Do you have a box of letters from beloved people of your past, which gathers dust because you never open them and read through them, but which is too precious to chuck out because one day you’ll read them all again? I did, and I used them to make this book of letters. It’s wonderful – now I can leaf through the pages and have a fasttrack down memory lane, and if I’m in the mood I can actually sit there and read the lovely things people have written to me. Here are some of my favourite pages from the book:
And my very favourites, a double page spread from my Gothic days:
Several people have seen my book and been inspired to make one of their own, but mentioned that good old daunting feeling, not knowing where to start. So, here’s the process I used.
1) Sort the letters into groups. I made groups of letters from the same people, and then ordered the groups into roughly chronological order – sometimes letters from one person spanned many years so the chronology was pretty rough. I held each group together with a rubber band and then popped them back into the box.
2) Take out one group, and read through all the letters in it. Have a pair of scissors in your hand, and as you go, chop out your favourite bits. I chucked out any bitchy gossip about other people, and anything that made me feel bad. I wanted a book of good memories – why hold onto the bad stuff? Sometimes my favourite bit was a one-line compliment from someone, sometimes it was the decorations they’d drawn on the envelope, sometimes it was a whole paragraph or page which I felt hit the nail on the head about who that person is and what they have meant to me. Chuck out the rest – yes it’s hard, but do you really want to keep all that drivel about what they did yesterday? Preserve the gems and ditch the rest.
3) Take all your favourite bits and lay them out where you can see them. Make some order. This is the trickiest bit. I tried to get most groups down to a single page, sometimes a double page spread. A few of my lifelong friends got four pages. Decide which pieces of the original you are going to stick straight into your scrapbook and which you will type up to reformat. I liked to get bits of peoples’ handwriting, and sometimes their drawings or small comments, but overall I found it easier to make a great looking page if I typed up their words, and then arranged them into a text box with interesting fonts. If you are using some originals, lay them out on the correct sized paper (I used 12″ x 12″, nice and large, which fitted into a scrapbook album), and then look at where the gaps are. You can format blocks of text on your computer to fit these gaps.
4) Now is the time to incorporate any images you want to include. I would have liked a photo of the person writing to me, but as I was doing this while on holidays in Brisbane, I didn’t have access to the pics in most cases, so went without. I did use a lot of my old artwork though. That was sitting in a folio gathering dust, and sometimes was appropriate to the page. Some of the art I scanned, others I took photos of and then sized to suit before printing it out. This is a great way to preserve larger artwork into a more accessible book. Sometimes I placed the image behind or partially behind the text before printing, to get an integrated look.
5) Create a title (or several) for the page, if you want one. It could be the person’s name, or a quote they said, or any other text that sums up the mood of the page. My favourite way was to print the title on vellum then glue it on top of a patterned background.
6) Once you’ve got all the elements, lay them out on the page and make them fit. I did a fair bit more culling at this stage, eliminating text that didn’t seem to fit, or for which the mood was already represented in another piece of text.
7) Once you’ve done your layout, work out your colours, borders and backgrounds. I got large packets of 12″ x 12″ paper from Big W quite cheaply, and tried to avoid buying too much expensive scrapping equipment. I collected heaps of free paint-colour samples and used these bits of cardboard as backgrounds for small blocks of text. Try to make sure the colours work well together, and leave enough space around your text and images for borders.
8) Time to embellish. I did give in to the scrapping industry a little in this way, and bought a few books of vintage images for cutting out, but you could get these from old books in the op shop if you are happy to attack them with scissors. I usually tried to get the embellishments to fit the theme of the pages, but sometimes they were a bit random and sometimes they just seemed to look good. Many of my embellishment images were cut from the patterned papers from that cheap pack I bought.
9) Before you start glueing everything, if you want a vintage look, rub the edges of your papers against a brown or black inkpad. I found this transformed the most crappy looking foolscap page into something that looked integrated and even attractive. Now for glueing, I found it easiest to glue the text/images to their borders, add the embellishments, and then when I had a bunch of larger elements like this, I’d glue them all down to the page.
10) And there you have it. Go back to your box and pick another group to work with. The good thing about using a scrapbook album for this kind of project is that you don’t have to create the pages in order – you can move them around as you go, and when you’ve finished them all, make your ultimate order.