Susie Ghahremani of boygirlparty.com has a great tutorial for a simple to make sketch/notebook. I love bookbinding and custom book art, but it can be a pain to do it right. Susie's tutorial is great because it's as easy to make as a folded booklet in a copy machine.
Here are the supplies:
approximately 10 sheets of drawing paper A ruler, scissors, rotary cutter (or x-acto), sewing machine (or heavy duty sewing needle + thread) One sheet of decorative paper (I recommend something a little bit heavier, like cardstock thickness) Optional: rubber band or ribbon for super-flat closure
She really goes to town on customizing her paper size, which is why she says you need a rotary cutter or x-acto blade.That's optional. I'm a trip to my sewing machine away from a stack of customized planners and I just used good quality 8.5x11 paper folded in half and a 12x12 sheet of nice scrapbooking paper for the cover. I opted out of creating a pocket on my first set, though I would be easy enough to cut the 8.5x11 paper in half to 5.5x8.5 sheets for mini-notebooks and not have to worry about changing decorative paper size.
The best part about her tutorial is how bare bones it is. Your choice of paper, your choice of thread, your choice of sewing method. There are so many ways to customize it for a unique finished project.
Customize the paper with a printer. There are some really cool notebooks with almost-watermarked images on each page that cost a lot of money. You can make your own using clip art, photos, scans, or digital art and a word processor. Just set up a landscape document, split it into two columns, add your desired image to both sides, and adjust to the color finish (grayscale, black and white, tinted, watermarked, etc.) you want. You can also set up a document with a full page table to create a lined notebook and print over the watermark/whatever art you wanted.
Decorative stitches. The tutorial is purely utilitarian: straight stitches to hold it together. Use your imagination. Most embroidery techniques and decorative hand-stitches will work on paper with a bit of effort. Just don't hoop the paper unless you want to destroy it. Cardstock might require pre-punching the holes to minimize tears or wrinkling. Don't just limit yourself to thread, either; yarn and ribbon can add a nice accent to the notebook.
Add a bookmark. Just hot-glue a nice long piece of ribbon to the inside back cover that you can place in the page your working on. Instant class.
Mini-scrapbooks. Want to thank someone for a fun day out or great event they ran? You can easily use Susie's tutorial to customize a no-pain mini-scrapbook. Get some nice decorative paper for the inside pages and outside cover and glue in (or use proper acid-free, lignin-free, archival quality photo attachment tools like proper photo corners or strips) pictures from the occasion. You could also layout and customize everything on the computer. Just remember that the two columns on the page are not in sequential order:
Of course, I must warn you that binding books is an addictive process. Just don't lower yourself to turning tricks for a bone folder or bookboard and you'll be fine.