DIYdiy projects

DIY Project: Phone Book Letter Holder from All Things Paper Book

by Grace Bonney

I’ve got a major soft spot for paper crafts. Mainly because they feel infinitely accessible. They’re not cost-prohibitive (for the most part), you can so often re-use paper you have around the house and they are easy to practice at any skill level while you relax at home. This simple but clever project comes from the new book All Things Paper: 20 Unique Projects from Leading Paper Crafters, Artists, and Designers (Tuttle Publishing), an offshoot of the blog All Things Paper, run by Ann Martin.

Ann’s new book is filled with brand new DIY ideas created by a wide range of artisans who have been been featured prominently on her blog. In addition to being beautiful, the projects are all highly functional- an aspect about which Ann felt strongly. Each one is designed to show how paper, often thought of as disposable, can be a more permanent long-lasting craft material. Allison Patrick of Zipper8Lighting designed the project Ann is sharing with us today- an easy letter holder that’s made from old phone books. Click here to check out and order All Things Paper online and click through below for the full tutorial. Thanks, Ann and congrats! xo, grace

A_Patrick Finished 01

At least once a year a stack of phone books arrives in my building lobby where they languish for a few weeks until someone bundles them up for the recycling pile. In this Internet age you might not need old fashioned phone books for looking up information, but they can be put to good use and help with organization at the same time, as this pretty mail sorter demonstrates. It’s the perfect accessory for a front hallway or desk. Not only is it eco-friendly to use an otherwise discarded material, but the project cost is low because the phone book is free. The petal design looks elegant even when not in use, and I love the bright pop of colorful ribbons that can be chosen to match the color scheme of any room. This project is not only fun and recycles wasted paper but is also fun and decorative. The finished letter holder measures 7 x 4 inches (18 x 10 cm). Because the phone book is divided in half and then cut into strip sections, quite a few letter holders can be made from just one phone book!

A_Patrick Supplies

-Phone book: Choose one with a fairly small width and length because a larger phone book may cause the loops to be floppy. The one used here measured 6.75 x 8.5 inches (17 x 22 cm) and was 1.75 inches (5 cm) thick.
-Colorful ribbon: 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) wide by approximately 60 inches (152 cm) long
-Corrugated cardboard
-Cutting mat
-Scrap paper
-Paper clips
-Glue gun with glue sticks
-Metal ruler: A metal ruler is always better than a plastic or wooden one when working with a cutting blade because the metal can’t be accidentally sliced.
-Extendable cutting blade: I use Olfa; X-ACTO makes them too.


-STEP 1: Open the phone book at its midpoint and cut through the center of the spine with a cutting blade or scissors to make equal halves. Working with one of the halves, cut a section of pages across the top or bottom that is the same width as the ribbon. Remove the remaining cover piece.

A_Patrick Step 01

-STEP 2: Cut a 31/2 inch (9 cm) piece of corrugated cardboard that is the same width as the ribbon. Glue the phone book spine to the center of the cardboard piece.

A_Patrick Step 02

-STEP 3: Use scrap paper as bookmarks to subdivide the phone book segment into seven sections. The five center sections should be twice as thick as the two outer sections. Although the following may sound complicated at first, an easy way to do this is to divide the phone book into four equal sections and then subdivide each quarter into three sections, resulting in twelve equal sections. Then use a single subdivided piece for each of the outer two sections, but use two of the subdivided pieces for each of the center five sec- tions. Once the sections are subdivided, keep them separate by paper clipping each one as a unit until it is time to roll it.

A_Patrick Step 03

-STEP 4: Pull six sections to the left, leaving one section to lean toward the right. Squeeze hot glue into the divide and insert the end of the ribbon. Take the single section (number 1) and roll it tightly outward until it reaches the cardboard. Holding the roll in place, squeeze glue onto the cardboard near the right edge, and carefully glue the ribbon so that it holds this section in its tight roll.

A_Patrick Step 04

-STEP 5: Turn the unit around and roll the other exterior section (number 7) into a tight, outward-facing roll to match the first section. Hold it in place while squeezing glue into the seam between the two sections (numbers 6 and 7) and press the ribbon in place, using a ruler to tuck it closely to the spine.

A_Patrick Step 05

-STEP 6: Take the next section (number 6) and subdivide it into three pieces. Curve the two pieces inward toward one another, using the third piece on the left to wrap over and around them.

A_Patrick Step 06

-STEP 7: Once again squeeze glue into the seam between the two sections (numbers 5 and 6) and use the ruler to press the ribbon into place.

A_Patrick Step 07

-STEP 8: Repeat Steps 6 and 7 for the next section.

A_Patrick Step 08

-STEP 9: Take the center section (number 4) and divide it into two pieces. Curve the left piece toward the center, then curve the right piece over and around the left piece, bringing the ribbon with it. Glue the ribbon into the seam between the two sections (numbers 3 and 4).

A_Patrick Step 09

-STEP 10: Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the final two sections.

A_Patrick Step 10

-STEP 11: After the ribbon has been glued over the last of these sections, it will be back at the first tight roll that was glued in place, and where the ribbon began between sections 1 and 2. Cut off any remaining ribbon close to the binding.

A_Patrick Step 11

Add mail or other papers that need sorting and enjoy!


To make the cut through the depth of the phone book section, hold the ruler down very tightly and start slicing through the pages with a sharp, extendable cutting blade. Cut slowly over and over, trying not to slice through too much at once. Keep a firm grip on the ruler so it will hold the bulk of the book in place, resulting in an even cut. The slice doesn’t have to be perfect, however, because once the letter holder has been rolled, the imperfections won’t be noticeable. The section that is being sliced off will slide away from the cut line so it is easier to see. Continue slicing and extending the blade until the book section is sliced completely through.

In lieu of cutting your phone book with a craft blade, check with your local office supply store. It may have an industrial paper cutter that can slice through any book with ease.

A_Patrick Finished 03

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  • That is so neat! It almost looks like those fancy swirly candies (I have no idea what they’re called lol). I wonder if you could find something to glue to the front of it to make it look like a peacock :) Regardless, I think it’s really cool you found a way to upcycle the ol’ booster seat lol.

  • Great idea!! Teach your kids to do this too and while you’re at it contact your local schools to get this in their arts and crafts program.

    One can upcycle anything from junk mail catalogs and magazines to old worn-out, out dated school books and dictionaries. The bonus is keeping this stuff out of our landfills.

    George Eastman

  • This is so cool and cute! I’ve always thought phonebooks are pointless. They’re such a waste and should stop being printed. Love this idea!

  • Wow what a great idea!
    I thought it would be kind of a mission impossible, but it seems really easy!
    Thanks for sharing this with us, for me, as a book lover, I really love it!

  • Great project! I love the idea of upcycling phone books, a big waste of resources. This is a book hack I can get behind.