Sunday, 9 December 2012

Homemade Christmas Card Booklets

I am really pleased with the way that these little booklet Christmas cards have turned out. I have had the idea for a while, since discovering a wonderfully illustrated book called ‘The road to Bethlehem’ that was my uncles; the Art Nouveau prints being by Marian Allen.

You perhaps wouldn’t make these for everyone on your Christmas card list – they take a little while to make – but for special friends and family they are well worth the time. The key is to batch make them doing all the stages for a number of cards in one go, although I would always suggest making one first just to get a feel for it and see if you want to make any changes. Because they are quite small you need to be careful in measuring and cutting, as little bit here and a little bit there can show up. It’s not hard and I’ll give a few hints on the way to help.

You'll need these two .pdf files for the covers and the inside (click to download).

If the nativity scene isn’t your cup of tea they could easily be adapted for whatever images you like. Of course they could also be used for almost any set of images or information – ideas I have had include maps, wedding or baby photos, star charts or seed sowing distances.

Please do drop me a line if you make some and let me see how they come out. Likewise if you adapt the idea I would be very interested to see what you made.

Print out and fold the concertinaed centre pages.

Download and print the pdf file by clicking here. Print it at the maximum quality your printer allows. Each sheet makes up three booklets. 
Paper: I was convinced that I wanted to use a lovely textured matt paper for the centre, much in the same way that the original book was printed. However, I just couldn’t get the detail or the depth of black that was also very important. So in the end I used a semi-gloss photo paper, which lets me combine most of what I was looking for. I was worried that the printing surface might crack, but it didn’t and although it gives a bit of ‘spring’ to the final book, I don’t actually mind that. The downside of the paper is that the black will show every finger print or mark and I am not happy about having the brand name of the printer on the reverse).

Size: If you print the pdf with no paper-scaling and on A4 paper you should end up with the same size booklet as I have made. However, just to be on the safe side I going to give measurements for the covers from these centre pages (e.g. 2mm wider than the centre pages), so that if you have to print on different sized paper and hence have it scaled down or up, you can easily work out the cover size.

Folding the centre pages.

We actually fold the paper before we cut out the individual strips of images, meaning we can fold all three in one go. Along the top and bottom edge are little marks showing where the folds need to go – work from these rather than the edges of the pictures (which are not straight). Loosely fold the paper over, line up the top and then crease along the two lines (with these inside the fold), ideally with a bone folder, ensuring it is meeting up correctly at the bottom. It is well worth taking a bit of time over this stage as it will ensure that the pages fold nicely together.

Fold it back on itself and crease carefully along the face side. Repeat for all the folds. Note: The first and last marks along the top and bottom are cut marks, not folding ones.

Cutting the centre pages

Cut out the centre pages – I found that cutting the lines in the following order A, B, C worked well. Don’t cut right to the paper edge on any of the cuts so that you maintain the lines. You now have the centre pages ready; if you are sure that they are dry it is worth pressing them under a weight with the pages correctly folded.

Calculating the size of the covers

We now need to calculate the size of the covers, which will depend on how big your printing came out. Measure a few of the first and last images, from the outside edge to the first fold then take an average of them; do the same for the height. My originals come out at 4.7mm wide x 6.6mm tall.

Now the cover will be 2mm bigger all the way around, so we add 4mm to the width and height. So for my ones it will be 5.1mm wide x 7mm tall; again, yours maybe different depending on the size of your centre pages.

Cutting the covers

I used 700 micron card, which is 0.7mm in thickness. You might not have this exact card available so use what you do have (I would say some card packaging such a thick breakfast box wouldn’t be too far off), but be aware that as you’ll see in the next stage we double the card up at the edges of each cover to create the recess; my final covers will be 1.4mm + two layers of book cloth. I was pretty happy with the thickness of the cover in the end; I wouldn’t have wanted it any thinner, but it could have been just a touch thicker.

Once you have selected your card you need to work out the grain direction. I won’t go into detail, but I just tend to flex it and see which way folds easier and I know that I am either bending with (easy) or against (harder) the grain. If you are not sure have a look here.

We will cut the pieces with the long side going with the grain and we cut out strips the width of your cover (in my case 5.1mm).

Cut a few of these wide strips and then measure out and cut the height of the cover (in my case 7mm). If you now turn that cut piece around 90 and use that to cut out its matching back cover you will eliminate any minor errors in getting a right angle.

Mark the two inner faces in the same touching corner with a number, so that you know which pair go together and which corners match up on the inside.

Cutting out the recess strips.

We now need strips the same card, 4mm wide. Each cover needs around 24cm of strip and both the front and the back have this recess – so 48cm per card (as ever depending on your printing size). Cut these as long as possible to make any deviation in measuring stretch over the whole length and if possible use one or two strips per cover, rather than making covers up of lots of little strips (which might be slightly different sizes). As ever, try to cut out as much 4mm strip as you think you’ll need before moving on.

Creating the cover framework

We now glue on the 4mm strip, to create the recess and to stiffen the cover; to do this I have used a glue stick. I have read conflicting reports of the effectiveness of glue sticks over time and I wouldn’t use them for gluing on the book cloth or the pages to the covers. However, here the strips are later reinforced by gluing on the cloth with PVA so I feel it’s fine and slightly easier to use for this.

Glue along the edge of the cover (on the reverse side to the number) and then stick down a 4mm strip so that the two long edges are flush and it meets at the bottom.

Turn over the cover and cut the strip, with a knife, so that it is flush at the top. Repeat for the other side. After a while I ended up sticking both sides and then cutting them at the same time.

Lay a piece of 4mm strip in between the two long pieces at the top of the cover and mark with a knife the width; then cut the strip square at that point. Glue this in and repeat at the bottom.

You should end up with the oblong cover with 4mm strip all the way around.

Cutting the book cloth 

We now need to cut the book cloth for the cover. I have made my own using a scrap of creamy cotton and stiff tissue paper (blog post on this coming soon). However, commercial book cloth would of course be fine. If you don’t have access to either of these you could give them a different feel by using a thick textured paper. I wouldn’t advise just using cloth as that will be quite hard to work with and stop the glue from coming through. My own cloth looks almost exactly like fabric plaster, but on the finished booklet I think it works well.

We add in a 1cm margin around all edges and so cut the cloth 2cm wider than the cover (in my case 7.1cm) and 2cm taller (again in my case 9cm). As I am doing a few of these in one go I made up a card template to cut out the cloth and this also allowed me to either avoid any little defects in the cloth or place them dead centre where they will be under the front or back image.

Gluing the book cover

This is probably the most complicated stage, but you soon get the knack of it after one or two. I think the key is to keep the glue under control – not too much – as once it starts to squeeze out the sides and get on the bone folder it very easily seems to appear all over the face side of the cloth. If you haven’t got a bone folder you can get by with a stout short ruler and something pointy but blunt (end of a teaspoon handle maybe?).

First, use the template, to put little marks 1cm in from the edge all the way around – if you haven’t made the template just measure with a ruler. Next join the bottom marks and then the right hand marks to make a back to front L, into which you can line up the cover.

lue the recess and edges of the cover, then place into the back to front L on the book cloth, face side down.

Turn over and smooth with the flat side of the bone folder.

Now, working carefully, use the tip to refine the edges of the recess and smooth the bottom of it, finally using the very tip to create a sharp edge.

Turn it all over and, using scissors, cut off all the corners using the marks as guides.

Using only as much glue as you really need to, glue down one of the long edges on the book cloth.

Lay the piece on the desk and use the bone folder to first bring it up vertically, pressing into the side...

...and then fold over, pressing down. If you got the level of glue right none (or very little) should have squeezed out. Whichever way, it’s worth checking the bone folder for any glue as you don’t want it on the cloth.

We now fold in the top and bottom corners, so that they tuck neatly away. Then glue the other edge in the same way.
Finally we glue down the top and bottoms, much in the same fashion as the sides. Make sure you get a bit of glue on the little triangle of book cloth face side, so that it sticks down neatly. Now place this under a weight to dry.

Putting the book together

It is coming along isn’t it? All we have to do now is put everything together. Take one of the central concertinaed sections and glue the back of the last image.

Then press down on the back cover of one of your pairs, ensuring that it sits squarely, and put this under a weight. Once it has dried for a few minutes, do the front cover the same. Check that you get your two numbered corners in the right place and that the covers meet up when closed.

We now need the 2nd pdf sheet printed, which can be downloaded by clicking here. This contains the front image and the writing at the back, where we put who they are to and from. It is well worth writing these before you stick them down! That way if you make a mistake you won’t be trying to rip it off the book cloth.

Once you have printed the sheets, cut them out - there should be a thin white line around the box of the rear one (unlike the draft one in the photo below), but the front is cut close with no white border.

We’ll do the back first, and under where the text box goes we stick down the ribbon. This is simply a case of cutting the right length, then sticking it down on the left hand edge, but under where the card goes. Hold it until dry and then glue in the card in the usual way.

Turn over the little book, glue on the front cover and you are done! If you sure the end of the ribbon is dry you can wrap the ribbon around it and tie it up, by just sliding it through the gap in the fore-edge between the pages and the cover edge and then pulling towards the bottom left front corner.

As I say I am really pleased with these and if you do make some please do either upload them to flickr and link across or drop me a line to let me know how you got on.