Update on February 6, 2016: Yes! I am taking orders for these! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit this page on my website to get started!
Sometimes I am a hoarder. I find sentiment in the weirdest & smallest things like a Dr Pepper can tab & I simply can't throw it away. Other times, I have zero problems throwing things out. But when it comes to greeting cards, I hold on to most of them like my life depends on them. The special ones will never see a trash can.
Last fall was my wedding, & the summer was filled with bridal showers & parties, & my box of wedding cards grew & grew. I knew I wanted to turn my wedding greeting cards into a book, but wasn't entirely sure how. I looked through Pinterest for some inspiration but only found cards bound with giant circle clips. I wanted something more polished, so, I let the idea simmer in the back of my mind while I came up with a plan.
I referenced ways to bind your own books, bought all the necessary materials, & made up a few steps as I went. I started working on an idea, almost finished, came up with better idea, then started over.
So, bust out the needle & thread. We're sewing!
Unfortunately, I had a few tiny cards that I couldn't sew into the book. The best solution for that would be to make an envelope or sleeve attached to the back cover for those tiny cards to slip in & out of. But, this post does not cover that aspect.
I ended up with about 65 cards from my wedding, so I split them into two books. I felt it would be sturdier if I made two skinnier books rather than one super fat book.
All of the materials depend on what size your book is going to be. Measure out your biggest card to get a minimum size.
- chipboard/bookboard (0.098" thick)
- paper or book cloth for the cover
- ribbon // long enough to wrap around your cards & tie into a bow
- canvas // the width needs to be the thickness of your stack of cards plus 4"; roughly 5" tall, or the height of your smallest card; you can buy a 12x12" piece of canvas in the scrapbooking aisle of Hobby Lobby
- cardstock paper // at least 3 sheets
- exacto blade
- box cutters // for cutting bookboard; you can use an exacto blade, but bookboard is really thick & tough to cut
- cutting board // not necessary, but if you're using an exacto blade, you'll want to protect your table!
- bone folder
- ruler // preferably metal
- PVA glue
- awl // for the record I couldn't find one at Hobby Lobby; I finally found one at Home Depot
- thread // I used white for the cards & black for the end leafs
- big clips
Step 1: Organize your cards
This is purely optional & up to you on how you do this. I put all of my immediate family cards at the beginning & alphabetized the rest.
Step 2: Find your smallest card & make a template
My smallest card was about 6" wide. I drew a template on a piece of scrap cardstock, marked the center of the card, & marked out two sets of lines 1/4" from either end. The sets of lines were 1" wide.
I numbered the lines 1–4. The lines would mark where on each card I would punch my holes for sewing.
Step 3: punch holes into cards
Using the template I just made, I grabbed my awl & set to work punching four holes into the fold of each card. If you're not using an awl, just use a very pointy object to punch small holes. The hole only needs to be big enough for a regular needle.
Since my template wasn't as long as some of my cards, I used the ruler to make sure I was centered up correctly. Most of the time I could just eyeball it, but there were a few big cards that needed to be perfectly centered.
For most of the cards, punching holes was simple. However, a few cards needed a little bit of attention first. Some cards had an extra layer of paper on the front panel that was something like 1/16" longer the rest of the card. This gets in the way when you open it, so using my ruler & exacto blade, I trimmed down the unnecessary length of paper.
My mom wanted a book made out of her 50th birthday cards, so this is what I'm working on in some of these photos. She had this one card that opened not only vertically (the fold was at the top), but also had a pop out. I contemplated throwing this card out, but we've already discussed how I can't do that, so I got a little creative.
I trimmed off about 1/16" on the left side of the front panel of the card & on the back panel. I checked & double checked that, when sewed down, it would still open all the way & wouldn't get stuck on the stitches.
When it came time to sew this card down, the concept was the same with the "in 1, out 2, in 3, out 4" method. (Keep reading to figure out what this means.)
For accordion style cards, I again trimmed down about 1/16" of the front panel so it wouldn't interfere with the stitches, then punched the holes in the back fold.
I encountered a card that was die-cut at the top. I checked its height against the other cards & decided that if I centered the template on the fold & not on the card, it would not stick out at the top above the other cards.
The very next card was also die-cut, but its fold was relatively short. So, I shifted the template again, keeping the two sets of holes 1" apart from each other & 1/4" from either end, essentially shrinking the distance between the two sets of holes.
step 4: cut your canvas piece
Measure the thickness of your cards & add roughly 2" to either end. For the height, you want it wide enough to cover the holes, with an additional 1/4" trim (or more) on either end. This is basically the height of your shortest card.
Using my template, I drew lines on the canvas to help me line up my cards when sewing.
step 5: sew your cards together
This is when you turn on a season of your favorite tv show & settle in for a few episodes. This is the longest part of the whole process, & patience is greatly needed. If you've never sewn before (especially by hand), do not be surprised if you have to start over a few times. I did & I'm not new to sewing. Be patient while you work with the first few cards. Once you get more than 5 cards sewn down, it will get much easier.
I worked with lengths of thread that were about 2 yards long. Thread your needle, then tie the two ends together into a good knot & pull the needle the center. Now, you're ready. I used regular sewing thread. There might be a better choice out there, but I didn't look.
Remember how I labeled the template & the holes 1–4? Line your first card up on the lines in the spot you want (2" from one end of the canvas). Start on the back of the canvas (so the knot is on the back) & thread your needle through the top hole. Thread back out through the 2nd, in through the 3rd, & out through the 4th (the bottom). Line up your next card (keeping it tight!), thread through the 4th (or bottom) hole, & work your way back to the 1st hole.
Recap: in 1, out 2, in 3, out 4, new card, in 4, out 3, in 2, out 1, repeat
To help keep the cards tight against each other, I use large clips (see photo below.)
When you're done, it should look something like this.
step 6: cut & score two end leafs
The end leaf of a book is the blank piece of paper at the front that spans across the first page to the inside cover. There is an end leaf at the beginning & ending of a book. I used black cardstock to coordinate with the paper for the cover.
For my project, an 8.5x11" piece of cardstock was just the right size for an end leaf. Find the middle 1/4" of the cardstock & score & fold two lines using a bone folder. If you don't have a bone folder, use something hard & narrow to create the score. It also comes in handy when making crisp folds. You will want to make two end leafs.
step 7: sew end leafs into book
Use your template & awl to punch holes into one of the creases on each end leaf. Then sew the end leafs onto either ends of the cards. I used white thread for the cards, but switched to black when sewing in these bad boys to keep it neat & streamlined. Make sure both end leafs are even with each other on the canvas because these parts will later be glued down to the cover & you don't want them lopsided.
Done with the sewing! It should look something like this.
step 8: cut bookboard pieces
Measure your biggest card (or the tallest & widest cards) & add a 1/4" to determine the width for your cover. Add 1/2" to determine the height.
Your spine should be the depth of your cards sewn together. Remember how the end leafs had a 1/4" fold? Don't count that in the depth measurement. Measure from the inside of the folds.
step 9: measure & cut paper for cover
Using the dimensions you already calculated for the bookboard, add at least 3" to the overall width & 1.5" to the height. Then, add another 1/2" to the width to account for the spine. You don't want to butt your book ends up with your spine. Instead, you want at least a 1/4" gap between both.
For example: My book measures 5" wide x 8" tall with a 2" spine. When lain out flat, it becomes 12" wide x 8" tall. I want my paper to be bigger than my bookboard, so it becomes 15 1/2" wide x 9.5" tall.
Once you've got your paper cut, trim the corners to 45º but keep the thickness of the board in mind. Make the cut about 1/16" away from the edge of where the board will sit. When you fold the pieces over, it will cover that part of the board. (The photo below is wrong, but you get an idea of what I'm doing.) Keep it neat because these pieces will be seen in the final product & you want them even. (I really hope I explained it right because I didn't take a photo of a corner to fully explain what I meant. oops!)
When you glue everything down, you don't want the corners getting bunchy with too much paper. By trimming the corners, you are getting rid of excess paper, & the corners will look neat & crisp when you fold & glue the paper down.
step 10: glue down paper to book board
To make sure I was gluing the boards down exactly where I wanted them, I first traced each piece onto my paper. Then, using PVA glue & a paint brush, I glued down all three pieces. You do want to work fast with this part because the glue does dry fairly quickly.
When folding over the paper, I recommend gluing the top & bottom down first, then the sides. You want the corners with the 45º corners cut on top, keeping all corners looking uniform. Like wrapping a present, pull the paper taught & rub any air bubbles out.
If you want to decorate your cover by laying papers or washi tape that will wrap around to the inside, now is the time to do that.
There is no need to let the book dry before proceeding to the next step. This glue dries so quickly that you can keep working without messing it up.
step 11: cut & glue down ribbon
You want your ribbon to wrap around your entire card stack & have enough left to tie a bow. I used 1/4" ribbon, but you can use whatever your heart desires! You could even use multiple ribbons for a layering effect if you're feeling extra creative.
Find the middle of the ribbon & glue it down to the bookboard. Just a small amount of glue is all you need to keep it in place for now.
step 12: cover spine in black cardstock
Because the cards are not all the same height, the spine will show through at the very top & bottom of your book. So, in the same material as the end leafs (black cardstock), I cut pieces that would fit directly on top of the spine. (I used two pieces because they were scraps & would cover the important parts.)
step 13: glue down the spine of cards
Concentrating on the spine only, spread glue on the canvas, then, firmly press it down onto the bookboard spine. Pull the flaps of canvas to make sure it's laying down smoothly.
step 14: glue down canvas & end leafs
First glue down the canvas flaps to the bookboard, then, glue down the end leafs. Paint all the way to the edges of the end leaf so they don't peel up later.
Remember to smooth the end leaf down to get all bubbles out.
While the paper is still wet, fold the book over to let the end leafs settle into their natural spot. They might need to shift just a bit.
step 15: Grab some huge flat books to weigh down the covers while they dry
(Buzz Lightyear to the rescue as always!)