Jul 052015

I had the pleasure last week of filling a custom order for three books for a repeat buyer. Custom orders always provide me with an opportunity to play with new options—options I may consider adding to future listings in my MisterPenQuin shop on Etsy. This order involved two gratitude journals and one password book. These books were different from most of the other books I make because the recipients were men, not women—no paper-crafted flowers for these covers!

The middle book is for passwords, while the two on either end are gratitude journals.

The middle book is for passwords, while the two on either end are gratitude journals.

When I filled the order, I gave my buyer the option of four different cover layouts. The first option was a single design paper for the entire cover, which is what I normally do before adding embellishments. My buyer didn’t use this layout at all.

Layout Option #1

The second option involved matting a design paper against solid card stock, which is a “must” if you deal with glittery or flocked card stock. The paper has a tendency to crack if you fold it, so it’s best used in its flat form. My buyer chose this option for one of the gratitude journals, but gave me free rein when it came to adding embellishments. I adhered a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection to the bottom of the front cover, and then added a dimensional clock above it. The clock was made from three different components. The face is a digital design from Optic Illusions, while the clock frame is simply a circle punched from another digital design by Digital Stories. The hands of the clock are actually game spinners from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection. I “painted” over the clockface with a Sakura Glaze pen to give the “glass” more of a vintage look and feel. I added white faux stitching to the solid navy card stock strip going across the width of the cover with a Uni-ball Signo broad-tipped pen.

Layout Option #2


The third option involved matting two different papers against solid card stock, as shown below. My buyer gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted with the password book. I chose Layout Option 3 for it, except that I didn’t divide the papers exactly as described below. I wanted the cover to look like wallpaper-and-wood paneling in a seaside coffee shop, so I covered the bottom half of the cover with woodgrain paper, and the upper half with ship helms—both of which were digital designs from Digital Stories. I used a black permanent marker to add “nails” to the paneling, and completed the look with a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology line.

Layout Option #3


The fourth and final option allowed three different papers to be matted against solid card stock. My buyer choose this layout for the second gratitude journal. I turned the layout upside down because the papers seemed to look better that way. The papers come from the Genuine collection by Authentique. The clock was crafted the same way I described for the first gratitude journal, and once more I used a metal word band from the Tim Holtz Idea-ology collection. I painted the band gold with an Elmer’s Metallic Painters pen, but then deliberately distressed it to give it an aged look.

Layout Option #4


My buyer asked me to add “framed” dedication space to the first page in each book so that she could pen a handwritten message. All three of the books also included requested quotations on the inside front cover. The last book in the collection of photos below does not show this quotation because it had not yet been supplied at the time I took these photos, but space was provided for it to be added later.

Inside the Books

I must admit that because of the options I offered my buyer, it was necessary to send messages back and forth more frequently than usual before the order could be confirmed, but the extra communication was not a problem. Overall, this was a fun custom order to fill. In the future, I anticipate I will use the layout options again for custom orders. I may even add an option for a “dedication space” on the first page of all books for a nominal charge. And after completing this order, I am encouraged to add more “gender neutral” items to the Gifts for Guys section in my shop, using some of the ideas from this order.

Custom orders challenge your creativity, so I enjoy them!

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

May 272015

I enjoy custom orders. They give me a chance to do something different, to experiment, to learn something new, or simply to explore new techniques. Recently a buyer-and-friend asked me to design a “celestial” gratitude journal for her—basically, a book with a cover featuring the sun, moon and stars. Because so many of my handmade books feature flowers or a floral theme on the cover, a celestial-style journal represented a welcome departure from the norm. This post is about what happens behind-the-scenes after you click on the “Request Custom Order” button of my Etsy shop, MisterPenQuin.


The Request Custom Order button opens up a private conversation (convo) between you and your seller, initiated by you, that enables you to inform the seller about your preferences, and allows the seller to describe, both in words and pictures, how your wishes can (or can’t) be granted. I don’t know exactly how many messages are typical for a custom order convo stream, but I would guess it’s a half a dozen or more. For this order, 12 messages were exchanged, but I’ve done custom orders that involved as few as five messages or as many as 19. In any event, communicating clearly with my buyer before I click on the “Make this a Custom Order” button is a great way for me to “get things right.” I nearly always attach a PDF document with thumbnail photos to one of the messages within a convo stream. This helps my buyer narrow down choices and for me to ask questions that enable me to fill the order.

Sample PDF

Because I didn’t already have celestial-style paper in my inventory, I made a trip to my local scrapbooking store, and discovered it only had paper with plain stars on a solid background, and Halloween-style paper that looked a bit garish for the purposes of this journal. The next best option was digital paper from an Etsy seller—something I can also re-use for other books. I researched a few options and shared them with my buyer, presenting a few ideas about how they could be combined with other options. In the end, the choices were narrowed down to one of the papers in the Galaxy Night Sky collection from FishScraps, and three celestial images from Sun and Moon Digital Collage Sheet, designed by Graphics Digital. If you use digital papers in a project you sell, by the way, make sure you check the seller’s policies. Some allow you to make and sell projects with their images, while others only allow for personal use. If in doubt, don’t make assumptions; check with the seller.

Sample Papers

The blue of the Galaxy Night Sky paper keeps changing in this post, as I took photos at different times of the day. The final photos are pretty close to the correct shade, as they were taken within a light box.

The first thing I had to figure out, once I began working on the order, was how to incorporate the celestial images. I had proposed making dimensional tiles with them, but the collage images were designed as one-inch tiles—a quarter-inch too large for a 4-inch by 4-inch journal after they are matted. I adjusted the settings within my printer’s dialog window, and “tricked” the printer into treating my paper as only six inches wide. This caused the collage images to print out as three-quarter-inch-wide tiles. Perfect! I matted them against one-inch squares of Galaxy Night Sky paper by running the celestial image squares through my Xyron® Create-a-Sticker™ (figure 1), then inked the edges with Tim Holtz Distress Ink in Stormy Sky (figure 2). I subsequently adhered the squares to craft foam to create dimensional tiles (figure 3). The last step was applying a sealant called Tim Holtz Distress Micro Glaze that makes the paper water-resistant (figure 4).

A Tile work

I set the tiles aside and began working on the cover. I always begin by cutting the chipboard and papers to size.

5 Cut out chipboard and paper for cover

Then I adhered the paper to the chipboard and let it dry for a minute or so (figure 1). I sliced the corners off the paper for mitering purposes and scored around the edge of the chipboard (figure 2) with a bone folder (figure 2). This helps “train” the paper to fold more neatly around the edge of the chipboard when you adhere it to the chipboard (figure 3). I also applied silver ribbon down the front cover at this point, wrapping it to the inside cover. The last step involved adhering squares of paper to the inside front and back covers (figure 4).

B Cover work

While I worked on the inside pages, I tucked the covers between two sheets of wax paper inside a book press. Without this step, the covers have a tendency to warp. I typically leave the book covers in the book press for at least a few hours, or overnight.

10 Press covers in book press

The inside pages were printed with my laser printer, four pages to a letter-sized sheet of paper. These were trimmed to size with my RotaTrim paper cutter (figure 1), after which I rounded off their corners with a Crop-A-Dile Corner Chomper (figure 2). Did you know that rounded corners tend to tear less than right-angle corners? That’s one reason for this extra step, but I also think it looks nice. The pages were pre-punched for spiral binding, for which I used my Cinch (figure 3). You can follow the directions on the platform of the Cinch to punch your papers, but I always use a paper jig for positioning because I think it’s faster and easier. This is simply a piece of cardstock that is the same size as the page, pre-punched with the appropriate number of holes and marked with a center line that aligns with the centering arrow on the Cinch. You can see the completed stack of punched pages in figure 4.

C Page preparation

After I removed the covers from the book press, I applied micro glaze to them (first image). This is especially important for inkjet-printed papers, as you never know how colorfast the ink is. The protectant does not waterproof the paper, but it does make it water-resistant. I punched holes in the cover to match the holes in the pages (second image), and finally assembled the entire book, fastening everything together with an owire (third image).

D Micro glaze and book assembly

The last stage of book design is always my favorite: embellishing the cover. As you can see below, I adhered the foam-backed tiles to the ribbon. Then, because I knew my buyer/friend likes a little bling, I adhered some tiny crystals to the Galaxy Night Sky paper, which give the appearance of twinkling stars. I reinforced the sticky-back adhesive on the crystals with Ranger Multi Medium Matte to make sure they won’t come off easily during the life of the journal. Finally, I tied some silver ribbon “bows” to the owire, something I do with nearly all of my journals. When the book was done, I took photos for this post and for my own records.

Celestial-Style Gratitude Journal

To be fair, most of the stages of development for this celestial-style journal are involved in my entire bookmaking process, except for the series of messages that initiated this particular order. But if you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of one of my books, from “conception” to “giving birth”—especially if you have a custom request—now you know how things work. I really enjoyed customizing this gratitude journal for my buyer.

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.