Hi everyone! I’m Elena and you can find more of my creative innovations in my online shop at www.NaturesCubbyhole.com. Today I wanted to share with you a guide for crafting a unique softcover album for wallet-sized (2.5” x 3.5”) photos. I’ve always thought that these mini photos don’t get enough love for all of their convenience and portability. You’ll be able to fit 40 photos in the model below, but the page quantity can be lengthened or shortened however you see fit! I’ve used vegan and recycled/rescued materials in a vibrant Springtime color theme offset with soft yellow, but anything works with this design.
Talk about stoked….I couldn’t wait to share this tutorial with you all! Elena from Natures Cubbyhole is an amazing artist who crafts the most phenomenal pieces. Not only is she talented, she’s also UBER ultra great for giving us a tutorial on bookbinding! WOOT! Enjoy the read and hope you get inspired!
Time: Who Knows, but it will be a blast!
In order to speed up crafting time,
Ready to dive in? Here’s a list of the things you’ll need to get started:
· Paper Cutter
· Bone/Teflon Folder
· Normal-length large-eyed needle
· Large-eyed Doll-making needle (or other needle at least 2” long)
· Pliers (flat with gripping metal “teeth”)
· Binder or Bulldog clips (at least 8)
· Awl (or thick nail at least 3” long)
· Cutting Mat
· Brayer (optional)
· Corner Rounder (optional)
MATERIALS: (For an album which can hold 40 photos)
· 10 sheets of Cardstock (cut to 7.25” x 11”)
· Fingerling yarn or thin twine (hemp, linen, or synthetic) in whatever colors you like
o Lengths of 50” per page
o One 18” and one 30” length for the binding
o Two lengths for the internal closure; one 12” and one according to your button’s size
o One 30” length for temporarily securing pages (you can use the 30” length above)
o (Optional) If you wish to make a lined cover as seen above, you will need at least 100” in order to blanket-stitch the circumference in 1/4” intervals. I ended stitching mine using three separate lengths of indeterminate length.
o In short, you will need A LOT of thread!
· PV glue (Tacky, Elmers, etc.)
· Thin Chipboard (one 8.5” x 11” sheet)
· Thick Chipboard (one 8.5” x 11” sheet)
· Cover Material (7 5/8” x 17 1/2”; add 1/4” margins for woven materials)
· Cover Lining (optional)
· Small Flat Button
· Text-weight paper or vellum (one 8.5” x 11” sheet)
· Decorative Paper (optional)
· Felt (optional, used for cover decoration)
Section I – PAGE CONSTRUCTION:
Pages are first and foremost in this project. Each page will hold 4 pictures; if you would like a thinner album, reduce your page count in this section.
1. Print and prep the PDF templates linked above.
2. Fold cardstock sheets in half and crease with bone folder to create 5.5” x 11” pages.
From here on out the “Top” of the page will be the open portion and the “Bottom” will be the fold.
3. (Optional) Round the bottom corners of your pages.
4. (Optional) Create backdrops for your photos (I’ve used late 19th century sheet music) :
a. Cut your decorative paper into 3” x 4” pieces; you will need one backdrop per photo. Round your corners if you like.
b. Center the “Backdrop Guide” template over your page and clip it securely, making sure to keep it right-side up with respect to the page:
c. Apply PVA glue to the reverse side of your decorative paper, making sure to cover thoroughly yet lightly so as not to oversaturate the paper.
d. Using the template as a guide, position the backdrop on your page:
e. Run your brayer or bone folder over the surface of your backdrops to ensure a complete and secure bond all around:
f. Repeat steps (b) – (e) for the front and back of all of your album pages and allow them to dry thoroughly before proceeding.
g. Correct positioning of your template:
5. Once your pages are dry, center and clip the “Piercing Guide” template over your folded page, keeping right-side up.
6. Use the awl to pierce the lower 16 holes through both layers of your page; the holes will go through your decorative backdrops:
7. Open up your page and pierce the special top two holes into the single layer below. This will be the “Front” of your page:
8. What are all these holes for? This album uses a system of threading to form support corners for holding your photos rather than having to use traditional photo corners. I find threaded corners add a unique earthy touch to the album and are less persnickety than loose photo corners. The threading also serves to hold the page halves together tightly and securely. Below is a PDF file which “maps” the threading route you’ll need to follow for each page.
9.Here is a photo illustrating what the heck all those lines mean. In short, orange lines go from one page half to the other and teal lines lay along their respective page half:
10. Using your shorter needle and a 50” length of thread, follow the “Threading Guide” instructions for each page; leave about a 4” tail at the beginning. Be sure to keep the threading loose and the page halves separate enough to comfortably work in the space between them. This is why such long lengths of thread are needed per page.
NOTE: Each page will have photo corners of the same color for both front and back unless you’re feeling adventurous and want to play with the threading! I threaded my pages using the basic guide and alternated page colors between lemon, fuchsia, and lime.
11. Once you’ve passed your needle through the final hole, you can tighten the strands by closing the page up to its 5.5” x 7.25” size and pulling on alternating sides of the exposed photo corners until each corner is nice and tight. Use the threading guide as a reference. Remember, these will be holding your photos, so they need to be taut and secure!
12. After tightening the last corner, you’ll want to tie off both ends in a figure-8 knot and trim off the excess thread:
13. Repeat steps 10-12 for all of your pages. Once done here, the tedious part is over for your pages!
14. Take your thin chipboard sheet (cereal boxes also work well here, just remember to roughen the printed side) and cut it into 0.5” x 7.25” strips; you will need 2 strips per page. These will reinforce and add durability to your album pages.
15. Take your thick chipboard (at least 1/16” thick; 1/8” would be better) and cut it into the same size strips, you will need one for each page except the last page in your album, so 9 for the 10-page album.
16. Apply a thin yet thorough coat of glue to one side of a thin chipboard strip and securely fasten it to the top edge of your page. Wipe off any excess that may have leaked out. Repeat for the front and back of each page:
17. Allow your pages to thoroughly dry before proceeding. In the meantime, take a moment to think about page order. I oriented all of my pages with the knotted side facing up so, when assembled, I’d flip through pages in a knot, blank, knot, blank, etc order. Face all the knots up, down, alternate, however you like, just remember the pattern!
The thick chipboard strips added below will work as spacers allowing for room for your photos and also leaving space to add embellishments if you want to do more scrapbook-type work with your album!
18. Take your stack of nearly-finished pages and place them in the order you’ve decided upon, with the first page at the top.
19. Working from top to bottom, take each page one at a time and flip it over.
20. Now lightly yet thoroughly apply glue to one side of your thick chipboard strips and apply one to the top of the reverse side of your pages. Again, wipe off any excess glue. Repeat for each page EXCEPT the last page, which will not need the extra spacer. Allow to dry thoroughly. Your pages look like this when done:
21. Take the text-weight paper sheet or vellum and cut it into two 5.5” x 7.25” halves. Round the corners if your pages are rounded.
22. Separate your topmost page, right side up, and apply a thin and thorough coat of glue only to the chipboard at the top edge.
23. Then take one of your paper halves and attach it this strip. Run your bone folder over the surface to ensure a good bond:
24. Repeat this for the rear-facing half of your last page. These paper covers serve as added protection from abrasion due to your cover for the outward-facing photos in your album. In the case of my eco-felt lined album, the paper layer protects the felt from being roughened by wayward photo corners.
25. You’ll need to be able to bend your pages for easy photo viewing; take a straight edge and place it about 1/16” away from the chipboard strip on a page. Run your bone folder along its edge and sharply score a line here on both sides of your page. Repeat for all of your pages.
26. Gripping the chipboard strip, bend this crease back and forth on all of your pages to make them nice and pliable:
27. Your pages are almost done! Now for binding holes: Create a binding hole guide:
a. Cut a strip of paper to 1.5” x 7.25”.
b. Mark a line 1/4” distant along one long edge.
c. Make the left short edge of this paper strip your “Zero” point and mark the following distances on the line:
ii. 2 1/8”
iii. 5 1/8”
iv. 6 5/8”
d. These distances are flexible; as long as there are holes near the outer edges, the center two holes can be moved however you see fit.
28. Position your binding hole guide along the chipboard strip on one of your pages so that the holes are closest to the outer edge. Mark the top of the template with an arrow facing upward.
29. Place the strip along the top side of each page with the arrow consistently pointing the same direction and use an awl to mark binding holes on all of your pages:
30. Use the marks you just created as a guide to completely pierce through each page’s chipboard top to bottom and then bottom to top until you have holes more than large enough to pass your threaded doll-making needle through. TIP: Lay the pages over an old phone book and pierce the awl through and into the book without marring your cutting mat (or fingers!).
32. Your pages are finished! Here’s what they should look like (except *with* binding holes!):
Section II – PAGE ASSEMBLY:
Due to the thickness of your album, your pages will need to be pre-glued prior to binding just to make sure the holes line up properly. If you’ve opted for a thinner album and have clips large enough to hold it together, you should be able to skip steps 1-8.
1. Put your page stack together in the correct order from top to bottom.
2. Grab a 30” length of thread and your doll-making needle.
3. Pass the threaded needle through the outermost binding holes, starting at the front:
4. Pull the threads tight but do not tie them.
5. Lay your pages down right side up, fan them out, and apply a generous strip of glue down the center of each chipboard strip:
6. Pull both ends of your thread upwards and your pages should fall together smoothly and neatly.
7. Tighten the thread as much as possible and tie the pages together until the glue is set:
Now, those chipboard strips aren’t the prettiest things to look at and didn’t really fit in with my photo album’s color scheme, so the following steps explain how to cover them up neatly. If you’re going for a rustic or earthy album, just skip these steps!
8. Remove the thread holding your pages together. Cut a strip of your cover material measuring about 9/16” wide and long enough to cover the chipboard strips visible along the front, sides, and back of your assembled pages.
9. I’m working with discarded vinyl as my front cover material; it has a bit of a stretch to it so I cut my strip shorter than the full length necessary in order to account for this stretching. If your material is similar, go ahead and stretch it around the edges to add extra support.
10. Mark the center of your strip along the outside edge or on the reverse side of the fabric.
11. Line this mark up with the center of your topmost page and clip the strip in place:
12. Apply glue along the chipboard strip to one side of the clip and stretch (if needed) the material over the glue, carefully aligning it flush to the top edge. Clip this side in place.
13. Now remove the center clip and raise the fabric on the opposite side of the glued area. Apply glue along this side and clip in place:
14. Once the front material strip is set, you’ll need to place the internal closure. Mark two dots about 1/4” apart in the center of your fabric strip leftward of the binding holes and use an awl to pierce through only the top half of your first page.
15. Take a 12” length of thread and pass through these holes from top to bottom.
16. Tie off the thread in a figure-8 knot and cut the excess off of *only one side*. I’ve used this type of knot because it lays flatter than most and won’t be visible through the cover:
17. Finish wrapping your fabric strip around to the back of the page group, applying glue along the sides and back, and clipping to help set the material in place as you go:
Your page block is now finished!
Section III – COVER ASSEMBLY:
The blanket stitching of the cover style I illustrate below is fully optional. I’ve opted for the more handmade look, but don’t let that deter you! Single or even double layer covers can simply be machine-stitched to save a chunk of time. Just remember to leave seam allowances for materials that fray!
1. Make sure your cover materials are cut precisely to size (7 5/8” x 17 1/2” for the full-size album), particularly if you are making a two-layer cover. Your stitching will run 1/4” from the cover’s edge and spacing between will be 1/4” distant.
NOTE: If your album is thinner (or thicker!), your cover height will remain the same (7 5/8”) but the length will vary. This formula will estimate your cover length in inches and allow for a 4” internal flap:
[(Album Thickness x 2) + 15]
2. Clip (or pin if your cover material is fabric) your cover and liner exactly together with at least one clip per side and cut the corners so that they are rounded. TIP: Keep your current stitching centered within two nearby clips; this helps keep the cover aligned within your immediate work area.
3. Take a generous amount of thread and, using your smaller needle, begin your blanket stitch somewhere on the back cover. Make sure your cover and liner are precisely aligned at all times.
4. Pass the needle from top to bottom about 1/4” inside the edges of your cover and leaving at about a 3” tail.
5. Moving rightwards, bring the needle from the underside back to the top and go from top to bottom again about 1/4” over from your first stitch.
6. Pass the needle through the loop you’ve just created:
7. Now pass your beginning tail through this same loop and pull both ends until taut and straight. You should have something like this:
8. Continue stitching counter-clockwise with the leading end of your thread, attaching your cover to its liner along the way and ensuring that both materials stay in line with eachother.
9. You may have calculated enough thread to get you back to your start point, but if you’re like me, this won’t be the case! In either event, the tie-off instructions are essentially the same.
10. If you’re short of meeting your starting point, leave your too-short end with at least a 3” tail hanging loosely from the underside of your cover and grab another length of thread (hopefully long enough this time!).
11. Begin your new length of thread as if it were the next normal stitch in the line. Make two more stitches with the new thread.
The following steps apply for either finishing the cover or creating a junction along the way.
1. Your junction should look something like this with new thread (or starting thread) to the right and short thread (or ending thread) to the left:
2. Pass the right-hand tail from upwards through the loop at the left and tighten both the left and right tails:
3. Turn the cover over and tie a figure-8 knot towards the inside of the cover, cutting off the excess thread:
4. Continue around your cover until you meet up with your first stitch. Excellent, your cover’s now finished and all that’s left is to assemble the photo album!
Section IV – PREPPING YOUR COVER AND PAGE BLOCK:
Now it’s time to position the cover and page block. We need to align them precisely in order to ensure a beautiful final product and easy binding.
1. Decide which half of your finished cover will be the front half and position that over the top of your page block. Make sure the pages are laying right-side up and with the chipboard to the left.
2. Bring the front edge of the cover to be nearly flush with the right-hand edges of your pages.
3. Now center your page block vertically with respect to the cover; there should be about 1/8” overlap at both top and bottom.
4. Finally, make sure your page block is straight within its cover and aligned at the top and bottom edges.
5. Once your page block is in a good position, clip the cover to the topmost page at top, bottom, and right.
6. Stretch the rear portion of the cover (if stretchy) towards the back and align and clip the back flap in the same way as the front. Your cover and page assembly should look like this:
7. Break out the piercing guide you created for perforating the album pages and clip it along the left edge of the front cover, arrow up. Make sure to carefully align it vertically and with the left edge flush with respect to the interior edge of the page assembly NOT the cover. Note the margin of cover to the left of the guide:
8. Using your doll-making needle, unthreaded, pre-pierce the binding holes, passing the needle all the way through to the back. A good pair of toothy pliers is priceless here on out as the needle must pass through a very tight space under a lot of tension:
9. Once your holes are pierced, you should be able to see the indentation in the cover and can remove the binding guide. If you can’t see the indentations, then align your piercing template as above but lightly mark the holes with a pen/marker and proceed with piercing. You’re now ready to bind your album!
Section V – BINDING YOUR PHOTO ALBUM:
I’ve opted for a dual-tone tacket stitch for the binding in this album. You can bind yours in a monotone or experiment with Japanese stab binding for this album, which would work equally well!
1. Thread the doll needle with about 18” of your minor thread color of choice and pass it through the topmost hole in your album, going from back to front:
2. Leaving a generous tail at the beginning, pull the needle through the bottommost hole in your album, going from front to back. Pull both tails until the thread resting along the cover is taut:
3. Thread your doll needle with about 30” of your primary thread choice.
4. Attach the end of the topmost minor thread tail to the end of your new thread at the back of the album using a figure-8 knot:
5. Cut off the excess ends of the knot and pass the needle through the second binding hole from back to front, pulling the knot over the hole:
6. Pull the lower tail of your minor thread tight (without shifting the knot you just made) and clip it to the back cover to keep the thread from losing its tautness.
7. Pass the primary thread towards the left and over the minor thread then back underneath:
8. Tighten the spiral over the minor thread:
9. Continue spiraling the thread downwards towards the third binding hole and pass the needle through from front to back. Make sure to keep the spirals tight and completely covering the minor thread color:
10. Tie the minor and primary threads tails to eachother in the same way as the first, make sure to tighten the knot over the third binding hole. Your front and back covers should now look like this:
11. Open up your newly-bound photo album and attach your flat button about 1” from the edge of your interior flap. Be sure to center it vertically.
12. Now take that interior closure thread and wrap it at least three times around your new button leave about a 3” tail and create a triple knot at the end, snipping the excess off flush with the knot:
Almost done! How about a bit of embellishment? Search online for “Felt Flower Tutorial” and you will come up with an amazing quantity of gorgeous flowers; just make your chosen flower and attach it to your album’s cover! I tried to innovate a simple design embellished with French knots, but I’m sure someone out there has a similar style.
Your photo album is now fully functional and ready to be filled with memories; use it as a scrapbook, decorative coffee table album, or tote it around to show off to family! Let your creative juices flow!