Sep 032016
 

This morning as I browsed through unfinished blog posts—yes, I sometimes write multiple posts at one time—I discovered a post I had begun a year ago. Wow, that’s taking procrastination to new limits, I thought to myself. But a year ago at this time, I began juggling a full-time job with writing, crafting, selling handmade goods, and of course leading some semblance of a personal life. Five months later, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, underwent surgery, progressed through eight weeks of external and internal radiation treatments, and presently still find myself playing catch-up. Today, I guess, is as good a day as any to return to my half-finished blog post about a new design for an envelope book.

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A year ago a grandmother contacted me to design a custom envelope book for a couple having their first child. She selected soft yellow, gray and ivory papers to cover the envelope pages of the book. I recommended she use dark gray envelopes to contrast with the soft colors, as well as a flexible accordion spine made of kraft-tex™, a durable fabric paper that can be painted, dyed, stamped, stitched, sanded, distressed, washed, ironed, embossed, tumbled in the dryer, and who-knows-what-else. In other words, it’s durable and will hold up well over time. It will also easily support the weight of envelopes filled with photos and other items.

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This isn’t the best photo of the printed papers, as the actual colors are a little deeper than what is shown here. They give you, however, a general impression of softness.

Before I started the project, I mocked up a skeleton of the inside of the book. A prototype like this helps me to anticipate not only what the final project will look like, but also any potential difficulties that might arise. After I made the prototype, for example, I realized that I would prefer a landscape orientation over a portrait one. Having a prototype is also a good way to minimize material waste. I substituted plain white card stock for the spine, as well as for the envelopes. Each page has a half-inch of space between itself and the cover, or between itself and another page. This provides space for embellishments added to the envelopes. Because the spine is flexible, the pages of the book lie flat when you turn them, and the book is not as thick as it would be if you used a hinge-binding system or a hard-cover spine.

Prototype CollageI began the envelope book project with the accordion spine. I cut a rectangle measuring 7-1/4 inches by 10 inches. I saved the leftover kraft-tex™ because scraps are good for many projects, including bookmarks, buttons, die cutting, and many other things. Then I pulled out my score board, and scored the kraft-tex™ at 2 inches, 2-1/2 inches, 3 inches, and every half-inch until I got to the 8-inch mark. Next, I folded the kraft-tex™ like an accordion. You can see the finished piece below, attached to the covers of covers of the book.

It was extremely useful to use Clover Wonder Clips to hold the kraft-tex in place while the glue dried.

It is helpful to use Clover Wonder Clips to hold the kraft-tex™ in place while the glue dries.

Ahead of time, I had sealed white 5-inch x 7-inch envelopes, and cut off one end to form a pocket. I attached a flap to that end, and decorated both pockets and flaps with pre-selected papers.

Pocket and Flap Assembly

When all of the pockets and flaps had been assembled and decorated, I could see the book beginning to take shape.

Pocket Pages

The grandmother had asked me to personalize the pages so they would tell a story, so I attached sentence strips with brads to each page.

Sentence Strips

I also created some journaling cards to which the parents could adhere photos or on which they could write a note.

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The pages had to be prepared for insertion in the book. I attached Scor-tape to each page and inserted the pages, one by one, into the folds of the accordion spine. I also added Scor-tape to the ends of the accordion spine. Finally, I adhered the spine-and-pages unit to the covers. Ahead of time, I covered the outside of the chipboard covers with printed and solid gray papers. I also adhered a ribbon tie to the cover.

Book Assembly

The last step was finishing off the inside of the book (not shown), and decorating the cover.

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The result was a book whose pages accommodate both photos and embellishments without forcing the covers to splay open because of over-filling. The spine is sturdy and will not tear.

Finished Book

One of the fun aspects about this type of book is that you can turn the pages one by one as you would expect them to turn, or you can splay the pages flat (as shown in the bottom photo) like a deck of cards, making all of them visible at once.

This past spring I received a request for a different design: two 19-page envelope albums that would enable parents to celebrate the first 18 years of their children’s lives. The first page represented the child’s time of birth, with the subsequent 18 pages dedicated to the next 18 years, one envelope for each page and year of life. I realized that these albums, like the book shown in the above photos, would need to incorporate a kraft-tex™ accordion spine. No other spine would stand up to the weight of so many decorated pages, envelopes, photos and embellishments. Both albums are shown below.

Harrison's Book

Graeme's Book

In Naked envelope spine, spiral binding or hinge binding system? I asked readers to identify which method of binding they liked best for a thick envelope book. Many folks do prefer a hinge-bound book, which utilizes a hard-cover spine. However, the more pages, photos, journaling cards and embellishments you add to a book of memories, the less flat the cover lies, and the more stress is placed on the spine. Of all the methods with which I have experimented, the kraft-tex™ accordion spine is probably the sturdiest and accommodates best the weight of many pages without falling apart. I, too, like the appearance of a hard-cover spine, but for thick books it is in some ways like an oak tree that doesn’t survive the onslaught of a heavy storm. A book with a kraft-tex™ accordion spine is flexible and strong, and is presently my first choice for books with many pages, photos and embellishments.

You can purchase kraft-tex™, by the way, from C&T Publishing. It sells for $12.95, comes in white, black, natural, chocolate and stone—and I promise you’ll use every inch of the 19-inch by 1-1/2 yard roll. It is also available in 10-yard bolts at $69.95, and you can pre-order the newest product, a 10-sheet, five-color sampler for $16.95. The sheets are 8-1/2 x 11 inches, so you can run them through your inkjet printer.

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If you bind books, what’s your favorite method of binding thick books with lots of pages, photos, journaling cards, and embellishments?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Jul 102016
 

The perfect opportunity to use my Spellbinders Create a Sunflower die set occurred last month when a customer requested a password book with a sunflower embellishment. The five-piece die set includes petals, a starburst-shaped petal base, a floral center, and two leaves.

Die Set

You start off by die cutting 10 sets of yellow petals and four yellow petal bases, one brown floral center, and as many leaves as you’d like. I punched out four leaves and used all of them.

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I completed the rest of the password book ahead of time using the following papers:

  • Cover – Sunshine card stock from Doodlebug Design and August Flourish paper from Graphic 45’s Time to Flourish Collection
  • Inside cover – Mushrooms from Jillibean Soup’s Fresh Vegetable Soup papers
  • End papers (1st and last pages) – Mellow Yellow Double Dot from BoBunny’s DoubleDot Designs line

Book Collage

I began the process of assembling the sunflower by inking the edges of the petals and leaves with Tim Holtz Distress Ink. I used Scattered Straw for the petals, and Peeled Paint for the leaves. It’s not absolutely necessary to ink the edges of your paper, but I think it defines the small pieces better if you do so.

Distress Inking

The pieces are so small, in fact, that I used a paint palette to organize them.

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I glued each set of petal leaves to a sunburst-shaped petal base, using the points to help space the petals apart evenly. If you don’t have a die cutting machine or a sunflower die, you can still create a paper sunflower by cutting leaves by hand, or with leaf-motif punches in three or four different sizes. The sunburst-shaped petal base can be replaced by a circle on which you draw lines to divide the circle into pie-shaped wedges. The lines of the wedges mark the spots where you should glue the leaves. As you can see, I ended up with four sizes of petals, intended to be layered.

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I used a McGill stylus and molding mat to add dimension to the petals, using the ball of the stylus in a circular motion to break up the fibers of the paper and curl the leaves a little bit. Don’t have a stylus? Use the capped end of a felt-tipped marker and a mouse pad.

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You’ll see that the completed sunflower below does not use the originally-cut brown paper floral center, but instead a button from my button stash. Some people like to use a glue gun for work like this, but I prefer Beacon Fabric-Tac Permanent Adhesive because it is acid-free and very strong.

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It does take a bit of time and patience to craft a paper sunflower, but the process is relaxing. I suspect you’ll see more sunflowers on the covers of future books in my Etsy shop.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Feb 212016
 

If we can avoid it, most of us prefer not to re-do our craft storage systems. We’d rather use that time for crafting! I’m no different—when I originally stored my wafer-thin steel dies and foam-backed dies inside a combination of three-ring binders and plastic storage boxes (see How to store your wafer-thin cutting dies), I felt pretty good about both systems.

Old Die Storage System

The binders I use for my thin foam-backed dies still work just fine, as this collection is not too large. But my collection of thin steel dies is immense, making it difficult to locate the one I need in a snap. I tried to solve this issue by developing a spreadsheet with a “Location” column (see Create a master inventory system for your cutting dies), but while this has helped me to locate the box or binder where dies are stored, it doesn’t allow me to zoom in on the exact location for dies stored in plastic boxes.

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I find myself paging through randomly stored magnetic sheets until I find the correct one. This can sometimes take quite a while.

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In the end, I decided to adopt the wafer thin steel die storage system recommended by Jennifer of Jennifer McGuire Ink in her Craft Organization and Storage videos, among them Die Storage from 2013, and Staying Organized (Stamps, Dies and More) from 2015. Jennifer stores her dies upright in a combination of square 5×5 CD sleeves, 5×8 or 6×9 job ticket holders, and 5-5/8 x 7-3/8 inch Avery Elle Stamp & Die Storage Pockets. The pockets are then stacked, one behind the other, inside clear, sturdy InterDesign refrigerator bins you can purchase online or at your local Bed Bath & Beyond store in the kitchen storage section. This makes all dies easily visible and quick to find. The bins are portable, so you can store them on an open shelf or carry them to your worktable.

InterDesign Fridge Bin

Dies are separated into categories and identified with labeled dividers, and each die pocket is labeled, too. For the most part, I am using Avery Elle clear protective pockets as shown below.

Avery Elle Pockets

When I decided to adopt Jennifer’s system, I adapted a couple of elements to suit myself. First of all, Jennifer uses inexpensive colored vinyl folders to use as category dividers. She cuts them to size, rounds the corners, and tosses the leftover folder bits. I decided to use white kitchen cutting mats you can purchase from your local Dollar Store or online, and cut them to size in the same way that Jennifer does. The difference, I think, is mainly that your dividers will be white, and they may be cheaper to buy as a package of two cutting mats for one dollar than they would be if purchased as individual vinyl folders. On the other hand, if you prefer colored dividers, visit your local office supply store and purchase colored vinyl folders or vinyl index page dividers. Whether you use vinyl folders, pre-cut dividers (that you still have to trim), or vinyl cutting mats, they are all about equal in weight and sturdiness.

Kitchen Chopping Mats as Category Dividers

Jennifer uses a Brother label maker to label all of her category dividers and clear protective pockets. I own a Brother PT-D400 Label Maker, not the same model as Jennifer’s, but mine works pretty much the same as hers. If you purchase one, make sure you purchase an adapter with it, as it will save you the dollars you would otherwise spend on batteries.

Brother Label Maker

If you have a Brother label maker or are thinking about getting one, I highly recommend you watch Jennifer’s video, My Favorite Crafty Things: Organization from 2015 (advance the video to 8:08), where she provides tips for how to conserve your labeling tape. The label maker has a feature called “chain print” that allows you to print multiple labels closely together, instead of advancing the tape an inch or more after every label. After all of your labels are printed, you can snip the tape between labels with a pair of scissors.

Conserving Labeling Tape

The tapes, which do work well, have one drawback—they are rather expensive. If I buy labeling tape from my local office supply store, it costs $18.99 for 26.2 feet, so I look for a coupon first. Otherwise, I search online for the best deal, such as Amazon, where the last time I checked the cost was $9.66. Quite a difference!

Labeling Tape

Jennifer uses labeling tape for just about everything in her craft room. So far, in regard to die storage, I only use it for my category dividers.

Labeled Category Dividers
For my clear protective pockets, I use Avery Laser Labels 5267. Please note that these labels work for both laser and inkjet printers. The labels are compact, measuring ½ inch by 1-3/4 inches, and come 80 labels to a sheet. I use Arial Narrow in a 10-point font to identify the die’s manufacturer, design and item number.

Pocket Labels

I discovered one drawback to these labels: they peel off the clear protective pockets as quickly as you adhere them. The solution is easy. I insert a rectangle of white card stock inside each pocket to make the die visible, but also to provide a place for special instructions or a matching stamp. I insert the die in front of the card stock insert, and other items behind it. Instead of adhering the Avery label to the pocket, I stick it to the card stock insert. This system is much faster than using a label maker because you can type and print many labels in a jiffy. I save the file for these completed labels from one typing session to another so that I know where the next label is located. I simply highlight the new labels and print that selection.

Labeled Pockets with Dies

I have not completed my new die storage system, but as you can see, a refrigerator bin storage system holds many dies. In the photo below you see more than 90 dies, and there is space for many more. When not in use, I store the bin on a bookshelf. Otherwise, I simply move it to my craft table. One storage bin accommodates hundreds of dies. In contrast, my previous plastic box system stored fewer than half of my dies and took up four boxes.

Half-Filled Fridge Bin

You might be wondering what I will do with my old plastic die boxes. To be honest, I am still thinking about alternate uses; if you have suggestions, let me know in the comments below. I may sell them for $5 apiece, plus shipping. If you’re interested, you can email me at judynolan@aol.com. But the magnetic sheets inside them are being cut up, as needed, to accommodate layered sets of dies inside the pockets for the new system. Of course, some dies already come with magnetic sheets.

Pockets with Magnetic Sheet Inserts

If you have a boatload of wafer thin steel cutting dies, what storage system works best for you?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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