College Recipe Book

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


This is a photo of chipboard pieces being connected to create the base of a recipe book

In just 2 days, we take our first-born and drop him off at college.

I know millions of people have done this before me and survived. Their children survived and even, dare I say, thrived! But nothing any well-meaning friend or family member says to you when you're facing this stage of life can ever completely help you rationalize in your mind that life as you've known it for the past 18 years is going to be very different. And different is going to be hard.

As my son and I have talked the past few months about the changes our family is facing, one of the things that has come up more than once is food. Preparing meals for my family every day has always been something I've enjoyed. Because I enjoy it, I make most of our meals from scratch. That is something that he is just not going to find in a college cafeteria! Fortunately, in addition to enjoying home-cooked food, he has always enjoyed helping me prepare meals. He's leaving home already knowing how to cook most of our favorite meals and, because we both know he is capable of it, it didn't take much thought for both of us to realize that a book full of the recipes we use is a dorm room necessity!

I am a long-time paper crafter and while I enjoy the creative process and playing with all the fun, new products when they are released, I have grown to understand that when you are making something to give as a gift, you have to look beyond just your own desires. If you want your gift to be used, it has to fit the recipient's needs. This gift needed to be practical and it needed to be masculine. I chose to keep the materials to a minimum (no embellishments that might fall off or get snagged and pulled of) and in lieu of a paper base that would most likely get spattered with food and grease and just look dirty, I chose to use a distressed leather. A few splatters will blend in just fine. In spite of preparing it for the worst-case scenario, I also designed it so that if he decides preserving it's appearance is important, a little extra care will eliminate the possibility of food damage, so I used a binding that makes the cards (and their plastic sleeves) removable.

If a handmade recipe book is not a need for your college student but you like the idea of making a book like this, it would also be useful for holding index cards used for study purposes. Just leave out the plastic sleeves and punch holes directly in the cards.

To make this project, begin by cutting two covers and a spine from heavy-weight chipboard or, even better, bookboard. I used the Fiskars ProCision Rotary Bypass Trimmer to do this. The dimensions I used for the covers are 5 3/4 inches wide x 5 1/4 inches high. The spine is 5 3/4 inches wide x 1 1/2 inches tall. If using a ring binder, to allow the covers to close over the rings the spine needs to be slightly taller than the width of the widest part of the binder.

Using cloth or gaffer tape, connect the covers to the spine. Be sure to leave a gap between the bookboard pieces to allow the covers to fold at a 90 degree angle to the spine.

This is a photo of photo album refill pages cut to fit a different sized album

If you cannot find plastic sleeve in the desired size, you can make them from photo album refill pages. I purchased a pack of 2-up 4 x 6 sleeves, cut them to the desired size, and used my Fiskars circle hand punch to punch holes that align with the ring binder.

This is a photo of piecing together leather pieces to make a book cover

When cutting the leather for the cover, you will need two pieces of equal size. The chipboard cover will be encased between these leather pieces. The leather should be cut to allow a 1/2 inch seam allowance on all sides.

I had a piece of leather large enough to make a 1-piece cover, but because I knew I would not be adding embellishments to the cover, I cut the leather into strips and stitched them together to create a piece larger than I needed and then cut it down to size. I felt the seams added some visual interest to the cover.

I also added four inches to the height to create a flap that folds up over the bottom of the book. I left that edge untrimmed, folded it over 3/4 inch unevenly, and stitched it down to compliment the worn, distressed look.

This is a photo of how to assemble the layers that make the cover

To assemble the cover, sandwich the bookboard cover and a layer of felt or quilt batting cut to the same size between the two leather panels. The leather panels should be positioned with wrong sides together.

This is a photo of how some holes in the leather used were repaired with fabric patches

If there are holes in the leather, small scraps of fabric can be hand stitched to the back side of the leather (before assembling the cover) to repair them.

Hand or machine stitch all the way around the perimeter of the cover leaving 1/2 inch of excess along three sides and the top and four inches along the bottom.

This is a photo of Fiskars tools being used to make a hole in the flap of a leather book

Using tools from the Sew Taxi, poke a hole near the edge of the four inch flap of leather and pull a length of string or decorative cording through it. Sew a large button above that point.

This is a photo of a ring binder being attached to a leather book

Attach a ring binder to the spine of the book.

This is a photo of recipes written on index cards

Write or type recipes onto cards and slip them into the plastic sleeves.


Close the book up and wind the cord around the button a few times to secure it.

Supply List

Bookboard or heavyweight chipboard


Twine or decorative cording

Large button

Embroidery floss

Gaffer tape

Small ring binder

Plastic sleeves (or photo sleeves) for recipes

Index or recipe cards