Beginner Books Tutorial

March Break is here for those of us with kids in the English public school system in Ontario, and that means that many of us who aren’t going away on vacation are scrambling to find something for our kids to do. Usually that means digging out the bikes for the first rides of the year, or pulling on the rain boots to go puddle jumping. Well, not this year. This year has been one of the coldest months of March on record (it was about -30°C (-22°F) with the wind chill last night), following a record-breaking warm February. That means all the snow melted a bit, then turned to ice, and isn’t good for winter fun — when we want to brave the cold at all. Hence, we are planning a lot of indoor activities

Around here there are indoor play places and child-friendly museums open year-round; rec centers have special events planned; most businesses have something going on to entertain the kids. But one thing that having a huge chunk of the under-fourteen demographic off school all at the same time means is that everything is packed. So in our house we choose to make our own fun rather than wait in line or squeeze through the masses.

With that in mind, here is a tutorial for one of my kids’ favourite crafts: beginner books. There are two versions: one for the younger crowd, which only requires mastery of a pair of scissors and a blunt darning needle, and a slightly fancier one that requires more sophisticated tools, a bit of patience, and more adult supervision.

Basic Book

Supplies Needed:
– one piece of 12″ x 9″ (30.5cm x 22.9cm) coloured construction paper
– 5 to 7 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ (21.6cm x 27.9cm) blank paper (recycled or GOOS (good on one side) is fine)
– 24″ (61cm) yarn or string
– scissors
– blunt-tipped darning needle with large hole
– art supplies for decorating front cover of book, if desired

1. Put your construction paper and blank paper on a flat surface.

2. Fold the construction paper in half. Fold the stack of blank paper in half. Place the blank paper inside the construction paper.

3. Using the scissors, cut five small slits along the folded edge of the booklet. For best results, work from the center out. Make sure that the slits go through all of the papers.

4. Thread the darning needle with the wool. Starting at inside of the the center slit and leaving about a 3″ (7.6cm) tail behind, start stitching in one direction (it doesn’t matter which).

5. When you reach the slit closest to the edge, wrap the yarn around the edge and come back up through the same hole, then continue stitching in the reverse direction. Make sure to tug the yarn snug, but not so tight that it crinkles the paper.

6. When you get to the other end of the book, wrap the yarn around the edge as you did for the opposite end, and continue stitching.

7. Stitching this way should eventually bring you back to the center of the book on the inside. Keeping the yarn snug, but once again not so snug that it wrinkles the paper, tie a double or triple knot in the yarn. Trim the yarn to about 1/2″ (1.25cm) long.

8. If desired, decorate the cover of the book, as per the first photo. Your book is done and ready to be filled!

Fancy Book

Finished fancy book using dollar store contact paper.

Supplies Needed:
– thin cardboard from a cereal box or other packaging
– self-adhesive peel-and-stick contact paper or laminate, OR wrapping paper/wallpaper, spray adhesive, and a glue stick
– 5 to 7 pieces of 8.5″ x 11″ (21.6cm x 27.9cm) blank paper (recycled or GOOS (good on one side) is fine)
– 36″ (91cm) thin ribbon
– 2 large-bore beads
– blunt-tipped darning needle with large hole
– scissors
– pen
– utility knife
– hammer
– 5 nails
– scrap wood

1. Trim the largest flat part of your cereal box until it is rectangular.

2. Trim your contact/wrapping/wall paper until it is 1″ larger all around than the cardboard.

3. Peel the backing off of the contact paper and adhere it carefully to the outside of the cardboard, pressing out air bubbles as you go. If you are using wrapping/wall paper, go outside and spray the cardboard with spray adhesive. (The spraying should be done by an adult.) Come back inside and place the sticky side of the cardboard on the back of the wrapping/wall paper. With any kind of paper, fold the excess to the inside of the box and trim the corners. If using wrapping/wall paper, stick the excess to the cardboard using a glue stick.

4. Using a pen, draw a line down the center of the interior of the cover where the spine will be. Then use a utility knife to score the line, being careful not to cut through the paper. (Cutting with sharp knives should be done by an adult.)

5. Fold the cover in half along the scored line.

6. If necessary, trim your blank paper so that it is about 1/2″ (1.25cm) smaller all the way around than the cover. Fold the blank paper in half and line it up with the center of the cover.

7. Place the scrap wood under the spine of the book. Using the hammer and being very careful to keep the pages from moving, tap the nails through the blank paper and the cover all at once. For best results, work from the center out. Remove the nails.

Finished fancy book using IKEA wrapping paper.

8. With the same technique as the basic book but starting at the bottom of the book, sew the spine together using the darning needle. Leave the tail much longer this time as ornamentation. To secure the ribbon, tie into a double knot at the bottom of the book. Thread one bead on each end of the ribbon and knot underneath to add a bit of pizzazz. Your book is done!

Optionally, you can use a glue stick to stick the first page to the inside of the front cover, and the last page to the inside of the back cover. This will create a more finished look.

I hope that your kids enjoy this craft as much as mine do!