5 Ways to Use an Old Book

Our garage is home to 4 crates of cover-less books, the remnants of Sister’s September wedding (We were inspired by Restoration Hardware’s $30 book stacks tied with twine). Craigslist and library giveaways provided us with LOTS of books which we sorted through to pull out any that looked valuable or otherwise un-destroyable; we were interested in giving new life to some dump-bound books, not in destroying antiques!

The cover-less books looked great at the wedding, with their yellowed paper in a mix of creams and off-whites, and they all, (conveniently) match with their covers torn off. I couldn’t bear to throw them away after the wedding, and I’ve been putting this valuable stash to good use, I think. Here’s how:

#1 Add Height and Interest

Stacked up on their sides either loose or tied with twine, a book stack is a great way to give height to an arrangement, flower or otherwise. If you have a few vases of flowers that are the same height, put one on a stack of books to add variation. Or stack up some books on a shelf with an interesting paper-weight on top. It adds height and texture without too much visual competition.

#2 Gift Tags

Find a page at the end of a chapter (where there’s a little bit of blank space) and cut out a circle, square, or tag shape. You can include a little bit of type at the bottom of the tag, if you’d like, or even punch from a place entirely covered with text, and write your message over it with a felt pen. Tie onto your gift with your to/from.

#3 Press Flowers

I have flowers drying in an old book called “Garden Flowers”, which is always on display (this one still has its cover because its so pretty). Its good to have the title visible because it reminds me that I have flowers inside! And, because I know it will make me smile when I pull them out, I flipped open to the page about daffodils, and pressed the daffodils between those pages. The paper in these old books is really absorbent, and so they’re well suited to this purpose.

#4 Coaster

Tear out a stack of 15 sheets from the book, use the nice straight margins to trim the width (if you want your coasters narrower than the page width) and sew them together using quick seams on a sewing machine. This can go really quickly, they absolutely don’t need to be perfect lines! Then cut the rectangle in half (or into squares) and you’ve got a fun, literary coaster, which, if you’re using my set, have short excerpts from classic literature.

#5 Hidden messages

This activity is kind of a cross between a wordsearch, an old spy-code, and an open ended creative writing exercise. Go through the page and cross out all the text except for a few select words that spell out a little message. Start by briefly skimming the page and find a “first word” that catches your eye. Draw a line through every word up to that word. Then pick a second word, and line through everything until that word. Then, keep going! (My geeky side will tell you that I’ve been known to enjoy the challenge of writing little poems this way.) But don’t worry about making it a complicated message, a simple one of 2-3 words will do. Then use it as a unique little note or card-front.

Ideas 6-10 (I know I promised 5, I just had to keep going.)

#6 – Use as a nice looking cutting mat for Xacto knife projects. (tear off the used pages as they get cut-up

#7 – Tie in a bundle and use as a vintage looking doorstop

#8 – Use as wrapping paper for small gifts

#9 – Run through your printer to print on when you want something to look old

# 10 – Use as a background for little cards, sketches, place cards, etc – it gives so much more texture and interest than just using a plain sheet of paper!


2 responses to “5 Ways to Use an Old Book

  1. These ideas are all really cool. Love the idea of using them to make cute message cards. Any advice for those of us who are a bit horrified at the thought of cutting up books? 😉

    • yes! find books at a garage sale or second hand store that are already damaged (water-stained or otherwise ripped up). Or find books from the 1950s-19980s – many of these are old enough to look really yellowed and weathered, but were printed in very large runs, and so aren’t “precious” in any way (i.e. there’s tens of thousands of other copies out there, the story is preserved, the one book isn’t a vital record to keep for histories’ sake).

      I know how you feel, though, and DON’T want to recommend that people cut up good, antique, books!! If your book was printed a hundred years ago, by all means, don’t cut it up!

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