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Bookmaking DIY: Paper Bag Journal

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Please welcome crafty mama Pooja Makhijani with a 3-part series on DIY bookmaking projects you can do with your little ones!

I first learned basic bookbinding at the Center for the Book Arts in Chelsea, New York City, and continued my studies as a creative writing graduate student in the U.S. I have taught the book arts in a variety of educational, corporate, and community settings in Singapore since 2011. I’ve worked with children and senior citizens, and I relish the challenge of sharing my love of this quirky art with those who may not have the access or the means to procure expensive tools and materials.


Basic bookbinding requires no heavy equipment. All you need are a ruler and scissors and a few other minor tools. If you are keen on building a professional-quality hand bookbinding toolbox, click here to see where in Singapore you might buy your materials (or a close approximation thereof).

Here, I’ve partnered with Keith Premchand to bring to you and your children three easy bookbinding techniques (click here for Part 1: a DIY travel scrapbook). This series of posts by no means encompasses everything there is to know about book making, but I hope that it will inspire you to explore more!

Project 2: Paper Bag Ephemera Journal

The simplest method of binding a book bound on one edge is with a pamphlet stitch.



  • A bookbinding needle (a strong, blunt tip needle)
  • A bone folder, a flat, polished tool made of bone or plastic for turning corners on cloth and leather, scoring paper, folding, smoothing out surfaces, and burnishing surfaces
  • A student quality (non-professional quality) binder’s awl, a tool used for piercing sewing stations, or the hole through which the needle and thread can pass



  • 3 paper bags, any size and any color
  • Unbleached French linen thread (pictured) or six-ply cotton embroidery floss
  • “Ephemera” such as greeting cards, bookmarks, catalogues, letters, pamphlets, postcards, posters, or tickets to make the cover


  • STEP1_1Using your bone folder, fold each of the paper bags in half and nest them together.





  • STEP2Using your ruler and a pencil, mark three sewing stations, or holes. Station 2 is exactly in the center of the spine. Stations 1 and 3 are equidistant from the center. (I marked them 1.5″ from Station 2.)



  • STEP3Using your awl, pierce the sewing stations.
  • Thread your needle. Do not tie a knot just yet!





  • STEP5To bind, begin on the outside at Station 2. Pull your needle through Station 2. Pull all but 2″ of the thread to the inside.





  • STEP6Go through Station 1 to the outside.






  • STEP7Go through Station 3 to the inside.






  • STEP8Go though Station 2 to the outside. Tie a square knot around the long stitch.





  • finalbook2Attach your “ephemera” to the paper bag’s “pages” with a glue stick or tucked into the bag’s pockets. Voila! A journal that’s equally perfect for writing, drawing, or even pressing flowers.



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