Tutorial: No-Pressure Newsprint Notebooks

A new notebook or sketchbook can be a bit intimidating. Especially if it’s a really nice one. All those blank pages! What if you mess it up with a crappy drawing, or you have to cross out & rewrite something?! And so you (or I, at least) never really get around to using it all that much.

These notebooks are not like that.They’re cheap & quick to make, & so you won’t really mind if your drawings turn out rubbish & your writing is messy. There’s no pressure to be perfect when you open up one of these.

It’ll take you less half an hour to make a pair, once you get the hang of it.

What You’ll Need:

Four A3 sheets of newsprint

An A4 sheet of coloured card, long grain*

Bone folder (you could get away without one & fold with your thumbnail instead)

Awl (or hammer & nail)

Bookbinding needle

Linen bookbinding thread (or baker’s twine)

Steel ruler

Retractable craft knife


* All paper & card that isn’t handmade has a grain. It’s the direction in which most of the fibers are lying, and it affects a) how the paper / card folds, and b) which direction it expands in when there are changes in temperature or humidity. It’s really important to make sure that all your grains are running the same way in bookbinding; otherwise, the book won’t “sit” right and will warp. No fun! Short grain means that the grain runs parallel to the short edge of the sheet; long grain means it runs along the long edge. To find the grain direction in a sheet, gently bend it in one direction and then the other. The sheet will resist you more when you’re bending it against the grain. (I’m not too bothered about the grain of the newsprint in this project as it’s so thin it folds fine either way, & these notebooks don’t really need to last 500 years 😉 )


1. Using your knife & ruler, cut the A4 sheet of card in half like this:

2. Fold the card in half like in the photo below. Use your bone folder to score the edge, for a nice sharp fold. These will be the covers.

3. Take a sheet of newsprint and fold in half 3 times. Extend the blade one your craft knife and gently cut the the side edge to make pages. (Don’t cut the main fold – you’re just separating the pages that will make up the folio. You’ll be winding up with this.) Pulling the blade outwards and down (as shown) in a gentle motion will help avoid tearing the paper.

Do the same with the other 3 sheets of newsprint.

4. Assemble the folios and covers together, like so…

… and tap them on a surface on their bottom edge to get everything aligned.

5. Take the innermost sheet from one of the folios and mark three point along the spine: the centre, and two points about 4cm either side. (This will be your template for punching the holes in both notebooks for sewing.)

6. Put the sheet back into place in the folio, and use your awl to (gently!) make holes at these points along the spine, at a 45 degree angle. (If you’re using a hammer & nail, put the books out flat – you’ll just need to take extra care that all the pages are aligned with the cover. Also take care that you’re not driving the nail into an antique table or something underneath.) Then take the sheet and place it in the other notebook, and do the same. Put the sheet back in whichever notebook is missing it.

7. Time to sew! Load up your needle with some thread – about the length of your forearm. There’s no need to knot it. Starting from the inside, pass the needle & thread through the centre hole (1), then back in through the top hole (2). You’re back inside the notebook now: go out the one hole you haven’t gone through yet (3), and then back in through the centre (4).

8. Pull the threads taut and knot them across the thread running down the inside of the spine. Trim them to about 1-2 inches long, and tuck them under the centre thread to keep them from sticking out.

9. Aaand… You’re done! I like to use a craft knife & steel ruler to carefully trim around the edges to neaten them up, but that’s entirely up to you. Same goes for putting them under weight overnight – it’ll stop them springing open, but if you’re using them as casual notebooks you might not mind.

Either way, enjoy your new easy-to-use no-pressure notebooks!


One thought on “Tutorial: No-Pressure Newsprint Notebooks

  1. Pingback: Sunday Special: this week’s blog round-up | Lady Stitcher

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