recycled paper bag art journals

I hate it when I forget my fabric grocery bags!!  URGH!!!  I try so hard to remember. They are hanging right by the door!  But, it happens every once in a while.  I’ve been known to shove 10 lbs worth of groceries into my purse, just to avoid a plastic bag.

Well, it happened again, on Sunday. A trip to Trader Joe’s resulted in lots of yummy food and 3 stuffed paper bags. After we put the groceries away, I was folding up the paper bags and was noticing how thick the paper was. Then the creative wheels started turning and because I’ve been reading A LOT about art journaling, well…

I was able to get 2 small journals (4 x 5 inches) and one large journal (8 x 6 inches) from two brown paper bags.

Here is a quick bit about how I made them:

For two small journals cut 16 pieces measuring 5 x 8 inches. Eight sheets for each journal. For the large journal, cut the paper into five or six 8 x 12 inch pieces. I ironed each sheet with steam to get them flat and then folded each sheet in half. Then I hand stitched the binding using THIS TUTORIAL. For one of them, I hand stitched a straight stitch.

You can paint the pages with one or two thin layers of gesso to make the pages thicker and stronger and to give you a clean, white page.  Just make sure to use a dry brush or very little water with the paint to keep the paper from getting too soggy.  From there on out, the sky is the limit!  Paint, draw with pencil, charcoal, chalk, oil paintstiks, crayons, pens, markers, decoupage with paper, photos or fabric, use stamps. I use mat gel medium for all of my collage needs (or you can use modge podge)

Ideas for your journal:

*Color study, paint a different color on each page and then write feelings or draw pictures that each color evokes.
*Words.  Write a random word on each page then paint, draw something that is associated with that word.
*Copy old black & white photos of family members and paste them to your journal.  Paint colorful hats, dresses, vests on everyone.
*Use pictures from magazines and paste them in your journal.  Fancy them up with markers, pens, paints, colored pencils.
*Make a numbers or alphabet book with the kids.
*Themes:  Pick a theme , make a list then and fill your journal with each listed item.

  • ~things that make you happy
  • ~wishes, dreams and aspirations
  • ~pet peeves
  • ~goals
  • ~favorite things
  • ~travel journal
  • ~favorite place(s)
  • ~favorite people

The great thing about these journals is that they are a really inexpensive way to get creative with art. There is no pressure to make a masterpiece, just a really fun way to get ideas down on paper and experiment.

P.S.  I thought I’d see if anyone else had done this, and because this is an amazing and huge world full of a gazillion creative people, I found that my idea wasn’t all that origianl after all.  Ah well.  I can happily say however, that I learned more and was inspired by the following three really cool paper bag journal makers:

Yoli’s Sacred Journey: Brown bag art journal
Journal Junk: Paper Bag Journal (video)
Judy Wise: More Stuff


This entry was posted in Art, Fun kid stuff, i make stuff, Recycle,Reduce,Reuse, Tutorials, how to. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to recycled paper bag art journals

  1. Marcia says:

    Thanks! I can’t wait to try it!

  2. upstatelisa says:

    how great this is! wish I could just sit down and paint up some creation that didn’t look like a 2 yo’s drawing! love your work!

  3. Simone says:

    What a great way to reuse these paper bags. I have a bunch of them I didn’t know what to do with.

  4. Rachel says:

    What a great idea! Great post. Thanks for the “tute!”

  5. Erin says:

    Very cute! I love paper bag books…they are so much fun and have endless possibilities!

  6. Rachel says:

    Whoa, what a great idea! I love this look and they’re SO cute! Thanks so much, I’ll be linking.

  7. Stacy says:

    I saw this on One Pretty Thing and love it. Thank you so much! I like your ideas about how to use the journal as well as how to make it.

  8. Michelle says:

    Love, love, love this! And I love TJ’s bags–they’re not just your ordinary brown paper bag. I think I will have to *forget* my reusables on my next trip there. Whoops!

  9. renee p says:

    i love journals and find myself sewing scrap paper together for journals… I have even bee known to use bill envelopes. the address pane become little windows… use a sewing machine if your in a hurry … thanks for posting

  10. Laura K says:

    I forget my reusable bags about 50% of the time!!! I will have to ask for paper next time. I love your art journal spread. Now off to browse the rest of your blog!

  11. Love this! Great idea! I couldn’t resist adding this to our link luv roundup today.


  12. shelle says:

    I love your journals, beautiful. Thank you for sharing the tutorial.

  13. Jo says:

    I’ve never seen such cool paper bags before…we mainly have plain bags here in Australia (that I’ve seen anyway!) I have been making old books into journals…

  14. monique says:

    These are great! hmmm thinking up ideas…

  15. Shalae says:

    I love this idea! So simple, and yet how fun to have a new little book to paint and draw in. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of painting gesso down on the page. Great idea.

  16. Michael Rad says:

    we did something similar at holstee [the company my brother and I founded] … we used paper bags from TJ’s + Whole Foods to make gift cards- we made a short youtube video about the process >

  17. Susan says:

    I know exactly how you feel about forgetting your cloth bag! This is a fantastic idea. I made some of my plastic grocery bags into a reusable bag:

  18. party bags says:

    A good way of expressing ones creativity! I like your post. Keep it up!

  19. Erica says:

    awesome idea! thanks for posting

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