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.

Mar 232014

A week has passed in which John and I have been recovering from spring colds, John first and me right behind him. We are finally turning the corner, and with it have experienced a little more energy to finish some tasks around the house. Hopefully the weather, too—spring-like weather, that is—will begin to turn more consistently in the direction of spring. We had several days this past week when temperatures were in the 50s, but the last couple of days were closer to the 30s, with snow in the forecast early this coming week. Typical spring weather!

Since warmer temperatures and flowers have been on my mind, I finished a few flower-embellished books that were sitting on my “work stand,” which is really nothing more than the same tiered acrylic shelves that I use for selling the books at craft fairs. This one has been sitting on a counter in my kitchen, and I really need to find a better permanent space for it.

Work Stand

Typically I’ll adhere papers to chipboard, press them flat in my paper press, then slice and trim inside pages. Then begins the edge-sanding and inking process—somewhat tedious—followed by punching holes in the pages and covers, assembly of the books, and finally—my favorite part—adding floral embellishments to the cover. Here are the books I finished this week.

Recently Finished BooksOne of my fellow Blogging Business Artisans friends, Edi Royer (whose buttons I blogged about in the last post) has been expanding her wonderful line of books with wooden covers. I’ve been thinking similarly, in some cases coming up with books serving the same purpose but with different materials. Ours is a small team, but it’s interesting that three sellers in our group like to make books (or book covers), each with her own slant. It’s easy to appreciate everyone’s creativity! Here are a few of the handmade creations from fellow team members.

BBA BooksLeft: Beaded Tail; Middle: Memories for Life; Right: Pasque Flower Creations

On Etsy we are allowed to group our products into 10 sections, but I find that I usually have more ideas than available sections. Can you help me prioritize? Until the end of the month, you can vote in the poll that appears in the upper right side bar for the three types of handmade books that appeal to you most. I will post the results afterward.

If you have other ideas, let me know in the comments below.

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Oct 302013

Most of the time, when I post photos of my work on this Web site, you see my finished projects. But the reality is that at all times, I have multiple WIPs (works in progress), scattered on various flat surfaces in the kitchen. I find, in fact, that I’m unable to work on one project at a time. It’s just not in this girl’s makeup! So today, much like a Weight Watchers® member, I’m going to report exactly the way things are as of this moment. I won’t show you a photo of the finished dual stack of fingerless gloves that were completed last week, nor the completed drawer of mini books that need to be photographed and listed on Etsy.

Today was Glue Day. I dug through my rectangles of chipboard and printed papers that make up the covers of my handmade books, and started adhering them together.


Once this step is completed, it is absolutely necessary to give them time to dry. The covers never dry flat without pressure, so I use the paper press that my husband made for me from two bamboo bread boards. This tool gets a lot of use!


Tomorrow, when the covers are dry and flat, I will match them up with their inside pages. These are stacked on the acrylic rack below. There are all kinds of books here—the beginning of an Internet password book, a couple of lined journals, a Save the Date notebook, blank books, a couple of Creative Ideas Accordion Notebooks, and several half-finished mini clipboards.


Before I bind the books, I round the corners of the covers and pages, sand and ink the edges of the covers, and then punch holes in both covers and pages. Then the owire is added and the book is bound, the covers get decorated (usually with a flower), and it’s time to photograph the books. They look like the photo below once all of these steps are accomplished. Okay, I fibbed a bit . . . I guess I can’t complete this post without showing you something that is actually finished.


What’s on your work table today?

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.