Category Archives: Notebooks

Ten by Two: making a lot of gift notepads

Just before Thanksgiving I received a request to make some notepads for a customer to use as gifts.  She wanted ten sets of notepad covers containing a medium-size and small-size in coordinating colors. I have been making these notepads is four sizes from portfolio for an 8.5″ x 12″ pad to a mini, memo sized (1.5″ x 4″) pad. You can see all sizes here.  This request was challenging just because of the number of items, but the time frame made it even more complicated as I was planning a two-week trip to my son’s at Thanksgiving!

I rarely work on more than four or five pieces at a time just because parts tend to wander and get mixed up.  At least this time all the basic pieces would be the same size, but keeping tracking of forty different papers was a challenge!  Before leaving for vacation I was able to cut all the Davey board covers (outside) and mat board pieces (inside) and cover the inside panels.  This blog will go through many of the steps I took on this project with illustrations when I remembered the camera.

First step, and the most fun and frustrating, was choosing all the papers to be used.  The customer wanted each set to be coordinated and I didn’t want any to use the same papers.  Fortunately, the largest size I was making was for a 6″ x 9″ pad and that gave me more choices of paper.  When I make the portfolio size (8.5″x 12″) I’m very limited as the inside needs two pieces of paper that are roughly 8″ wide by 13″ tall. Since most of my hand-marbled paper is 14″x 17″, it’s tight and the sheet has to be perfect.  I don’t have any photos, but you can imagine me sorting through stacks of paper trying to find four that went together.  I was generally looking for two printed and two marbled.  To keep all my selection straight, I clipped all the matching sheets together with notes on the backs with a number 1 through 20, whether it was large or small and inside or outside.  This is much more organized than I usually am, but with 40 pieces of paper staring at me, I really needed it.  Cutting the boards took a whole day, but at least they were the same size, so didn’t have to be marked.

Stacks of cut Davey board for covers

Stacks of cut Davey board for covers

I decided to make the inside panels first so cut all that paper first before starting gluing out anything.  Once the papers were cut, I started the gluing out process using the mat board I’d already cut.

At this point I was off for Thanksgiving.  I tried to think how I could take some of the work with me, but it was just too complicated. When I came home, I had two weeks to finish everything.  I immediately started on the outside covers.  I had already cut the boards and chosen the paper, so first task was to pick the bookcloth.  This was when I realized that I’d found the element that would tie the sets together. Each set would have matching spines and I’d use each bookcloth on only one set. The bookcloth is next to all four papers, so the choice had to work with all.  By this time all four inside panels were in ten zipper bags and clipped to the larger outside papers. As I chose the bookcloth, a small piece was slipped into the bags.  Sounds easy, but I was swapping pieces in and out as I found better matches.  At times it seemed like total chaos.

All the spines were were attached to the boards a strip was glued into the center of the spine to stiffen it. Next step was to cut all the outside cover papers to size and glue them onto the covers. To finish the covers, I glued narrow strips of bookcloth to the outside edges of the boards.  This isn’t necessary, but I feel it makes a longer wearing edge than the paper alone and I want these notepads to be used and to last.

Next, adding the insides to the outsides, right? Not quite. The writing pad has to be held in place. I use a strap of heavy paper or cardstock to secure the pad and a foot pocket to keep it in place on the right side. On the left side, I make a pocket either on the side or bottom to hold a few extra sheets of paper. Placement of the pocket depends on the design of the paper, the size of the paper and my mood.  First step, as usual, is matching a heavy paper to the pieces already made. The paper is then cut and folded individually, matching the exact size and shape of its covers.

Completed notepads! All finished and delivered on time.

This entire project was really fun, although frustrating at times. It was a challenge to find just the right papers, but in the end I’m very pleased with the results.

I always have notebooks and portfolios for sale on Etsy. If you need different colors or amounts than are available, just send a message: 

or leave a comment here.

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Three To Get Ready

“One for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
And four to go.

I’ve been in the “get ready” phase for the past few weeks and the finish is almost here!  My local Arts Center is hanging their holiday exhibit next Monday and I am going to be one of the featured artists.  I’m thrilled to be chosen and have been working hard to create lots of new items for the show.  My biggest problem is that as soon as I finish something, I have the design in my head for four more things I want to do.  With hanging only a week away,  there’s very little time for anything else, besides finishing up what I’ve already started.

Here’s a sneak preview.

The red book with the copper insert will have a matching box and I have a third black & white box under construction.  Two more blank books are waiting for covers. I don’t think I’ll have any sheets of marbled paper, but I will have cards, a few framed pieces and some odds and ends.

If you are in the area, please be sure to visit  the Arts Center at 127 Main St., Penn Yan, NY.  “Celebration” will have its Opening reception with food, wine and art on Friday, November 21st from 5 to 7 pm.  If you can’t make the Opening, stop by anytime Nov. 21 – Dec. 31.  We’d love to see you!

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What To Do When the Paper Doesn’t Fit

I recently marbled some maps that I really wanted to use as covers for my portfolios.  Unfortunately, they were just the wrong size.  Too short for the large size that fits an 8½” x 11″ writing pad and making them for a 4″ x 6″ pad would lose too much of the map.  I thought about either patching two together or framing them for the large portfolio, but just didn’t like that solution.  They would be perfect for a 7″ x 10″ pad.  Problem is, no one seems to make that size pad.  I could have them specially made but that would be expensive and replacements would be a nuisance for the customer. So I did the next best thing, used a 6″ x 9″ pad and made the holder a little bigger than it needed to be.

Now I have notepad covers that range from the small memo size to the full 8½” x 11″. Here are samples of the full range.

Four Sizes of Writing Pad Covers

Four Sizes of Writing Pad Covers

Here are the two new covers I just made.

The blue cover has old street maps of Washington, DC and the red cover are pages from a vintage children’s book about the seasons.  Both were hand-marbled by me.

More photos of the four sizes.

Last week I spent a lot of time marbling and I hope to get a blog up about my adventures with metallic marbling up soon.  I also canned the last of my pickles and the first of my tomatoes for this year!  The cherry tomato crop is still going strong with the return of hot weather and I hate to see them going to waste. I don’t hate it enough to try to skin them for canning though!

Cherry Tomatoes, red and gold

Cherry Tomatoes, red and gold

Tomatoes & Pickles

Tomatoes & Pickles

But most important of all, last week brought a new member of the family.


She’s an eight-year old Beagle/Basset mix I adopted from a local shelter and she’s loving that I have lots of rabbits on my property.



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A Rush Job

I had great plans of doing a real job of cleaning up my studio this past week.  Didn’t happen.When I took a few of the new hanging books down to the Arts Center, they mentioned that they were out of my smaller notepad and memo pad covers.  Of course, I had to drop everything and make some up.  It’s more fun than cleaning anyway! So here are the results.

You may notice that I tend to work in fours.  I find that making four books or towers or notepads at a time gives a nice rhythm of repetition without becoming boring.  You can see how I make these notepad covers here.  I have a few of these on Etsy also.

On another note, the weather has finally warmed up and I was able to start digging up the garden yesterday!  I no longer try to do it by hand and it’s much easier.  I have a little electric cultivator that works very well for me.  I’ve tried renting a roto-tiller, but they are just too heavy for me and every year it gets harder for me to pull start gas motors.  I now just drag my long extension cord out behind the pines and till away.  Get fun for a short time!

I’m still plying with some soft covers and mostly making messes.  More on that later.

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Downsizing, or getting smaller

I’ve been playing with designs again.  This time smaller and simpler seem to be the themes.  The simplest book of all, except for the scroll, is just some paper fastened together. This lacks durability and form so a protective cover needs to be added.  If the cover is just heavier paper then the pages and the cover can easily be stitched together making a simple notepad or jotter. Since I happen to have lots of pretty heavy weight paper on hand, it’s easy.  And all the better since the heavy paper is too heavy for use in traditional books.

Here’s the result:


After making the large portfolios and medium size notepads, I decided to complete the series with a mini-notepad, just right for a pocket. These are very small: just 3″ x4″ to fit a memo pad.

I’m hoping these will make great little gifts for the holidays.  They are fun to make and don’t take nearly as much time and effort as the larger varieties.  Another plus is that I get to play with lots of combinations of papers.

Here’s the whole week’s production.





Filed under Marbled Paper, Notebooks

Accomplished! Pickles & Portfolios

The last few days have been very productive, both for me and for the garden.  When  I was in the garden, I started picking cucumbers and got seven or eight ripe ones.  Many too many to eat, so it was time to make bread and butter pickles!  This is the first time in about ten years that I’ve had enough cukes to make pickles, so I was happy.  Took them inside and got them sliced, but didn’t have any onions.  Unfortunately they are not quite in season yet so had to get them at the grocery store rather than the local farm stand. Sliced the onions and put them with the cucumbers to sit in the fridge and do their thing.  By late afternoon they had sat long enough, so I started cooking up the syrup.  I had forgotten to check on the canning supplies, so a frantic search for rings and new lids took place.  I knew where the canning jars were since I have boxes and boxes of them from the years that I canned in a major way.  I grabbed the canning kettle and a box of jars just in time to add the cucumbers to the syrup.  Everything worked out in the end and I now have ten pints of pickles for the coming year and I’ll probably have lots more, if the raccoons don’t get the cucumbers first.

On the Portfolio side, I finished my next set of portfolios.  I design a way for them to hold a pad of paper that I hope is strong enough!  There were, of course, some hiccups on the way – like cutting paper the wrong size – that happens when I’m pushing to get something done.  They all worked out in the end and I’m pleased with the final results.

These are all for sale at Long’s Cards and Books in Penn Yan, NY.

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Gardens, Portfolios and Vacations

I haven’t taken time to write about my activities recently, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been quiet.  I was able to plant a garden this year in spite of the cold April weather and it was off to a beautiful start.  Now I just have to keep it watered in all this heat.

Here’s what it looked like a week or so ago.

It’s not very big, but it gives me all the  tomatoes I can eat and delicious potatoes.  I try cucumbers every year and I think this year I will actually be feeding myself instead of the deer and rabbits.  You can see my rather makeshift fencing.  Although a determined deer could easily jump it, it seems to be enough of a discouragement that they don’t bother.  After I found a rabbit sitting inside the fence which has only 2″x3″ openings, I wrapped the bottom with chicken wire and that seems to have kept them out.  There are lots of other wonderful things for them to eat on the rest of the property, so they have to stay out of my garden!  

There is a nearby farm that has U-pick strawberries and every year I plan to get some to freeze.  It works out that I do about half the time!  This year I picked 14 quarts and was very glad I did.  It was a wonderful strawberry season. We had a lot of rain followed by hot dry weather at the perfect time.  The strawberries were luscious! Big and sweet. I’ve found that the varieties that are  huge can tend to be tasteless, especially when frozen.  These are a variety called Sparkle and they have a wonderful flavor no matter their size.

Enough of food, so what have I been doing with my paper?

As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve started making designer portfolios and last week I finished a set of four.  Here they are:

I’m very pleased with these and there was only one real problem.  On the red one somehow I made two left sides and so I could either throw it all out, have the cranes flying upside down or have the “pocket” on the wrong side.  I opted for the latter.  My next set of large portfolios will have replaceable pads on one side like the smaller notebooks do. Not sure I like this, but I’m trying to sell them in a local office supply store and the owner suggested that might help.  We’ll see.

In mid-July I’m taking off for one of my favorite places – The John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C.  My granddaughter and I will be taking a course in wood carving, so that will be a whole new world for me!  I don’t know how the blogging schedule will go for the next month, but I’ll try to pop in with pictures occasionally.


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Filed under Craft design, Life, Marbled Paper, Notebooks