Up-cycling old books into festival bunting

What do you do when you’re trying to make Burnley Literary Festival a bit more festive and you’ve acquired a load of old unwanted books? Up to now the festival has been, dare I say, a bit corporate. The normal merchandising stuff – roller banners, printed bunting, bookmarks, black hoodies and polo-shirts. Nowt wrong with that but at Culturapedia we like to think of ourselves as being a bit more creative. We were lucky to acquire few boxes of old plays and scores that no-one wanted anymore. To save them from the pulping machine I decided to make a few hundred meters of paper bunting to liven up Burnley Town Centre from October 3rd to 6th.


The first task was to dismantle the books. Brute force, a blade on the stitching and come careful prising leaves you with a large pile of printed paper. These old books are yellowed with age and smell just like – well second hand bookshops I suppose. Instead of making the traditional triangles spread apart on a ribbon, I folded each double page across the diagonal creating two overlapping scalene triangles. Using the fold at the top, the double triangles are wider than they are deep so I decided not to leave a gap between them like you get with traditional bunting. I bought a job lot of narrow ribbon going cheap. The colours are horrible but without a gap and by folding each piece of paper over it before stitching, it can hardly be seen. All that remained was to sew them up. I used a large zigzag stitch in strong white cotton, not dissimilar to the thread that held the books together when they were made. A large stitch is less likely to tear the paper and adds a functional aesthetic. I have sewn hundreds of meters of the stuff and the paper really blunts the needles but I’m really pleased with the effect. It’s adds a vintage vibe and has all been about recycling too.


Some of the bunting has been put up already in the market and in the window of an empty shop in Charter Walk. Come the festival weekend there will be a lot more. We’re hoping that it will be fine and that we can use it outside as well. Look out for it at our various festival venues and think of me at the sewing machine the smell of old books.