My first hand-bound book of the new year is an attempt to make a dent in the paper clutter that seems to multiply itself in our house.  Part of the problem is that I tend to save things and have trouble ignoring the collage potential in bits of paper. But, it is also true that avalanches of junk paper arrive through the mailbox, the kids’ schools, and elsewhere, and threaten to take over the place.  When life gets busy, decisions on sorting, filing, posting, or recycling each piece get put off, and the job grows exponentially.


Faced with one of these paper collections– a basket full of greeting cards, many saved from Christmases past–I decided that the envelopes needed to be made into a book.  I’d been keeping these cards to remember who had written and eventually get back to them (someday, I promise, but don’t hold your breath!), but had yet to take the next step with either updating my address book, or writing back.  Time to cut through the good intentions and move on.  In this new clutter book idea, the cards and pictures and parts of the letters could be incorporated, as a sort of ongoing keepsake of the words and images of family and friends.  I liked too that it could become a creative reference of sorts, a tactile and visual place to find addresses every year at holiday time, and perhaps next year I’d get that card done.

The first step was to sort the stuff in the basket, and glean out the real “keepers” for the book.  I was looking especially for handwritten addressed envelopes, with an eye on using the return addresses.  After cutting two edges off of the envelopes so that the bottom edge of each would become the crease in the folio, I stacked them together like this, one inside the other:

book sections

For the cover, I lit on just the thing:  an old Golden Book cover, now separated from its pages, called “The Friendly Book,” by Garth Williams.  The boards were bigger than my pages, just enough to add a small margin, and the title says it all.  Next I decided on an exposed spine binding to show off the colorful papers, and ribbon hinges to hold the cover boards together.  From there I pierced each section to correspond to where the ribbons would cross the spine.

piercing stations

Here is the text block sewn up–isn’t it cool!?

3 ribbon spine

Then, inspired by the wintry theme inside the book, I painted these little people in red snowsuits on the outside of the book, surrounded by a slightly transparent white, like snow.  The figure stencils were left over from a Kindergarten art lesson I taught on Ezra Jack Keat’s “Snowy Day,”  and in my mind could be the “Friendly Book” cover characters in another season.

magnetic closure

This brimming book was wanting to spring open to show the world its colorful pages, so to help it contain itself I added a small magnet in the front cover and a second sewn into another piece of ribbon to keep it closed.

The colorful pages:

The Friendly Address book is an evolving work in progress, now ready to have this year’s greeting cards folded into its welcoming pages.  Take heart, those of you who send me real mail.  Each note is lovingly received, and if not otherwise saved or re-cycled, just might find itself a book page, or better yet a piece of art.

do you see a cat face and tiny truck?

fun with the sewing machine