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Creating a DIY Mini Book

Creating a DIY Mini Book main article image
Posted on April 1, 2021 by Lisa-Jane Johnson

My favorite way to scrapbook will always be a standard 12×12 layout, but I do love to change things up for special projects like Christmas.  When an occasion or series of events needs a slightly different treatment, this is when I might turn to creating a mini book.  Mini-books or mini albums can be purchased ready to go or they can be made at home or from a kit.  There really is an option to suit every style, budget and need, whether you are documenting in a larger holiday albums, making a personalized gift, or creating a handbag sized brag book.  One of my favorite ways of making a mini album is to use the single sheet mini book technique.

Constructing the Book

I use a score board to do any kind of folding technique, but you can use a pencil to make the marks and then fold accordingly, or even use the groove of your trimmer and the back of your scissors.  For this album, you score top to bottom at 3 inches, 6 inches and 9 inches and then front side to side with the same measurements.  This should give you 16 squares.  Fold across all of the scored lines both ways – this makes the next part easier.  Next you cut along the 2 outer score lines leaving the last square intact, and then along the inner score line from the opposite direction up to the last square, leaving the last square intact again.  This gives you a sort of W shape.  Then, starting at one corner, you fold each square in a concertina fashion along the line, around the corner, along the next line and so on, all the way to the end.  It sounds really complicated but it’s easy once you get the hang of it and there are loads of tutorials on YouTube to help you along the way. 

Mark the outer faces as the cover – you won’t see this piece at all because you’ll add the cover onto it with ribbon in between to tie it closed.  Then you can start adhering the pages together.  If you wanted to keep things really easy, you could simply stick each back to back piece in its entirety, but the beauty of these folded mini books is that you can create little pockets from each concertina fold.  You need a good strong glue here because the book will get handled so I’ve used red line tape for an instant bond.  You can either stick as you go, or mark the pages first and then open it out to add your adhesive.  Each fold will “tell you” which way a pocket can go (to pull out the tab from the top or the side) and then you put your adhesive around the other 3 edges leaving the opening free.  If you use every back to back section as a pocket you will end up with 7 pockets and 16 pages.  This is a lot of real estate for one sheet of paper! 

Decorating your Mini Book

Once you have your book assembled you can work out where you want your photos to go.  If you need more room, you can of course make the photo into a pocket by adhering it to your page just at the bottom and sides.  I arranged all my photos through the album by slipping them into place, but I didn’t stick them down until I was ready to work one page at a time.  I gathered all my lovely small supplies and spent a happy few hours assembling each page and the associated pocket.

This little book of prettiness was to document an important phase in our garden renovations – the allotment!  We’d knocked down the rotten and dangerous old greenhouse 6 years ago and finally got a replacement in early Spring last year, just days before the lockdown. I wanted to document the developments over the course of a couple of months as we built the greenhouse, grew seemingly thousands of seeds and extended our raised beds.   

As soon as I saw Paige Evans’s Bloom Street collection, I knew it would be perfect to make this album all about our garden developments.  The coordinating sticker book was perfect for this project because it contains lots of little stickers including imagery, lettering and small washi strips.   Mini sticker books like these lend themselves really well to embellishing mini books and adding color and interest to your pages.  You can utilize the “white” space in your photos for even more pops of prettiness.

I also included some of my favorite Bramble Fox embellishments but with thicker items like these you need to keep them spread out and ideally away from the spine to help keep the pages flatter.  It’s surprising how the layers build up and what starts as a little book can quickly become quite chunky!

I used a circle punch to cut notches for my pockets for interest, but they also help to make removing the tags and tabs easier too.  For the tags, I cut 5 shipping label shapes from pretty paper. It’s a good idea to make one template and check that it slips easily in and out of the pocket before you cut more and add the embellishments.  I used a hole punch for the top and added hole re-enforcers to complete the tag look.  Each of these tags is then tied with baker’s twine.  In addition, I made 2 tags with a tab top.  I love all the pieces of twine and sneaks of different patterns peeping out around the book.  I’ve kept most of the journaling on the tags because people can flip through the album and see the photos, but the tags are there if they want to know more.  Most of these journaling spots are actually cut from Project Life cards that needed using up.  Of course I couldn’t resist embellishing these too, but you have to be careful to keep these as flat as possible or they won’t go back in their pockets. 

I’ve cut a watering can shape for my front and back covers for added interest.  It looks really cute sitting on my shelf and makes me smile every time I look at it.  The main part of the can is slightly bigger than the album to hide some of the overhang.  Because the paper I wanted to use is quite lightweight and the handle and spout were quite delicate & need a bit of protecting, I’ve added a layer of acetate as part of the covers.  If you keep to a square just slightly bigger than the album, you can open it right out into a star shape to have on display, but otherwise you can use all sorts of shapes as long as it covers the front page of the book, sits flattish on the bottom, and doesn’t stick too far out beyond the spine at the back (I’ve actually cut the handle off the back watering can). You adhere the ribbon closure between the plain outside pages of the book and the chosen cover shapes, so that you just see the ribbon at the front for tying the book closed.  I’ve actually used two ties, one above and below the tags that peep out from the sides so they didn’t get squashed.  If the tags are shorter and don’t sit so proud from the pockets you can use just a single tie.

Pre-Made Albums

My garden mini book is certainly smaller than my normal scrapbook pages.  Most scrapbook albums are 12×12, I have no idea why, but it is industry standard for cardstock and page protectors too.  Lots of companies now though do a variety of sizes of album and page protector and they can go down to 3inches square, which is perfect for some of the instant printers now available.  Like 12×12 albums, you can purchase post bound book, D ring books and albums that are paper pages rather than page protectors.  For my Christmas album I always use a 6×8 D Ring album with pocket pages by Simple Stories.  This allows me to add things like special Christmas cards, my Costa cup and the children’s letters to Father Christmas as well as my normal photos and embellishments.

Another option if you want to use something ready to go is a traveler’s notebook.  I use them for my diary because they are really versatile.  They come in a few sizes, or you can make your own, but the basic premise is that the covers are re-usable and you can change out the inserts, which are held in place by elastic that goes around the spine.  Most TNs have 4 elastics, but I actually only managed to fit in one insert for this mini book about my first scrapbook retreat with Go Go Getaway where Shimelle was the guest designer.  When the spine isn’t expandable you have to be extra careful not to add bulk or too many layers!

Making your own

In addition to totally pre-made, you can also purchase tools and products to help create your own mini book.  There are a couple of punching and binding systems available such as the Bind It All from We R Memory Keepers and they also have the associated covers and coils or discs in various sizes and colors.  Another lovely option is Coptic book binding kits, where the stitching on the spine is part of the beauty, and you can do a DIY version from various on-line tutorials.  If you don’t want to invest in a purchased album, or a tool and binding materials, there are plenty of fun ways of creating your own.  Depending on what you are using the book for, you need to consider the binding, the cover and the size.  Making your own book means that you can find what really works for you.  You can use recycled materials to make an entire junk journal or just to make the covers.  I’ve seen some wonderful creations using the cover of a vintage book to create the binder and you can re-purpose or purchase a ring binder mechanism to fit inside the spine to create something like a D ring effect.  If you just want to use your cardstock supplies there are many great tutorials looking at different binding ideas with various folds, concertinas, pockets and hidden fold outs.  You can use envelopes bound by sticking the flap from one inside the pocket of the next, or you can even use the insides of the toilet paper rolls as I have here.

I’ve run the tubes through my die cutter several times to flatten them and then wrapped them in patterned paper.  They are bound at the side with a book ring and the closure is a brad on the front and back with a ribbon to tie it closed.  You then have the insides of the tubes for your tags.

There are so many ideas to choose from and they are such fun to make.  I hope you’ve been inspired to create a little album, or two and if so, I’d love to see your mini makes!  You can find me on social media as @PrettyMyPage.

Happy documenting!

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