How to make a book in eight easy steps

If you are anything like me you’ll have loads of spare bits of patterned, or even plain, card and reams of paper lying around. I’ve got a great little Japanese stab-bound book project that uses up all your stash and is brilliant for when you want to make handmade gifts for people.

So here’s how to make a book in eight easy steps. I’ve screenprinted one of my bird illustrations onto a card cover of my book but you can make yours with anything you like.

Handmade book (c) Ella's Place


Two sheets of A6 card for your cover
15 sheets of 120gsm A6 paper
Book-binding thread and needle
Rough paper (same size as your book pages and card)

(c) Ella's Place1: Use rough paper to make a template. With a ruler, draw a line from top to bottom of the rough at 1cm from the spine. Starting 1cm from the top, mark off an even number of points spaced evenly on that line.

(c) Ella's place

2: Working on a hard, flat surface. Use the awl to make holes in the intersections as shown – I’m protecting my table (and my hands) by placing the paper on a cork board so the awl can ‘sink in’.

(c) Ellas place

(c) Ellas place

3: Place the front cover card underneath the template, holding or clipping the front edge to keep from moving. Protect your work surface as you punch a hole at each of the marked points using an awl. Repeat for the back cover.

(C) Ellas place(c) Ella's Place4: Place a quarter of the book pages underneath the template and make holes as shown. Continue with the remaining pages doing quarters at a time. The pages and cover should all look the same once punched.

(c) Ella's Place

(c) Ella's Place5: Put all the pages, including the front and back covers, together. Thread the needle through the top back hole of the book, leaving some thread loose. Make a running stitch along the holes in the book, pulling the thread tight each time through a hole while keeping your top thread loose.

(c) Ella's Place

6: Loop the thread at the bottom of the book’s spine and go through the bottom hole. Place the book on its side, loop around the top of the spine and go through the bottom hole again.

(c) Ella's Place

7: Do a running stitch into the next hole, loop around the top of the spine and go through that hole again on to the next hole. Repeat until you get to the top of the book.

(c) Ella's Place

(c) Ella's Place

(c) Ella's Place8: Make a loop at the top of the book and go through the top hole. Slip the needle under two of the top bindings coming out of starting hole. Tie a tight knot with the original loose thread.

(c) Ella's Place

Look – you’ve made a book!

What to do with spare fabric

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston

I’ve been designing fabric patterns and have ordered lots of my handprinted leaf design in blue from my Spoonflower shop to craft with. So, after making cushions, lampshades and using it to revamp some little steps I have (more about that later), I’ve got an excess of little bits and pieces.

So what to do? Well I’ve got a lovely set of wooden boxes from and I’ve used my blue and white material to cover these little numbers with. They are really easy to do – simply measure your fabric to fit the box, brush the boxes with PVA and place the fabric so it bonds with the glue, mitring the folds and snipping away any spare bits of fabric as you go.

Here’s the result. These containers are great for those little fiddly household items. I use this box to keep my tea-lights in when I’m not using them and it sits pride of place on my sideboard in the dining room.

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston

Fabric covered box (c) Ella Johnston

Meet Ella’s menagerie

Meet Ella's Menagerie When we moved into our new house it was our mission to create a little menagerie of cool animals and characters – admittedly they are almost all ceramic, fabric or wood, but Dr B and I love them nonetheless and have invented back stories for all of them.

We have a collection of characters ‘protecting’ every room; here is a selection of our favourites…

Ceramic Bulls (C) Ella Johnston

Ferdinand and Isabella
We met this couple of bulls at Judy’s Vintage Fair in Bethnal Green. We got them for a song (I think a fiver for the pair). The mother and son duo are from Pamplona in Spain, Isabella is a bohemian pacifist and really didn’t want her boy getting into bull fighting so she came to East London after hearing that was where the art was at. However when Isabella heard about Wivenhoe’s amazing artistic heritage and community she was convinced this pretty estuary town was the perfect place to bring up her son – especially when she read about Wiv’s connection with Richard Chopping, Dennis Wirth-Miller and Francis Bacon in this article here.

Ceramic Bulls (C) Ella Johnston

Ceramic Cats (C) Ella Johnston

Henry and Matilda
This Anglo-French couple were first introduced to us at Divine Intervintage. Theirs is a beautiful story of love beyond the boundaries of class. Henry is a good East End boy, poor but honest with a musical hall past. Matilda, on the other hand, went to the finest Parisian finishing schools and dined with the créme de la créme of French society. According to Matilda the duo met when some cad had left her stranded outside the Royal Opera House in the rain. Henry was passing by and charmed her with his ready wit and impeccable manners – he has certainly charmed us!

Wooden Sparrow (C) Ella Johnston
Cedric the Sparrow
Standing proud and resplendent in maple, Cedric may be a beautiful wooden turned Sparrow by designer Lars Beller Fjetland but what isn’t so well known is that Cedric’s also a leading academic. He has given lectures all around the world and is an expert in Egyptology – in fact he was working in the Cairo Museum of Antiquities when it all started kicking off in Tahrir Square. He prefers doing his research in the modernist masterpiece that is the Essex University Albert Sloman Library.

Wooden Sparrow (C) Ella Johnston

Wooden Figure (C) Ella Johnston

Cedric is very close to our resident poet Thoreau, an Alexander Girard handmade doll. He’s had a fairly colourful life, spending time in Havana, San Francisco, Ibiza and a period with Andy Warhol at the Factory. However he is notoriously discreet so he’s rubbish for getting gossip out of. But BRILLIANT for screenprinting and film-making tips!

Wooden Figure (C) Ella Johnston

Cloth Cat (C) Ella Johnston

This cloth cat has been friends with us for a long time. We met him at Family Tree in Exmouth Market. Ian’s life has been, well, eventful, and while he is mostly sober, sometimes we have been known to find him in a smoke-filled haze listening to Black Sabbath or hard-core nineties rave very loudly on his headphones with a thousand-yard stare on the go – we don’t judge him. We love him.

Cloth Cat (C) Ella Johnston

Wooden Owl (C) Ella Johnston

Luckily Ian has Mark. Mark is a Christian and, while DrB and I are not ‘believers’ we respect this wooden owl’s views. He has a qualification in counselling and is very understanding of Ian’s erratic behaviour having worked in various hostels around the country.

5 Scandi-Style Homewares

5 Scandi Homewares

Scandi buys

Scandinavian inspired design never seems to go out of fashion. I think it’s the fact that this style lends itself to contemporary, grown up and super cool looks while it can also be stylishly whimsical too. My stamped pattern designs have been influenced by the former using simple shapes and a cool colour palette. Here’s five of my favourite homeware buys that reflect this look.

1: Dala Horse in natural concrete, at Cranmore Home: 
2: ‘Green Curve II’ Screenprint by Emma Lawrenson at Etsy:
3: Samaki cushion coverat Andshine:
4: Jangneus Green Herbs dishcloth, at Berry Red:
5: IM015 Swiss Linen in yellow and grey at Milton and King: 

How to organise your craft materials – Part 1

Organise your craft materials part one’m not a woman who spends loads of money on handbags and shoes. I’m not even that much of a voracious clothes buyer. No, I spend pretty much all my disposable income on art and craft materials. Here’s how I organise mine.

As I have so much equipment, I need to organise it in two ways. One, as general put it away and keep things neat and tidy when I’m not using it (more of that later). Two, the things for ‘live work’ – stuff I need as I’m working.

Organise your art and craft equipment

As I mentioned beforeI have an abundance of black Faber Castell India ink PITT artist pens in various nib sizes, plus a load of drawing pencils and probably more scalpels than a woman needs. All of which as an illustrator I need to hand – and all of which I have a habit of mislaying if I don’t have a home for them!

As I’m currently working on my stamped designs as well as my ongoing drawing practice, I have a lot of little fiddly items that I really can’t misplace. There are messy ink pads (in specific colours), scalpel blades and my collection of hand-carved stamps (true one-offs that I really, really don’t want to lose).

These tricky-to-store bits and pieces need a home, and in true crafty fashion I’ve done a bit of upcycling and personalising when it comes to go-to craft room storage.

Organise your craft materials

All the pens and brushes I’ve got on the go, plus my bookbinding tools, are all stored easily to hand in little tins covered with my red heart fabric. Tins make for great storage – they hold so much, I can see what’s in them and access them easily, plus you can line them up in row to look uniform.

Organise your craft equipment

My little inky items live in an old chocolate treats tin that is also covered in my red and white fabric. I love using these round containers: you can stack them up for easy organising and you can pop a lid on them to keep everything concealed. I have lots of these in my craft room, either painted or covered in paper and fabric (I’ve been known to colour code these for stamps, floristry stuff, threads and fabric scraps etc).

Organise your craft materials’s easy to cover both types of tin too. I love a bit of decoupage. You simply use a tape measure to work out the circumference and the height, then cut your fabric to these dimensions (I’ve used pinking sheers for this). Then simply cover the tin with strong PVA glue and wrap around to cover the side. For the lidded tin I’ve cut out sections of fabric and layered these over the lid. I’ve then covered all the containers with PVA to seal the fabric and act as a varnish.