Things You Can Do With Old Books

{Another inspirational stroke of genius from guest contributor and graphic designer, Sara. As if I need any more temptations at thrift stores, now I’m going to have to start cruising the book section! ~Amy}

The old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” still rings true, especially in the DIY world. Lately I’ve found more hidden treasures hiding out in old book stores and thrift shops, and they have made wonderful inspirations and/or materials for a few recent projects. Here are a few examples of some one-of-a-kind books I’ve come across and the projects they’ve inspired.

Oh, and did I mention, they were cheap?

Book #1: Poetry Book

The other day I came across this old poetry book at a thrift shop filled to its capacity with haphazardly stacked records, old toys and trash-to-treasure knick knacks. The book’s lines were printed on hand set letterpress. The pages were yellowed and soft from age. It was a beautiful book, but instead of taking it home and treasuring each hand set page, I began to find lines in the poems that felt significant and meaningful on their own, apart from the context of the poem… and ripping them out of the book.

But don’t worry, it was all for a good cause. I liked the torn look of the paper; it seemed to fit the feel of the melancholy, yet hopeful words of the poet. So, I took the torn poetry lines, mod-podged the back of them (with just a little bit of glue), and placed them on brown paper cards. I let them dry and then painted over the poetry paper with watercolor.

There ended up being a lot of negative space on the cards, but I like the simplicity of them. I think the weight of the words did quite more than any more paint or drawing of mine could add.

Book #2: Tip-Top Beauty Book

On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, I found this book while perusing through Sam Weller’s Bookstore. The cover was cheesy, but that can often be an indication of something awesome inside! The book contained drawings of ladies with mod hairdos from the 1960’s. They reminded me of my mom’s old Barbie and Midge dolls I used to play with, and I immediately knew that they would make quirky silhouettes for screen printing.

I picked my favorite girl, traced the picture and made a screen (for more detailed instructions, see How To Screen Print, Easily).

I loved the Pink Ladies look of the silhouette in the corner of this tank top, and I plan on using this screen and others I’ll make from the book on cardigans, clutches and bags!

Book #3: 2009 Bollywood calendar booklet

After living in Central Asia for almost 2 years, I developed a fondness for anything Bollywood. So, when I found this little gem in the book section at Goodwill, I snagged it, not exactly sure what I would do with it.

There are about 12 Bollywood poster images and movie stills in the calendar that waiver between beautiful and painfully corny. My first use of the book was to make a bon-voyage postcard for a friend moving overseas.

With the suggestion of another friend, I decided to make the motorcycle drivers 3-D to add a bit of interest. I cut out the drivers and glued down squares of cardboard underneath them to make them pop off the page a bit. It’s really simple but, I’ve got a quirky card to send to a friend that I guarantee you won’t find in a store! I can use the other images for more cards, a collage project or to cover a journal.

So, don’t overlook the book section when you’re thrifting! Your next DIY project could be waiting for you on the shelf!

About the Author

Sara is a graphic designer in Austin, TX. She's also a traveler, teacher, and sugar-addict. She laughs often, though not because of the sugar.

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  1. Stacy Cross says:

    You are such an artist, Sara!

  2. Amy says:

    The cheap-wa… I mean, bargain-hunter in me is curious: how much did you get the books for?

    • Sara says:

      well from one “bargain-hunter” to another, I believe I bought the the poetry book for 50 cents, the beauty book for $3 (I debated a bit at that price, but decided that the drawings were worth it) and the Bollywood calendar book for $2. Not bad, eh?

  3. Do you know where I could get really pretty, old children’s books? I am creating a reading nook for the kids and want to frame some classics as wall art.

    • Sara says:

      I would try the strip off of Burnet Rd. that houses Recycled Reads. That shop is super cheap and full of old library books from the Austin Public Library. There is also another thrift/antique shop at the end of that same shopping center that has a ton of kids books in the back. That’s where I found my poetry book. You’ll have to dig through a LOT of junk, but you might just find a treasure for cheap!