Make It: Greeting Card Keepsake Book

Birthdays, holidays, just-thinking-of-you-days . . . we give and receive greeting cards throughout the year, and often they’re too meaningful to simply put in the recycling bin. I have some cards that are over a decade old that I’ll likely hold onto forever, such as the congratulatory ones sent when each of my sons was born. That’s why I love Lee Steiner’s idea for turning a random, messy stack of cards into a single collection of paper art, giving the messages an even more special status.

I discovered Lee’s paper art project in a back issue of Pages, which is available at the Interweave Store. It includes a wonderful variety of magazines, featuring step-by-step lessons in paper art, mixed-media, collage, and more. To celebrate, here’s Lee’s article from Pages Volume 1-4.

“I’ve accumulated boxes, zipped bags, and envelopes stuffed full of greeting cards,” Lee says. “I’ve found a great way to reuse forgotten images, and collect mementos–binding the cards together. Turn your neglected piles of past greetings into a treasured hand-held collection. With a slotted spine, each card is sewn in separately so you can add more cards and even remove a card without unraveling the rest.”

Paper art project | Lee Steiner,
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  • Greeting cards
  • Ruler, metal
  • Pencil
  • Folder, manila
  • Craft knife
  • Cutting mat
  • Bone folder
  • Paper, lightweight, for the cover (I use wrapping, kraft, and decorative papers.)
  • Glue stick, acid-free
  • Weight
  • Cardstock
  • Awl
  • Embroidery floss
  • Beeswax thread conditioner
  • Needle, tapestry
  • Scissors

Paper Art Project: Greeting Card Keepsake Book by Lee Steiner

Making the cover

1. Stack your greeting cards. Measure the front of the largest card to determine the size of the front cover. Add 1/4″ to the height, double the width, and then add 1″ to the width for the spine.

Tip: Choose cards tall enough to reach all four sewing holes. Avoid cards with large cutouts, three-dimensional materials, or tri-folds. A 1″-deep spine can hold 12–16 greeting cards.

2. Trace your cover measurements onto a manila folder and cut out. Mark and score the 1″ spine.

3. Cut a piece of paper to cover the outside of the cover plus a 1″ allowance all the way around.

Paper art project | Lee Steiner,

4. Apply an even layer of glue stick to the manila cover, and center the cover paper over it. While the glue is still damp, bend the book back and forth along the spine folds to ensure the cover will open and close neatly once dry. Fold the overhanging cover paper to the inside and glue in place. Go over the cover with the bone folder to smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles.

5. Cut another piece of paper 1/4″ smaller all around than the cover. Apply glue to the back of the paper, and center it, top and bottom, on the inside of the cover. Smooth the paper with the bone folder. When you reach the spine, fold the book back and forth. Check the corners and the spine area to make sure the paper is glued evenly.

6. Place the book cover under a heavy book or other weight until dry.

7. Create a jig with cardstock for binding. Cut a piece of cardstock 2″ wide and as tall as your cover. Fold the jig in half lengthwise and mark one end of the jig the top with an arrow. Measure and mark four evenly spaced holes along the fold of the jig for sewing holes/slits. (Figure 1)

8. Lay the cover flat on the cutting mat with the outside of the cover facing up, and line up the jig vertically on the spine. Make light pencil marks as indicated on the jig across the spine. Cut the four slits with a craft knife and a metal ruler, being careful not to cut into the front and back covers.

9. Center the jig inside each card, and poke four holes. (Figure 2)

Paper art project | Lee Steiner,

Sewing the book

1. Thread the tapestry needle with about 18″ of embroidery floss. Run the floss through beeswax to keep the thread strands together and prevent tangles while sewing. Position your first card inside the cover, making sure the holes in the card line up with the slits in the cover.

2. Begin at the bottom hole, and sew through to the outside, leaving a tail of about 2″ inside the card. (Figure 3) Bring your needle and thread around the bottom of the spine to the inside, and tie the thread onto the tail with a square knot. Do not cut your thread yet.

3. Sew through the second hole (from the bottom) to the outside. Then from the outside, sew into the third hole (from the bottom) and out the last hole. Arrive on the outside at the top. Bring your needle and thread around the top of the spine to the inside, and loop the needle under the last inside stitch. Pull gently to draw up any slack in the thread and knot by looping your needle under the stitch again, and through the loop, pulling it tight. Cut the thread, leaving a 1/2” tail.

Note: The slotted spine stitch will show three long stitches on the outside cover. Inside, you’ll see four stitches with a blank area in the middle. You will have a small knot at the first and fourth holes.

4. Stitch each card in the same manner repeating steps 1–3.

Tip: The outside spine stitches are a decorative feature of this book. Alternate the thread colors, and textures, or stitch with two or more colors of embroidery floss twisted together. The long narrow eye of the tapestry needle can hold several threads at once.

5. Trim the greeting card you have chosen for the front cover and glue it on the cover. Use the bone folder to smooth it flat and let dry. ~Lee

Lee Steiner is a Texas book artist who enjoys turning past paper keepsakes into unique books for today.

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