Introduction: Make a Keepsake Book of Your Child's Artwork

About: Dad, maker, dreamer, hacker, painter.

If you are a parent, chances are that your child(or children as is my case) produces reams and reams of artwork, craft, cards little writings and whathaveyou that you certainly feel like you should keep, and your child won't let you get rid of. What to do?
My house was becoming overloaded with little piles of paper, time to do something about it.

I happened across this video on youtube, and was inspired to alleviate the problem while preserving all the work.

I didn't have all the things that were used in the video that inspired me on hand, so I just improvised my own bookbinding jig, it works pretty good (from an amateur book binders perspective). It is certainly sufficient for the task at hand, and I can see myself using it again once my daughters pile has grown a little larger.

It defiantly helped go through some of the craft bins and art piles.It made for a fun activity, my son was even got involved in picking and sorting and best of all purging.

My wife was really pleased with this one as it reduced a lot of mess and made it into something that my son can keep forever, which is why I called it a keepsake book. 

Step 1: Hunter/Gatherer

To build the binding jig, you will need to procure the following
  • Some scraps of plywood or Masonite....or both really.
  • a couple of screws
  • 1 pack of hook and loop strips from the dollar store
  • a drill
  • a saw (to cut the scraps accordingly)
  • a pencil to make marks
  • a straight edge
  • carpenters glue

To make the book, you will need
  • book innards (i.e. sheets of paper, with stuff on or not, this is really up to you)
  • some stiff cardboard (to make the covers)
  • a strip of fabric (to run up the spine)
  • a strip of ribbon or mesh
  • something to cover the book in (packing paper looks and works well, I did a collage using a variety of textured surfaces. Ripped paper bags, mesh, material, kleenex, birch bark, tissue paper, textured paper, whatever I could find really.
  • Modge-Podge
  • white glue

Step 2: The Jig

The Jig (Irish: port) is a form of lively folk dance in compound meter, as well as the accompanying dance tune. It developed in 16th century England, and was quickly adopted on the Continent where it eventually became the.....wait a second...that's not right...

Sorry. Just like to jar the reader once in a while to make sure they are paying attention.

In this case the `jig`is basically just a couple of boards to squish paper together.

The construction is pretty simple, look through the pictures to see how I made mine.

The bottom board is cut slightly larger than the page size I am after, and the top board is slightly less wide than a sheet.

There are guides along two edges of the bottom base, these are there to help square up the pages. 

The top has an extra strip attached to add some extra weight and also makes a good handle for positioning and applying pressure.

Put two strips of velcro hoops along the length of the compression mandrels handle, and then screw hook strips to each of the four corresponding sides of the base. This allows you to compress the two and then secure with the velcro.

The only innovations in this jig is the slits cut along the binding edge, and these just facilitate sewing the spine, and the use of velcro as opposed to a clamp. I was able to achieve a decent amount of compression with just the velcro.

Now you will need a stack of paper to place in the jig to make another couple of marks.

Step 3: Sort and Purge

We had a lot of stuff to go through. Reams and reams and reams.

For our first book we concentrated only on the artwork that was on paper, drawings painting and colourings. We aim to make another one for all the paper crafts and larger pieces by photographing them and printing them.

This was where everyone could really get involved, hunting through the house for artwork, sorting and purging. Deciding what went in and what did  not.

There were some pretty nice pieces, I included a few photos of my sons work because I am so proud of him.

Step 4: Set the Pages

Now it is time to use your jig and start making a book.

Using the jig is pretty straight forward. Line up the pages, using the guide edges to square them. I put down two blank sheets first and finished with two blank sheets. Just seems right like that, not really necessary.

Once all the pages are in position, you can place the compression mandrel on top, squeeze them down and attach the velcro

Using a small drill bit, drill all along the edge of the pages at each of your slits. 

Thread a needle and start sewing. The first hole make a knot. After that, you just drop the needle down through the hole, pulling through the loop that is created before the thread has been pulled all the way through. do that all the way along, and then tie off another decent knot.

Now you just need to paint on some white glue, and set a ribbon or other mesh-like fabric along the edge. I used a scrap of ribbon.

Once the ribbon is roughly in place, loosen the velcro, rotate the book, and compress the bound end while the glue sets.

Step 5: Make a Cover

In this step, you will want to follow the general formula, but you will probably want to finish your cover your own way.

Mainly you will need some nice rigid cardboard. I used some no.27, it is a good thickness and heavily compressed, so it is very rigid and strong. Nice stuff.

You`ll need to cut two pieces just slightly larger than your pages. 2-3mm extra. And also a strip that matches the thickness of your book.

Line up the covers, leaving a small gap between the pieces. Apply a liberal amount of glue and connect the three via a sheet of paper.

Apply another liberal amount of glue now to the spine and the newly attached paper. lay the bound pages inside and carefully wrap the covers around the whole thing.

Put it back into the jig and compress again until dry.

Now all that remains is to decorate or cover your cardboard to make a more appealing book. I wanted a crafty look and didn`t have enough brown paper on hand to cover the whole book, so I went ahead and created a collage look, using pretty much anything that I could find.

Lastly you will need to wrap the outside edge in a strip of tough fabric. I used some upholstery fabric that I had around that sort of matched the look.

For an added little touch (as an afterthought) I painted a little title and image. I kept it simple and childlike, I did not want to detract from any of my sons work inside.

When the whole thing is finished, give it a solid coat of Modge-Podge to protect it and also to glue down and smooth out any of the bits of thread that might still be hanging off of the binding strip.

Now go enjoy your new book and also all the space that it has saved. I was amazed at how much fit into this one once it was all compressed down.

Share and enjoy!

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