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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Aug 132012

Although I no longer have a child of school age, I treasure memories of the time our son started school each fall. I remember shopping during August for classroom supplies, taking advantage of a tax-free summer weekend when you could save on new school clothing, and scheduling our son for a visit to the doctor for his annual physical. Many of those memories are compressed among photos in shoe boxes, waiting to be systematically organized and transferred to photo album pages. The thought of filling heavy binders with them, though, is daunting and—thankfully—unnecessary to do. The best albums, I think, are the small ones that tell a story. I have decided it’s time to tell a few stories, and to pass them on, little by little, in small albums. So, when Erika of Artful Rising on Etsy suggested a “Back to School” theme for this month’s Blogging Business Artisans Challenge, I knew what I was going to do.

First I had to decide what format my small album would take. Since I’ve been playing around lately with books whose pages are made from envelopes, I decided my pages would form a “Z-fold” created by joining 6-inch x 9-inch envelopes to 3-1/2 inch by 6-1/2 inch coin envelopes. I got this idea after I watched a 2010 YouTube tutorial titled “Z-Fold Envelope Mini Album” by Laura of Following the Paper Trail. I liked the clever way her Z-fold method formed pocket pages—perfect for small photos and memorabilia. Laura spiral binds her pages into a book using her Bind-it-All, but I was concerned about the covers splaying open like a V with all of the tags, photos and embellishments I planned to add. After all, the widest owire I have is only 1-1/4 inches! I decided instead to make a hard cover for the album, and to sew the pages in place.  But I’ll get to that later. Here is what a Z-fold page looks like when you adhere two envelopes together.

The papers I used in my album came primarily from two different paper collections, “Makin’ the Grade” by Little Yellow Bicycle, and “The Grade School Stack by Die Cuts With a View (DCWV)™. I thought the colors and patterns meshed pretty well. I discovered, by the way, that Little Yellow Bicycle has a blog with lots of inspirational ideas you’ll want to check out. The DCWV site also has an Idea Gallery that will get your creative juices flowing.

Makin’ the Grade papers by Little Yellow Bicycle

Once the individual pages were covered with paper, I dug into my embellishments stash. I found a place for my “Playground” adhesive accents from Paper Bliss™, some of the Sticko copper-rimmed circle tags to which I adhered matching Rebecca Sower Nostalgiques™ typewriter-style letters, and several Teri Martin “Martinscript” scrapbook stickers from Creative Imaginations. These were all items I had purchased years ago, with great intentions of incorporating them in scrapbook albums that never materialized. I confess that I did buy some canvas stickers from Little Yellow Bicycle that matched the paper; I just couldn’t resist!

Following a tip from Kathy of Paper Phenomenon, I reinforced the spine of the book with difficult-to-tear Tyvek® (available from office supply stores in envelope form).

I covered the chipboard covers with navy blue card stock, and decorated them—front, back and spine—with Little Yellow Bicycle paper. For a final touch, I punched holes in my cover with my Crop-A-Dile™, and then used my Zutter hammer and Pound-it-All (marble slab) to insert a Zutter leather strap and closure. You can dye the leather, but I prefer the natural color.

If you look at the spine of the book, you’ll see how I continued the back-to-school theme with an image of a locker. In my embellishments stash I located a packet of Karen Foster Metals Mini School Tools that included a combination lock. Perfect! But my biggest challenge was finding a way to attach it. I’m sure there is a better way to do this, but I had some split rings that I thought I could join to the combination lock. I riveted the combination (pardon the pun) to the album’s spine, but those little rings nearly made a trip around the world before I got them joined! They kept jumping out of my fingers (is that why they are considered to be a variety of “jump ring?”). In desperation, I enlisted my husband’s help. He has a lot of patience with tiny items, and was able to join the two split rings. Guess I’m not destined to be a jewelry-maker.

The final step of my album involved sewing the individual pages of the album to a pre-punched piece of paper-covered chipboard, leaving 1/4 inch between pages to allow for the fact that the pages are dimensional.

The skeleton of my back-to-school envelope album is now finished, but obviously will be fleshed out with photos, journal tags and bits of memorabilia. Like most moms, I have saved all those wallet-size school photos, the lists of books read over summer vacation, scraps of paper celebrating first attempts at printing, early drawings, and more. It’s nice to know all of these, with the help of a photo scanner, have a life beyond the shoe box!

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.



Jan 242012

Members of the Etsy team called Blogging Business Artisans are encouraged, at least six times a year, to participate in a monthly challenge that stretches their abilities and enables them to grow artistically. This month’s challenge was devised by Deb of The Storybeader’s Bookshelf. “To start off the Challenges for the new Blogging Business Artisans (BBA) team,” says Deb, “I want to make this affirmation: we are all super busy and creative Etsy members.  We are always finding new projects we want to try but stress about where to find the time.  This challenge is to set aside that time to work on and complete a new technique that you admire.  It can be within your field of expertise, but doesn’t have to be.  Blog about your project at least once during the month of January and show us your progression with photos or a video.”

This is one challenge I could not resist. I decided to learn how to make an envelope album using the techniques demonstrated in a YouTube video by Brook of Creative Endings.  I honestly was not sure how this photo album, which is made up of at least 4 envelopes, would turn out. You can use Brook’s techniques with any size envelope, but in her video she suggests a number 10-sized business envelope. Since this was my first time making this type of an album, I decided to follow her recommendation, although I did modify some of the suggested sizes of the interior elements.

What you’ll need to do this project:

  • 6 envelopes, #10 business-size
  • scissors and a ruler
  • optional but recommended: paper cutter
  • bone folder
  • scoring tool (use the point of your bone folder and a ruler if you don’t own a scoring tool)
  • adhesive products (I used Glue Arts® Glue Glider Pro and an UHU® stic Glue Stick)
  • double-sided card stock in colors and patterns of your choice
  • circle punch, one-inch wide
  • string, ribbon or yarn for tags
  • 22-24 inches of ribbon, used as an album closure
  • optional: Tim Holtz Distress Ink™
  • optional: foam applicator

How to make the album:

1. Seal the flap on all of the envelopes.

2. Slice off the short ends of the envelopes so that they are open. Your envelopes should be 9 inches wide after you trim them.

3. Score each envelope at 3-1/2 inches, then fold it as shown below. Stack the envelopes in this order in preparation for gluing.

4. Using the adhesive product of your choice (I used Glue Arts® Glue Glider Pro), run a line of adhesive about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch away from the fold on the “short wing” of one envelope. Apply a second adhesive (I used UHU® stic Glue Stick) to the rest of the “short wing” of the envelope.

5. Align the folded edge of 2 envelopes together, with one “short wing” kissing the back side of the “long wing.”  Use your bone folder to smooth the envelope. This creates two pages in your album, each with a large pocket on one side of the page, and a small pocket on the other side. Repeat this procedure for all envelopes until your final product looks like the illustration shown below. Notice that the front pocket is its own page. There are 7 pages in all: one short page and 6 wider pages.

6. Now it’s time to decorate the pages of your album using double-sided card stock of your choice. You may find it convenient (and more economical) to use designer paper that sells in stacks. This also guarantees that the colors, patterns and solids will be from the same family. I used a 6×6 designer paper pad from Lost & Found Two by My Mind’s Eye, as well as a textured 4×6 designer mat pad from Classic K called McKenna.

7. You will need to cut 3 sizes of paper for each page of your envelope album, which you will adhere using adhesive of your choice.

  • Cut a rectangle that measures 3-3/8 inches wide x 4 inches tall for the outside of the small pocket.
  • Cut a rectangle that measures 6 inches wide x 4 inches tall for the interior of the small pocket. Score and fold it at 3-1/2 inches. Insert the longer end inside the pocket and adhere it. The other end forms a flap for the large pocket on the other side of the page.
  • Cut a rectangle that measures 5-3/8 inches wide x 4 inches tall for the outside of the larger envelope.

8. Using the adhesive of your choice, glue a length of ribbon down the back of the album so that the loose ends can be brought to the front and tied into a bow to close the album. You can choose either a vertical or horizontal direction to tie the ribbon (your choice). You’ll notice that I hid the folded edges of the album with a spine cover. Cut a rectangle of paper that measures 1-1/2 inches wide x 4-1/8 inches tall. Score and fold the rectangle at 1/2 inch and 1-1/2 inches, apply adhesive and wrap around the spine.

9. It is up to you, but I thought it would be easier to insert photos or tags into the pockets by punching a half-moon shape at the top of each pocket. I used a one-inch circle punch for this purpose. I also used a foam applicator and Tim Holtz Distress Ink™ to ink the edges of all my pages, simply because I like this look. You may prefer to leave the edges of your pages “naked.”

10. I had a lot of scrap paper left after decorating the pages of my album. You can use your scrap paper to cut tags and journaling spots for your album. If you like, punch a hole in your tags and attach string, ribbon or yarn. I use a tag template from Deluxe Cuts to make many of my tags, but if you have a die cutting machine, that is a real time saver. You can also download free tag templates from

When you’re all done, this is what your envelope album looks like. I really enjoyed learning about this assembly method for albums using ordinary business envelopes. I hope you do, too!

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.