Every now and then I find it important to have what I consider an “instant gratification” project. Usually it’s the end of the week and my brain is through being creative, but I still want to make something. Other times I use it as a pick-me-up when I get frustrated because a prototype has just epically failed or I’ve had another string of losing battles with my sewing machine. It’s something that I know I can’t screw up and that is going to turn out fine even if everything else I’ve been working on has made me want to cry. Ideally these projects are quick and entertaining, cheap as free (or nearly so), and don’t require any special tools or skills. I’ve come up with many of these projects over the years, so this is the first of many in this theme.
This week’s project is actually the result of two things, just for fun and also a little bit of necessity. I’ve been doing a lot of custom commissions lately and needed to unwind a bit. I love custom work and coming up with new designs, but it is a bit brain taxing by the end of the week. I’ve also been attempting to get a bit more organized. I write lots of notes to myself, like new ideas for stuffed animals, important dates, tiny drawings for who knows what, and an assortment of other random information. Unfortunately I usually write these things on any handy post-it note or scrap of paper within reach. As you can imagine this leads to a disarray of scattered notes that is not particularly useful or organized.
I’ve used this unkempt method for years, so I’m pretty adept at dealing with my “rat’s nest” method of filing, but I’m working on this whole “grown-up” thing. I suppose the modern approach is to use the computer or fancy phone or even a planner to keep track of these things, but I like the more tactile approach. The act of physically writing things down and list making are both very gratifying to me. My first thought was to buy several of those tiny little pocket Moleskines. I have a strange affection for tiny little books and they come in all sorts of wonderful colors. Then I recalled that I didn’t really have the extra money to spend on an army of tiny notebooks, and I didn’t need to anyways. I’ve had a book on bookmaking that I’d barely touched so why couldn’t I just make my own booklets? Double plus bonus, I could make them basically for free and they are super easy! Thus inspired I proceeded to make several of these handy booklets and I took lots of pictures so you can too.
Tiny Booklets 101
- 1 4×6″ rectangle of thick paper such as cardstock or thin cardboard like a cereal box
- 8 4×6″ sheets of regular paper like plain printer paper or lined notebook paper
- Sturdy thread, waxed if you can find it
- Beeswax to wax the thread
- Markers, paint, stamps, or whatever you want to decorate your book
- Scissors or a paper cutter
- Sewing needle, embroidery size is pretty good
- Awl or other pointy/pokey tool
- Bone folder, knitting needle, or your own fingernails
A few notes on tools and materials: These instructions make a booklet that is 3×4″ big with 16 pages. A sheet of 8 1/2x 11″ paper is enough for 2 4×6″ rectangles, so you would need one sheet of cardstock and 4 pieces of plain paper to make one book. If you are creative you can make this all out of recycled materials like leftover scraps of paper and cardboard. If you want to be a bit fancier, you could buy some of that scrapbooking paper that has all the pretty patterns and colors. I didn’t feel like hunting down waxed thread, so I just used regular thread and ran it through some beeswax a couple of times. If you don’t have beeswax either, it’s really not that important.
I don’t own an awl, so I improvised and switched out the blade of my exacto knife with a sturdy needle (like for embroidery). This is a pretty handy tool for lots of other projects too. I also don’t own bone folder, which is a traditional tool for paper folding, but I figured out that the tip of a knitting needle or something else hard like your fingernail works too. And finally, if you want really even pages, a rotary cutter or paper cutter is great and makes things a lot quicker.
- Fold all of your inner sheets and the cover paper in half. I would recommend folding the inner paper separately from the cover. Run a bone folder (or knitting needle or fingernail) along the folds so they are nice and crisp. If you are using really thick paper or thin cardboard, you may want to score (lightly cut) down the middle before you fold.
- With the cover paper and the pages put together, poke three holes along the fold. One should be in the middle and the others about a 1/2″ from the top and the bottom. If your pokey tool is kind of thin like mine, wiggle it around a bit to make the holes a little bigger. Make sure to put something like a phone book or a stack of newspaper under your booklet before this step so you don’t also put a hole in your table.
- Now it’s time to break out the needle and thread. Thread your needle with 18-20″ of thread and DO NOT knot the end. Starting from the inside of the booklet push the needle down through the center hole and pull the thread until only a couple of inches (or enough to comfortable tie off with) are left sticking out. Keeping a hold of that tail, bring the needle back up through the top hole and then back down through the bottom hole, gently pulling up all the slack each time. Finally, carefully poke the needle back up the middle hole, being careful not to poke through the thread that goes across the middle. Gently pull up the slack again and trim to the same length as the beginning tail.
- With one tail to each side of the string down the center, tie the two ends together in a square knot over the middle. Trim the tails however long you prefer, but don’t cut them all the way to the knot. It’s very important that the knot be over the middle string so it can’t pull back through the hole. If you don’t know how to tie a square knot, I’ve included some informative pictures.
- Technically the booklets are finished at this point, but I think they look better and will lay flatter if you leave them under something heavy (like a pile of textbooks) for a couple of days. Just don’t forget where you left them unless you like surprise books. I suppose that’s kind of fun too though. After this, or before if you skip it, decorate to your heart’s content and enjoy!
Like I said before, these books are very easy to put together and don’t take very much time either. It’s a great way to use up scrap paper and I can be as creative or lazy as I want with them. They are a very appropriate purse or pocket size and I can have a different one for each new purpose. It has been very helpful for keeping track of hours I spend on my work, and all the different projects I’m supposed to be working on. Now I have to decide what to do with this newest batch. Or maybe I’ll go make some more.