I Tried Altering a Book for Scrapbooking

altered book - cover

After trying a variety of scrapbooking styles and techniques, I have finally stumbled upon something I absolutely love. LOVE! Altering a book. 


Alter a Book?

I never thought I would alter a book. Seriously. Tear out pages?! Draw on them?! Then I discovered some fabulous altered book pages by Maggie Holmes (from her Happy Little Moments classes). It’s like scrapbooking + art journaling, and I really wanted to try it.

First, I had to get past the fact that I was going to tear pages from an actual book. I had to convince myself that it was a journal. It’s no longer a book, I told myself, it’s a journal with words on it. 


What to Look for in a Book:

Next, I researched how to prepare a book for art journaling. Everything I read said to look for a book with sewn pages (not glued). You can tell if they are sewn by looking for the thread in the middle of a section of pages. Sewn pages hold up better.

altered book - sewn binding


Where to Find Books for Altering:

Antique stores, thrift shops, library sales, your attic, etc.

I checked antique stores, and although I found a lot of books, I didn’t find one I wanted to use for this particular project. So I bought a new book: a Barnes & Noble edition of Great Expectations ($12). I have great expectations for 2014 (and for this project)!


How to Prepare a Book:

Tear out about half of the pages. Otherwise, the book will end up way too bulky after adding things to it.

You can rip pages and have a ripped edge look, or use a ruler to help get a clean-looking tear. I decided to tear out pages along the middle of each section where the thread was visible. I didn’t count the pages – I just stacked them up and compared what I’d torn out versus what was left in the book. Since I’m generally a flat scrapper, I think about half is enough. (We’ll see if that’s true when December rolls around).

altered book - pages removed

altered book - bottom view

Potential problem: How do I pace myself so that I don’t use too many or too few pages?

This particular book happens to be divided into three almost-equal volumes, which gave me an idea: keep the “volume” pages and pace myself according to those.

  • Volume I: January 1st – the last day of school
  • Volume II: summer vacation (last day of school – first day of school)
  • Volume III: the first day of school – December 31st

Each volume is identified in a table of contents page: (papers and stickers from Studio Calico kits).

altered book - contents close up

Since I was four months into the year before I started this project, I was able to get an idea of how many pages per month to allow.

Also, I am making my pages thicker by sewing or glueing two pages together.


How to Scrapbook with an Altered Book:

I’m still new to this, but I’ve started a Pinterest board to gather ideas.

So far, I’ve tried:

Mod Podge. I used Mod Podge to add patterned paper to the inside cover. This was quite tricky – I had to cut the paper perfectly, fold it perfectly, and glue it quickly before the mod podge dried (it was drying faster than I could line up the paper!). Paper and blue letter stickers from a Studio Calico kit. “2014” numbers from Heidi Swapp.

altered book - inside cover


Sewing Machine Stitching. I couldn’t sew very close to the binding – the book is thick and awkward to hold, and the presser foot prevented me from getting too close anyway.

altered book - inside cover close up


Adding a Table of Contents:

altered book - table of contents


Keeping the Title Page. Number circle from the Studio Calico 2013 December Daily kit. 

altered book - title page


Adding a year to the spine: 

altered book - year on spine


Painting. I drew a fire design with pencil, painted it with watercolor, and traced around it with a thin black pen.

altered book - fire page


Including drawings from my children:

altered book - dragon close up


Sequins: (from a Studio Calico kit)

altered book - fire close up


Wooden Letters: (Recollections brand from Michael’s craft store)

altered book - wood close up


Hole Punching:

altered book - snow close up


Regular scrapbooking: (Papers and diamond shape from a Studio Calico kit)

altered book - blue and gold

Library Card. I love library cards, so of course I must have one for my book. I plan to add it to the inside back cover. Library card from BasicGrey. Custom stamp from Bossy Joscie.

altered book - library card stamp


I’ll be posting many more pages from this album throughout the year! My goals are:

  • use my handwriting more
  • rely on apps (rather than Word and Photoshop – both slow me down considerably since I take too long perfecting)
  • incorporate my drawings as well as my children’s drawings
  • have fun! :)

Have you ever altered a book?

  • Heather D

    This is fun…thanks for sharing! I’ll look forward to seeing more. I’ve never thought of an altered book as a scrapbook, but your beautiful example makes me want to try. I’ve got lots of books I can alter. Before I retired, as librarian of a small public library, I always had first dibs at the book sale books. (It was always hard for me to weed, but it has to be done!)

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Thanks! And I envy your job as a librarian – sounds heavenly!

  • Heather Beasley

    Lisa, I just started an altered book, also! I am enjoying “telling the story” behind the photos! I used an old hard back book of biographies and knew I would never read. I glue several pages together also and remove a lot of pages because I am a fluffy scrapbooker – wood embellishments, bulky flowers – whatever.. I plan on using pictures that I don’t necessarily want to dedicate a whole traditional scrapbook page to – but I want the story to be documented. I am also using scraps of patterned paper and embellishments that I have left over. I am having a blast with it! And journaling a LOT. Which has been good for my soul. I am freed up from worrying how the “design” of the page looks and just “play” again. It’s therapeutic also.

    • Lisa Moorefield

      Thanks for sharing, Heather! You’ve explained the process beautifully. It really is freeing and therapeutic to stop worrying about the design and start journaling more. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!

  • Kirsten Juenke

    Lisa, thanks so much for this – you’ve inspired me anew. I first signed up,for Maggie’s class *cough*twoyearsago*cough* and did absolutely nothing. So. I just went back and re-explored the class, and read the message board where it looks like I’m not the only one.