Introduction: Envelope Book

About: I love everything about mail. I have fascinations with Cold War culture, military design, espionage, hermits, religion, and typewriters. Old books and papers are my favorite treasures, and making things by han…

This instructable was created as an entry in the Esty and Instructables collaboratory Sew Useful contest. This book is constructed with twelve vintage envelopes instead of paper. That might not sound like a lot, but you need to remember you'll be filling it up with stuff. The idea is that you can fill it up with all sorts of things you want to keep safe. It has a ribbon marker and would be perfect for organizing monthly receipts, check stubs, coupons, extra money and basically any other flat objects you might want to file in an attractive manner.

Step 1: Gather You Materials

You will need the following:

1. Decorative paper (18" X 24")
2. Inner paper (8.5" X 11")
3. Book cloth (9" X 12")
4. Permanent spray adhesive
5. Illustration board (9" X 12")
6. Envelopes (twelve)
7. Thread
8. Needle
9. Pin
10. Pencil
11. Bone folder
12. Craft knife
13. Metal ruler
14. Cutting mat
15. Binder clips (2 medium size, 2 large size)
16. Ribbon
17. Glue

NOTES: You can make this book as thick or as thin as you want. Feel free to use different size envelopes. You will see later in the Instructable that I derive my measurements from the envelopes I happen to be using at the time. You're all smart kids and I know you could figure it out.

Step 2: Organize Your Envelopes

For this step you will need the envelopes and medium binder clips.

You need to arrange your envelopes so that the openings will be the outside edge of your inner pages. I alternate my envelopes so that I have facing opening pages (i.e. the backs of the envelopes) and facing closed pages (i.e. the fronts of the envelopes). I have made books where all of the envelopes face the same direction, but I happen to like the alternating look. The only real rule is to not bind the envelopes together on the the sides where they open.

When you've got your envelopes arranged the way you want, take the medium binder clips and secure the envelopes together. Place the clips nearer to the closed edge of the envelopes because this is where you need the envelopes to be stable when you begin binding.

Step 3: Mark Out Your Drill Holes

For this step you will need your clipped together envelopes from Step 2, the metal ruler and pencil.

Align your ruler about a quarter inch from the closed edge of the envelopes. With your pencil, make a small mark every quarter inch down the edge. These marks will be where you will drill out the holes to bind your envelopes together.

Step 4: Pre-drill Your Binding Holes

For this step you need your marked and clipped envelopes and pin.

You want to drill these holes because it will make binding your book so much easier, not to mention neater and faster. There are many methods for pre-drilling your holes. I used a straight pin and pushed it through, but this can be tough on your fingers. Alternatives include using a bookbinders awl, a nail and hammer, or a mini drill tool. Make sure that your drilling goes all the way through to the last envelope.

Step 5: Prepare Your Thread

For this step you will need your needle, thread, and craft knife.

Cut a length of thread that is long enough to be doubled over to a length that you are comfortable sewing with. Remember that if it is too short, you will have to cut more thread and repeat this process to continue binding your envelopes.

Take your doubled length of thread at the loose ends (picture 1) and make a knot by holding the greater length of thread steady in your left hand and looping them once around the forefinger of your right hand. Then pinch your thumb and forefinger together and slide the loop off of your finger (picture 2). This will produce a twisting in the thread which will cause it to knot. This will take some practice if you are not used to sewing.

Once you have knotted the loose ends, thread the needle with the looped end of your doubled thread. You are now ready to begin binding your envelope book.

Step 6: Start Binding Your Envelopes

For this step you will need your drilled, clipped envelopes and your threaded needle.

Begin by inserting the needle into the first hole (picture 1). Pull the thread through until the knot is about one inch away from the hole. Loop the needle back around and insert it through the doubled thread in front of the knot (picture 2). Pull taught and re-insert the needle back through the same hole in the envelopes (picture 3). Pull the thread through and loop back again, this time allowing the thread to loop the top edge of the envelopes (picture 4). Once again, re-insert the needle back through the same hole. Pull through and then move to the second hole and repeat the sewing process (picture 5).

The purpose of this redundancy is security of binding. If your corners and ends are secure, you will have a sturdy final product.

Step 7: Continue Binding Your Envelopes

For this step you will need your drilled, clipped envelopes and your threaded needle.

Once your corner is secure, (I reinforce about 4 holes down using the technique in Step 6) sew down the pre-drilled line of the envelopes in a back and forth manner to the opposing corner. You should have a stitch that looks like that in Picture 1, with every other space empty.

When you reach the other corner, remember to reinforce the stitches on the end and then begin sewing back up to the first corner. When you make this pass, you want to loop the thread around the outside edge of the envelopes. If you find your sewing pattern to not match up with the empty spaces of the first, just double-back until you've enclosed all the empty spaces with thread.

NOTE: If you find your thread starting to tangle, allow the needle and thread to dangle freely from the envelopes. This will unspin the thread and make sewing easier (picture 2).

Step 8: Finish Binding Your Envelopes

For this step you will need your drilled, clipped envelopes and your threaded needle.

Once your envelopes are all sewn together, you can secure any extra thread through the sewn loops (picture 1), pulling the thread through itself in order to create a knot. Additional extra thread you may trim with a craft knife, but I run mine under the loops of the spine. You may have to push the needle under the loops with the tip of your pencil.

At this point, you should have some bound envelopes. Hurray! See Pictures 2 and 3.

Step 9: Determining Your Cover Measurements

For this step you will need your bound envelopes and metal ruler.

Based upon the size of your envelopes, you want measurements for five pieces for your cover elements. Two pieces for the front and back cover and three for the spine.

Your front and back pieces should be a quarter inch longer than your envelopes vertically (picture 1) and a half inch shorter horizontally. The envelopes I used were 4" X 6 7/8"; so my cover dimensions were 3 1/2" X 7 1/8".

Measure the unbound spread of your envelopes (picture 2) to determine the size of your spine. This needs to be much larger than your actual bound spine of envelopes because the plan is to fill up the envelopes with stuff and this will give them room to expand without unsightly cover bulging. In my case, I chose to make the main spine 3/4".

Your spine pieces are the same height as your cover pieces, in my case 7 1/8". The wings should be 1/2". This measurement makes up for the 1/2" we cut off from the cover pieces. The final dimensions for my spine were one piece at 3/4" X 7 1/8" and two at 1/2" X 7 1/8"

Step 10: Cutting Your Cover Pieces

For this step you will need the illustration board, cutting mat, ruler and craft knife.

Lay your board out on the cutting mat and position your ruler based upon the dimensions you determined in Step 9 (picture 1). Hold the ruler tight to the board and make multiple light passes with your craft knife until you feel the cutting mat underneath. Because two of the dimensions repeat, you can always use the first piece cut as a stencil for the next, just be careful not to shave anything off of your first piece. Your cut pieces should look similar to those in Picture 2. Retain your scraps for later.

NOTE: The easiest and safest way to cut illustration board is to use multiple light cuts. This way, you get a clean cut, but if your edge turns out ragged, you can always sand it down with a little sandpaper.

Step 11: Prepare Your Covering Paper

For this step you will need the decorative paper, pencil, craft knife, cutting mat and the front and back cover pieces of illustration board.

Lay your decorative paper face down on the work surface. Position your box pieces as shown in the picture. Make sure to leave 1/2" between the pieces and the edge of the paper (picture 1). Cut out two pieces of decorative paper based on those instructions (picture 2).

With your pencil, trace around the box pieces and a line 1/2" from the outside edge of the pieces. At the corners, cut out notches as shown in Picture 3.

Step 12: Covering the Front and Back Covers

For this step you will need your cut and marked decorative paper pieces from Step 11, permanent spray adhesive, folding bone, and the front and back cover pieces of illustration board.

Spray the marked side of the decorative paper with the spray adhesive. Use a distance of at least six inches for an even coat of spray glue. Place one of the cover pieces onto the appropriate pre-marked space on the decorative paper. Flip the now glued together paper and board over and use the folding bone to burnish the surface so that the outside of the box will have no air bubbles. Flip your paper and board back to the underside. Then fold up the edges of the paper around the board. This is very much like wrapping a present (picture 1). Repeat until both sides are fully wrapped as shown (picture 2).

NOTES: When using spray adhesive, work in a well-ventilated area. It is toxic and flammable. I also wear a breathing mask. If it gets on your hands, WD40 or GooGone work very well to remove it.

Step 13: Prepare Your Spine Binding

For this step you will need the book cloth, ruler, pencil, cutting mat, craft knife and your book cover pieces.

Lay the book cloth face down on the cutting mat. Position your book cover pieces on top of the book cloth as shown in Picture 1. Please note that when placing the pieces, be sure to leave 1/16" -1/8" space between them. If you do not leave this space, your finished book will not open correctly. You want the book cloth to overlap the covers by about 3/4" and to be about 1 1/2" longer than your spine. Cut this piece from the book cloth. Trace around the outside of the spine pieces with your pencil (picture 2).

Step 14: Attaching the Spine

For this step you will need the pre-cut and marked book cloth, permanent spray adhesive, folding bone, and your book cover pieces

Spray the backside (marked side) of the book cloth with the spray adhesive. Use a distance of at least six inches for an even coat of spray glue. Place the spine pieces onto the appropriate pre-marked spaces on the book cloth. Place the front and back covers, face down on either side of the spine, remembering to leave 1/16" -1/8" space between them and the spine pieces.

Fold down the ends of the book cloth over the pieces of cover and spine. Use the folding bone to burnish the surface so that the hinges begin to become defined. The pointed tip of the folding bone is excellent for this job.

Step 15: Adding the Ribbon Marker

For this step you will need your nearly completed book cover, ribbon, craft knife and glue.

With the craft knife, cut a length of ribbon that will be long enough to glue inside the cover and then to extend outside the edge of the book (picture 1). Run a bead of glue about 3" down the main spine and allow to soak the ribbon (picture 2). This will be sufficient to hold the ribbon in place after we add the inner paper in the next step.

Step 16: Adding the Inner Paper

For this step you will need the inner paper, the almost completed book cover, the cutting mat, pencil, craft knife, permanent adhesive and folding bone.

Overlay the inner paper onto the nearly finished book cover. Position so it is about 1/8" away from the outer edge. Mark out and trim any excess paper using the pencil, ruler and craft knife (picture 1). Retain these scraps for later.

Spray the inner paper with the spray adhesive and apply it to the inside of the book cover about 1/8" away from the edges. If you cut this piece squarely (and it should be), then if you align one corner, the rest of the paper should fall into place with little trouble. Burnish the paper to the book cover with the folding bone. Work the folding bone into the crevasses between the spine and cover pieces to emphasize the hinges. Be careful with this, making sure you don't tear the paper.

The book cover is now complete. Hurray!

Step 17: Creating Your Spacers

For this step you will need the scraps of board from Step 10, the scraps of inner paper from Step 16, cutting mat, craft knife, metal ruler, and glue.

Because of the space difference between the size of your spine and the width of the bound side of the envelopes, you need to make spacers to insert the envelopes into the cover.

From the scraps of board, you should cut out strips of board that are the same width as the smaller sections of your spine and the same height as your envelopes. In my case that means 1/2" X 6 3/4". The illustration board I use is 1/16" thick; so I cut out eight strips (picture 1), four for each spacer making my spacers each 1/4" thick. You should adjust your spacers to the amount of envelopes you used and the size of spine you cut.

Glue the spacer pieces together into solid blocks using the glue. I use Elmer's Craft Bond gel because it is a tackier glue and drys quickly. If you run a bead of glue down the middle of a strip (picture 2) and then slide the other strip around on it, that helps the glue to coat both strips evenly. Just repeat that until you've made your two stacks of glued together strips.

Place the glued strips onto the scraps of inner paper and cut out pieces that are about 1" bigger on each side than the strips (picture 3).

Step 18: Covering the Spacers

This step is mostly cosmetic and is optional.

For this step you will need the spacers, cut inner paper scraps from Step 17, pencil, craft knife, cutting mat and permanent spray adhesive.

Place your spacer in the center of the paper. Hold the spacer steady and fold up one end of the paper. With the pencil, trace where the spacer is under the paper and then lines where the paper folds (picture 1). Do the same for the other end.

With your craft knife cut along the marks you made with the pencil. Place the spacer back on the paper and trace where it should be placed (picture 2). This will make place and covering the spacer easier.

Spray the marked side of the paper with spray adhesive. Place the spacer into the appropriate marked space. Fold up the end and then the wings on the ends of the spacer (picture 3). Then fold in the sides.

Viola! You now have two aesthetically pleasing spacers (picture 4).

Step 19: Attaching the Spacers to the Envelopes

For this step you will need your spacers, bound envelopes, glue and large binder clips.

Run a bead of glue along the stitches of your bound envelopes (picture 1). Align your spacer with the edge of the envelope and apply firm pressure. Carefully remove any leaked glue with your finger tip and wipe away on your jeans (or a towel, etc.). Repeat on the other side. Secure the spacers to the envelopes with the binder clips (picture 2) and allow to dry.

Step 20: Attaching the Envelopes to the Cover

For this step you will need the bound envelopes and spacers, book cover, glue and large binder clips.

Apply a generous amount of glue to the inside of book cover in the spine areas (picture 1). Starting out flat, align the spacer with the right side of the spine and then fold the cover over the envelopes. The other spacer should align with the left side of the spine. Secure with the large binder clips (picture 2) and remove any leaked glue as before. Allow to dry.

You're almost done!

Step 21: Enjoying Your Envelope Book

For this step you will need your envelope book and a lot of lovingly collected things that are flat which you want to keep in a super special way.

From here on, just fill up your envelope book with anything that fits in it. Picture 1 is an example of things I found in the junk drawer in my kitchen which I put there because I wanted to keep them and had no real place of honor for them. With this trusty book though, they now have a happy home.

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. For other projects and creations, please visit my journal: [] or my Etsy shop: []

Yours in craft,