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 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 062016

What do you do with your holiday cards once the season has passed? I hate to throw mine away, so I often use the front side of the cards to embellish bags, especially store bags with logos on them that can then be used for gifts. You can see one of the bags I decorated below from a post I wrote five years ago, titled Five simple ways to wrap your holiday gifts. Mel Lockcuff, in How to Recycle Old Christmas Cards into Festive Placemats, creates collage-style placemats that are laminated with clear Con-Tact® Brand Clear Covering. Pinterest is stocked with ideas about how to recycle your old Christmas cards, such as crafting a 3-D Christmas tree, creating a paper poinsettia that you can use as a package bow, or even sewing together cards to make a Christmas card basket.

Solid Color Bag

I gathered up my cards from this last Christmas and considered what to do with them.

2016 Holiday Cards

Naturally, I save cards that include newsy notes, as well as holiday post cards with family members’ or friends’ photos. These cards will never be recycled or discarded.

Saved Holiday Post Cards

I decided to target the cards that included blue, gray or silver on the front side of the card so that I could make snowflake gift tags. Then I dug into my collection of wafer thin dies and paper punches to see what snowflake patterns I could generate. I did add scrap papers, as needed, in solid sky blue, royal blue and white, as well as some adhesive crystals, and embellished the tags with markers and Tim Holtz Distress Ink. The supplies and tags for the entire project are listed at the bottom of this post, and are identified with numbers so that you can duplicate these tags if you wish, or use my tags as inspiration for your own.

Gift Tag Group 1

From left to right: Tag A – 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15. Tag B – 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 13, 14, 15. Tag C – 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15.

Gift Tag Group 2

From left to right: Tag D – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag E – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12, 13, 15. Tag F – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12.

From left to right: Tags G – 1, 8, 11, 12. Tag H – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag I –7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag J – 1, 8, 11, 12.

From left to right: Tag G – 1, 8, 11, 12. Tag H – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag I –7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag J – 1, 8, 11, 12.

Favorite Gift Tag

Snowflake Tag K above is my favorite one. Supplies include 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

When I was finished with the snowflake tags, which involved six different holiday cards, I ended up with more than two dozen gift tags. Yes, it’s detailed work, but it’s relaxing in the same way that you might find coloring the images inside adult coloring books.

What do you do with your old holiday cards?


Please note that some of these items have been discontinued or are out of stock from the manufacturer. If you search for the exact term shown below, however, you may find other sources for the item. The links provided do not necessarily represent the lowest price, but simply availability at the time of this post.

1. Die – Spellbinders S4-114 Standard Circles
2. Die – Spellbinders S4-404 Create-a-Flake Five
3. Die – Spellbinders S5-065 Moroccan Motifs
3a. Die – Memory Box 98914 Bristol Snowflake
4. Punch – EK Success 1” Scallop Circle
5. Punch – EK Success 1-1/4” Circle
6. Punch – EK Success 2” Circle
7. Punch – EK Success 2” Scallop Circle
8. Punch – EK Success 2-1/2” Circle
9. Ranger Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pad, Faded Jeans
10. Making Memories Deluxe Paper Piercer
11. Marker – Sharpie Permanent Marker Silver Metallic
11a. Marker – Copic Sketch B97 Night Blue
12. Adhesive – Xyron Create-a-Sticker 150 and Xyron Create-a-Sticker 500
13. Adhesive – Judi Kins Diamond Glaze
14. Adhesive – Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue
15. Embellishment – Hero Arts Gemstones

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.