and begin with a new one.

Now you’ll have a beautiful DIY notebook that you can use for journaling, poetry, writing projects, or even just making grocery lists you’ll actually like looking at. You can use it however you want and even brag to friends that you made it all on your own.

As you can see above, I’ve now made three journals and I’m probably going to make three more once my fingers recover from making this one!

What do you think? I’d love to see how your own journals turn out in the comments. Feel free to post a picture or tell me how to the project went for you.