Friday 14 November 2014

How to turn an old book into a new home for your collage: 'Fortune & Geese Favour the Bold' Part 3

Hi there.

Thanks for the feedback you've left on the series so far - it means a lot to me to know that the posts are inspiring you to find and old book, choose a theme and start preparing to embark on a collage adventure with me!
Seeing as you've, metaphorically and practically speaking, got your creative bags packed and ready to go I thought it was about time I shared the itinerary ...

We've already meandered through:
And if we're here today then this must be :
Then, further down the road, we'll be stopping off at:
  • Part 4: 101 ideas for what to use as collage materials ... and where to find them *COMING SOON* [Well, I say '101 ways' because it sounds good but, if we're being honest it's unlikely to be 101 ...].
  • Part 5: Using abstract designs as well as figures in your collage *COMING A BIT LESS SOON*
  • Part 6: The finishing touches. Including adding wording, gilding and more. *COMING EVEN MORE A BIT LESS SOON* [You'd never guess I had an English degree would you?]
For now though let's look at how you can breathe new life into an old, unloved, neglected, never-to-be-read-again hardback ...
Turning an old book into a new home for your collage:
So, you've raided your bookshelf/loft/charity shop and found a suitable old book to alter .. what now? Well, as is often the way in life, before we can build something better ... we have to tear down the old!
Or, in our case tear out the old. Pages that is.
[Please note: This is where you might need to blindfold and gag the good child in you who was brought up to have a reverential attitude towards books! Just treat it like it was one of your siblings instead ...]. 
You might wonder why we're going to tear out pages to make a book ... when there's already a perfectly good book-shaped book in our hands. But you will need to tear out a certain amount of pages in order to make space for the additional layers of papers you're going to add via your collages.
I know that it seems a bit strange, that a sheet of paper is so thin how could it possibly fill up the book? But when you're adding something to every page it soon starts to bulk up.
For a rough idea of how much space inside the book your collages will take up try this quick, visual, experiment:
  • Pick up even just a selection of the papers you've set aside to use in this project and tuck them inside your book.
  • Now try to close it.
  • You'll see that already the book has become wedge shaped; with covers that no longer run parallel!
  • And it's only going to get worse the more work you do inside.
Look ...basically what I'm saying is: there's no way around it, you're going to have to get tearing!
But before beginning the deconstruction process... you first need to decide how many sections you want/need.
  • If you're following along with something like Ali Edwards' 'December Daily' or Shimelle Laine's 'Journal Your Christmas' or indeed any festive type project of your own or a meme etc you've found on social media you might want to have anywhere between 25 - 35 sections [depending on whether you plan to add something every day of the month or not].
  • If you're just creating a more general project, you might want to judge the number of sections based on how large your book is - how many sections could it comfortably be broken into?
  • Also take into consideration the depth of your chosen supplies: if you're planning to use lots of textures / fabrics / chunky embellishments then remove more pages to allow yourself more room.
  • And do ask yourself if you want the book to close completely - or will you be OK with it heaving open slightly? Take that into account when you decide how many pages to remove.  
I divided my book into approximately 32 sections: one each for the for the days in September [remember mine was to house my daily thoughts throughout September as part of the 'Learn Something New Everyday' project.] plus a couple of extra pages for an introduction.

I also had to make space for 30 mini envelopes, one for each page, plus 30+ sheets of notepaper onto which I wrote the journaling that I then hid inside the envelopes! You won't be surprised to learn that, despite removing over 300 pages ...
.. .with all those additional supplies inside my book no longer closes fully!

**PLEASE NOTE: I'm talking here about the number of SECTIONS you need and not the number of pages!

My book has 32 separate sections but these are made up of several pages glued together! Don't tear out all but 30-odd pages, as that would leave you with a very thin book indeed! 

Where to begin:
Once you've decided roughly how many sections to divide the book into open it up and look at how it has been bound.

Is it broken up into 'signatures'?
  • Those are the segments of a book where larger sheets of paper are stacked on one another, folded over and then stitched through the centre fold with thread.
If so, then you'll need to:
  1. Find the centre fold of each segment.
  2. Decide how many pages from each fold to remove.
  3. Do NOT cut the thread holding them together!!! You don't want the whole signature to drop out!
  4. Carefully tear out the pages but be careful NOT to pull too hard at the thread or it may snap.
  5. TIP: hold a ruler along the centre fold and tear against that rather than pulling against the thread.
  6. Repeat this step for each signature until you've thinned down the book to the size you wanted.
Here's my book at this stage. Notice how I've thinned it our evenly right throughout the book:
Gluing the pages together: 
Gluing 2 or 3 pages together will create nice, sturdy bases on to which you can collage. Even if your paper is thick, it won't hurt to double or triple-up. And if you intend to use paint, ink, wet glue etc on your pages then the stronger they are, the better.
  • Go through the book gluing around 2-3 pages together [or more if your paper is very thin].
  • To do this I used a regular glue stick [I like good old Pritt, but I'm sure you have your own favourites] as it was easier than spreading a wet glue. Remember I had to repeat the process 60 or more times to create 30 sections ... so I was happy with any available short-cut!
You can see here that I kept track of how many sections I'd created using paper clips and sticky-notes:
If any of the threads binding the pages did tear when you tore out your pages [some of mine did - it's an old, brittle book] then simply plaster down the loose ends of the thread with a wet glue.

And if you find you have any loose pages anywhere in the book simply stick them to the next page along.

  • This might be a little trickier ... but with plenty of glue you'll probably get away with it!
  • Tear out the pages carefully 
  • Brush some glue down directly into the spine - along the space left behind from the pages you've removed.
  • Hide the 'gappy' areas by gluing together the pages either side of the gap.
TIP: Hang on to all those pages you've torn out as they'll come in handy for future projects:
  • paint on them / use them with a gelli-plate
  • die-cut from them
  • use them as backgrounds for cards and scrapbook pages 
  • make mini-envelopes
  • and even mini books ... and lots more!
Let the RE-construction commence ...
Once you've finished the destructive elements you should now have a hardback book filled with new double/triple thickness pages ... and it'll probably be feeling a little bit like a shadow of its former self!

So it's your job to start breathing life back into it with whatever creative methods and styles you choose.

As I planned to add wording to my collages I wanted to subdue some of the distracting background print of my pages; so I used a brayer to apply acrylic paint over the text area of each page:
I chose to use the brayer as it was really quick and easy - you can see how the roller is the same width as the text so it was idea to just speedily add the paint over it. If you don't have a brayer a paintbrush or sponge will do!

The NEXT STEP ... is to begin adding in all those lovely papers and images you've set aside to match your theme!

Here's another of my completed pages:
 Once your book is there, ready and waiting to be filled, you'll probably be eager to get started ... so go for it!!

As the itinerary [above] shows, I do have plenty more ideas and inspiration to share regarding sourcing supplies and ways to add interest to your collage pages but if you're all set to begin - don't hold back just make a start ... and see where you go!

From now on I'll be sharing lots more finished pages from my book [I didn't take any 'in progress' shots] so it'll be more of a dose of eye-candy than any strict 'tutorial' or step-by-step.

But, if you do want to hang fire, or you just haven't had chance to prepare your supplies yet, then by all means take it slowly, enjoying the scenery alongside me, before making a start on your own ...
There's plenty of fresh content down the track ... so please bear with me while I get it all written up!

Julie :-)

p.s: if you're finding anything in the series useful then please consider sharing it with like minded creative via whatever method you share things [Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest ... speaking ... semaphore...]. Thank you in advance!


  1. Julie,

    Thank you so much for doing this series. I've always wanted to do an altered book and your directions are so clear, helpful and totally inspiring as well. Thank you! : ) (Hugs)

  2. My thoughts entirely Debi. Thanks Julie, just the spark of inspiration I needed.
    Pritt stick glued my pages perfectly, quickly, no mess but best of all it doesn't warp the pages like wet glue.

  3. Oh, I've only just spotted this series! What fun, I'll definitely join in :)

  4. Oh golly, I am only just catching up and am way behind. Eeeek! I'm thinking December Daily, if I can get it all prepared in time ... A nice copy of The Christmas Carol might be appropriate!


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