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Ever have a project that feels like you bit off more than you can chew?  This project feels like that to me.

My son went away for school 2 years ago.  Sometime after he left, I thought I’d make him an altered book filled with recipes.  I wanted to look like a spellbook but be filled with all those family favorites.  I randomly picked a book from the book giveaway pile at work.  Here was my first mistake.  I picked the book based on size and the fact the cover is fairly heavy duty.  It never dawned on my that the sheer number of pages would be a factor.  I don’t know how many pages there were but the last page I still have is 650.

It didn’t dawn on me for a number of reasons – 1. you remove almost every other page, 2. many pages were combined to make pockets, and 3. you can never have too many pages for recipes – right?  What I didn’t think about was having to prep each and every page.  So I started by gluing together pages in the back.  This is a long process because you have to wait for each set to dry.  I made it about 5 pages before the book went in the to-do pile.

The idea of gluing the pages together is that it gives you a stronger page for altering.  I can’t really remember what my original ideas were so I’m not sure it makes a difference anymore.


I dug the book back out and finished the pockets – very badly, I might add.  You see eyelets are not my strong suit.  Some of my eyelets just didn’t come out right so I used some washi tape and glue to fix those problem areas.  Then to make it look like it wasn’t all about fixing my mistakes, I added some scrapbook paper.  The pockets still are not great but I’m banking on “it’s the thought that counts”.


Then onto the pages.  I had just made all those journal cards – how awesome would they be as recipe cards in his book.  I took other bits of scrapbook paper and finished a few more pages.  I, quickly, discovered that there were not enough that fit.  I wanted to cover all the book text so it didn’t compete with the recipes.


No problem, gesso to the rescue.  I could paint the pages to cover the text.  This could also serve as blank areas for my son to add his own recipes.  Here is where I really fell into trouble.  It takes so freaking long for gesso to dry.  You can’t do anything but one set of pages at a time.  I have been painting pages for a week.


So I came up with another plan – colored copy paper and double sided tape.  It allowed me to do a chunk of pages quicker (still took the better part of a day).  I used 2 rolls of double sided tape to discover that one roll of tape seems to be faulty.  I’ll be going back and gluing many of those pages but I figure it can be done later.

The only saving grace is that it looks like I didn’t take out enough pages so I am able to reduce my final prep load down to something that should be done today.  I’ll have to fix pages but that’s also a good time to add some decorative touches.  There’s some fun scrapbook paper in the book and opportunities for washi and electrical tape.  The recipes should be the star of the show but everything else will add some fun to the final project.  I’m thinking of a new design for the exterior of the book.  I was going to go for something like The Book of the Dead from Evil Dead but I’m thinking it will be a little more classic – faux leather.  I do have a fake eye that was to be on the cover and I haven’t completely decided to do away with it.  Who knows.  The important part is to get the actual book prepped and worked on.  The cover will come later.

I’m sharing because this is a lengthy project and most altered book instructions really don’t give you an adequate idea of the time commitment.  This is a project that can easily have major issues but one thing I have decided is that I can always tear out the pages that don’t make me happy – like the pockets.  I can replace them with envelopes attached to the pages or different pocket styles.  I still have options.

While I am frustrated with this project, I am starting to love it.  I’m working on my art journal at the same time (share soon) and I love the bouncing back and forth between the two.  I’m frustrated because it’s going slowly and I want to get to the fun parts but I also know I am making a keepsake for my son.  I’m going to look back at it with love.  I have no desire to stop the project, especially now I can see an end to the prep work.  It’s teaching me patience and the delays actually give me time to rethink parts of the book, to let my brain percolate with new ideas.

I want to encourage you to try an altered book.  I want you to know what you are getting into but I don’t want you to see my struggles and decide not to even try.