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.

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!

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!