How to Make a Junk Journal in 5 steps ~ book binding tutorial ~ Sunray Sister


Welcome back to my blog! Today I would like to share a book making tutorial, with a slight twist…

It’s going to be a very long post, so let’s get straight to it!




You will need…

  • vintage book
  • craft/Stanley knife
  • ‘junk’ papers
  • binder clips
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • set square
  • awl/something to poke holes!
  • thread – I used embroidery floss
  • strong needle with large eye
  • scissors
  • (optional) glue/double sided tape

Overview of the steps…

  1. Remove original pages
  2. Create new pages
  3. Prepare to bind
  4. Bind the book
  5. Finishing touches

Now let’s start!

How to Make a Junk Journal in 5 steps…

Step 1: Remove original pages


Select a hardback vintage book, with an interesting cover, preferably in good condition. Alternatively you could choose a plain cover, and decorate it yourself with paint and collage, and this may help to make a damaged book more sturdy.

I would recommend starting with a small book, around A6 to A5 size, and about 3cm thick. Once you learn the basic process you could experiment with loads of other options!

Note: I was making a couple of junk journals, so there are slight changes in the book shown in the photos. But the steps should still be clearly shown.



First you need to remove the original pages (text block).

Take your craft/Stanley knife and carefully cut straight down between cover and text block. Be very cautious! Hold blade against text block, and stay away from spine of cover – you don’t want to damage this (or yourself)!


Repeat at back of book, as shown above. Now you have a cover ready to create a new book! Set it aside.


Step 2: Create new pages


Gather lots of ‘junk’ pages, as shown above.

The idea of a junk journal is to use different types of paper that might otherwise be thrown away: envelopes, paper bags, wrapping paper, random sheets of paper that have been hanging around forever…! You can also jazz things up with vintage papers and hand painted papers if you have those available.


Use a page from the book’s original text block to get correct size for new pages. Fold each sheet of paper in half and cut to this correct size, using either a craft/Stanley knife and metal ruler, or paper trimer/guillotine if you have one. You could also add in smaller pages for extra interest!


Organise new pages into signatures, as shown below. A signature is a collection of pages folded inside each other.

You should have around 10-14 pages in each signature, and the number of signatures depends on the thickness of your cover. The cover I used allowed for four signatures of 12 pages each.


You can hold the signatures inside the cover to test how well they fit before binding, as shown below.


Step 3: Prepare to bind 


Open each of your signatures and secure pages together with binder clips. If you have smaller pages in the middle you could use masking tape to hold in place temporarily.

In one signature find the middle of the centre fold and mark with a pencil. Then measure about half way from the middle to both the top and bottom, and mark these points too.

Take your awl and carefully poke holes through these three points. Do the same for all of your signatures, then set aside.


Open your vintage cover and mark the middle point between the top and bottom of the spine with a pencil, then draw a horizontal line across the spine, using your set square, as shown above.

Now, using the measurement from the centre to the outer marks in your signatures, measure the same distance from the centre in the spine. Then use the set square again to draw horizontal lines.

It’s important that these marks are the same measurements as your signatures, so that they all line up when you sew them together!


Depending on the number of signatures you have, you now need to divide the width of the spine into equal sections. The book I made has four signatures, so I worked out where four lines would fit across the spine, with equal spacing between each one. Now draw vertical lines at each of these points using the set square, as shown above.

Take your awl and, at the points where the vertical and horizontal lines meet, carefully poke holes straight through the spine of the vintage book, as shown below.


Step 4: Bind the book


Thread your needle with a length of thread about 2-3 times the height of the vintage book. Take one signature and insert needle into the centre hole from the inside to the outside, as shown above.


Now take your vintage book cover and insert the needle through one of the centre holes, attaching the signature to the cover, as shown above.


You don’t need to tie a knot in the thread, so make sure you keep hold of the end with the thumb of your hand that isn’t sewing, as shown above.


Pull thread through and insert needle into the hole above or below the one you came out of, as shown above.


Push needle through the corresponding hole in the signature. This may be a bit fiddly, but the thread doesn’t need to be tight at this point, so you can pull the cover and signature away from each other slightly to find the correct holes as you sew.

Insert needle into the remaining hole from the inside to the outside, as shown above, and through to the outside of the cover.


Pull thread through and insert needle back into the spine at the centre hole, as shown above, and through the corresponding centre hole in the signature.


Your thread should now look like this: needle in one hand, end of the thread in the other hand, and three stitches connecting the signature and spine.

From the inside gently pull the threads tight – you may need to pull them slightly on the outside as well – until they’re all aligned and the signature is sitting snugly against the spine, as shown below.


Remove the binder clips and any masking tape if you used it.


Take the two ends of thread inside each signature and secure together with a double knot. Then trim the ends; I kept mine quite long mainly for decoration, but you could cut yours shorter.


Once all the signatures are sewn in, the photo below is how the outside of the spine should look.


To see this same technique in a single signature notebook, watch my video below, and skip to 3:18, or step 4…

Step 5: Finishing touches


You could leave the book like this if you want to be glue-free!

Or you could finish it off with endpapers, as well as securing the ends of each signature together, in order to hide the inside of the spine.


When I removed the original text block I managed to save the endpapers (as they are so pretty!), so I secured the free sides of them to the front of my first signature, and the back of my last signature.


This is how your book might look between the signatures. You could secure these pages together with glue or double sided tape, or you could leave as is, if you don’t mind the spine on show. Perhaps you could make a feature of this?!

My finished junk journal…


Lots of different pages inside!


Consider using tracing paper or thin paper bags, as well as small papers like index cards, for a variety of textures and shapes!


What do you think? I really hope you give this project a go! And if you do I would absolutely love to see your creations!!! Send me your photos, or tag me if you share them on social media. Also have a look at the links below for more inspiration…

Coming up on the blog next week I will be sharing my favourite art tools, plus thoughts on working towards an eco-friendly and sustainable art practice.

In the meantime you can find me on most social media platforms as ‘Sunray Sister’, or sign up to my free love letter for something special in your inbox each month on the full moon!

Stay creative!

Peace and love,

Rachel x

Published by sunraysister

Mixed media illustrator, maker and writer, in Staffordshire, UK. Passionate about slow living, nature, mindfulness, sustainability and a holistic view of life.

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