A Tutorial for Paper Art Lovers

For those of us who love paper—I mean really love paper—too much is never enough. With that in mind, we’ve put together a fantastic bundle of magazines and a book that are all about—take a deep breath—paper art. The Paper Lover’s Ultimate Collection will keep you in paper heaven for a long time, with projects that include handmade books, décor items, holiday gifts, art journaling pages, and so much more. There’s even a planner you can make from scratch, with downloadable covers and calendar pages!

Intrigued? Mmm-hmm. Let me tell you a bit more: The collection includes a CD with two issues of Pages magazine (Summer 2014 and Winter 2015), plus Paper Art and Paper Holiday magazines. You’ll also get the hardcover book Mollie Makes Paper, with even more great projects. All you need is paper, and I’m guessing you have that.

paper artOne thing that’s fantastic about this collection is that you can make the projects just as they’re featured, or take elements from different projects to make your own unique pieces. I did that to make a one-of-a-kind book, which incorporates techniques from four articles in two magazines.

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This book was made from techniques featured in four projects from the Paper Lover’s Ultimate Collection.

To make the cover I used the instructions in “A Colorful Hardbound Journal” in the Summer 2014 issue of Pages. Carolyn Dube shows how to make a spiral-bound book to house art journal pages, and I love that she repurposes book covers to create something completely her own. Using old book covers is a great shortcut when you want instant gratification—just make sure the covers are sturdy, with no rips or weak spots on the spine. I used a vintage book that was 5 ½” wide by 8 ½” high, and removed the text block (the pages) from the covers by carefully pulling the block away from the spine, then cutting it out with a utility knife. Make sure you don’t cut through the spine as you separate it.

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Recycling book covers is a terrific hack for making a new book.

Sometimes there’s paper attached to the spine; you can leave it if it’s pretty welded, but this was starting to flake off, so I removed as much as I could, along with the mull (also called super or crash) which is that stiff mesh used to attach the book block to the spine. By the way, don’t throw those mull scraps away—they’re great for collage! I know this looks messy, but we’re going to cover it, so no worries.

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Vintage books in good shape can be repurposed into new books; just make sure the spine is in good shape.

I cut a piece of bookcloth to cover the spine and extend about an inch onto the front and back covers, plus a ¾” overhang on the top and bottom. I used PVA glue (a great bookbinding adhesive) to adhere it to the book, wrapping the overhanging flaps around to the inside. A bone folder is the perfect tool to use when gluing, as it allows you to get good adhesion.

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Start with a boring book cover and make it beautiful by adhering book cloth.

I cut decorative paper to fit over the rest of the covers, plus a ¾” overhang on three sides, and adhered it with PVA.

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Scraps of your favorite paper are perfect for decorating book covers.

To make neat corners, cut triangles at both corners, stopping about 1/8″ to ¼” away from the point. Glue the fore edge (front) side of the paper and wrap it around the edge, pressing the little overhanging bits of paper down on the top and bottom. Glue and wrap the top and bottom sides.

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Making sure corners are adhered well helps your book look better and last longer.

Cut another piece of bookcloth the same width as the outside spine piece, and ¼” shorter than the height of the book. Adhere it to the inside of the spine, making sure to press the bone folder into the gutters, those little channels between the covers and the spine. Then, cut two pieces of paper for the inside front and back covers, about ¼” smaller than the width and height of the covers. Adhere them with PVA and press with the bone folder.

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I used pages from a vintage drawing book for the inside covers.

The next step is critical: Press the cover under a heavy weight to dry for at least three to four hours. I put sheets of copy paper or newsprint under and over the cover to help absorb the moisture from the glue as it dries. If you skip this step, your book may permanently warp.

This is how my covers looked when they were done:

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That vintage book got a nice upgrade with some book cloth and decorative paper.

Time to focus on the inside of the book! In the article “Black-and-White Journal Pages” in the same issue of Pages, Jacqueline Newbold has a fantastic technique for prepping art journal pages and turning them into paper art. Start by painting a watercolor border on all sides of the paper. The beauty of this technique is that even if you’re not that familiar with watercolor, you really can’t go wrong. I sprinkled table salt on some areas of the wet paint to get a textured effect.

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No need to be an expert at watercolor to paint a bright border.

Next, place artist’s tape along each side of the page, partially covering the watercolor. Paint black gesso over everything. I used a fairly thick gesso, and gave it two coats.

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Never worry about facing the blank page when you start with one that has color and drama.

When you remove the tape…magic! You now have a black page with a dramatic border for drawing, journaling, or whatever, using acrylic paint or gouache, or gel or paint pens. You can prepare these pages ahead of time and add to them later. Make sure to check Jacqueline’s article for inspiring artwork examples.

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Prepare several of these gessoed pages in your art journal to use later with gel and paint pens.

I added another technique to the pages. In Paper Art magazine, the article “Dip-Dyed Stationery” by Janice Paine-Dawes shows how to use indigo dye to produce a beautiful blue border on watercolor paper. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have any leftover indigo, so I used some blue acrylic ink diluted with a little water. I dipped the edges of some of the mixed-media paper into the ink and allowed it to dry.

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Use any color ink or dye to turn plain paper into a canvas for paper art.

The effect is gorgeous! By the way, while you have that tub of ink out, use it to dye some tags, buttons, ephemera scraps—whatever you have lying around.

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The brilliant blue on these pages is a great starting point for art journaling.

If you’ve read any of my previous bookbinding posts, you know that I love filling my books with all kinds of papers: drawing, vintage ledger pages, book text, maps, paper bags, parts of old paper art projects, cards, and more. Think about what you’d like to use your book for, and use paper that suits that purpose. I grabbed a bunch of new and vintage ephemera scraps, plus some white mixed-media paper, and machine stitched the elements together. Sewing the pages is optional, of course, but it gives you lots of fun opportunities for adding to your pages later. To determine the page height I subtracted ¼” from the height of the book. For the width, I measured the distance from the spine to the fore edge, doubled it, and subtracted ½”.

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Machine or hand stitching on pages adds a fantastic textural quality.

Now that my pages were done, it was time to bind the book. I used the binding technique from the article “Waxed Beauty: A Long Stitch Variation” by Krista Takacs in the Summer 2014 issue of Pages. I love easy bindings that have a big wow factor, and this one fits the bill. Since my spine was fairly long, I adapted the binding, creating two stations of stitches per row, each to be sewn separately. This allowed me to use different colors of thread, which adds a nice decorative touch on the spine.

I created a template for the holes on the spine on graph paper, then taped it to the spine of my book. With an awl, I punched holes through the spine at every mark.

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Creating a template from graph paper is an easy way to make sure your stitches are even.

Krista’s article includes all the info for how to punch the holes in the pages, and how to bind the book. Following her directions, I threaded a needle with waxed linen thread, and took the needle through the last hole of one station, going through the signature and the spine from the inside and leaving a 3″ tail. I then entered the top hole from the outside, and the second hole from the inside. Next, I simply twisted the working thread around the long stitch, going all the way down to the third hole. One trick that helps keep the stitch tight: Tape the tail thread in place on the page with artist’s tape. Also, if you’re right handed, bind from right to left (as you look at the spine from the outside), and wrap the thread counter-clockwise. This prevents the needle from catching on the previous stitches. Reverse the order if you’re left handed.

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Waxed linen thread is a bit sticky, so it holds its place as you sew.

When the thread started to loosen a bit as I wrapped, I simply tightened it by removing the tape, pulling the tail thread on the inside of the signature parallel to the spine, then taping it down again. Try keeping the tension on your wraps the same, and periodically untwist the working thread if it gets kinked up. When you’ve wrapped the thread down to the third hole from the top, enter that hole, going through the cover and signature as before. Pull the threads parallel to the spine to tighten, and tie the tail and the working thread in a double (square) knot. Trim the treads to about 1/4″, and repeat the sewing for all the stations.

Once you get into a rhythm, the binding goes pretty quickly. I had never done this binding before, and was able to finish in about an hour.

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Sewing each section separately allows you to use different thread colors.

After adding a vintage crochet piece to the cover, I was done! I can’t wait to start using this fun book. Once you start exploring the paper art projects and techniques in the Paper Lover’s Ultimate Collection you’ll be hard pressed to stop. And don’t forget—included in the bundle is Paper Holiday, a curated collection of some of our favorite holiday projects from Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts magazines, and more. Have fun in all of your paper adventures!

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Blog, Handmade Books, Mixed-Media Techniques, Paper Art and Zen Doodle

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