Poking through a small flea market seemingly a million miles off the beaten path, I stumbled across a cache of stationary, pens, and notepads from the 1930’s and 1940’s. With each vintage notebook cover sporting a classic design, and each priced under a dollar, I scooped up the whole pile and began making plans!
The timing was perfect for me to feel inspired by this lovely vintage stationary. At the time, I was less than a dozen pages from filling in the very last page of my bullet journal and- cursed by my own pickiness- I could not find a new journal that fit my paper-particularities AND had a stylish cover. I decided I’d sacrifice one of the vintage notepad covers to recover the exterior of my next bullet journal (My brand of choice? CM Marking’s version of the popular Moleskin journal).
What follows is a step by step tutorial of the steps I followed to make my brand new moleskin type journal look like a vintage notebook straight out of a 1940’s office supply store. Use your own vintage paper for this project, or download a pdf of the cover I used, plus the 5 other notepad cover designs from my stash, via the free download of PDF printables below.
To use one of my printable vintage notebook covers, print your own copy of the pdf using the best printer-quality you have available. Use a laser printer rather than an inkjet-since inkjet ink can smear when it’s wet (which is a necessary step of attaching the vintage notebook cover to your new bullet journal). There are covers in a few dimensions, so with enlarging or shrinking, there should be once sized perfectly to standard notebooks, bullet journals, and even iPad covers!
First, Gather supplies. You’ll need:
- Exacto knife
- Paintbrush (I recommend a real brush, foam brushes tend to make bubbles in the medium)
- Glazing Medium (I prefer Liquitex Glazing Medium for professional results- Mod Podge will work in a pinch, but glazing medium is the higher quality equivalent)
- Vintage notebook cover or reproduction (see free downloads below)
- A new notebook, iPad cover, or bullet journal to be covered.
How to Cover your Bullet Journal with a Vintage Notebook Cover:
Begin by trimming your new notebook cover. For me, that meant gingerly separating brittle paper from brittle binding. If you are using a fresh printout, you’ll want to trim all the excess white paper showing on the edges. The brightness of the new paper can really ruin the vintage look if left attached.
Next, apply glue to new notebook cover:[2020 update: If I repeated this project today, I’d first lightly sand the notebook cover to create a rough texture for glue to attach to. I never had issues with this cover peeling- and I filled the journal cover to cover- but different finishes vary on how well they adhere]
Apply a liberal but not too thick coat of Acrylic Glazing Medium. I prefer this product to mod podge for binding because it’s a professional product and will produce better results- without causing the paper or buckle or bleed.
Make sure the layer of glazing medium is not excessively thick- a thin film is sufficient:
Add Vintage Notebook Cover
Apply and position the vintage tablet label on the notebook cover, smoothing out till perfectly flat and smooth:
Apply Consistent, Even Pressure to the Notebook While Drying
As you can see in the photo above, the corners and edges are not fully adhered to the cover after simply applying glue and sticking down the paper.
In order to make sure all the edges stick securely to the cover, I used plastic wrap to apply constant, firm pressure to hold the label in place. The plastic wrap, unlike using a weight for the same purpose, helps force the label to hug curves and contours of the cover. This is especially important if you are using old, brittle, or warped paper, and/or are adding the label to a glossy cover.
Allow the New Cover to Dry Fully
Wait at least 4 hours, then remove the plastic wrap. It will easily pull away from the book, even in spots where glue medium was exposed.
If your cover adhered completely with no raised edges or corners, you can choose to be done at this point, but I like to add a protective clear coat which will help slow wear to the cover of your journal. Since I was really satisfied with how my journal looked at this step, and the paper already seemed to add a sheen to the cover, I chose to leave the top uncovered.
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Lindsayanne is a professional artist, writer, and serial-DIY-er with a knack for solving problems creatively at home, in the studio, out in the garden, and even online. Learn more about Lindsay, her training, and her background here.