Bookish DIY: Painting My Book Pages

Painted Books 1.jpg

I can’t take credit for this gorgeous idea, I found the tutorial on Tumblr. Rather, I saw the tutorial quite some time ago, wanted to try it but failed to save it in any way, and happened upon it again last week.

So I tried it. I was impatient to, so for the first book I didn’t have painter’s tape and used invisible tape, which I did have, to cover the edges of my first victim (Prodigal Summer) in scrap paper. Which worked, though it took longer to set up. Before I did the other four, we actually had a power outage and went to buy batteries, and I picked up painter’s tape too, since I was right there–and then we got home and the power was back on, despite the power company predicting it would be down for three days! (I’ll take that as a win, but if we’d known it was only going to be two hours instead, we never would have gone to the next town over to go shopping, we would have waited it out. C’est la vie.)

So my theory in choosing Prodigal Summer first was that, despite it being a first edition hardcover in excellent condition and one of my favorite reads of the last several years, it would be easy to replace. Since buying my copy, I’ve seen it pop up in used book stores and at book sales at least six or seven times–and once, I bought a second copy as a gift for my mother-in-law. So I figured, hey, if I ruin it, it won’t be long before I spot it again, probably.

But it turned out beautifully, and it didn’t take me nearly as long as I’d feared to separate all the pages.

Second victim: A Thousand Splendid Suns. Basically for the same reasons. It, too, turned out well, especially because taping the edges of the book went so much faster than covering them with scrap paper.

I moved on to a treat-for-myself project: the All Souls trilogy. Because when I read them, they were library books, and just recently I’ve managed to wrangle a set of my own copies, all hardcovers. They seemed like a perfect choice, because I’ve been meaning to reread them soon (before I read Time’s Convert, anyway) so instead of being painted and put back on the shelf, not knowing when I’ll ever read them again, I at least have a tentative plan to get to these in the next year or so, and experience the joy of reading a pretty painted book or three.

Once I finished them, I made myself clean up my craft area and put away all the supplies. I won’t be doing any more soon, because if I don’t stop now, I’ll do all my hardcovers. (Will this work with paperbacks if I’m careful? Possibly. But I’m in no rush to try, because if those covers get stuck it will be harder to separate them.)

I’ll wait until the mood strikes again, because I do have a lot of paint.

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Bookish DIY: I’m Still Making Books, and a Bonus Book Review

84 - Making Handmade Books

#84 – Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures, & Forms by Alisa Golden

  • Read: 2016 – 2019
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (56/100)
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

It didn’t actually take me three years to read it. But I bought it in 2016, scratching the itch I wrote about almost four years ago, and decided I would make an example of every book from it. Because I’m ambitious(dumb) like that.

In the beginning, that was easy, because the binding styles go in a rough order of increasing complexity, the first section being devoted to folded books that require very little in the way of time or supplies. I think I cranked out the first four models in one afternoon.

But they weren’t satisfying. I bought this as a reference book for multiple types of bookbinding, and it is–but it’s also written by a book artist and geared towards those wishing to make books as art. Whereas I, who loves both books and art, wanted a book to teach me to make books to make art in. I want to make journals, not art projects.

That sounds like a criticism, but it’s not really–there’s no reason I couldn’t use the books I made however I wished, and the model art works provided as examples were inspiring, even if that’s not what I aspired to.

As I worked through the projects, I began to skip the forms that didn’t suit my needs for journaling–the pop-up books, scrolls, Jacob’s Ladder, and so on. But it’s great that they’re there, that the book is so exhaustive in cataloguing and providing instructions for so many types of bindings.

There are still forms in here I want to try, but lack the materials for–I haven’t invested in “proper” bookbinding tools, as most of the simpler projects can easily be made without them, or with makeshift tools borrowed from other crafts (of which I have many.) And as this book is such a comprehensive overview of styles, I don’t feel the need to buy any other works on bookbinding any time soon–possibly never, unless I get the craving to go more advanced and need something more specialized to teach me.

So while it’s geared towards artists in tone, it’s an excellent introduction to the craft for hobbyists like me; and for such a large book packed with detailed instructions, I found incredibly few errors, none of which threw me off for longer than it took to double-check a diagram or reread a few sentences.


Time to share a few of my favorites. This is the Concertina, an accordion-style form where the pages are glued together at their outer edges. I made it from book pages cut from my art journals for space, many of which had been painted over randomly to use up mixed paint I couldn’t scrape back into its bottles. I made it more journal-like by adding a wrapped softcover, a page from this years Shen Yun tour (a traditional Chinese dance company, which I have never seen, but they come to Detroit every year and I always get mailers and their photos are beautiful.)

This is the Crown Binding, where the pages are actually removable, held in only by the folded tabs that create the spine. While I don’t need a journal with removable pages, it was an interesting structure to learn. I finished the book blank with individual hardcovers.

This was a fun one. It’s called Piano Hinge with Skewers, and the signatures are notched at the spine edge so they can be interwoven along bamboo skewers. It’s not the best for journaling–the spine is incredibly thick compared to the book block, and it doesn’t lie flat to write in. But it’s pretty, so I’ll use this one and probably not make another.

Exposed Stitch Binding

My first try at the Exposed Stitch Binding. I see this one a lot in journals for sale on Etsy and the like–it’s not difficult, it’s pretty, it’s sturdy, and for thin books like this one, it lies flat quite well. I made this last week to keep records of my latest batch of experimental recipes–I always need one of these in my kitchen! Also, in my last fallow period between batches of books, I had the brainwave to use completed coloring-book pages to make my covers, and this was a perfect opportunity to try it.

Secret Belgian Binding

Finally, the one I made last night while I was thinking about finally making this post! It’s the Secret Belgian Binding, and aside from the Coptic Stitch books I taught myself all those years ago, it’s the most complex thing I’ve attempted. The spine of the hardcover (done in another old coloring-book page) is actually free-floating inside the stitches keeping the front and back cover together, and the signatures are laced to the inner spine through those stitches. It’s clever, it’s gorgeous, but it’s a little trickier, and my tension isn’t perfect. But this might be my favorite so far, because it feels like a “real” book and lies flat to work in!

A New Bookmark Revelation

Owl Bookmarks

I’ve complained before about some styles of bookmark after I attempted to make and use them. Corner bookmarks, not my favorite.

I don’t have anything against traditional, thin, stick-it-between-the-pages bookmarks. They’re readily available, cheap or often free, easy to make if you want to DIY and they are limited only by your imagination if you want something fancier.

However, I do have a tendency to take the bookmark out of my book, set it down while I’m reading, and manage to lose it. Especially if I’m in bed at the time, it will turn up three days later in the covers somewhere, crumpled or bent.

These adorable owl bookmarks came home from vacation with me as well as the book haul, and now that I’ve tried magnetic clip bookmarks, I’m in love. They don’t fall out. I can still lose them if I’m dumb and set one down in a random place, but it’s easy to secure to a different page in the book and not lose it, whereas regular bookmarks, if I did that, always wanted to slip out.

And while I happily turned over $5 for four little owls because owls are superb, and because I was on vacation and splurging anyway, this style of bookmark is easy to DIY as well with a few inexpensive supplies. So I might very well be making batches of these as gifts for all the book lovers in my life as well as for myself. (I tried to gather tutorials to link, but honestly, they’re all just “put adhesive magnets on paper, boom, it’s a bookmark.” Some were fancier and others plainer, some used die cutters or washi tape or stickers, but the basics were always paper + magnets = bookmark.)

Honestly, I’d just been so negative about bookmarks the last time around, I wanted to spread the joy. Give them a try if you haven’t already, they’re fantastic.

Bookish DIY: Fabric Corner Bookmark

Fabric Corner Bookmark 1

It had been a while since I’d made any new bookmarks, (or done any sewing, for that matter,) so I pawed through my fabric stash over the weekend and turned out a new model, using this tutorial.

I’ve seen corner bookmarks around a lot in book photography, but I’ve never used one, and I was curious. Would I like them better than the more traditional style?

Short answer: no.

The tutorial was easy to follow, and the finished product only took me fifteen minutes. I have no issue with the construction of the bookmark, and since there are a million cute fabrics out there to choose from, this style of bookmark definitely gets a high score for customization and Aesthetic Potentialâ„¢.

But it’s bulky. Even made from my thinnest quilting cotton and thinnest interfacing, it’s still kind of huge.

Fabric Corner Bookmark 2

Here it is, being shown on The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I grabbed two books off of my unread shelves mostly for the color coordination, but they make decent example cases. Perks is a smallish, but not mass-market, paperback. Its pages are flimsy, and the weight of the bookmark, which seems like nothing on its own, is way too much for these pages to handle.

Fabric Corner Bookmark 3

Okay, so how does it hold up on a standard hardcover instead? Flight Behavior makes it look great on the open page–the size of the bookmark is far more suited to a larger book. Inserting a single page into the corner, even with the heavier, higher-quality paper, still seems risky, but wrapping the fabric over a thin sheaf of pages instead seemed to work well.

I thought this was going to turn out all right in the end–I could certainly reserve this bookmark for hardcovers only. Then I did the book-in-the-purse test several times; most of the books I read will travel with me somewhere.

This bookmark failed miserably. It came off when I put the book into my purse. It came off when I lifted the book out. It came off when the book was jostled around inside the purse as I moved.

The extra thickness separates the pages so much that mere friction won’t hold the bookmark on against the forces of gravity or agitation.

Conclusion: it’s adorable but impractical.

Bookish DIY: I Tried to Make a Pair of Bookends

DIY Fabric Bookend

It’s not bad enough to qualify as a Pinterest Fail, but see how there’s only one?

I’m always on the hunt for cool things I can make to liven up my shelves and my book photography. This tutorial from Design Sponge seemed simple and straightforward enough, something I could put together easily in an hour, and if I liked it, make infinite versions in whatever fabric I wanted. Right?

Always read the comments before you start. When I stuffed the first one full and prepped to sew it, I looked at it and thought, “this isn’t a pyramid at all?” One side was far, far longer, skewing the point backward. Turns out I wasn’t the only one with this problem, and I compensated by simply turning in the fabric much farther (maybe 3″ instead of 1/2″) before sewing.

Then it was nearly impossible to get my machine to sew the seam, because there was this huge, weighty sack of lentils + stuffing (I’m out of rice!) that didn’t fit under the machine’s arm. After several false starts I ended up stitching it by hand, which was not only easier, but faster than fighting the machine. Only the tutorial would never say that, because machine stitching is always faster, right?

I did not bother making up the second one I had cut out. (No loss, really, the fabric came from the sleeves of a jacket I picked up at a 50-cent sale.)

I love the idea, and in all honesty, I probably will make more, eventually. It is really cute. And it does hold up my books. But I may have to do some experimenting with the size, and if it works, I may just have to write my own tutorial.

Bookish DIY: Quotes

Lace Journal 1-31-18

Most readers have a favorite book quote or three, or a dozen, or a hundred. And it’s lovely to go back to the books they come from to revisit them, but there are so many ways to incorporate them into your life outside of reading.

A lot of these you can buy ready-made, and if you find something you like from a business you want to support, go for it! But if your favorite quote isn’t up there in popularity with I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,” (Jorge Luis Borges) and you can’t find any merch to show your love, here are some ideas:

  • Put it on a t-shirt. How you accomplish this will depend on the length of the quote, your level of craftiness and the technology available to you–you could make your own printer transfer sheet, use purchased iron-on lettering, hand-paint it or simply write it out on the fabric with a Sharpie or other permanent marker. And there are services like Redbubble that can make the shirt for you from your own design–just make sure it is your own design.
  • Put it on a tote bag. Same deal. Who doesn’t love carrying books around in a book-quote bag?
  • Use it in your art, or as art. I’ve got an example of my own above (and boy did some people not get the irony when I posted it on my journalblr,) but quote art can take many forms, from simple printouts in gorgeous fonts to frame and hang on your wall, to whatever form of art you practice, painting, sculpture, calligraphy/hand-lettering, anything you like. Book quotes are a near-endless source of inspiration for the bookish artist. I saw a picture on Pinterest where short quotes were painted on small rocks!
  • Make it into jewelry. Tutorials abound for bookish jewelry, from putting tiny printouts of quotes into locket or small frames, to stamping the quote on metal bracelets or writing it on a tiny scroll to place inside an amulet bag necklace. Again, your craftiness and the length of the quote come into play, but wearing your love of books as jewelry has gone beyond mere trendiness, and making something with a quote you love means you have something both unique and personal.
  • Put it on your journal. Okay, so I put one in my journal, but especially if the quote is inspiring, why not write or paint it on the outside, where you’ll see it every time you go to write or draw?
  • Put it on a bookmark. You can always have it with you when you read…
  • Put it on a pillow? I’d never seen this one until I went hunting for quote-merchandise ideas, but apparently it’s a thing. (I also don’t really do decorative pillows, so I guess I had no reason to consider it before now.) This would be a great time to draw on your embroidery skills, if you have them, but again, some fabric (or even a ready-made, plain pillow) and a little paint or a Sharpie would do just fine.

I hope I’ve given you a few ways to bring your inner book nerd out where it’s more visible, and get crafty in the process!

Bookish DIY: Props for Book Photography

99 - Again the Magic

It’s no secret that I’ve developed a style for my book photography, and the base style is quick, simple, and boring. I know it is, because when I started reviewing, I was finishing the book, realizing I needed a photo of it to post, and doing the minimum work possible–which amounted to finding an article of clothing or piece of fabric that looked good with the book cover, setting the book on it at a slight angle, and shooting.

Seriously, it’s easy, and it looks decent, but it gets bland after a while.

I’d been making half-hearted attempts to do better from time to time, but at the end of last year, I decided to be more serious about it. First of all, I would do my best to incorporate more props to make the photos more interesting, and second–this is the key–I would take the photos ahead of time.

Since I organize my physical TBR (roughly) in advance of reading it, I know which books are coming up soon, so there’s no reason I can’t take advantage of an afternoon of good sunlight and take a bunch of pics at once, with props and time to lay it all out well, right?

So let’s take a look at some props I’ve been using, and in many cases making, to enhance my photos.

Stuffed animals. Maybe you don’t have any, but if you do, and their colors coordinate, or they go with your book thematically, you’ve got yourself a prop with no work.

Jewelry. Whether you’ve made it yourself or not.

Bookmarks. Obviously!

Food/Candy. Wrapped candy is great as small, individual objects to scatter. And whenever I make any kind of treat, now, I do my best to get it into a book photo before it’s gone.

Origami. Those book-page roses have featured in quite a few photos since I made them last fall, and this year I branched out and made a sectional star. The puffy stars I used for my original TBR jar are incredibly popular in the book photography I see on Tumblr and Instagram–I’m just not very good at them, really, and I don’t have a stock of brightly colored paper to work from. When I do, maybe I’ll try again.

Coffee Filter Flowers. I made the large white one with this tutorial, and it took me about six minutes, can’t beat that. The smaller, dyed one took a bit more work, but was totally worth it for the color. And if you look for them, there’s even more elaborate flowers to make, like dahlias, daffodils, and roses made from individual petals cut from the filters.

Real Flowers. I don’t have any examples of my own to share yet, we’re not a flower-buying or -growing household, and it’s winter, etc. But I have plans in the spring to pick wildflowers when I can. (There’s artificial flowers from the craft store, as well, if you don’t mind spending on them–I try to avoid buying props, preferring to use what I have or make from my existing craft stash.)

Mini lights. Again, nothing of my own to share, because I went to take a picture a few weeks ago with my Christmas lights, only to find out that between the time we’d taken the tree down, and getting them back out for a photo session, they’d stopped working. Next year, when I get new ones, we’ll see.


I hope I’ve given you some ideas to improve your own book photography, and of course, there are so many more ideas out there! If you’re looking to improve, pay attention to photos you like when you see them on social media, take notes, even save them for reference! (But reference only, don’t ever use them anywhere without permission!)

Get inspired and make stuff!