House Altered Book, Using What I Have on Hand

My activities are still very limited – mostly to what I can do sitting or lying down. Lying down means reading, watching a video or working crossword puzzles.

Sitting activities are a bit less confining. My ability to concentrate has improved; so I decided to try making an altered book this week.

The theme is a house. I love the look of kitchens from the 1930s – 1950s. Especially with that soft green color. I’m sure there’s a name for it, but I don’t know what it is. If you do, please tell me in the comment section.

To get inspiration and some ideas, I did a search on youtube for altered books and I watched a lot of them. All of them had merit, because there really aren’t any rules concerning altered books; they are as individual as the people who create them. Click here and here to watch a couple of my favorites. (Each of these has more than 1 part. After watching, look in the sidebar for the subsequent parts.)

And, as always, I wasn’t exactly sure of how to start, so I simply started anyway.

Usually, it’s difficult for me to begin a new project because I’m not working from a kit, with directions. I think it must be kind of like a writer sitting down to begin a new work and they face the blank page. Knowing that once I get into the project, it will become apparent what works and what doesn’t. But by then, the first ones may not fit in with the rest as much as I like.

The fear of dissatisfaction has kept me from doing many, many things. And now I know
that perfection won’t be obtained this side of heaven, so I feel freer to start.

Hooray! It won’t be perfect!

So after watching the youtube videos for a couple of days, I started gathering my tools (small scissors, decorative edge scissors, gel pen, heat gun, stapler, crimper, glue stick, Tacky Glue, etc.) and my supplies (magazines, decorative scrap paper, ribbon, paint, stamp pad, Ultra Thick, etc.) and an old phone book to use as my base (it works great; when the top page gets too messy or gluey to work on, I simply tear it off and use the next one).

If you’ve been around scrapbook stores or have been to a “party” like Stampin’ Up, my supplies will look totally out of place. Not professional at all, because I like to use what I have instead of spending money that I can’t afford to do it their way. For instance, bone folders are considered a basic necessity. I use an old Kinko’s account card (looks like a credit card) and it works just fine.

The book that I altered for this project is a mathematics magazine (it has regular typing paper-type pages — not the slick kind that most magazines have and it’s bound by staples rather than a glued edge). Since our son has his B.S. in math, we have a ton of these magazines that he no longer wants. Ordinarily, we would recycle them. Instead I use them. I think the current term is re-purpose.

The first step was to prepare the base. Red acrylic paint was thinned down to a very watery consistency on a Corelle saucer (not a store bought paint palette) and painted around the edges of the two pages. After drying, a salvaged gray junk mail envelope was affixed with a glue stick on the left side, and pink construction paper was glued down on the right.

When making altered books I don’t try to use acid-free materials. Since I’m 55 years of age, they won’t have to last forever. I really don’t have anyone to inherit these projects, so it doesn’t matter if they don’t last a hundred years. For things with family photos I’m very strict about using only acid free materials.

Instead of buying packages of that wonderful ephemera for embellishments, I photocopy all kinds of things, enlarging or reducing them, as needed. Magazines, catalogs, junk mail, packaging material are wonderful resources.


For instance, the vases of flowers that border the left and right sides came from a clothing catalog. The pages are nice and thick, which made it easy to tear. Two of the phrases (‘This house is peaceful” and “make your house a home”) were clipped from magazines. The brown dotted paper ribbon at the top and bottom were cut from the cover of a Christmas paper pad.

As I said, I mostly use glue sticks (instead of those proper costly products like the double stick tape). For things needing a stronger fixative (like buttons), I use Tacky glue.

The green medallion was made from part of a green magazine page, which was stamped, glued to chipboard from a cereal box and cut out. Then I dabbed it with a watermark stamp pad, coated it with Ultra Thick, and melted it with the heat gun to make it shiny. It should’ve had a second coat. That was something that I learned by experience.

I had a lot of fun making this book and it didn’t cost me a dime. As I worked on it, I thought about how there are so many different kinds of altered books, using many different types of materials. One of the youtube videos that I listed above used solely commercial materials. They make a great looking book.

And I thought about why I get such fun out of cutting up the magazines and thinking up ways of getting a particular look without having to buy a lot of things.

I think it’s because when I was a girl, my sister and I cut furniture and paper dolls out of the discarded Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, and this is very reminiscent of those long ago days.

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4 Comments

Filed under Altered Books, Cozy, Crafts - Cheap, Crafts - Paper, Dogs, Ephemera, Kitchens, Thrift, Using What You Have, YouTube

4 responses to “House Altered Book, Using What I Have on Hand

  1. Good morning!

    Just wanted to say hi. Can’t you find just about anything on YouTube?!

    • Exactly! We don’t watch television anymore, but I watch a lot of youtube. I’ve seen some amazing things there like films of street scenes from the Edwardian era.

  2. Carla, I had never even heard of altered books until I started reading your blog. I watched the first video you recommended, the one from Minnesota, and it was very interesting. I think I am finally getting my mind around how it is that you create your books. They are fascinating. I’ll let you know when I try one! See? Something very interesting that I would NEVER have known about if it wasn’t for my friendship with you! Thank you!

    • Sandra, your books could have a real advantage over mine because you are such a talented writer and your stories are fascinating; incorporating your stories into an altered book would make it a cherished heirloom for your family. Because I love to read, I want to include something to read on my altered book pages, instead of them just being pictures to look at. In fact, you could do a whole book about one of your stories, making pages to illustrate the prose. How wonderful they would be! I really hope you try it – in whatever style you choose – and I would love to see it.

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