Homemade Recycled Notebook
This project allows people to make notebooks from recycled paper products. The entire process is expected to take 2 hours of active work (although notebook size will affect time).There are several variations to the project including, but not limited to, paper color, cover material, paper scent, paper size, drying method, and binding. This notebook tutorial will use a saddle-stitch binding method. For other binding methods, please refer to other sources.
Recycled Paper (amount depends on the size of notebook)
Felt Sheets (amount/size depends on size of notebook)
Produce Plastic Bag
Hole Puncher (single)
Decide on a notebook size (number of pages and width/height). These instructions will use a simple saddle-stitch binding in which the several pieces of handmade paper will fold into a notebook and staples/twine will connect them. This causes each notebook page to be half the originally made paper size.
Cut recycled paper into small pieces (no bigger than 2 inches by 3 inches). In general, one blender full of unpacked paper makes 1.5 sheets of thin letter sized paper.
Place recycled paper slices in a blender (fill halfway with unpacked paper). Set aside remaining paper to make more pages.
Fill blender halfway with warm water.
Add two splashes of corn syrup. This allows ink to sit on the paper without much bleeding.
To color paper: add roughly 2 tablespoons of acrylic paint to blender or a few drops of food color
To scent paper: add desired essential oils (a splash) or plants (half a handful of leaves).
Blend ingredients. Start at a slow blend speed and, as the recycled paper disintegrates, speed blender up to medium speed. Stop blending when mixture looks smooth and lightly pulped (fibrous smoothie texture).
Set Up Straining System
Place a window screen atop a tub. Make sure both are larger than the desired paper size. For easiest work, get a tub that opposite outer sides of the screen frame can sit on.
If you don’t have a taut window screen
You may use window screen material. It is important that we make the material taut by creating a frame for it. To do this, you will use a recycled wooden picture frame with an opening that reflects the desired paper size.
Step 1: Turn the frame face down. Cut the window screen material to a size an inch bigger than the outer frame dimensions.
Step 2: Lay the material on top of the face down picture frame.
Step 3: Start at one corner and begin stapling the material to the wooden frame. Alternate between each of the adjacent sides while pulling the opposite corner of the screen .
Strain the Mixture
With the window screen sitting atop a tub, scoop out the mixture onto the screen. You will notice that the excess water is immediately draining into the tub. Spread the mixture out to the desired paper size. Be careful not to agitate the pulp too much because it will begin to clump and lift off the screen. The thickness of the paper is available to your discretion.
Note 1: When binding the paper, each individual notebook page size will be half the entire page size because this binding method folds the paper in half.
Note 2: Cover page is recommended to be thicker and larger than inner pages.
Note 3: Frames to keep paper clean is recommended. Wood, wire, and matboard work well. Scoop mixture within frame borders.
Add embellishments to your paper by placing leaves, flowers, or other elements on the screen before scooping mixture on top.
Change Paper Shape by straining your mixture into a non-rectangular form, even connected letters.
Place felt sheets (larger than paper size) on top of the laid pulp. Starting from the center of the page, gently push down on the screen in an outward motion to drain excess water. As you continue, you will notice the color of the felt darken to indicate the felt is absorbing water.
Note: If a frame was used to create the paper, remove frame before placing felt sheet on top of paper.
Sponge Dry the Felt
With the felt still on top of the paper on the screen, take your dry sponge and dab the felt. Continue dabbing and notice the felt changing back to its original color. Wring sponge when necessary.
Peel Paper Off Screen
Continue step 10 until you are able to cleanly peel the felt off the screen with the paper pulp adhered to the felt.
Place the felt sheet (pulp-side face up), on a dry rag. Repeat steps 2–11 as necessary for desired notebook size (number of pages).
Note: cover page is recommended to be thicker and larger than inner pages.
For quickest drying, place felt sheets (pulp side face up) in a cool oven. Turn oven on to lowest setting or roughly 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Check in 30 minutes to make sure the pulp nor felt burn. If still damp, keep the sheets in the oven and check frequently. Pull the felt sheets out when the pulp is almost dry (the color of the pulp is lighter). You should be able to gently peel the pulp paper sheets off the felt.
Fold every individual page in half in the same direction.
Starting with the cover page, place a folded page inside to create a notebook. Open the “notebook” and place another sheet inside. Repeat until every sheet is placed inside one another.
Open the notebook and turn face down. Note the ⅓ or ¼ mark along the crease.
Option 1: Staples
Staple all pages together with the staple running along the crease. Rotate the notebook 180 degrees and staple the other side of the crease at the same marking.
Option 2: Twine
Hole punch the pages at the respective mark on the crease. Rotate the notebook 180 degrees and hole punch the crease at the same marking. Working from the inside of the notebook, thread a large piece of twine (more than double the length of the spine) through the pages on one end of the spine. Repeat for the other holes so the twine ends are hanging on the outside spine. Connect the two ends by tying a knot and a bow. Cut excess twine.
Make your own twine:
If you don’t have twine, or are feeling experimental, try making your own twine to bind the book. For this, you can use plastics, grasses, fabrics, yarn, or more (plastic produce bags recommended)
1. To start, cut your material in 3 long thin strips (about a foot and a half).
2. Knot the strips together on one end.
3. Tape this knot with heavy duty tape onto a surface for easy braiding.
4. Next, braid the strips into one strand. To do this, place the leftmost strand over the middle strand so it stands as the middle strand. Then, place the rightmost strand over the current middle strand (originally the leftmost) so it becomes the middle strand. Repeat until there are no more strands left.
5. Tape the end of the braid together so it’s easier to push it through the holes. Once through the notebook holes, remove the tape and knot the end.
This tutorial would pair very well with sustainable practices in a classroom. The paper can serve as a hands-on activity in which students research waste statistics and behaviors to be displayed on the paper, further bringing into question the act of wasting, but also providing a solution.
There are many ways to do this:
1. Create a notebook!
Like the tutorial, apply the notebook to the research project.
2. Create a brochure!
Instead of making a notebook, try creating a tri-fold or multi-fold brochure. The pages can even spell out a message (if all the letters are attached).
Make sure all pages are connected. Fold the pages: one back, one forward, one back, etc.
3. Make a Zine!
Folding isn't very time consuming, so make a very rapid magazine using the paper. View these instructions for more details.