Tag Archives: notebook

Lightning quick gift bag repurposing: bag to book

{Wheee! This one got featured in the Whipup newsletter–#3–last week. Thanks, Kathreen!}

My husband suffers from a terrible fear of gift wrapping. Leaving out the gory details, suffice it to say that on his first day of work in his first after school job in a department store in high school, he had to gift wrap a set of football shoulder pads. They were not in a box.

He has never recovered. Because of this, he (thinks he) has dibs on all the holiday gift bags that come into this house. He hoards them so that, come a birthday or holiday, all he has to do is drop in a gift, tuck a piece of tissue on top of it, then go and pour himself a stiff drink to help dispel the horror.

So one of my after Christmas tasks is to gather up and store any nice gift bags that came our way. I was particularly taken with a kraft paper bag decorated with red and white snowflakes, and wanted to save it. Alas, Crispin had gotten into it after the present opening (it had originally contained some homemade goodies) and the bottom corner had a distinct bite mark. Still, I was loathe to throw it away. So last night I did a quick-and-dirty repurpose and now present to you . . . ta daaa:

Gift bag to handmade notebooks (2 thereof) in 5 quick steps

This is the quickest project ever. Gather your gift bag, a pair of scissors, a tapestry needle and some embroidery thread, and some cast-off papers to fill the notebooks with. Plop yourself down on the family room floor and just . . . wing it. I didn’t even measure anything, and eyeballed all the cuts.

Lay your bag on the floor and check it for tears or stains. My bag was great in the middle, a little torn at the bottom and, because it had paper twist handles that had been reinforced with a sort of lumpy bit of reinforcing paper, I decided to discard the section with the handles.

Take your scissors and free the usable middle section:

Stand this section up in front of you. See how each side makes a little letter M?


Cut down the middle of each M so you have two pieces. Each piece will make one notebook–you can probably see them already:

Fold the first one in half with the decorative side out. The flaps on the sides will make the notebook a little sturdier. Repeat with the other piece of the bag:

From the scrap paper, cut pages a little smaller than the size of the open notebook–10 or 12 pieces should be about right, though if your bag is bigger than the one I used you can add more. Fold them in half and nestle the spine of this little sheaf of papers into the spine of the notebook. Use the needle and a length of embroidery thread (or whatever floats your boat) to stitch the papers in place. Use your scissors to trim the thread ends and neaten any pages that need some attention.

Et voila! Here are my two. One has used printer paper as filler (so, yeah, half of the sheets have been typed on), and the other has plain paper bag paper to match the cover.

Total cost? Zippo. Total time? Maybe 20 minutes, and that’s only because my kids asked me to stop rustling papers during Futurama and I could only make cuts during commercials. And don’t you feel virtuous for recycling?




I have measured out my life with moleskine notebooks . . .

and the like.

Gustave Flaubert said it best: “Get black on white.”

That’s all he wrote. Okay, maybe he had a bit more to say, but these are the words by which I’ve lived since I was in kindergarten. Oh, you could say anything you wanted, but it didn’t really count until you’d gotten it down in ink on paper.

All my life I’ve adored writing tablets and pencils, oak tag and markers, newsprint and crayons. Every medium has its surface, and one you’ve gotten your words or your symbols down on that surface, you’ve achieved something magical–this is what I grew up believing, and it’s served me pretty well.  It was true when I was a kid craving the giant box of Crayolas and a new drawing pad for Christmas, and just as true when I was a 21 year old spilling all I knew into the pages of a blue book at exam time, watching the ink from my fountain pen (I was one of those 21 year olds) soak into the cheap paper of the blue book pages as fast as I could get things down, and always, always figuring that she who wrote the most pages won.

Photo by arbitrary.marks flickr site

Photo from arbitrary.marks' flickr site

As long as I can remember I’ve made words come alive by putting them down, not just on paper, but in some kind of bound book: a Blue Horse spiral bound, a black speckled composition book, a moleskine, a middle school diary. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have at least 3 or 4 of these going at once, for different purposes.

This is the part where I confess that, though I’ve been meaning to write about my notebooks for a long time, I was finally goaded to do so by reading about this contest at Black Cover, a wonderful blog about notebooks–Moleskine alternative type notebooks in particular.   Bloggers (there’s a way for non-bloggers to enter, too) can try to win a set of nice little Piccadilly Moleskine alternatives by mentioning the Black Cover blog on your blog, and letting them know you did so. Which I’m shamelessly doing here.  Hurry on over–the deadline to enter is October 30.

Of course I have a Moleskine. Here is a page from my current one–nothing very racy, just an attributed quotation, a little bit of nonsense that was probably supposed to remind me of something, and a quotation I’m afraid I can’t attribute to anyone–something must hav distracted me before I could write it down:

I like a Moleskine with quadratic ruling–it seems to provide one more degree of freedom than a normally-ruled notebook does (“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.Juan Ramón Jiménez). And I like the way the lines cover the page from top to bottom. Alas, though, my Moleskines have always felt business-like. My current one is full of little bits and bobs like this, lists, notes for work, the odd receipe here and there, a brainstormed list of things we needed to get before we brought home Second Child’s guinea pigs a few years ago.

But no art. No color. No illustrations. Not in mine, anyway.

This notebook, on the other hand, opened up new possibilities. What began as a place to keep a simple day book with lists and phone numbers and a little bit of organization, refused from the beginning to be a quiet little book. Maybe it’s because it’s really a sketch book, with nice, thick, blank pages (no fountain-pen bleed here). And that’s what I had in mind when I bought it  But what started here at the bottom of a page about things I needed to do or buy became, on what I remember as a rather eventful day, became a looser sort of diary. It was, I assure you, quite a day, with a rabid skunk stalking us and our up-the-hill neighbors outside, and an internal moat-in-the-making in the cellar inside as the water heater began to leak. As for the ice and flowers, I confess I don’t remember where I was going with those (on the way where?) but I’m sure the ice and flowers came in handy after the more clearly depicted events.

Then I branched out even more (never mind that I have a perfectly good calendar on my computer) and let the sketch book live out its fantasy to be a day planner:

Clearly, it was fall when I created this rather hectic page (see: scribbled references to a Halloween costume* and the need to get a flu shot). The flying cats were reminders to try to get a cat rescue person in to re-home a litter of lovely stray cats in our garage that First Child had dubbed the Catwings (after the Ursual K. LeGuin series, which we were reading at bedtime). Winter was, after all, icumen in, and we were worried about their survival.**

But the point was that, though I had begun this page-a-day or page-a-week free for all, it was incredibly helpful to be able to have, say, all the notes and phone numbers for the sources for an article I was writing on the same page. And to be reminded at the same time that Mom’s birthday was coming up, the library books were due, turkey was on sale at Big Y, and it was time to write something for the dojo newsletter.

God, I was organized then!

But the purpose of the notebooks was definitely evolving and expanding. Here’s a sneak peak of another book with another purpose, for another time:


* I remember now. First Child was going to trick-or-treat as a teradactyl with a prodigious wing span, but he came down with the flu the morning of the kindergarten Halloween celebration and was only able to participate in about 5 minutes of the class parade before being whisked away to recover in bed. It was a great costume, though.

** The Catwings in our garage, if I remember correctly, more or less re-homed themselves, though we continued to see one or more of them for a year or more.  This was 15 years ago, but just last weekwe spotted a stray cat in our garage (which is a wild and tumbledown place separated from the house by a hundred yards or so). October must be when they start looking for winter shelter.