DIY Sketchbook from a Paper Grocery Bag | Chris Carter | Skillshare

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DIY Sketchbook from a Paper Grocery Bag

teacher avatar Chris Carter, artist, illustrator and explorer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

4 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Intro and materials needed

    • 2. How to Fold One Piece of Paper into a Sketchbook

    • 3. How to Fold a Paper Grocery Bag into a Sketchbook

    • 4. The magic of making books - Upcoming DIY journals to make

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About This Class


The first of a new, exciting series of mini classes I'm offering on Skillshare.  As I've traveled the world teaching, painting and exploring, I've made sketchbooks and illustrated journals of my adventures.  Along the way, I've taught friends and strangers how to stitch together books from recycled bags, leaflets, sketches, discarded books and scribbled on placemats and paper napkins.  I've made books and journals since I was three years old.  One of the many magical experiences I shared with my children was creating books together, documenting their own experiences, stories and scribbling.

In this first class I teach you how to turn a paper, grocery bag into a small sketchbook, perfect for an illustrated journal of your day's activities and errands.  I have also included a glimpse at some of the books I created with my children when they were very young. You will also see a sneak preview of future DIY sketchbooks I'll teach you how to create as I add more classes to this enriching series.


My goal is to show you that there's no limit to the kind of book, journal, sketchbook you can create from recycled materials and/or exquisite, archival papers and threads.  Throughout the series I will be showing you how to use bookbinding equipment to perfect your skill as well as very simple techniques that don't use any special equipment at all ... not even a ruler.

In this class, you need only a paper bag!  To make things a bit easier, I suggest you also use a pair of scissors.  No measuring is necessary ... only a good guess at what the height and length of your paper bag or piece of paper should be.


Beware!  Making your own books and making books with your children and friends can become a delightful addiction.

Meet Your Teacher

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Chris Carter

artist, illustrator and explorer


Welcome to Skillshare. I'm Chris Carter.

I love exploring the world with pen and brush whether it be by land, sea or air! Here on Skillshare, in tiny bites, I present tips and techniques I've learned over a lifetime of sketching, drawing and painting. My classes are designed with two purposes in mind: to present tips and techniques that help you learn new skills and master current skills; and as quick reference for those of you who have attended one of my live workshops.

I create large, abstract watercolors and oil paintings in my studio.  When traveling, which I do for more than half the year, I work realistically, mostly in sketchbooks.  I sketch from reality daily to keep my eye, hand and brain coordination well-honed.See full profile

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1. Intro and materials needed: Welcome to another fun class on skill share. I'm Chris Carter. In this class, you'll learn another way to make great sketchbook out of recycled materials. I will be showing you how to make a sketchbook out of one single piece of paper, whether BF paper, grocery bag, a plain sheet of white paper, a piece of graph paper, or a shopping bag. I wanted to just show you this one. This is a little different, but this is a little bit of a tease for another class that we'll show you how to make a replaceable sketchbook out of recycled materials. If you have a shopping bag that you really like, you might want to have this as your cover for other sketchbooks. And then you can fold your sketchbook and later collect these and bind them together with Coptic binding is another fabulous way to be able to travel with smaller sketchbooks. And if you get caught in a rainstorm as I did one time, you don't worry about a whole year's worth of sketches being ruined because of a rainstorm. So that's just a tease. This class will focus. I'm making these books. And the materials that you need for this are quite simple. All you need is a paper bag, a pair of scissors, a bone folder. If you wish to have a bone folder or you can always do it just with your hand or at the end of the Sharpie and a pencil. You may not need the pencil, but it could come in handy. You'll see as we continue. 2. How to Fold One Piece of Paper into a Sketchbook: I'm beginning with a piece of paper that is 11 and a quarter inches by 18 inches. And it is yellow on one side and fuchsia on the other. This will make following the directions a little bit easier. Step one is to fold the paper from the short side to the short side. And to keep this as simple as possible, I will keep the orientation of the paper this same as much as I possibly can. In other words, I would normally turn this to make my folds, but I'm going to leave it just as it is because it can get confusing. Now you'll take your top sheet and fold it back. To the fold you just made. Flip your paper over. Unfold your short edge back. Again. Your papers should now look like this. Place. Your paper like this. You have the inside here, your folders along this side. This is the, this is the long side, this is the short side. Now fold your bottom corner up to meet this fold inside because you're young and open your paper up. Okay? You now have a triangle in the center of your paper. Lining up your vertical folds. And folding up to this point, the top of your triangle, carefully line up the vertical folds and your edge. I start right at the point to make sure that my measurement is close to being correct as possible. Lining up my phone there, my fold there, and my edge. Right. Now, flip your paper over. The triangle is now hidden. And this is a little tricky. Okay? See this edge. You're going to flip this up, this edge up to meet this bottom edge, which is basically halfway up. But you're, you're lining it up with this edge on the bottom. Again. You want to make sure your verticals are lined up and your edges open this up. And now you fold this top edge, the fold that you just made. And we'll pull this down to meet your fold. That's at the top of your triangle. Alright, so we good, so far we have all the yellow showing. Now, we're going to flip this around simply because I can't cut backwards. I just want to point something out. I'm feeling that this edge has gotten a little bit longer. So I'm probably going to want to trim that off YouTube. I think we'll find it difficult to be exact. You're folding. In fact, probably will turn that off now. When it comes to all of these folds, any little error in folding to the fold will compound itself over time and you'll end up with something like that. Often. My folds are fine and I don't have to trim it. And when I do, it's no big deal scene. You can see it's wider on that and then this end, so it's just a matter of folding. All right, back to here. Turn it around. And I'm going to cut along all three verticals. Just to that point. Carefully. Flip this over and then fold this down. Unfold this one. So much easier to follow this when they're two different colors. Now, we're going to fold this over like that, and we'll do that again. In the, along the middle line. This is staying up. We're folding this down. And we're folding this up. Oh, this part over to there. And do the same on this side. This down. From building this up, you can see it's starting to look like your book. Well, this over and now we're almost done. This part will unfold over to the centrefold. And now your first page right here can fold into their lipid to here. You're flipping all of your pages over. When you fold this into the center. And this, your first page will fold into your pocket. And there is your little puck. If you want to, if you want to hold these because CDs are little bit floppy in there. It's just the nature of it. You can stitch there. There. Don't stitch there. And there. I may do that for you and then add that to the project page. And there is your book. Have fun. 3. How to Fold a Paper Grocery Bag into a Sketchbook: Now we'll make a book with the paper grocery bag. You can always refer back to the previous list. And if you get tangled up with the folds using this, this is a little bit more confusing because we already have quite a few creases in a grocer that the first step is to remove your handles and open up your bag. In the tear this let's well, let's say sometimes the glue doesn't let loose. Well switches, this is gone when I don't care about making a mess of the bottles. When I'm making out of a grocery bag, I don't take measurements. I use a two-thirds to three thirds ratio. But because that doesn't always give me very good results. And sometimes it gives me extra pages because I can make an extra fold. I don't want to confuse things more than necessary. So I am going to take a measurement along here. And I will use the ratio to get an exact measurement this way so that the chances of turning into a book that is going to work well will be greater because my paper cutter in the other room only measures out to 15 inches. I could make it bigger by going 16 or 17. By for my own 0s, I'm going to make this 15. I will set up a ratio. And if you don't know how to do ratios, I will show you with this, alright, a ratio, my ratio that I start with this, 11.25 to 18, because I know that works pretty well. It's not exact, but it's close enough to work with. If my ratio is 11.25 to 18 and I'm starting with 15 inches. I need to find out what the length of my bag will be. And the way I do that is I multiply this number by this number, 15 times 18 equals 270. So now if I divide 270 by this number, I will end up with this measurement. So to 70 divided by 11.25 equals 24. So I am going to cut this exactly 20, for instance. I'll be right back. This is my paper bag because decides it's 15 inches high by 24 inches long. First thing I'm going to do is I will fold sort side over to the short side. And I was fault. One edge up to the fold, flips it over and fold the other edge up to the coal. To be careful that you're not guided to strongly by whatever folds are already in the paper bag. Open it up so that the folded side is here. Open. A folded side is here. Make sure that you know which folds you're going to do. The next step to this is the phone right there. Take the bottom corner, which is the folded corner, and bring it up to make this fold. Keeping the verticals and alignment, this edge is going to be part of the same lines, going to be in alignment with that. Open up your book. And now we will bring the bottom up. This is the top of the triangle right there. And we're going to bring a bottom up, keeping all the folds parallel to the, this is the top of the triangle right there. So that's where we're folding it too. These edges are all equal. The vertical folds are lining up. Let bed over. Your triangle is now hidden underneath the triangle. Notice a little bit tricky. You're going to fold this edge up so that the fold is in alignment with this book. So. The way I do it is I take the center line at absolute that it's even. And then I look up to make the folds parallel. And that works out pretty well. And starting to go rescue. So I just pulled it back down. This up. Here's your triangle again. And we're going to fold the fooled you just made down to the top of the triangle. And this should basic, it's all in the alignment. Net Part one little long either that's OK. It's a little bit off there. That's right. Now. Turn that surround and making sure that you're cutting in the right places. I start in the center on the top of the triangle, and I'm going to cut through those layers. And then I want to make sure that it's halfway. Okay, so this is the right crease to cut on. Same thing here. Sin right? We've been around. Now. This end we will fall down. This end, we will fall down. This. This follows. This folds over. This holds across this flow of up to now. We've bowed cover and meet the pages. Take the page and fold it into the cover. Take the cover, bolded in toward the pages. The page in there. And you have your buffer. And there's your sketchbook, folded sketchbook made with a paper bag. 4. The magic of making books - Upcoming DIY journals to make: This brings us to the end of this class. I hope you've enjoyed it. I hope that you're folds haven't driven you too crazy. Please post your projects and the project area of this class. I'm going to leave you with a little bit of inspiration and a teaser for what's coming. I'll be doing a special bookmaking workshop on kids books and how to easily, easily make books with kids. So here we go. It's a little bit of a montage of the history of my bookmaking with my children. And what's in store for you. Thanks for watching. I'm Chris Carter with skill share. Bookmaking has been a part of my family forever. I made books when I was little. I think I was inspired from my mother reading to me, my father to and my first grade teacher, Mrs. Moore craft. How does making books all the time? I want to share this book that my daughter, Alexis, made for me. This was a Christmas gift that she gave to her dad and me. This was the house we lived in. And this is a whole collection of treasures from that year. She had a swamp collection. And we always looked for rainbows and moon beams. And this was her Christmas list. This was a certificate that she got for roller skating. And this is a note says, Dear Mom and Dad, we are presenting a play during the Spring program in June. I will need a T-shirt to tie dye. I will also need seventy-five cents to cover the cost of the die. Thank you, love Alexis. We are tie dyeing our shirts on Tuesday. Interesting things. And then here she also included a certificate that I got also for roller skating because I was one of the shaft skeletal system interesting that she included that. And this one is Dear mom, dad and family, we are presenting an original play or volun Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk by ryan Gary and Russell Nord, Right? Those were two fellow students have hers. The play will be performed on Monday, May third, 1993 at 13:30 PM. The play only last about ten minutes. We all hope you can attend. Love Alexis, ps, we will be in room 22. I love and cherish. This book was simple, just some very, very special favor pieces of paper stapled together with a cover of her home. You don't need to be fancy to make books that are treasures. I have three children, Nicole, Alexis, and Mike. And this book very early on was made by a Lexus. And what we would do is we would take paper, they would do drawings, and then I would write down what they explained to me as being the story or what it was about. And this was just on scrap paper that belong to the grandfather, punched holes in it, tied it together with yarn. So here's Alexis, christine. That's me. This is me and you, you are smiling, right? These are great. This is the fun part. This is big mountain rerun dup and rerun down. It is night, it is Halloween. This is our daddy and our Mikey laughing together. This is everyone shouting who ray, because they all got away from the ghosts. These people are in California and Hawaii. I mean, kids imaginations are great. And who's to say that these scribbles that they make don't have intricate stories woven into them. Here's a ghost story by Nicole. Nicole and Alexis, or twin. Once upon a time, there was a ghost. It always changed sides. And this is a haunted house. It lived in the haunted house, which was on the other page. Her friend lived in another haunted house. She also changed size. The two ghost friends went all around town and all around the whole wide world. They saw a 100 people that went and ran into their houses. And they never came out again until the ghosts left. And then the ghosts went back home. They picked all of their raspberries and strawberries because they were so hungry. Some they made into milkshakes. Some they ate, some, they put on ice cream, and some they put in their cereal. That was their dinner than they ran outside. They ran around the block, and then they ran back home. They saw a bunny rabbit and she flop phi. They quietly crept into their tents and went to bed. And people came by their house and said, aha, the end. Alright, so those are some very basic ones. We, we then progressed a little bit and we use cardboard. I would cover it with wrapping paper and punch more holes and stitch, string through it. But these were the same ideas Nicole made this one to more elaborate stories, some stickers. Again, I just let them drawn scribble and then they would tell me, Here it is. This is a seashell monster. He just swallowed a clam seashell. He went blue. He swallowed it with the seashell on. His name is seashell. Ok. This is his mouth. Look it all his points. He has lots of points. These are fabulous things to do with your kids of any age. This one too, is Cardboard. It's stitched together. Okay, there's a story about a unicorn. And then the whole thing was covered in wrapping paper. We also made little triangular little pop-up books. There are a lot of ways to stitch them. It's really easy to just take any kind of paper, cut it, folded, punch holes in it, and make nice ditches with ribbon. This is another book that opens up a larger version of that last one that you saw. And then it also can turn into a star and hang and you have your whole story or your pictures. In a nice, beautiful mobile ad. We also had some pen pals. There was another set of twins. There's still is in Seattle, Washington. Leeson, Amber. And they would send all of their hand-me-down clothes to Nicole and Alexis and they would make books for them every year. So this is a book made for Nicole and Alexis by Lisa and Amber. And here they're just pieces of paper collages taped together. We were thrilled to get this grands paint. What a delightful book. These are simple little books, some fancy stitching. But when you slip a string through it or a ribbon, then you can tie together. Makes a nice gift. Now there's simple one where you just cut paper folded in half. This is a pop-up book and it's stitched together just with one punch, two halls with thread through. And you have your whole book. Now this is one that I use to make with the kids in school. It's a little pocket book and hear you fold paper. It's an accordion book. You just fold it back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Put two holes there with reinforcements. Put a yarn through, tie it and you can wear it over your shoulder.