Handi-hour Crafting: Old Books

  • KATIE CROOKS: Hi, I’m Katie Crooks, Public Programs Coordinator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, and today I want to show you a few crafts you can make out of old books. To get started, you’re going to want to gather together some materials. Today, I’ll be using double-sided tape, scissors, glue, a pencil, and a ruler. Of course, you’re going to need some old books that you're not afraid to rip the pages out of, so these cannot be books that you ever want to read again. I’ve already gone ahead and dismantled some books, and I have lots of sheets of paper to get me started. We’re going to make three different crafts today. I have a bow that you can use as a gift topper, something to just add a little decorative flair to your gift wrap. We have these ornaments, which can be strung or basically set on a table as a decorative element, and we have these flowers, which are adding together different elements of origami. We have both a large and a small, and I’ll show you the different ways of making each size.

    To get started, first I’m going to show you how to make the round ornament. What you need for this one is specifically scissors, a glue stick, your pencil, and something round that you can trace. You’re going to need to make twenty circles of the same size. For this one here, the circles are just a little bit over an inch big. You can go smaller if you want a smaller ornament or larger if you want something bigger. I’ve already gone ahead and cut out numerous circles from different pages. Something to keep in mind is not every page of a book is going to have words on it, so the more decorative and patterned side is going to be the side with the words. Keep that in mind as you’re pasting your pieces together so you don’t end up with lots of blank sides. It’s also fun sometimes to use children’s books, which have very colorful illustrations, to create these ornaments. They create a very collage-like feel.

    To get started, you’ll take one of the circles that you’ve cut out, and I used a piece of paperback book cover to make an equilateral triangle that fits right on the inside of my circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to get pretty close so that your triangle is inscribed in the circle. Then, what you’re going to want to do is score around the edges so it makes folding easier. What I’ve been using for scoring is a pen that doesn’t work anymore. It creates a nice crease but will not rip the paper or mark on it. You can also do this with a pencil; it’s not going to hurt anything if you draw a line on it, or you could use a letter opener, a bone folder, a knitting needle, anything with a fairly dull point will work fine. After you’ve scored the triangle, you’re going to fold the edges that you scored back, so you create a triangle that looks like this so that it has three semicircular flaps on each edge.

    The next part is going to be gluing them together, so do this to all 20 pieces that you have cut out. So I’ll take another one that I’ve already inscribed, and I’m going to glue them together. Just a little bit of glue on one of the flaps, push them together, hold for just a second is all you really need to get a good grip there, and they’re glued together. The part where the semicircular flaps come out – this part will be the part that stays on the outside of your ornament, like the pieces that stick out on this one. So notice how I’ve put the blank side of the paper to the inside. First, you’re going to put a line of 10 of these together. I’ve already lined up 8 of them to start, so I’m going to add these 2 that I just made to this line of 8. Glue your flap, pinch it together, and this is going to create the circular band that runs all the way around. So flip it over, match it up, so you should have 5 tabs on the top, 5 tabs on the bottom. Go ahead and glue those pieces together.

    While that dries, you’re going to want to go ahead and make the top portion. So this is where the other 10 pieces come into play. 5 will be on the bottom; 5 will be on the top. I’ve already started one for us. Instead of gluing them so they create a relatively straight line across, you’re going to glue them together like this so they continue to make a circle. Notice I’m just missing the 5th piece, which kind of looks like a piece of a pie, and I’ll put that one in and it’ll make a cap. So put a little glue on either side, and add that 5th piece. It won’t lie flat anymore after you’ve added the 5th piece. It’ll make kind of a little cap, like so. Then, all you have to do... So then I have one here where I have the bottom glued on, and I’m going to go ahead and finish it off by gluing this top on, and you’ll see how the ornament takes shape.

    Go ahead and put glue on each of the tabs. If you’re having a hard time keeping everything sticking together, you can use binder clips or paper clips to hold them in place while the glue dries. Sometimes that’s helpful if your glue isn’t very strong or your paper’s just not working with you. Then match up the tabs, and pinch them together. It just takes a little bit of patience to kind of match everything up. If you use a pretty basic glue stick like this, the glue won’t set super fast and you can kind of slide the tabs into place if they’re not lining up right away. When you get done, you have a small, ball-shaped ornament with the pages of whichever book you seem to have cut apart. You can do what I did with this one here and knot a piece of string on the inside before you close it, and then it can be hung or you can kind of gather them together in a vase. They make a nice, decorative centerpiece.

    Next, I’ll show you how to do the gift wrap bow. It’s a pretty easy and quick process. What you need to make it is a ruler, double-sided tape, a pencil, and paper. Scissors also help. What I’ve already done is I’ve skipped the step where I’ve cut out strips of paper to the right size. These strips of paper are 3 quarters of an inch tall and 7 inches long. You’ll need 5 strips to make the bow. So you can count out 5. To get started, it’s pretty simple. I’ve done most of it already, but just to give you an idea – take one of the strips, fold it in half so that you know where the center is. Unfold it, take a small piece of double-sided tape – maybe about a half an inch to 3 quarters of an inch – and place it right over that crease. You’re going to take the paper and fold it towards, but you’re going to twist the end upside down and push it into that double-sided tape. That way it creates that nice curve. With the other one, do the same thing, but turn it the opposite direction and push it into the crease. If you had enough tape, they should both stick there. If you need to add a little bit of tape for the second piece to stick, that’s fine.

    I’ve already made several other pieces. Once you’ve made all 5, just kind of look at them and decide which one is the biggest, and that’s the one that you’ll start on the bottom with. They’ll be all about the same size. These 3 look a little bigger than those 2, so I’ll go ahead and take another piece of double-sided tape, put it in the middle of the first piece. Then, crossing it, I’ll push down the second piece, add another piece of tape, put the third piece in so that it crosses and the 2 points go into the open spaces, leaving these 2 spaces open here for the fourth piece. As you push them together, you'll notice they kind of curl in on each other, filling their own gaps. Then, I go ahead and put the last piece in the same way that the first piece went in. When you’re done, you have a bow. Pretty simple.

    Lastly, I’ll show you how to make one of these folded flowers, which you can ahead and put on a stick and make it look like a flower with an actual stem, or use a pipe cleaner of some sort to create stems for them, or they work quite nicely just setting on a table. To make the larger ones, you just need a larger piece of paper. It takes 5 squares of paper to make a basic flower. You’ll notice that the smaller one has 6 petals, so I used 6 pieces of paper. Just based on how you cut your paper is how the flower will turn out. For the smaller flower, I used 3 and a half inch pieces of paper. For the larger flower, I used 5 and a half inch pieces of paper, and I will go ahead and continue with the larger size.

    To do this, you go ahead and fold the paper in half diagonally to make a triangle. Next, what you’re going to do is you’re going to take each of these corners here and have them meet down at the tip. So you fold them like this, and then I’ll do the same with the other side, so all 3 points of the triangle are now touching. This next fold is probably the trickiest. You’re going to fold open one of the sides, and I use my index finger here to puff it out. What I’m going to do is I’m going to push the crease down, and I’m going to crush this triangle, or kite shape now, flat. So it looks like this. I’ll do that one more time because I have to do it to the other side as well. Pop up the triangle, stick your index finger inside to open it up, and then push the crease down to the paper and flatten it. This is what it looks like so far.

    Next, take these corner flaps and flip them back in so that it looks like this. Now, I’m going to take the edges, and I’m going to fold them in, so we’re kind of back to the shape that we had before we crushed those triangles. It should look like you have a square. You’re going to need the double-sided tape for this part. Place a piece of the tape on one side, and then bring the two sides together, just so the corners touch. Pinch it so it sticks, and you have one of the petals made. Do that 5 times.

    I already have the other petals completed, and all you have to do now is just tape the various petals together. Take a piece of tape, and I’m going to join them together. Sometimes you’ll find that, depending on the size of paper that you use, the petals might not quite work out or might not stay together when you try to join the first petal with the fifth petal. If that happens, just do what I did with this small one here: make a sixth petal and it'll work out. That’s number 4, and here’s number 5. We’ll see if we need to add a sixth one. I think maybe one more might be good for this size.

    For the last petal, you need to put double-sided tape on both sides. Stick it to one side first, and when you're pushing all of the petals together, you’re crushing them and condensing them, so sometimes you need to pop them back out a little bit by pushing on the outer crease so that they’re bigger and take a little bit more space.

    There you go. Now, I have 3 flowers, 2 bows, and 2 ornaments. All of these have been made by the pages of old books. It’s an excellent way to recycle a book that you know you’re never going to read again, but you can make any of these crafts with any regular type of paper. They become a little bit sturdier if you use a cardstock, which sometimes can be recommended for especially these ornaments here. The more flexible the paper or the less thick, the easier it is to make the flowers. That’s just 3 ways to recycle some old books. Thank you.

    Public Programs Coordinator Katie Crooks demonstrates craft activities for the Handi-hour program at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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