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How to Upcycle an Old Diary into a Journal {Tutorial}

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What do you do with last year’s diary? Here’s one option: upcycle the cover into a journal. This tutorial shows how.

Upcycle your old diary into a journal

There’s one thing I like to splurge on each year and that’s a nice diary.

(Or ask my kids for one for Christmas).

What can I say, I’m an old-fashioned paper and pen kind of girl for keeping track of to-do lists. What about you?

While paper diaries are great, when the end of the year rolls around, the question becomes, what do you do with the old diary?

You may have seen ideas around the interwebs for upcycling old books. I know some people have heart palpitations at the idea of cutting up books, but what about old diaries?

In this tutorial, I share how I turned last year’s diary into a blank journal. Use it as a commonplace book or give it to the writer in your life.

If you use recycled fabric or get scrapbook paper on sale, then this can be a very cheap project.

Look for recycled office paper on sale at discount stores.

Yield: One New Journal

Up-cycle an Old Diary into a Blank Journal

upcycle an old diary into a blank journal instructions

Up-cycle last year's diary into a blank journal. This is a great frugal, repurposed gift idea for the writer in your life.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $1 - $5

Materials

  • An old hardcover diary (or book)
  • Recycled office paper
  • One large piece of decorative scrapbook paper or recycled fabric for the cover
  • 2 thick cardboard strips
  • 2 pieces of heavy paper or light cardboard for front and back pages

Tools

  • PVA/craft glue
  • Glue brush (or finger)
  • Glue Stick
  • Bulldog clips or clamps (optional)
  • A sharp knife
  • Paper cutter or scissors
  • Ruler

Instructions

1. Remove The Old Pages From The Diary Cover

First, cut the cover away from the pages. Using a scalpel or sharp knife and ruler, cut the along the fold of the first page in the diary to separate the front cover.

upcycle diary 1

Do the same for the back and remove the pages. You can use any spare pages for notepaper and shred the rest for the compost bin.

upcycle diary 2

When removing the pages, make sure to keep the ribbon and the decorative top and bottom that was attached to the spine of the pages – you can reuse these to give your journal a professional-looking finish.

2. Cover the Old Diary Cover

Next, cover your diary in either some nice scrapbook paper or leftover fabric.

Cut two pieces of paper or fabric to be slightly larger than half the cover. Stick the paper to each side of the cover with a glue stick as shown.

upcycled diary 5

Next, fold and trim the corners as shown below. Stick the flaps down.

upcycled diary cover page

Because there was writing on the inside cover, I stuck a blank piece of paper over, just to make sure it didn’t show through. If you don’t have writing on the inside cover, you can skip this step.

3. Make the Pages

Grab a pile of recycled office paper and trim it to size. If your diary is A5, you can cut A4 office paper in half. A 100-page journal will only use 50 pages of office paper.

If you have access to a guillotine, use that to cut your paper – it will make the pages much neater.

Otherwise, a paper cutter like the one below is an adequate alternative. I used masking tape as a guide to help cut the pages neatly.

upcycled diary cutting pages

Line the paper up with the masking tape before cutting.

upcycled diary cutting pages 2

Once you have enough pages to fill your cover, bang them against a table several times on each edge of the stack to line them up neatly.

Take your two sheets of heavy paper and fold them in half.

Place one folded page on either side of your bundle of pages. These will be your front and back page that will be stuck to the inside cover, securing the pages to the cover. Make sure the fold faces the same way on both sides. The fold faces the spine edge.

Place the strips of cardboard on either side of one edge of your bundle of paper – the edge that will be against the spine in your journal (the edge where the fold is on the front and back papers).

The cardboard is to help hold your pages while you’re gluing them. Then use bulldog clips or clamps to clamp your bundle together. Alternatively, place them under something really heavy.

upcycled diary cutting pages 3

Using the PVA glue, brush a GENEROUS amount of glue up and down the spine. Leave to dry.

Repeat 3 or 4 times to make sure you’ve got a good bond. Remove the clips once dry. All your pages should now be glued securely.

Once your spine is dry, you can stick the ribbon and heading tape from the old diary to the spine of your new pages.

upcycled diary making the pages 5

4. Attach the Pages to the Cover

Using a glue stick, stick the front and back page of your bundle of pages (the pages that you folded in half) to the front and back of the cover.

The folded piece of paper will cover the inside of the cover, neatening it up, as well as attach the pages to your cover.

And that’s it! Your journal is complete.

upcycle an old diary into a blank journal instructions

It’s a nice way to give life to an old diary, saving it from landfill and saving you money on a notebook (or gift).

What do you do with last year’s diary?

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