Around the holidays I have grand ambitions about making handmade gifts. Then, a week before Hanukkah and Christmas I realize I haven't started a thing, go into major panic mode and start hitting the peppermint bark really hard.
You think I'd know better when there are many book structures that are incredibly simple to make and take less than an hour to complete. In the time it takes to drive to the mall and find a parking space, you can create a handmade book.
Accordion books are my go-to structures. They require no sewing, can be adapted for a variety of uses (photography, poetry, recipes) and have limitless design possibilities. Here's a quick tutorial on how to make the most basic accordion, and at the end I'll go over some easy variations.
Materials and tools:
One piece of cardstock 5 1/2" x 34", with the grain running along the 5 1/2" side (see my post about making sewn journals to read up on grain direction). Mark the cardstock at 4 1/4"-inch intervals and fold it, accordion style, into eight 4 1/4"-wide panels. You can either cut the paper from a large sheet of cardstock found at most art stores, piecing and gluing it together if it's not long enough, as below:
Or, you can do what I do and buy paper already cut to those dimensions. I love things that help me save time, as long as they don't compromise the project. A few years ago I discovered that Marco's Paper sells paper already cut into long strips for accordion books. I have no affiliation with the company, I just think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They offer it in various sizes, weights and colors, but the 5 1/2" x 34" is a great size for accordion books and you can easily fold it into eight panels without even measuring.
To do that, fold the entire sheet in half, then fold each half in half, bringing one edge up to the center fold. Then fold each quarter in half. Don't worry about which way the folds are going at this point, just fold whichever way feels natural and is easiest. When the entire sheet is folded, re-fold it so it looks like the illustration above. The first fold should be a valley fold (the point is away from you), then a mountain fold (the point is toward you).
Two pieces of 4 1/2" x 5 3/4" pieces of medium-weight bookboard, grain running along the 5 3/4" side.
Two pieces of 6" x 7 1/4" decorative paper
One 24" piece of 5/8"-inch wide flexible ribbon, such as double-face satin or cotton twill
PVA glue (polyvinyl adhesive, found at art supply stores)
Spread a thin layer of glue on the back side of one sheet of decorative paper and adhere it to one piece of the chipboard, making sure the chipboard is centered. Smooth the paper with the bone folder to make sure there are no wrinkles or bubbles.
Trim all four corners (see the cover at right), cutting about two board widths away from the corner. Strive for making an isosceles triangle when you trim the corners (grade school math does come in handy!).
Glue one long side of the paper and adhere it to the bookboard. When you do that you'll see a little fold created by the paper at the top and bottom of the board. Smush this down (a very technical term) with your thumb (see above). This makes the corners a lot less bulky.
Glue the other long side the same way, then the short sides. When you glue the short sides you'll notice that having smushed down that little fold of paper, the corners are much flatter. If you still have some bulk you can try pressing the area with your bone folder.
Press the cover under a heavy weight so it doesn't warp while drying. I also put some clean waste paper (like copy paper) on both sides to absorb the moisture from the glue.
Repeat for the other cover and press it as well.
Glue up the back of the last panel of the accordion cardstock (see above). Slip a piece of copy paper under the panel to keep from getting glue on the rest of the accordion. Adhere it to the inside of the back cover and press it down well (see right).
Repeat for the first panel of the accordion, adhering it to the inside of the front cover the same way.
Place waste paper between the first and second folds and the seventh and eighth folds and press the book again under a heavy weight until dry. Tie the ribbons in a bow at the front, trimming ends if necessary.
And that's it! Easy, no?
But accordion players need to expand their repertoires sometimes, so here are a couple of easy variations. You you can sew pages into the folds using the three-hole pamphlet stitch, described in the sewn journal tutorial. Pages can be sewn into one or several folds--it's up to you.
For an alternate closure, sew a button and an 18" ribbon to the front cover before you glue the accordion to it. Place the ribbon in between the button and cover as you sew. Then, wrap the ribbon around the book and around the button a couple of times to secure. This closure is best if you're not using the book to write in, since the button creates a bit of a bump.
The accordion is adaptable to a number of shapes, too, such as a house shape, a rectangle with an arched top, a circle and a hexagon. I was watching an old "That's Clever" show on HGTV the other day and one featured project was an accordion book of photos of grain elevators. The book had been cut in the basic shape of a grain elevator, which added so much to the design and overall impact.
Don't be afraid to experiment--you never know what you might come up with!
Next I'll show more easy books perfect for holiday gifts. Let me know what you're making this year!