Thursday, November 28, 2019

Altered Notebooks - Christmas Gift Ideas - Part One

Hi crafty friends,

It's Elle here from Empire of the Cat and I am in full-on Christmas making mode this week - Christmas cards, Christmas projects etc and so I have some Christmas gift ideas to share with you and this is only part one!  I actually went into my art room with something totally different planned (Christmas cards) and somehow managed to produce these notebooks instead!

So here we go!  I decided to make some custom notebooks for a Secret Santa exchange that I'm part of and I thought the notebooks were a great idea and easy to post, but a plain black notebook isn't so exciting on its own, unless it's customised of course!

I have quite a few of these ruled notebooks as I also use them for bullet journalling, so I grabbed a couple of them off the shelf and started by painting the covers with black gesso, to give myself a good, primed base.

While that was drying, I sorted through my GSL chipboards and selected a few that I might potentially use, keeping in mind the person for whom they were intended.  I was actually talking to my friend last week about how much she loves fairies, so these Garden Fairies were the perfect choice for her, plus she mentioned a recently purchased mushroom stamp so I thought she might also love this Mushroom Shape set, so I put them both together, with the little seated fairy on top!

 All that was missing was some words to add to the cover, so I pulled out my Tim Holtz alphabet dies and die cut MAKE A WISH using some old cereal box cardboard.  I cut each letter twice and stacked and glued them on top of each other to give them some strength and dimension.

 For the second notebook, I chose this cool GSL Pen and Ink Set for my writing buddy, using both of the quill pens from the set, and die cutting some letters to say TELL YOUR OWN STORY.  I glued it all down and left it to dry.

(I actually ended up making a couple of extra notebooks so I decided to split this into multiple posts, so I have almost hidden the third notebook in the above photo and that will be covered in part 2.) 

So once everything was dry, I painted over all the chipboard pieces and cardboard letters with black gesso.

Then it was time for my favourite part of the process - the painting!  I chose different colours for each of the notebooks and I tried to tailor each one to colours that the recipient liked.  I used a combination of liquid acrylic paints and metallic acrylic paints - pinks and purples for the fairy/mushroom cover and black, brown and golden colours for the quill pen cover.

Then after all the paint was dried I went over everything with Metallique waxes to add highlights and additional colours to each cover.  I use my fingers for this job as they are easier to clean than brushes, though you can use old paintbrushes for this job, or stippling brushes also work quite well.

 Again I worked very organically on this project, adding elements on the fly and then painting them, thinking up words to put on the covers, then die cutting them etc.  If you want a less organic approach, sketch out a plan for your notebook covers, assemble all your elements in advance, and then glue them down and gesso them all at the same time.  But as I started off with the intention of making Christmas cards, I did not have a plan in place for notebooks but was still able to make it work!

I hope you enjoyed this project and that it has given you some gift ideas for reasonably quick and customisable gifts that can be used all year round, but are perfect now for Christmas gifts that can be tailored to the recipient.

Till next time,

Elle xx


GSL Cuts:
Garden Fairies Medium YB4,
Mushroom Shapes D102B,
Pen and Ink Set D72D

Other supplies:
A5 clothbound notebooks
Black gesso
Finnabair Metallique Paints, Liquid Acrylics, Wax
From Stash: cereal box cardboard 


  1. Nice job! Altered journals are very popular at this time I if courses prefer making the whole thing using my mad book making skills. Great sentiment and color combo

  2. Thanks Jon David! I like making my own books too but I do have a lot of these lined notebooks around so I thought for a quick gift, they were very handy.

  3. Makes a sweet custom gift for someone special