Having discovered book binding as a new hobby has now given me a new perspective on an old problem: Before I started studying and later working full-time, I mostly wrote down my ideas at home. I had different notebooks for different topics.

Now, as I’m barely at home when ideas decide to emerge, I’m reduced to only one travel notebook where everything goes in. I despise loose papers and don’t want to spend even more time filing.

Believe me, I’ve tried the loose paper thing. It’s not for me. And carrying around several notebooks is out of the question as I’m not travelling by car most of the time. This left me with little choice. Until now …

The problem is this: I usually jot down notes on various very different topics. And if I have only one bound notebook, the notes are not in any kind of order, and impossible to put in any kind of order unless I were to type them all up. I’m glad if I have time to write them down in the first place …

Then, when I decide to work on a particular project, I have to get out all my old notebooks and spend a long time browsing them for the relevant entries. Even though I always label the entries in a different color, this consumes so much time that would be better spend actually working on the project.

What is more, I often use different means to jot down notes. Most are made in this notebook, but some are made on a computer. Sometimes I’d like to include things I found on the internet that are interesting for a project. But how to incorporate these? If it is only a small picture, you can glue it in, but whole pages are not so easy to just glue in.

While browsing tutorials on book binding the other day, a wonderful solution to this problem struck me: Why not make a refillable notebook?

Not one with single pages, but one with whole signatures in it which could later be bound. There is no law saying notebooks would have to be bound before I filled the pages. 😉

The idea was this: I would include a number of signatures, and fill these signatures with only one topic each. After one is filled, I put it aside and start a fresh one. Once enough signatures for one topic are filled, I bind a (note)book with them. This method would also allow me to include a larger number of printed pages—both with entries written on a computer and interesting snippets I found on the net—without having to file them separately. I’d only have to print them as a booklet.

It was immediately clear that this was THE idea. The only remaining question was how to implement it best. I consciously and subconsciously thought the idea through for one entire day until I came up with the following steps:

1) The Inside Pages


Prepare the signatures with blank pages. Fold 4-5 sheets in half and stack them together. The size of the sheets you are using of course depends on how big or small you want your notebook to be.

Now, to be able to make an actual notebook out of the whole thing, punch two holes into the signatures. I found that the holes are best placed somewhere near the top and bottom left corners.

I spontaneously bought a handheld 1-hole punch for this purpose at a local craft store.

Punch Holes into the signatures
Punch Holes into the signatures

These punches are usually available for all kinds of hole sizes. Unfortunately, they only had two choices at the store. I went for the smaller one. And for the smaller rings I also got, the size would have been perfect. However, I underestimated how many signatures I’d actually need for all the topics.

So when it turned out that the small rings might actually be too small, I considered using larger rings. The catch: When the rings get larger, they also get slightly thicker. Not much, but enough to make it difficult to get them through the holes.

Thus, my advice is to check out beforehand how many signatures you are actually going to need and measure ring thickness before you get a hole punch.

Or, if you are a playful person like me, 😉 you might also find that these holes are not pretty enough. The biggest problem with these holes—I think—is that you don’t really notice them as long as the book rings are put through. But once the signatures are filled and binding is due, they no longer have a function.

At first, I thought that was an inconvenience I was well prepared to live with since the benefits outweight this downside. Until I browsed Amazon for handheld punches, thinking about getting one with a larger hole size. I came across a totally different idea: Why have actual “holes”? There are so many adorable punches for all kinds of shapes: hearts, flowers, … you name it. Those make far better-looking “holes.” 😉

A heart-shaped hole punch …
… makes cute heart-shaped holes!

Whatever shape you choose, make sure that the holes are in the same spot on each signature so the binding rings will go through smoothly.

Title Pages

I decided that it would be nice to have a title page for each topic. So I got slightly thicker paper, cut it to size, and also punched holes into it. If you like, you can use different colors. You can also decorate your title pages in any way you like, of course: Titles, pictures, drawings …

Colorful Separator Pages
Colorful Separator Pages
Cut to size!
Cut to size!

Organize all the signatures and cover pages as you want them. Done are the inside pages! The good part is that if you no longer need a category or grow tired of a title page, you can easily replace it. New topics can easily be added.

2) The Cover

Since a spine is not needed for this project, simply cut out two pieces of ply board for the front and back cover. Getting holes into the ply board was a little more difficult because it was too thick for the hole punch. If that is the case, mark with a pen where the holes are supposed to go and use a sharp metal object, such as a pen or metal sticks, to thin out the board until it is thin enough for the hole punch to work.

Decorate in any way you like. You can use book cloth, faux leather, paper, stickers …

I also added an elastic band. That prevents the notebook from opening in your bag.

The good part again is that if you no longer like the cover or want to make different covers, e.g. one for each season, it is easily replaceable.

3) Finishing

Get two metal book rings that can easily be re-opened and closed again. They can be found in most arts & craft stores or online and are available in various colors and sizes. Put them through the holes and close.

Voilá! The notebook is ready for use. 😉

Optional: Book Bag

A nice addition might be my idea to sew a bag for the notebook. This would not only protect the notebook in my handbag during travel, but it would also allow me to make extra pockets for spare signatures and things that you might need for filling it, such as differently colored pens, glue, maybe a small ruler, etc.

I might write about the bag in a later post—once I’ve finished it. 😉 Stay tuned …


I’m really excited how this idea will work in an every-day setting. I might miss leafing through the writings of the past year or so (or however long the notebook lasts until it is filled) and see what I’ve been up to. It is interesting to see how seemingly unrelated things do relate and one thing led to another. I also enjoy having the more recent entries at hand all the time.

However, the prospect of having all material for one project/topic organized in one bound book is too alluring. I like the idea that, in the future, whenever I decide to work on a project, all I have to do is get one specific notebook and I will have all the relevent entries at hand. If this works the way I’m hoping it will, this will be so much of an improvement!