I need an opinion for a binding system for a journal I already sell in my shop. The choices are the exposed envelope spine system I discuss in this post, or a spiral or hinge binding system. Let me know in the comments below what you think.

Late last night, I completed another custom order, one of my “The Love We Share Journals.” This is a book made up of six envelopes that are adhered together and folded to form a dozen pockets for journaling cards. The spine in this book consists of the exposed edges of the envelopes, which I ink with Tim Holtz Distress Ink. After exchanging several convos via Etsy to identify the paper preferred by my buyer, she settled on a gorgeous paper collection called Beautiful Moments, designed by Carina Gardner for Carta Bellaâ„¢.

Beautiful Moments Collection

I have blogged about the process involved in this book previously in January challenge: new techniques, which I made for the first time 3-1/2 years ago. However, instead of using a “soft” cover as the tutorial suggests, these days I use thick chipboard, which makes the book much more durable. I covered the chipboard with Bazzill Basics solid card stock in Walnut, then cut out and adhered a rectangle from the Beautiful Moments collection. Notice that the front cover and back cover are not the same. This adds interest, I think.


The book always begins with a skeleton of business-sized envelopes, although you can technically use any sized envelopes you prefer.

Envelope Skeleton

Because the Beautiful Moments collection features dark brown as one of its accent colors, I inked the edges of the white envelopes with Tim Holtz Distress Ink in Walnut Stain to match it. If you didn’t know what comes next, you’d think what you see below looks pretty unattractive, but in reality this gives the book a soft vintage appearance.

Inking the Edges

Once you cover the envelopes with decorative card stock, you can see how much better things look.

Pocket Pages

When the book was completed, it was a rainbow of earthy colors in wine, dusky pink, chocolate brown and gold.

Beautiful Moments Envelope Book

One thing that I’d like to change about this book is the binding. As you can see in the photo below, the covers don’t lie flat as you fill up the book with journaling cards and photos. The hemp ribbon tie does keep the book closed, however.


To solve this issue, I’d like to experiment with some other binding methods, possibly a spiral binding, or maybe a hinge method, resulting in a hardcover spine. If you had to choose one of these bindings, keeping in mind that the envelope pockets would still comprise the “content” of the book, which would you prefer? Although these books are not the same as my envelope journal, the photos below show the difference in binding methods.

Spiral binding using double owire
"Cherish" Photo Journal
Hinge binding system with hardcover spine, measuring approximately 1-1/2 inches

I guess a project like this proves that you never stop wanting to improve your products, and you can certainly learn something new with each project you complete. What have you learned lately about a product you make?

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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7 thoughts on “Naked envelope spine, spiral binding or hinge binding system?”

  1. Love the idea – and thanks for your tutorial – I never heard of distressing ink – going to check it out. Now to your question. If the first book closed – I liked the burlap (I think) ribbon – but once it starts to get filled up – it might be difficult to keep it closed.
    The third option with a closed binding might constrict the amount of personal items one might put into the envelopes.
    So my choice is option 2 – the Spiral Binding – is it not as restrictive – so it will allow for width as it expands with its envelopes filled with memories.
    Hope this helps!

  2. Paige @ Little Nostalgia

    I think I’d go with the hinge for this one! The spiral feels a little more casual to me, and I like the idea of the envelope book being a “fancier” gift option.

  3. I like the hinge–except you’d have to guesstimate how thick it would be when full. So my preference would probably be the spiral binding. It wouldn’t look “empty” at the start, or “stuffed” as the envelopes fill.

  4. Wow! I can see how much work went into creating this journal. I love the idea of little cards and trinkets to add to the envelopes and would prefer the hinge binding as I find it aesthetically pleasing for this type of book 🙂

  5. These are such fun books!
    I like the hinge style binding, but wonder how full you can make the books with this binding.
    I know even with the spiral binding that I also use, that once it starts to get full, the book doesn’t close properly.
    But if they overfill it, it can be more of a display piece all opened up. It just won’t lie flat when closed.

  6. I’m not sure – they’re all so cool! The envelope binding looks really neat, but I can see how it could get problematic. I also really like the hinge binding. Most of them look more unique to me, especially since they require more work. With envelope packets inside, I think I probably wouldn’t choose the spiral. It seems very well suited to things like password notebooks, but not as well suited for a notebook to put things in. Hmmm…if I had to pick one, I’d probably go with envelope for a useful book to put things in because it’s very nifty and unique.

  7. I like the hinge binding system. I’m not a huge fan of the large spiral notebooks, they always feel bulky to me.

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