Feb 182017

In my previous post, How to save time and money for your craft business design needs, I described—among other items—how I used ordinary office software to design a custom photo album. In this post, you’ll see how the software design translated into reality when I assembled the parts of the album.

I began with two stacks of card stock, one in black for 5-inch x 6-inch pages, and another stack in ivory for 2-1/2 inch x 3-1/2 photo mats.

My best friend for adhering the photo mats to the pages is Scor-Tape because it’s strong, lasting and lightweight.

When I adhered the photo mats to the pages I really did not want to have to measure their location with a ruler, so I created a U-shaped card stock paper jig that helped me with consistency in placement.

To each page, I adhered a strip of printed paper for a splash of color. I cut a narrow length of card stock to serve as a temporary spacer between the photo mats and the location of the printed strip. This speeded up the placement process considerably.

I usually round the corners of the pages I add to any book or album; not only does this look more finished, in my opinion, but rounded corners tend not to curl or crease as easily as 90-degree corners do.

I punched the pages for insertion into the photo album using my We R Memory Keepers Cinch. I do have a Zutter Bind-it-All, but because the latter punches only six holes at a time, I find the Cinch works better for me for larger books. On the other hand, the Bind-it-All punches through thicker covers and more pages at a time than the Cinch, and its owire crimping produces a more rounded appearance. The Cinch punches both square holes and round holes, depending upon which version you purchase, while the Bind-it-All punches square holes only. Each binding tool, in other words, has its strong and weak points.

The cover of the album was created after the pages were completed. I began by gathering the papers and heavyweight book board, and cut them into appropriate sizes. The book board I use measures .082 inch in depth, which is thicker than I feel comfortable cutting with my Rotatrim Professional M18 rotary trimmer. Instead, I use the Zutter Kutter, which is designed specifically to cut through thick materials such as chipboard, book board, foam board, stacks of card stock and leather.

I layered all papers together the way my customer specified, covering the book board, and bound the album with a one-inch-diameter owire. I have discovered that the wider the diameter of the owire, the more trouble the Cinch or Bind-it-All have with crimping it. Too often, the owire ends up with a kink in it instead of being perfectly rounded. Sometime last year, I decided it was time to locate a commercial tool that is dedicated to owire binding. I discovered that MyBinding.com sells some of its equipment at a reduced cost if the box has been opened and the item inside is damaged in some way, but still is functional. In my case, some of the paint was chipped on a Tamerica DuraWire 450 Manual Twin Loop Wire Closer, but the tool itself worked perfectly in every way. I bought it at a seriously reduced cost, and find that it crimps consistently every time. These days I use both my Cinch and Bind-it-All for punching holes only; when they no longer punch well, I will likely replace them with a commercial punching tool.

The wire closer accommodates owire diameters from .24 inch to 1.25 inches.

My husband gave me his old tool chest, which is the perfect place to keep this rather large piece of equipment.

The front and back sides of the finished photo album are essentially the same, except for a floral embellishment on the front. Although I do use some purchased solid color papers for custom orders, I generally print papers from digital designs, and then seal them with Tim Holtz Distress Micro Glaze to make them water-resistant. For some of the papers whose white inner core edges I don’t want to be visible, I brush them with Tim Holtz Distress Ink.

The last item I add to an otherwise finished book or album is the cover embellishment. I crafted a yellow zinnia from 90 paper petals—nine layers in all—die cutting the petals with Spellbinders Create-a-Flower Zinnia. After the layers were adhered, I spray-misted them with Ranger Perfect Pearls Mists to give the flower a little shimmer.

I glued the flower to the cover, gave it 24 hours to dry, and shipped off the album.

As I mentioned in my previous post, creating a digital proof for custom orders is essential to making sure that both the customer and I are on the same page. I don’t have expensive design software, so I use ordinary office software to get the job done. It does add a few extra steps to the creation process, but in the end, I think everyone is happy.

In the comments below, describe a challenge you faced when you crafted a custom item, whether it was for an order or a gift.

© 2017 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jul 232016

I have a black thumb, so flowers never survive around me. Nonetheless, I love blooms of all kinds, so I surround myself with flowers that won’t die—silk flowers, paper flowers, floral scents, floral-embellished bed linens, and so on. In one of my Etsy shops, JN Originals, I sell crocheted flower brooches.


When I started binding my own books and selling them in Mister PenQuin, I knew the covers would be embellished with flowers. At first, I purchased packages of paper flowers. I particularly appreciated the dainty ones made by Prima, but gradually I began altering purchased paper or silk flowers.

Altered Store-Bought Flowers

Today I most enjoy fashioning handmade flowers from paper, fabric and fibers, but I can’t justify tossing away my remaining store-bought collection. As a result, I am still working my way through the flowers I have purchased.


Still, it’s fun to experiment with different kinds of handmade flowers.

Handmade Flowers

A few weeks ago, a customer approached me and asked if I could make her a password book using a flower from one of my gratitude journals, but the paper from a password book. Obviously, I couldn’t take apart the two books to meet her request, but fortunately the paper she liked was a digital one I had purchased from a graphic designer who allows you to sell handmade items using her digital papers. The flower, on the other hand, was from a package I had purchased from Hobby Lobby. Not only was it no longer available, but I didn’t want to buy yet more pre-assembled flowers. I offered to re-create the flower so that it would be similar to, but not exactly like, the purchased flower adhered to the book in my shop.

The customer asked for the flower on the left, but the paper on the right.

The customer asked for the flower on the left, but the paper on the right.

To re-create the flower, I stamped white Bazzill card stock with an Old French Writing rubber stamp by Hero Arts and brown Hero Hues Latte Chalk Ink, also by Hero Arts.


Then, I cut out flower shapes in graduated sizes using Donna Salazar’s Carnation Creations die set by Spellbinders.


I layered the flowers, glued a wooden ball to the center, and adhered it to the cover of a book. My buyer was pleased, as you can see.

Final Password Book

Designing handmade flowers is time-consuming—you probably won’t be paid for your time if you sell the items you embellish with them—but it is infinitely satisfying. It also gives me a chance to use my overflowing collection of dies, inks, stamps and papers. If you also like to create paper flowers, you may be interested in reading the following tutorials on my blog, which include links to other resources.

An old nursery rhyme asks, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary: how does your garden grow?” My answer, of course, is with paper, fabric, fiber and glue, all wrapped together with a little imagination and a lot of love.  That’s the story behind my flowers!

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.


Feb 282016

This weekend’s Purse Party 2016, especially before I begin five weeks of radiation treatments on Monday, was a welcome treat after almost six weeks of recovery following surgery for endometrial cancer. Purse Party is hosted annually by one of my local quilt shops, Quilter’s Cupboard in Ankeny, Iowa. The newest bag patterns and samples are introduced, along with some old favorites. Bag-sewing tips are shared, and tools to make your bag-sewing easier are recommended. If you’re looking for a list of bag sewing patterns to attempt, scroll down to the bottom of this post, where you’ll find a list of patterns. You can order patterns directly from the friendly folks at Quilter’s Cupboard, or online if you prefer.

Purse Party attendees also receive a designed-by-Quilter’s Cupboard pattern, in this case the Place for Everything Pouch where you can store sewing or needlework notions, cosmetic supplies, jewelry, and even your colored pencils, blending stubs and other drawing tools.


At a previous Purse Party, Quilter’s Cupboard offered attendees a free Pet Screen Tote pattern. This pattern is now available for purchase. Contact Quilter’s Cupboard directly.

Patterns by Annie Trunk Show

New this year was a Patterns by Annie Trunk Show featuring bags that punched quite a “wow” factor. Picnic in the Park, for example, is a fabulous padded, pocketed picnic basket layered with fabric and foam that produce a marvelously structured bag. Quilter’s Cupboard owner Cindy Peters points out, however, that most people are making it to carry their sewing projects and notions for quilting retreats, sewing weekends, or a take-your-sewing-with-you vacation.

Picnic in the Park

Another Patterns by Annie pattern, Bon Voyage! Tote, is a generously-sized tote bag that includes outer slip pockets for your keys and phone, three inner slip pockets, and a hanging zipper pocket that is the perfect size for your electronic tablet.


Also included with the pattern is a see-through Project Tote that would be perfect for keeping supplies for small projects together. Tuck in your pattern, fabric and notions, and you’re ready to go. I can imagine having an entire series of these!


The Get Out of Town Duffle is a zippered, structured bag with lots of pockets. The bag fits perfectly into an overhead bin for your weekend flight. You’ll want to purchase the pattern, simply to learn how to make an adjustable strap with a shoulder pad.


Shopping at a local craft fair? You’ll need the To Market, To Market Tote & Tag. Use the roomy zipper tote for purchased goods, and the Name Tag & Essentials Bag for your event I.D., credit card and loose bills. The Name Tag & Essentials Bag can be worn either around your neck or on your shoulder, and is adjustable. Although the pattern is easy to follow, you can watch a series of video tutorials by Patterns by Annie that walk you through the steps of making the Name Tag & Essentials Bag.

To Market, To Market

The Open Wide! Bag is aptly named because it opens up wide and allows easy access to contents. Organize your belongings with the handy mesh pockets. The pattern includes three sizes, perfect for organizing your travel supplies.


Special Occasions at the Abbey is actually a two-for-one pattern, featuring Lady Sylvia’s Swirl purse and Lady Edith’s Ruffled Rosette purse. Both bags are just big enough to hold your evening essentials. The patterns are inspired by the ladies of Downton Abbey. These tiny bags generated a great deal of excitement at Purse Party.


Becca Bag Sewing Class

When I visited Quilter’s Cupboard today to take photos for this post, several women were engaged in a sewing class, making Becca Bags from Lazy Girl Designs. What makes these “stow and go” bags extra special is the easy circular One-Zip technique, which involves cutting a zipper apart, removing the pull, and stitching in one side of the zipper tape straight and flat. Bring the ends of the zipper together and slide the zipper pull back on. When you open the bag, the zipper installation allows the bag to open up wide, and the bag stands on its own.

Becca Bags

10 Bag Sewing Tips

One of the most helpful aspects to a Quilter’s Cupboard Purse Party is learning new tips about sewing bags. Here are a few tips I jotted down:

  1. Don’t throw away your Bosal In-R-Form or By Annie’s Soft and Stable foam stabilizer scraps. Instead, use Heat Press Batting Together to fuse the bits together on both the front and back.
  1. When you use a foam stabilizer, the seam layers can become quite bulky, especially if you plan to apply bias binding. Compress them by sewing parallel lines of straight stitching between the seam line and raw edge, or use a zigzag stitch. You can also do a decorative stitch on the outside of the bias binding, which looks nice and does essentially the same thing.
  1. Instead of installing metal purse feet, consider sewing buttons to your bag bottom. Layer large and small buttons together to achieve thickness.
  1. To produce soft-but-strong purse straps, use Dreamy Fleece Fusible from Lazy Girl Designs, or Pellon 987f Fusible Fleece (available at JoAnn Fabrics).
  1. If you are having trouble sewing layers or hard-to-sew spots, try using Fabric Fuse Liquid Adhesive by Therm-o-Web.
  1. To give your bag both softness and structure, layer Dreamy Fleece Fusible (or Pellon 987f Fusible Fleece) and Pellon 809 Decor Bond (a fusible heavyweight woven interfacing, available at Joann Fabrics).
  1. Use 505 Spray and Fix Temporary Fabric Adhesive to make anything fusible that is not fusible. This is a temporary basting spray, so it does wash away, but in most cases you will not throw your finished bag into a washing machine. 505 Spray will not gum up a sewing machine needle.
  1. To add body to a fabric, or to turn a cotton fabric into home decor fabric, iron on Pellon SF 101 Shape-Flex®.
  1. If zipper installation makes you nervous, visit By Annie’s Zippers Are Easy Videos.
  1. To measure, mark and press hems all in one step, use the newest heat-resistant Clover Press Perfect Hot Ruler by Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs. It’s great to use for bag handles, binding hems, rounded corners, and interior and mitered corners. Fold your fabric over the Hot Hemmer, and press your fabric into place with either a dry or steam iron.

Explore These Bags, Organizers and Accessories

Patterns by Annie:

Purses/Tote Bags:

Accessories/Smaller Bags:

In The Hoop Machine Embroidery:

Just for Fun:

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.