DIY: How to Bind Your Own Books & Journals

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I recently took a fine arts course in bookmaking and had to go through the entire process of making a book, from start to finish: writing, layout, printing, and binding. I was able to produce a slightly larger book because I had access to the correct printing tools, but you can easily create a small book of your own on letter size paper.

I won’t go into the technical aspects of bookmaking (i.e., InDesign, how to print booklets, etc.), but I will go over the basic steps needed to bind your own books! You can use this technique to make homemade notebooks and journals as well — they look beautiful and are so much more fun to write in when you’ve produced them yourself. And you can go crazy with selecting the perfect papers and creating your own covers.

(NB: This is a pretty detailed post, and I tried to include as much information and helpful instructions as possible in case you want to make your own books, notebooks, or journals. Feel free to just browse through the photos if you’re interested in getting a feel for it!)

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Before you begin, you will need the following items. All of these can be purchased at an art supply store:*

  1. Enough paper for your book, each sheet to be folded in half, of the proper grain direction
  2. 2 sheets of slightly thicker paper (card stock works perfectly) for your flyleaf
  3. Supplies for your cover: either a thick card stock if you want a softcover book, or book board and book cloth if you want to make a hardcover book.
  4. Bookbinding thread (or, if you want to save money, a really thick, coarse thread)
  5. Bookbinding needle (aka just a really heavy needle)
  6. An awl for hand-punching holes (this is the one I use)
  7. A bone folder (if you want to be a perfectionist; otherwise you could just use the edge of a pencil for folding and creasing)
  8. An X-Acto knife for cutting, with replacement blades
  9. A surface to cut on: a cutting mat is ideal, but a piece of cork board is an easy and cheap alternate
  10. A good ruler
  11. PVA glue
  12. Glue brush
  13. Waste paper to contain glueing

*I know some of the above items can seem daunting to find, and some of the terms confusing. They are really not! Binding a book is a very exact process, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. You just need to pay attention to the details before you begin if you want the best results.

To make this a little less confusing, let’s discuss some basic terms for bookmaking.

  • Signature: A signature is a booklet of “text” pages (which can be blank if you’re making a notebook) in your book. Each signature is folded, hole-punched with an awl, and sewn as one set — so you don’t need to sew each individual page, just each signature. If you look at spines of some books, you can see these page groupings (although not all books have them).
  • Text block: All the signatures that make up the “text” pages of your book. Only two signatures are excluded from the text block: the flyleaves.
  • Flyleaf: Fancy word for the first and last signatures of a book. The flyleaf doesn’t have writing on it, and its main function is to allow you to attach the cover (if a softcover, you the flyleaf is reinforced and becomes the cover; if a hardcover, the flyleaf is glued to the back of the cover). Generally, the flyleaf is a thicker paper, like a card stock. Open any hardcover book and you’ll see the flyleaves at the front at the back.
  • Grain: All paper has a “grain direction” — one direction (long or short) will be weaker and easier to fold along than the other. I cannot stress how important grain direction is. If you want your book to lie flat and not pop open, you need to have proper grain direction. Most art papers will tell you the grain direction, otherwise you can test it for yourself: gently push against the long edge, and then short edge, of the paper as if you were going to fold it. Whichever edge gives you the least resistance is the way the grain runs — so make sure you cut your pages and structure your book so that you are folding along the grain at the center. The grain in your cover and flyleaves should also parallel the grain of the paper for the text block.
  • Bookboard: A hardcover board used to make hard covers. You can find it in the bookmaking section of any art supply store. It looks tough, but you can hand cut it with an X-Acto knife by making lots of shallow cuts along the edge of a ruler.
  • Bookcloth: Special cloth used to cover bookboard. Can be fabric or leather, and you can find many varieties online and in art supply stores. Also has a grain.

Here are some diagrams to explain all that (click to enlarge).

Basic grain direction:

grain direction diagram

Signatures (as viewed from the spine):

signatures

Flyleaf in a softcover book:

softcover flyleaf

Flyleaf in a hardcover book:

hardcover flyleaf

Now that all the technical terms are explained, you can begin producing your notebook or journal. (Again, these same steps work for a printed book, but I won’t be covering them here.)

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Above: I used a decorative flyleaf for my book.

1. Cut your paper, and assemble your signatures. Decide what size you want your book to be and make sure you account for the fold. For example, if you want each page to be 8×9″, each sheet of paper will be 16×9″. I would recommend no more than four large sheets per signature (so 16 pages in a finished book). If you are using thicker paper, you can do two or three sheets to make sewing easier. You should aim to have at least three signatures in your text block, in addition to your flyleaves — otherwise the book will look weird. Make sure your grain direction runs along the fold (as pictured in the first diagram for an 8×9″ book). Also cut your flyleaves at this point (the equivalent of two 16×9″ sheets if your book is 8×9″), and make sure the grain for those matches. Fold each group of signatures (and your flyleaves, separately) and cement the crease using your bone folder (or the edge of a pencil, but a bone folder is better).

2. Create a transfer paper. The transfer paper is a sheet of paper that shows you where to punch your holes for sewing, so that the holes align between signatures. The transfer sheet should be the height of your book . Fold in half lengthwise and keep folded. Widthwise, fold in half, then fold the ends in about 1/2-3/4 of an inch, then fold in half again. Unfold, and mark “holes” with a pencil as indicated. Lie your transfer paper flat on your cutting surface so that one long half is against the surface, and the other is perpendicular. Using your awl at a 45 degree angle (just estimate it), punch holes using the guide marks on the transfer paper. Unfolded, your transfer sheet should look like this, with the Xs indicating approximately where to punch holes:

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3. Punch holes in your signatures. Use your transfer paper to do this: align the transfer paper inside each signature, making sure either the top or bottom is always aligned. Use your awl to punch through the transfer paper and all the pages of your signature at a 45 degree angle. Make sure you punch all the pages per signature at one time. Repeat for each signature and the flyleaves.

4. Measure your thread. Measure the amount of thread you need using this count: the height of your book (generous), times the number of signatures (including flyleaves), plus two. You can thread your needle by flattening some of the thread near one end with your bone folder, threading the needle, pushing the needle through the flattened area, and tightening.

5. You are reading to begin sewing! This is where it gets a little tricky, but the stitches are easy and completely manageable. First, you’ll be sewing on your cutting surface. Assemble your signatures in the correct order (the way you want your book/notebook to read), and then place your book, front cover side down, with the page edges facing towards you. Flip the top signature towards you, so that you are looking at the spine (note: this should be the last signature in the completed book — the back cover flyleaf). Always start with the back of the book and work your way to the front. In all of the following diagrams, you are looking directly at the spine of the book — which is what you should see while you are sewing.

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6. Start from outside the signature on the right side and always pull the thread in the direction you are sewing. Push the needle through the first hole, then out through the second, and so on, until you reach the end. Pull the entire thread through, leaving a loose tail (about 3-4 inches) at the right side of the book. Flatten the signature with your bone folder.

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7. Place the next signature on top of the first. This will be the second-to-last signature in your completed book, or the last signature of your text block. Now you will be sewing in the the opposite direction, back towards the beginning. Go through the first hole on the left, and out the second. Then, loop the needle under the section of thread that remains on the outside of the first signature you threaded. Go through the third hole, out the fourth, and repeat this process until you reach the right end of the second signature.

8. Tie a square knot to secure the first two signatures. This is pretty straightforward: right over left, then left over right. (So you’re basically just tying two regular knots.) Be sure to tighten the thread as much as possible and flattening the book with your bone folder before securing with the knot. Always work on on a flat surface while sewing, and try and keep the book as flat as possible, with the spine aligned (preferably at the edge of a table).

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9. Add the third signature. For this signature, you will be sewing right to left again, as with the first signature. Go through the first hole on the left, out the second, and loop under the thread segment for the second signature only. Always, always, only loop under the thread for the signature directly under the one you are currently sewing. Repeat until you reach the left end of the signature, then tie a kettle stitch: push the needle towards the back of the book, going between the previous two signatures and before the final hole, and pull the needle out in the direction you are sewing (in this case, to the left). Pull the thread through to create a small loop. Loop the needle under the loop and pull straight up to tighten. (Again, remember to tighten all your thread and flatten your book with a  bone folder before this.) Repeat this step (with mild differences, depending on whether you are sewing to the right or the left) for all the remaining signatures. Here’s a slightly more detailed diagram of the kettle stitch:

kettle stitch-2

10. Finish the last signature with two kettle stitches. Essentially, the last signature (which will be your front cover flyleaf) is added the same way as all the other text block signatures, except you will secure it twice with the kettle stitch. Trim the excess thread to about 1 inch, but no further (if having it stick out bothers you, carefully secure each bit of excess thread to the spine with a dab of PVA glue).

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11. Once the text block and flyleaves have been bound with thread, add the covers to your book. There are many ways to do the covers, and you can get creative with them. Here, I’ll go over two very basic ways to do covers: softcover and hardcover, both with exposed spines (although it is fairly easy to modify so that the spines are covered). The initial diagrams I used to explain the role of the flyleaf can also be helpful in visualizing these two alternatives.

Softcover:

Notice that each flyleaf creates four pages within your book, and that the interior two pages of each flyleaf can be glued together to create a thicker cover. While you can elect to glue them directly together, it is more prudent to glue a piece of card stock between them as reinforcement, so measure out a piece the size of your book (slightly smaller so that the edges don’t stick out), keeping proper grain direction in mind. Slip a sheet of waste paper between your flyleaf and text block to catch runoff glue, and keep it from ruining your book. Then, apply glue directly to the entire card stock insert (not the flyleaf paper) on one side, and attach to the interior flyleaf page on the right (the left if you are doing the back cover). Smooth with your bone folder to avoid bubbles, and repeat with the other side of the card stock to create a softcover. Then, you’re free to decorate the cover however you like — applying a label usually looks nice.

Hardcover:

This is a bit more complicated because you need more materials, so I’ve drawn out the key steps (click to enlarge):

hardcover binding

Essentially, you need to measure the size cover you would like out of the book board (again, be conscious of the grain). Remember to add a little extra length and height so that the cover hangs over the edge of the text block a bit — I recommend 1/8 of an inch per side. Don’t forget that you don’t want overhang on the edge with the spine — so you’ll add 1/8″ to the width, and 1/4″ total to the height of the book. Next, spread glue directly on the bookboard, and place on the cloth cover you would like for the book, keeping the grain lined up. Be sure to smooth out immediately with your bone folder. Cut about a 3/4″ around the edge of the bookboard, and then cut off the corners as marked in the diagram. Before measure the 45 degree angle, leave a bit of edge the thickness of the bookboard (you can use a piece of scrap bookboard to do this). Glue each edge of excess cloth onto the back of the bookboard — place glue directly onto the back of the cloth and stand the bookboard up to press the edge in before folding the cloth over. Secure with a bone folder. Do two opposite edges first, then the next set, being carefully to glue the corners in. Repeat to create the back cover. Secure the hard cover to the flyleaf by applying glue directly to the first page of the flyleaf (remember to use waste paper) and pressing the cover onto it. Smooth out imperfections with your bone folder, and repeat for the back cover. Add a label to your front cover (or not), and you’re good to go!

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Congratulations, you’ve just made a book!

Whew, okay — I think that’s it in terms of the technical process. To expedite the process of hand making gorgeous notebooks, journals, and personal books (all of which make great gifts, by the way), here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:

  • Be precise. Try not to skip the little steps — these are what truly make your book look well done. Specifically: pay attention to cutting precisely, grain direction, tightening your thread constantly, pulling in the direction you are sewing, and ALWAYS using your bone folder to flatten paper.
  • Be creative! Above is the basic formula for bookbinding, but experimentation makes it great. Use an art paper for your flyleaf (or, if you’re doing a hardcover, cut art paper to the size of your flyleaf, place it inside the flyleaf, sew it into the book, and glue to the interior pages of the flyleaf). Experiment with different ways to design your cover — labels, collage, etc.
  • Learn how to cut properly. When you’re hand cutting anything, always, always cut towards yourself. Stand up to give yourself leverage, and hold your ruler firmly in place as you cut against it.
  • Take your time. Sure, bookbinding can take a while. But its kind of like knitting (or, at least I assume so) — its relaxing as a result. This goes hand-in-hand with being precise.
  • When it comes to glue, thinly and quickly cover the entire surface you are applying glue to. Start at the center of the surface and work your way out with a brush to get an even coating.
  • Quality of materials will make a big difference in the final product — especially the paper you use.
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the comments if you have any specific questions!
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DIY: How to Make Handmade Postcards

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Snail mail is one of my favorite things to receive. There’s nothing like opening your mailbox and (after sorting through all the junk catalogues and bills) finding a letter from one of your best friends, or even a Christmas card from distant relatives. There’s a quality to handwritten mail (and postcards, short as they may be) that just can’t be surpassed with smart phones, Facebook, and tweets.

As far as postcards are concerned, they’re super easy to send and require much less effort than letters, but are just as wonderful to receive! In my experience, the funnier and shorter the message the better — the dull (and jealousy-generating) “We’re in Ireland, it’s so beautiful here! Miss you!” will never beat something hilarious or an inside joke. I’ve gotten some pretty funny postcards from friends, and I’ve saved every one.

Postcards are not only a great way to catch up with faraway friends you haven’t seen in ages, they are also super easy (and economical) to make — chances are you can create an endless amount of original and beautiful postcards without spending a dime. They’re fast, too, which means you can mess up over and over without wasting time or money, and you can perfect your postcards to a design you love. So, without further ado, here’s my guide to building gorgeous do-it-yourself postcards for friends and family!

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Supplies

With just a few simple ingredients, you’ll soon be on your way to creating your own snail mail confections!

Some basics you’ll need:

  • 4×6 inch blank flashcards or 4×6 inch template
  • Cardstock — white is preferable, but you can experiment!
  • Scissors
  • Colored pens, pencils & markers
  • Metallic Sharpies
  • Mod Podge/glue (Mod Podge is really preferable because it acts as a sealant)
  • Glue brushes
  • Food coloring
  • Plastic disposable cups
  • Old magazines & newspapers

Optional but fun:

  • Colored ribbons
  • Needle & thread
  • Metallic paints
  • Watercolors
  • Sequins
  • Artists’ paper with various designs
  • Old photos
  • Old film
  • Fortune cookie fortunes
  • Anything else you can think of that could theoretically be glued to a postcard

I’ve separated the remainder of this post into two parts: I’ll start with the basics, then go over some more detailed instructions for the example postcards I’ve used here.

The Basics

Step One: Prepare your work surface. Since you’ll be working with glue and sharpies it can get a little messy, so you’ll want to put down an old newspaper to prevent getting any glue on your desk or counter. You’ll also want a plastic disposable cup with a little whatever to store your brushes in between dipping them in glue. Additionally, a few paper towels isn’t a bad idea.

step2 {Tracing a 4×6 postcard onto cardstock}

Step Two: Cut out a 4×6 piece of white cardstock, or glue two 4×6 index cards together (they tend to be flimsy, so you’ll want to reinforce them for the mail). When you add layers to your postcards they will also become thicker. Make sure the glue is even and get the corners! Be careful not to drip too much glue on the back because you won’t be able to write over it.

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Step Three: Prepare the back of the postcard by drawing a line down the center as shown (I prefer to draw mine a little to the right so I have more writing space) and then by drawing 3-4 perpendicular lines on the right for the mailing address. I just eyeballed these and used a ruler for a straight edge — don’t worry if they’re not all perfectly in-line. You can also make little designs on the back around the edges or just leave it plain. (And yes, that is my super cool presidential ruler, circa second grade.)

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{An example background made of magazine text blocks}

Step Four: Decide what you’re going to put on the front and gather the necessary materials. You can do a simple design or you can make a postcard from a specific place (I promise this looks cool regardless of whether or not you’ve actually been to Paris, Italy, or wherever). You can cut out magazine ads or words, draw something and cut it out to use, color directly on the postcard, or create multiple layers to your postcard using more cardstock (more on this technique later). Either way, I recommend gluing down a basic background first — whether it’s colored newspaper, shimmery art paper, or a magazine ad — to serve as the canvas for your design.

Step Five: Finish adding layers to your postcard. Give the entire front a coat of Mod Podge — this will act as a sealant and waterproof your design for any tumultuous experiences in the U.S. postal system. Important: do not coat the back. This will back it impossible to write on. Also, be careful going over colored pens — they may run.

Step Six: Write and address your postcard, pop a fun stamp on it, and send it in the mail!

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Specific Designs & Techniques

Here I’ll provide examples of some of the cards I’ve made and details as to how you can achieve the same result.

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Postcards from Magazines

One of the easiest ways to create postcards is to grab a stack of fashion or travel magazines, cut out one (or a few) of your favorite pictures and words and layer them — you can make a detailed collage or keep it simple, as I’ve done here.

For the New England postcard, I used a Ralph Lauren add and cut my own strips of cardstock to glue on top. This is an easy way to add text to your postcards without writing directly on the background. Finished with sparkly Mod Podge.

For the shoes postcard, I used metallic paint and a thin brush to paint over a Calvin Klein ad. If you find a simple image from a magazine, it is fun to add details to it using this method. I would recommend a metallic Sharpie for this — it is much more precise and easy to work with than metallic paint. Finished with a cut-out word and sparkly Mod Podge. Also: this postcard doesn’t make much sense, but I still like it. Point is — yours don’t have to make sense either. Just let your creativity lead you where it will.

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Incorporating Your Drawings

It is also possible to create your own drawings or designs (I recommend doing this on pieces of 4×6 paper or index cards so you have a rough idea of how they’ll look once transferred to the postcard) and make them part of your postcard. Colored pencil is also great because the colors won’t run, even if you liberally apply Mod Podge.

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For this butterfly postcard, I drew this butterfly freehand and colored it in with some pencils. Then, I cut it out with scissors, leaving a white border — you don’t have to leave a border, but it’s all about how you want your final postcard to look. I had already prepared a piece of 4×6 cardstock with colorful yellow and gold artist paper glued down as a background, and I simply glued the butterfly design on top. Finished with a thin metallic paint coat around the butterfly and a sparkly Mod Podge sealant.

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Using Dyes

The main technique this particular postcard makes use of is the application of food coloring. You can get the same effect with pricey artist inks, but for the purpose of making basic postcards you really don’t need to be spending that kind of money. Food coloring is also great because it doesn’t dry out over night. I used neon food coloring to achieve the colors on my postcards; I imagine regular food coloring will come out slightly different.

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For this design, I used an index card to paint the background before gluing it to another index card to form the whole postcard. You will want to make the painted part separately and let it dry first, because the food coloring will soak through. To make the inks, use a plastic disposable cup for each color of food coloring. Put in 10-15 drops and add very small amounts of water slowly. Use a brush and a spare index card to test the color — you may want it darker and thicker (less water), or lighter and more watery (more water). You can see the amounts I used for about 15 drops/cup above.

Next, simply use a brush to add color — don’t be afraid to let it get messy! I only used one brush, and I just dipped it in water before switching colors. Once the dye dried, I added a few splashes of gold paint and finished off the postcard with an old fortune cookie and matte Mod Podge.

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As you can see, I added some details to the back of this card. In this case, I had gotten some splotches of paint on the back and didn’t want to glue a second backing on (although that is always an option, so don’t worry!). I just dabbed some gold paint over the mistakes and drew some swirly flowers over it with a thin Sharpie. Problem solved!

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Using Newspaper

The same food coloring method used for the previous postcard can also be applied to newspaper — simply open to a sheet of paper (preferably one with a lot of small print) and swipe on the dye. Let dry before cutting out and gluing on to your postcard.

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To complete this card, I colored over the newspaper with black Sharpie and did a more graphic design. This is a really easy method — you don’t have to make a “New York” postcard, but you can just doodle over the newspaper with Sharpie! To give the card a polished finish, I used the matte Mod Podge.

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Postcards with Multiple Layers

Using multiple layers of cut out cardstock is a really easy way to add dimension and depth to your postcard and also maintain clean lines.

First, decide on the design you want and sketch out your layers on a 4×6 card (I’ve only used one extra layer here, but you could probably make something really awesome with a bunch). Skyline silhouettes often make good layers. Cut out your layer carefully and arrange over a second 4×6 index card — this will form your postcard. Color both the layers separately — for this design, I used a dark blue marker for the background and then colored in the top layer a light pink. I detailed both with blue ink and gold paint after gluing the layers together. Finished with a heavy coat of matte Mod Podge to keep the layers together and waterproof the design.

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Adding Embellishments

This multi-layer postcard uses the food coloring dye technique and is tied up with a pretty ribbon.

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To create this postcard, I drew on a blank card with pencil and then black Sharpie/colored pens, and used a light coat of the dye over the drawing. I glued an extra layer above the drawing to frame it. To add a bow like the one here, first tie it from ribbon and then secure with a needle and thread. I know, I know…it’s a pain. But glue — even hot glue — is NOT going to hold up in the mail. after sewing the ribbon on, you can glue a new back onto your postcard to hide the knot from the thread.

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…Now all that’s left is to write a short message on your card and pop it in the mail! Your friends will appreciate it, especially now that you have a stack of gorgeous homemade postcards to send them. You can also try making more by printing out your favorite photos and gluing them to an index card — whatever you choose to do, the combinations for these are endless. So get writing!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post — please let me know your thoughts by dropping me a comment below!

Last Minute Style Ideas for New Year’s Eve

Hello readers! (And sorry for the terrible delays in posting. It’s atrocious, I know. Please feel free to email me and complain.)

I have always been somewhat ambivalent about New Year’s Eve/New Year’s as “holidays.” What’s the big deal? It’s just a date change on a calendar. We don’t celebrate the first of every month, do we?

Rant aside, NYE is usually filled with glamorous parties and bucketloads of sequins. As much as I am confused by the concept of New Year’s as a holiday, I will never pass up a chance to throw on a fabulous new party look. Here, in no particular order, are some of the chicest ways to ring in the new year — with inspiration shamelessly stolen from all corners of the blogosphere, of course.

1. Layering sequins. Anything sparkling and fabulous is always perfect for NYE, but it’s also possible to avoid looking like every other girl on the planet, in a plain sequined tank dress and pumps. Tracy from The Closet Shopper (one of my favorite bloggers — she is absolutely fabulous!) gave us a preview of her holiday party looks in a guest post at Tinfoil Tiaras. She smartly layered a shimmering jacket over a (slightly) more subdued black sequined dress and cinched it with a simple belt for a look that has just as much shine, but is so much more unique. Look for sparkly separates to layer and ground them with simple black accessories.

2. Ponytail cuffs. My older sister emailed me this DIY post from Oh the Lovely Things the other day, knowing I would love it. I’ve always been a fan of glammed up ponytails, and find them so much chicer than wearing one’s hair down. (My problem is that I have very fine hair, and my ponytails tend to lack volume and texture. Any tips to remedy this would be greatly appreciated.) And aren’t these ponytail cuffs just so gorgeous? Definitely one of the easiest ways to add instant glam to your NYE look.

3. Punches of color. As much as a strict palette of gold, silver, and black is observed during New Year’s, stand out from the crowd with a few bright pops of color: think bold lips, a red shoe, or colorful stacked bangles. Harper’s Bazaar offers up a few tips on getting the perfect red lip at every age.

4. …Or, just break out of the mold altogether. Who needs punches of color when you can rock a fabulous jewel-toned frock? Definitely a fantastic option for New Year’s Eve; just be sure to use sequins wisely (if at all) and accessories with some sparkly oversized jewels instead. P.S. I Made This has an awesome DIY for a totally over-the-top jeweled necklace.

5. Glitter-dipped nails. I’ve been seeing these around quite a bit lately, and, well, they are one manicure trend that I actually like. (I’m not so much a fan of crackle or magnetic nail polish.) Also one of the easiest manicures to maintain because chipping is barely noticeable. Try this simple tutorial from MaieDae and substitute your favorite colors!

6. Comfy (but chic) heels. If you’re going to be wearing heels for NYE, and you know you’re going to be standing in them all night, why would you wear a pair that is unbearably painful after half an hour? Wear your comfiest single-hued pair of heels for New Year’s (aka, your investment shoes) instead of the crazy sequined ones and you’ll be much happier. (On another note, I highly recommend the Mona pumps from J. Crew. So comfortable yet timeless, they go with everything, and they come in leather, suede, patent, and satin!)

Most importantly, though: experiment with fashion and have fun! Although it is a bit clichéd (and I will refrain from bitterness here), New Year’s is all about welcoming the new you (and all resolutions you’ll be breaking within the next week). Enjoy!

{Source: Images courtesy of Tracy at The Closet Shopper; 5 Inch and Up; Sephora; J. Crew (crystal Venus flytrap necklace, $85); J. Crew (Mona leather pumps, $198); MaieDae.}

DIY: Fun Magazine Bowls

You’ve most likely seen magazine bowls before in craft or fair trade shops. When this post popped up in my inbox the other day, I knew I had to make these immediately! There are many different techniques for making magazine bowls, but I used this one from The Art Sandwich — one of my new favorite blogs. It’s packed with fun DIY projects (this mural is next on my list) and design inspiration … be sure to check it out!

I pretty much followed her instructions, although I added and changed some minor details, so I’m reproducing hers (with my changes) below.

For this project, you will need:

  • Magazines (I used one issue of Marie Claire)
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Mod Podge (you can also use a glue stick, but I find that Mod Podge holds better, plus it has several different functions)

I was very unwilling at first to cut up my magazines (I really, really dislike destroying anything unless I have a second copy), but then I realized I had a bunch of old copies of Seventeen that I hated and an issue of Marie Claire (which I don’t read). Long story short, I didn’t have to sacrifice any precious issues of Teen Vogue or Elle. And in the end, I really only needed one magazine.

STEP ONE: Go through your magazines and pull out pages to use for your bowl … t.a.s. from The Art Sandwich recommends using colorful pages (from ads and fashion spreads) and staying away from the thicker paper in perfume ads. I would also try and stay away from pages that could be potentially awkward — you don’t want someone’s cleavage (!!), Tim Gunn’s “Make It Work” face, or a “Mother Nature’s Monthly Gift” ad poking out from your bowl, do you? (If you do, that’s fine.)

I came across this strange ad (no, I didn’t use it), which for some reason has always creeped me out:

Anyway, that’s irrelevant. Moving on…

STEP TWO: You’ll need to cut each page into thirds. What I did was fold one page into thirds (like one would do with a letter to fit it into an envelope). Then I unfolded it and placed it over a stack of pages and cut them into strips all at once. I had a pretty decent pile in under 5 minutes.

STEP THREE: Fold each cut strip into smaller strips (as shown above) and secure with glue. I made about 100 … let me just say that you definitely won’t need that many unless you’re planning on making a pretty large bowl. I used 72 total for my bowl, which was almost exactly 6 inches across at the end.

Click to enlarge.

You can fold and glue them however you like, but above is the specific method I used. It looks a little complicated, but it’s really not and you always have a clean line.  This part takes a while … hang in there; the more you make the faster you get!

STEP FOUR: Create a base for your bowl — mine ended up being 2.7 inches across (which was actually fairly large and could have definitely been used for a bigger bowl, as mine had fairly steep sides). Start with one strip and roll it into a coil, securing with hot glue and leaving the very end of the strip unglued so you can tuck the next strip into the coil. Keep glueing it down with hot glue quite often, to keep the coil held tightly together. Also be sure to do this against a flat surface so the bottom of your bowl is flat (its okay if some of the thicker strips pop up on the top side of the coil).

STEP FIVE: Once you’re reading to start building your bowl up, continue with the method you used to create the base coil. Just incrementally start glueing the strips a little bit higher than the last — eventually it will start to flesh out into a bowl shape. For a steeper sided bowl, glue the strips higher; for a more shallow, dish-like bowl, use smaller height increases when adding strips. (My bowl ended up being steeper, mainly because I was impatient. The Art Sandwich’s one was much nicer-looking, in my opinion.)

STEP SIX: Once your bowl is the size and shape you want, glue the last strip down. I finished my bowl off by giving it a healthy coat of Mod Podge inside and out to help hold it together and give it a more durable finish.

… And you’re done! These bowls are small (unless you’re willing to invest days into creating a larger one), but as t.a.s. at The Art Sandwich points out, a magazine bowl “certainly packs a punch and is a great desk or vanity accessory.” They are well worth the effort! Mine is a little messy, but I look forward to making more in the future when I have some extra time. I’m planning on using it for displaying fun bracelets or holding some of my makeup:

What do you think of these fun bowls?

{ Source: Images by me. Feel free to use — just leave a credit/link! }

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diy: bulletin board chic

Let’s just say I have a certain infatuation with bulletin boards (hence my Twitter background). I absolutely adore anything corkboard — it’s a great way to organize your thoughts, hang up your jewelry, keep in mind quotes that inspire you, etc. The list is practically endless. There is one problem with the typical Staples bulletin board: it’s pretty ugly. And I prefer my corkboard to be aesthetically pleasing.

Enter bulletin board makeovers. It’s quite simple to make your own bulletin boards or revamp one of your old ones: I’ve included both ways here.

Option #1: make your own!

Making your own bulletin boards is super easy and allows you to get as creative as you want with the final result. If you do end up making your own, be sure to go for a smaller one or at least have a piece of corkboard big enough to fit the frame you’ll be using. Also, I do recommend glueing two pieces of corkboard together if they fit behind the frame (just make the one closest to the wall a bit smaller if you need room for nails to hang the final result), as store-bought corkboard sheets can be a bit flimsy.

For this project, you will need:

  • Frames (I used a few 8×10 inch wood ones I picked up at a discount price at a arts and crafts store)
  • Paint (whatever color(s) you want your frame to be) & brush(es)
  • Corkboard sheets (I got a a couple 12×12 4-packs at Staples for $10)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors, newspaper for the floor, masking tape, frame decorations, etc.

I started off with these white and green frames I had picked up from an arts and crafts store:

I decided I didn’t really like the colors for my room, so I used this gorgeous metallic gold paint on the edges to create for matching gold and white frames. (Of course, if your frame is already how you want it, you can skip this step.) I did start painting the whole frame at one point — as you can see below — but a little white paint worked perfectly as a touch-up. From then on I used masking tape to make sure I didn’t get any excess gold paint on the white section of the frame and kept a clean line.

To fit the corkboard into the frame, I didn’t use a specific method, but I traced the relative outline of the frame on the corkboard and trimmed it with scissors, narrowing down the shape until it fit inside the frame. Since the cork was pretty thin, I then traced the cut sheet onto a new sheet so I ended up with two sheets the same size that I glued together for a thicker piece. I then glued this into the painted frame.

The final result:

I now have three matching bulletin boards that I’m going to put up next to each other to keep notes, reminders, and quotes in. And it was all pretty easy! (Especially because, although I’m crafty, I don’t like any projects that involve sawing wood, electric screwdrivers, sewing machines, irons, and the like.)

Option #2: upgrade!

I don’t have a photo of what it looked like before, but let me assure you: it was quite horrendous. I had redone it in the past (far, far in the past) by painting the corkboard background white and stamping primary-colored fleur de lis’ on it. And then I taped the edges with green electrical tape. Not so pretty.

For this project, you will need:

  • Old bulletin board
  • Paint (any color(s) you like) & brush(es)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Fabric (to match the paint)
  • Lace trim (to match)
  • Scissors, newspaper (to protect the floor), etc.

First, I stripped off the tape and then painted the edges with the gold paint from Option #1. Then I cut a piece of fabric slightly larger than the corkboard section of the bulletin board and used a hot glue gun to fold the edges over a bit (so they wouldn’t fray later). Once I had a piece of fabric to fit the board, I started by glueing down the top edge and then stretching the fabric to fit perfectly (it’s good to use a slightly stretchy fabric and have a final piece that’s a little smaller than the space you want to fit, so it ends up taught). I finished it off by softening up the gold edge with a little bit of lace (again, I just used a hot glue gun!).

And . . . voilà! A perfect place to hang my necklaces:

Here’s a close-up of the lace detailing:

What DIY projects have you done recently?

{ Images by me. Feel free to use — just leave a credit/link! }

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