Let your imagination take wing as you tailor these gifts to their recipients’ interests
Memory Books to Make
Thomas J. Story
Tailor your gift with a pocket or another creative touch.

A handmade memory book inspired by someone’s favorite activities, such as travel, cooking, gardening, or bird-watching, is an appealing and refreshingly personal gift idea―and it’s fun to create.

The memory book might function as a journal, scrapbook, sketch pad, or guest book. The size of the book depends on the size and thickness of the paper you choose.

TIME: About three hours, depending on complexity, plus drying time 

COST: About $20, depending on paper or fabric type


  • Metal ruler
  • 80 sheets white or colored high-quality writing paper (fewer if you substitute thicker paper or card stock―needed if gluing photos)
  • ⅛-inch-thick cardboard or binder’s board
  • Craft knife
  • White illustration board or mat board for cover lining boards
  • Two sheets of decorative paper or a length of fabric for cover
  • Palette knife or large Popsicle stick
  • Tacky glue
  • Two sheets of contrasting colored paper for the cover lining
  • 5 or 6 small clamps
  • Electric drill with a ⅛-inch-diameter bit
  • Large blunt needle
  • Colored paper twine or satin ribbon



1. Measure the dimensions of the writing paper. To calculate the size of the book’s cardboard front cover, add ½ inch to the vertical dimension of the paper and ¼ inch to the horizontal dimension.

Trim the cardboard to this size with the craft knife against the metal ruler. Draw a line 1¼ inches to the right of and parallel to the left side to make the hinge. Score line heavily with blunt pointed object, such as the palette knife or large needle.

With the craft knife, cut halfway through the thickness of the cardboard, following the score line.

Repeat to make the back cover. You can cut a window in the front cover if you wish (see cork-covered book above). Working on the back of the front cover, draw the window shape (stick to straight-edged shapes) and cut it out with the craft knife.

For the lining boards, cut two pieces of illustration board equal to the paper in height and 1¼ inches narrower.

2. Cut two sheets of decorative paper or fabric 2 inches larger in each dimension than the cardboard covers.

Use the palette knife or Popsicle stick to spread glue on the unscored sides of both covers. Center the glued sides on the wrong (back) sides of the decorative paper or fabric. Press with your hands to adhere. Trim corners.

Fold over and glue the borders to the backs of the covers. Using the same technique, cover the two pieces of illustration board with contrasting colored paper to make the lining boards.

3. If the front cover has a window, carefully cut the decorative paper or fabric diagonally from window corner to corner.

Pull fabric through window and fold the triangular flaps to the back of the cover and glue in place. Cut a piece of the contrasting paper a bit larger than the window and glue behind it.

Glue the two lining boards to the insides of the covers, centering the lining boards vertically and aligning to the score line.

4. If desired, glue a decorative strip on one vertical edge of the block of paper. This will be the spine. Let all parts dry, then sandwich the block of paper between the covers.

Clamp to hold everything together; protect surface with scrap cardboard. Drill a line of holes, no closer than 1 inch apart, between the spine and hinge.

5. To stitch the spine, use the needle to thread twine or ribbon through holes in one of the ways shown in the photos, or invent your own variation.

Decorate cover with items such as postcards, leaves, beads, or jewelry. You can glue on a cardboard frame or mat or even a pocket. Weight the book with something heavy and let dry.

Designs: Francoise Kirkman

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