This is the second year I have done this journal project with fifth graders in Saratoga Springs. I wrote about it last year, but in less detail than I plan to write about it today. 

This workshop day was requested by the school’s reading specialist, who had done a similar project on her own with a few students.  She was impressed by the students’ reaction to their journals, and thus requested that I come for a day and make these books with the whole grade level, about 70 students.

Books standing on the windowsill

We used paper from large wallpaper sample books. These books are 17″ tall, and about 12″ wide, though the width of the pages is bound tightly with industrial size staples. I cut the papers out of the books, so the final size is 17″ x 11 1/4;, though standard 17″ x 11″ paper would work well too.  Wallpaper books are fun to use because each student’s book is visually unique.

Directions for Pocketed Book Cover by Paula Krieg

The students folded the covers according to the directions above, with one exception. Before the last step of closing the cover, I asked them to snip off the tip of the triangle, about the width of a pencil.

Master Page for Printing Journal Lines on Paper

Students then folded 5 sheets of standard sized paper, 8 1/2″ x 11″, however, to give the pages an antique-like look, we used Ivory faux parchment paper, made by Southworth. The four inside pages were run through the copy machine to copy on the lines pictured above. The outside page is unlined because, well, I like the look of unlined paper when the book is first opened.


Last year, to attach the pages to the cover, we had used a lovely cord called Rattail, from a beading shop, which turned out to be too smooth and slippery: the students’ knots kept coming undone. Yarn, twine or cotton cord could be other choices. Just nothing too stiff, too thick, or too smooth. This year we used 30 inch lengths of  black and silver craft cord to attach the pages to the spine of the book cover, doing a no-needle method of sewing, illustrated in the direction sheet below.

No-needle modified pamphlet stitch

No-needle modified pamphlet stitch

This pretty much finished up the project. I like a book that feels more substantial, so, for a finishing touch, I handed each student two sheets of stiff oaktag type papers to slip into the front and back inside pockets.

Inside pocket

I recommended that the students choose for themselves whether or not they wanted to put a dab of glue on the stiff paper so that it would, or would not, permanently affixed to the pocket. Also, they made their own decision as to whether or not they wanted to add a bit of glue to the edge of the pocket, thus closing off, or not closing off, the possibility of things sliding out the foredge side of the pocket.

I had asked the school to allot 75 minutes per class to make this book. The students were positive, capable, and engaged in their work. Each class finished with 5 to 7 minutes to spare, and there was no rushing. Bsides having such fine groups of students to work with (kudos to their teachers!) another factor that streamlined this project was that students picked out their covers prior to my visit in the class. I will be visiting this school again, seeing other classes. I look forward to taking a peek into the 5th grade again, to see how the students develop these journals.

Pamphlet covers  made from salvaged wallpaper sample books have captured my attention.

Beads if Wallpaper-Boiund books

Up until recently I have not been a fan of using wallpaper sample books as part of anything that I do with bookmaking. The fact is that no matter what you do with wallpaper it still always looks like wallpaper, a quality which I found unappealing.

Book made using Wallpaper sample

An elementary schoolt teacher named Kelly changed my point of view. This is an excerpt of a letter she sent, last year, to Kassandra, Kelly’s arts-in-ed liason.

“When Paula was here at our school last year, I asked her if she knew how to make books with wallpaper covers. I was interested in learning how to do this because I wanted the 5th graders to use what they learn about immigration to write a journal from the viewpoint of an immigrant coming to America in the late 1880’s – early 1990’s. I thought the wallpaper journals would be great for this project because you can make them look old-fashioned.

Paula figured out how to make them and then showed me. This year, I did this project students, and the journals came out great. The kids choose the paper they wanted for their covers from old wallpaper sample books. The kids have been very inspired by these to do some of the best writing I have ever seen from some of them.’

Pocketed Wallpaper-bound book

I was humbled by Kelly’s successful experience of making books using wallpaper samples. The students loved browsing through the samples and picking out the patterns for themselves. The books looked great, too: sturdy and varied. It seems that most wallpapers are made out of a material that does not tear easily, and is thick enough to hold its shape well.

Books made using Wallpaper Samples

Since using outdated wallpaper samples is form of recycyling, this is certainly a politically correct activity.

Blue book with Rowan's Chain stitch variation

The variations are endless….

Wallpaper-bound book

…and there always seem to be little bits of extra scraps around to place in unexpected places.

In two weeks I will get to work with several fifth grade classes, making books with wallpaper covers. Since I will be working with dozens of students in a limited time, the binding method will be different than the books pictures here (ie more friendly for elementary students). I will post pictures and directions when we’re finished.

In the meantime, if you have something against wallpaper as a book arts material, my suggestion is: get over it.

Grama's-Wallpaper Book

This one reminds me of the walls in my Grandmother’s bathroom.

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