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  • Writer's pictureBel Mills

Got File Folders or Paper Bags? You Can Make Books!

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Bookmakers seem to fret a lot over paper--they want to make sure they're using the right stuff.

And you may have noticed many experienced bookbinders answering questions about paper using obscure words like "bond" or "pound" or "gsm."

I'm not one of them. After 7 years making books, I just can't get myself on the fancy paper bandwagon. It's not that I haven't used it, it's just that it hasn't won me over.

I figure, where's the magic in making fancy books out of fancy paper? I'm a sucker for a good makeover, and nothing gets me going like watching something so-so get transformed into something spectacular.

So if you ask me, the absolute BEST paper for making books is the paper you already have! Because unless you need an archival, heirloom album to store all your precious preciousness, ordinary paper has you covered.

Not convinced? Let me show you!


File folders are practically BEGGING to be made into books.

I mean LOOK at them! They're already book-shaped! Also, their sturdiness is ideal for notebook covers, or to use as dividers inside of a book.

Finally, they're incredibly versatile. They're sort of like the plain noodles of the paper world. Seriously, they're even noodle-colored. They're just sitting there, trying to look fetching, waiting for you to pour on the bookbinding sauce. (You can learn to make the special sauce in Upcycled Bookbinding 101 right HERE)

Take a look at the results:


I once gave a class where I taught the Language of Paper.

Did you know paper speaks? Well, it does. Household paper, in particular, has LOTS to say. Paper bags, for instance.

What, you ask, could a paper bag possibly have to say?

Well, it tells you how to make it into a book! (Which, in my opinion, is what all paper would say--all day long--if it could: "Hey human! Make me into a book! Here's how!)

But back to the language of paper. Paper bags--and file folders, incidentally--are among the household paper items that "speak" through their folds.

Folds are the foundational feature of books. So as a bookbinder, when I see the folds in paper bags, I hear the message loud and clear.

(Which I'd love to teach you how to do, so join my email list and you'll be the first to know when the paper bag book is offered as a virtual class)

The best thing about paper bag books is you get the bonus of pocketed pages!


Want more ideas on using household paper in books? Have a look at my next post: "Got Notebook Paper or Envelopes? Then You Can Make Books!"

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