Making Creative and Inexpensive Covers

wishing jar collage, by jaymi elfordPlanners are like personalities, every single one is different. Taking a trip to OfficeMax or the grocery store shows you all sorts of planner styles; from leather bound books with colorful forms made by famous artists, to cheap, plastic notebooks. While these planners all have a personality of their own to match any lifestyle... they all share one thing in common. They cost. And sometimes, it gets expensive refilling and buying new ones yearly. Of course, learning how to create your own planners and forms is why we’re here and what D*I*Y* Planner is all about.

So put away your wallets. I’m going to share a few ideas on how to take cheap planner binders or packages and turn them into one-of- a-kind artistic expression of yourself. The suggestions contained in this article are easy and don’t require a whole lot of artistic knowledge or a creative MBA. I believe that making things should be fun, cheap and can be done in small, passionate bursts of time and energy. And now, let’s get busy.

For letter and classic-sized planners, there’s a few things you can do for fairly cheap. I recommend that you get yourself a blank planner binder that fits the size of planner you are using, if you don’t already have one. It doesn’t have to be fancy, any cheap three ring will do. I recommend 3-ring because it’ll be easier to punch holes in your forms when you go to start using your planner. Using this binder as the foundation, you can create two unique bits of art.

The first method, and probably the easiest, is to grab some fabric paint and decorate your planner cover. I highly recommend Jacquard fabric paints because they come in all sorts of sparkly and bright opaque colors. These paints are a staple in my art supply kit and I use them on paper, fabric as well as metal and plastic. Most art supply stores and art web supply stores carry it. Using this paint, you can create all sorts of weird, geometric and “art deco” designs to add some variety to your cover.

If you’re intimidated by painting, then the second idea for your planner, collage, is for you. Wander around the house and gather whatever ephemera you can find. Buttons, bottle caps, shells, old magazines, old fortune cookie snippets and print-outs of your favorite images from the web. Gather whatever you think would look cool on the cover of your planner and put it in a pile. Grab your planner, a bottle of Mod Podge, a painter’s brush, and scissors and then arrange everything you want on the cover. Once you’re satisfied with the layout, grab the Mod Podge and paint it over your design. Wait for it to dry and seep into the binder before you put your planner into your bag. For a finished touch, I recommend getting an acrylic spray finish to protect and seal your art. The image above, entitled wishing jar, is a collage I made for an art swap. Your finished collage may or may not be as sparse or busy as mine.

Because of their size, Hipsters are trickier. You can use the above techniques to create a great cover card for the Hipster but without a secure and sturdy “outer” covering, the images and art may get ruined. I ran into this while working on my own Hipster. Web sites like Flickr gave me an idea of what others have done. There’s a lot of creative ideas for tiny stacks of cards. Duct tape covers to custom plastic covers cut from other notebooks holding pens, inspiration is all around you. I wish I could tell you that I made my case, but I didn’t. I used a index card-sized portfolio box that is blue and was purchased 3 years ago at Barnes and Noble. I don’t even know who made the box so I can’t give you a link. But let this article make up for that. With a tip off to my bookbinding hobby, I want to show you an innovative way to keep your cards safe from environmental damage and loss.

materials for making a fabric coverI can’t sew. And I am sure some of you can’t either. Which is fine, because this project involves very little sewing. In fact, because I am so lazy, I’m going to use staples instead of needles and thread. If you’re more crafty than I am, you are free to use needles and thread where I do not. In addition to a stapler, you may want to get the following: a piece of letter sized fabric or felt, a brass brad, and a shoelace or other sturdy piece of leather thread. As well as your scissors and a blank index card to use as a guide and template, just to make sure you’ve got the size of the cover for what you want.

Follow these steps to create a quick cover for your Hipster:

1. Lay out the fabric/felt and put the index card on the upper right hand corner. Leave a centimeter from the top and outside edges to give your hipster cards protection. step1
2. Fold the bottom part of the fabric up until the bottom half of the card is covered. You should have formed a pseudo-pocket to hold your cards in place. step 2
3. Put one staple or sew the pocket on the outside of the card. step3
4. Put a staple or sew (in my case I used a safety pin) to create the inside cover’s pocket. Leave some space between the card and the inside staple so that you can tuck lots of index cards in this pocket. step4
5. Fold the cover as if you were closing a book. This will divide it into two. step5
6. Cut any excess fabric away from the cover. It should look like a book when you are done. step6
7. Work the brass brad into the center of the top of your cover. If you are using felt, you may need to make a small slit using a pair of scissors. step7
8. Flip the cover over. Lay the piece of string across the center of your cover. step8
9. Open the cover and staple the string to the outside right side of the cover. step9
10. Wrap the string around the cover a few times, so that it keeps your cover closed. Do not wrap the string all the way to the end. Keep a little bit out.
11. Wind the excess bit of string around the brad. Doing so secures the cover so nothing falls out. all done

Voila! You have created a cheap and fast cover for your hipster. If you rush through the steps, like I did, it should take you a maximum of 15 minutes to get a fairly simplistic case together. However, if you want to make it a bit nicer, you can sew up the two sides of the pocket so that it’s a bit more polished. All that’s left to do is to go download the DIY Planner forms and fill up your new case.

I hope these quick and dirty ideas for decorating or making a planner cover help spark your imagination and creativity. If you’re really pressed for time, you can go grab one of the cover template Classic/A5 kits or nab a pretty image in our free-to-use cover images in the Cover Images Gallery. And if you have experimented with the ideas I’ve suggested, please post pictures of your attempts in the forums or galleries so the rest of us can see.

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Want an INSANELY easy cover for your Hipster?

Use a checkbook cover!

Yup, those basic (ugly) plastic ones they toss in with each check reorder are the perfect width and only a trivial 1" too long. The covers my bank sends out have a clear plastic pocket on the inside of both top and bottom sides, ready set. Okay, they have funny slits cut in them to accommodate checks and your register, but just ignore most of them.

Step one: Cut off the 'tabs' of the inside plastic closest to the center fold (they just get in the way.)

Step two: Slip your cards one or both pockets.

Step three: There is no step three.

Where have we heard that before?

Okay, it's still ugly as sin (unless your bank has more aesthetic taste than mine) but it's light and waterproof and utterly painless to make and costs zip.

Source for plain binders?

Once while channel surfing, I stumbled upon a craft show on PBS. The host and guest were doing some scrap booking type stuff. What intrigued me most was the plain unadorned cardboard 5.5" x 8.5" 3 ring binder that they were covering. Of course I was too stupid to write down the name and episode of the program so that I could check out their web site. I wish I had because such web sites typically list sources for the items used in the projects they do. I've recently been trying to find one of those binders so that I could use it as a base for my own diy planner cover, but so far I have been unsuccessful in locating one. Any of you into scrap booking who might be able to point me to a source?

Blank Cardboard Binder Covers

Try searching for "SarahBinders" on the net. This company has a line of DIY book-crafting kits including blank cardboard covers. I've seen this on TV and it may just be what you saw. Good luck!

passport holders

I use something similar to this that I picked up at Barnes & Noble:

it fits my hpda perfectly.