How to Make a Simple Book from Paper bags

Paper Bag Book
Book made from paper bags with artwork in pockets

Paper Bag Books are very easy to make and don’t need any special materials other than a few paper bags and some card from a cereal box or folder. They’re an excellent way to keep together a collection of postcards where the card can be slipped into the pocket, leaving half exposed. This is particularly useful if you want to be able to see the back of the cards, like in the Letterbox Collaboration Book below. Children love making these bags, decorating the pages and filling the pockets with treasures. Make a book of your travels, using bags collected en route; write notes on the pages and slip tickets, postcards and brochures into the pockets. Change the orientation of the openings to make drop in pockets.

Paper bag book with art cards
Letterbox Art Collaboration

You can use any kind of paper bag, but the instructions here are for the cheap, brown paper bags like the ones that old-fashioned village stores used for penny sweets, fruit and vegetables.

These instructions are an adaptation of Betsy Davids’ Paperbag Books in Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden.

You will need:

  • 5 paper bags approx 33 cms square
  • Card to use as a cover 47.5 cms x 17 cms
  • Linen or embroidery thread
  • Strips of decorative paper 8 cms x 16 cms
  • Scissors/craft knife, glue, awl (or skewer), needle, ruler

Take 5 ordinary paper bags about 33 cms square. Lay each bag with the open end at the top.

paper bag book Step 2

Fold each bag in half lengthwise. If your bags have one top edge lower than the other, keep the lower edge on the outside. Glue together.

Turn your bag so that the open edge is on the right hand side. Mark a line 2/3 of the way along the length of the bag and fold. Open the bag out and repeat with the other four.

Lay your bags with three open sides on the left and two on the right. Nest them together, lining them up along the fold line. This fold line should now be in the centre of your stack.

Lay out the card that you are using for the cover. Mark and fold two lines 0.75cms either side of the centre.

Open out your cover and lay your stack of pages centrally on top. Use two bulldog clips to hold them in place (protect your pages with a piece of card under the clip).
Poke five evenly spaced holes along the central fold through all the pages and the cover, starting about 1.5cms from the top and bottom.

Thread a needle with linen or embroidery thread. Push the needle through the centre hole and use a running stitch up to the top, turn and stitch to the bottom but miss out the centre hole this time. Turn again, stitch back to the centre and knot the loose ends over the long stitch.

To strengthen the pocket edges, cut paper strips about 8 x 16cms for the dividers and 4 x 16cms for the front and back edges. Fold them in half lengthwise and glue them over the edges of the pockets.

Slip your cards into the pockets and decorate the pages.

Enjoy your Paper Bag Book.