Pricing Your Handbound Books

pricing your handbound books and other handmade itemsOr any handmade item for that matter. Time and again, I’ve gotten on Etsy and seen people selling handbound books for what seems to me to be barely more than their materials cost. STOP IT! PAY YOURSELF A DECENT WAGE! I don’t care if you would’ve been making no money otherwise, but you are a (at least somewhat) skilled craftsman and you need to charge as much. What is a decent wage? Not minimum wage, that’s for sure. I’m going to be candid, which is something not a lot of online sellers are willing to do, and tell you that I pay myself $50/hour, and I fully intend to give myself a raise at the end of the year. Maybe all you do is pamphlets, coptics, and stab bindings and you want to pay yourself less. Go for it, but I would never pay myself less than $20/hour, and that might not be a fair wage where you live. If you couldn’t subsist on that wage working at it full time, pay yourself more.

When you are calculating price, you don’t just consider your time and materials; you consider the future, too. Reinvesting in your business, better equipment, continuing education, and advertising, if you choose. Here is my formula for calculating price:

(materials x 2) + (time x 2) = WHOLESALE PRICE
wholesale x 2= retail price

Maybe you think you can get away with just charging wholesale, but what happens when you’re approached by a retailer who wants to carry your products? They’re going to expect to buy a large quantity from you for half of what you charge. This is so they can make a profit and not be undersold by you. If you’re selling at wholesale, you either sell to this retailer for no profit at all, or forego the opportunity.

Maybe you’re charging so little because your materials cost very little? STOP THAT TOO! People do not buy handbound books so they can write in them and have the ink bleed, or have the paper deteriorate around their photos, or rip easily, or you know, just be generally wimpy paper. People come looking for a handbound book because they want an item of quality that did not come from a sweatshop. For bookbinders, your cost is going to paper, leather, cloth, thread, and glue. My paper comes from mills in Italy and the United States, my leather comes from Germany, my thread comes from the UK. I can spend $30-$50 on materials for a single album or book. So you can understand my skepticism when I see a leather book going for $35 on Etsy.

When I first started out, I did not charge enough to make it worth it.  I charged what I would be willing/able to pay if I were my own customer.  You are not your customer.  Use good materials, pay yourself a good wage, be honest about your time. You can sell a whole lot of books for very little profit or a few for a good profit. I know which I’d rather. You’re not competing with Amazon, or even other binders. Your books are as unique as you are; if people like your books, they will buy them from you.

I would love to hear about your experiences trying to price your books (etc.) in the comments!

Posted in Arts and Crafts, Bookbinding, Boxmaking, Paper Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Crochet Kraft Paper Bag Basket

crochet neon and kraft paper basketI have a lot of shipping materials floating around my house because I do a lot of shipping, and I try to reuse whatever I can, whenever I can.  As a bookbinder, I’m very conscious of my carbon footprint–I use linen, cotton, and wool paper and try to go tree free wherever I can, but it’s not always possible, especially when the decision is in someone else’s hands.  I’ve been loving these baskets I’ve been spying on Pinterest (also here, and here), and having taken a workshop from Aimee Lee on shifu (Korean paper spinning), I put 1+1+1 together to make this:DSC_0104I used my ruler to rip long strips of packing paper the width of my ruler and then scrunched them in my fist; I didn’t actually spin them.


I started crocheting using the magic circle method, making a round of six single crochet stitches.  For the second round, insert your hook into the first single crochet of the first round and draw up a loop.  Then lay two strips of scrunched paper between your hook and yarn tail, and yarn over over the strips of paper (yes, I do believe there should be two overs there).  Here’s a video showing what I mean (start watching at about four minutes to skip the preamble).DSC_0067

For this second round, you will chain two and single crochet twice in the top of every single stitch from the first round, leaving you with 12 chain  two spaces.  For each subsequent round, increasing six stitches/chain two spaces will keep it approximately flat.  DSC_0076

About six inches before the end of my strips of paper, I tore one off so I wouldn’t be adding two strips at the same time and my strips would overlap.DSC_0097When you think the bottom is big enough, decrease the number of increases or stop increasing altogether, depending on how steep you want the sides to be.
DSC_0081If you confine your increases to four equidistant spots, the basket will be somewhat squarish.  I did one circular basket with steep sides, and the other one, I made my increases on two opposite sides, resulting in a bit of an oval.
DSC_0105If you would like to purchase these darling book magnets you see in my basket, head over to my Etsy shop!

Posted in Arts and Crafts, Bookbinding, Crochet, Fiber Arts, Paper Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Plaid Shirt Pocket Notebooks

Plaid notebooks on Etsy

Plaid notebooks on Etsy

I first started stealing plaid shirts from my father way back in the 90’s. You remember when girls wore high-waisted Levis and oversized plaid shirts tied in a knot at their waists? Yeah, I rocked that. I didn’t so much see it going out of style…. Lucky for me, hipsters have brought plaid back and I’m cool again! Here is a tribute to my favorite Scottish patterns with a sunny update:

I carved three blocks, one base pattern and two variations to print over it. They’re just simple little pamphlet style notebooks a smidge bigger than pocket Moleskines.  Interested in buying one?  You know you are.  Head on over to my Etsy shop!  And click here for my tutorial on making simple pamphlet style notebooks.

Plaid notebooks on Etsy

Plaid notebooks on Etsy.

Posted in Bookbinding, Paper Arts, Printmaking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Magnetic Picture Hanger Tutorial

Poster hanging beside the pantry door.

My hipster cow poster hanging beside the pantry door.

Magnets hold the print in the moulding sandwich.

Magnets hold the print in the moulding sandwich.

I love the look of old educational wall hangings with the wooden dowels across the top and bottom, and I’ve been trying to find a cheap way to display my work around the house.  Here’s my tutorial on how I recreated that vintage look.


Use a speed square and blade to mark your cuts.

Use a speed square and blade to mark your cuts.


Cut four pieces of moulding slightly wider than the poster/print you’d like to hang.  Two for the top, and two for the bottom.  The print will be sandwiched between them and secured with the magnets.  My overhang was a 1/4″ on either side.  I used a speed square and Olfa blade to mark my measurements.  A blade is much more accurate than a pencil and it severs the wood fibers to cut down on splintering.

What?  I can't tell.

What? I can’t tell.

Eww, not square!

Eww, not square!

If you find that with all your care your cuts aren’t perfectly square, just match the ends of the same cut together and no one will be able to tell.

Then stain your wood.  I used Jacobean, which is very dark, and there was no need to let it sit.  I just wiped it on, then wiped it off again.

Mark where the magnets will go.  I came in 2″ on either end.  I only marked one side of each pair of mouldings and I’ll tell you why later.  Drill part of the way through the wood.

A drill stop will prevent you from drilling all the way through the wood.

A drill stop will prevent you from drilling all the way through the wood.

I have a set of drill stops that came with my doweling kit, but you can buy them separately, too.  This is important so you don’t drill all the way through.  If you don’t have a drill stop and don’t want to buy one, just be very careful.  You will be very sad if you drill through to the other side.  You may need a tissue.

Dowel center transfer plug in action.

Dowel center transfer plug in action.

Also with my doweling kit came this handy little tool for marking the place of holes that need to be matched precisely.  It’s called a dowel center transfer plug.  You just stick it in the hole you drilled and press the pointy end into the other piece of wood.  Make sure the edges are all square, flush, and plumb before you do that.  Now you know exactly where to drill on the other side.  Alternatively, you could just measure really carefully.

Cut your string or twine long enough so you get a pleasing isosceles triangle when you place the ends in your drilled holes.  Tie knots in both ends.

The final rigging

The final rigging

Fill the drilled holes with glue and put the ends of the string in, followed by your magnets.  BE SO CAREFUL WITH THESE MAGNETS.  If you have children or pets and they swallow two of these, the attraction is so powerful that they will tear through your child’s/pet’s insides.  Let’s not have that, shall we?  I keep these hidden well out of reach.  Also, when you place the magnets, remember there’s a positive and negative side and opposites attract.  You need the poles facing the same direction in the sandwich.  After placing the magnets in the holes, I glued a little scrap of paper over them, then I put the sides of the hangers together with plastic wrap in between to dry overnight.  I did that because I wanted to make sure that as the glue dried, the magnets were flush with the surface of the wood.

Et voila!  If you are interested in purchasing either my hipster cow or Psych pancakes poster, check out my Etsy shop.

Completed hanger holding up my Psych inspired poster of pancakes.

Completed hanger holding up my Psych inspired poster of pancakes.

Posted in Arts and Crafts | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Paint Board with Chalk Lettering

My beautiful board with all my paints and inks.

My beautiful board with all my paints and inks.

Ever since I saw this paint storage board on Pinterest, I knew that I would one day make my own.  I’ve been wanting to get my paints out off the shelf above my desk to free up some space, but I also wanted them to be more accessible–such a pain to lift out all the trays and sift through to find the right color….or not really, but you have to remove obstacles to encourage creativity.  You get dressed to your shoes in the morning so you don’t pass the overflowing garbage can and think, “I really should take that out…but then I’d have to put on my shoes.”  Insignificant barriers, but barriers just the same.  So free up space and make the paints and inks more accessible, and that board fit the bill.  I just finished making an elbow-high work table, so I had some plywood leftover that happened to be the perfect size for the little bit of wall next to my desk.  I grabbed some iron tacks, my jar of rusty nails soaking in vinegar, and a chalk pencil.  I stained the wood with my vinegar soaked rusty mess and sanded it down for a nice weathered look.  I measured the length of the paint tubes including the binder clip with which to hang it and the width of the tubes and made a grid of 72 dots on the board.

Cool geometric pattern that no one will ever see because it will be cover with paint tubes.

Cool geometric pattern that no one will ever see because it will be cover with paint tubes.

Then I made a cool geometric pattern just because I felt like it.  I saw this phrase on Pinterest (there are 7 days in the week and someday isn’t one of them), and it spoke to the recurring time-management theme you may have noticed on my blog (here, here, here, here, and here).  When you have any number of kids and still want to do things that enrich you as an individual, you have to be so focused and committed and you have to stop procrastinating and piddle-farting.  There’s no time to waste browsing Pinterest (if you follow me, you may have noticed a significant decrease in activity.  I’m trying to limit myself to one day/week) or reorienting yourself to the task.  Just do it; don’t wait.  So I took that phrase and sketched it out on some handy dandy graph paper.

I do most of my lettering experiments on 11x17 graph paper.

I do most of my lettering experiments on 11×17 graph paper.

Then I traced it and colored the back of the tracing paper  with chalk to transfer it to my board.  To do that, you just tape it to your substrate and go over your drawing with a pen–I find ballpoint works best.  One cramped hand later, the lettering was transferred and I used my chalk pencil to darken the lines.  I wet the tip because it makes the chalk more opaque and I really wanted the lettering to stand out.

lettering closeup

There are 7 days in the week and someday isn’t one of them.

I waxed the wood to seal it.  Definitely my favorite way to finish wood.  Some finishes can look really unprofessional if not done by a professional (fancy that), but not this one.  It’s amateur-proof, and it really enhances the weathered look, making the wood sliver-proof without being shiny. Just rub the wax on with a cloth, wait 10-15 minutes, then buff it with a clean rag.  There are solvents in it so you want to do it outside.

Then I recruited some slave labor in the form of my daughter while I nursed my son.  She is now a card-carrying member of the smashed-thumbs club.  She hammered in 72 iron tacks, more or less straight.

She's happy when she feels useful.

She’s happy when she feels useful.

Ta-da!  I set it up on my desk and arranged my paints and printing inks according to color.

Isn't she a beaute?

Isn’t she a beaute?

It makes the OCD in me positively giddy.

Posted in Arts and Crafts, Lettering, Painting, Visual Arts | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Arabic-Inspired Lettering

For the Ones I LoveOr Farsi, really, since the Arabs got their alphabet from the Persians, but whatever. I’m working on a leather photo album as a gift for a Persian family and I wanted something that would hark back to their origins.  I saw this lettering and loved how it mimicked Arabic calligraphy and decided to try it out myself.
I really love how it turned out, and I decided to have it laser-engraved into the leather.  I’m debating about whether to then paint the letters with gold leather paint.  It’s an expensive mistake if I end up not liking it in gold.  We’ll see, and I’ll post pictures when I’m done.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State of the Eight

There has been a serious dearth of posts going on around here, but lest you think I’ve given up on creativity, I’m going to give you a status update.  About 2.5 months ago, I gave birth to child number three

baby yawning

My little guy, just six days old.

(isn’t he so cute!) and discovered that three children is 10 times more work than two (blech).  I know the math doesn’t add up, but that’s convex non-linearity for you.  Basically, the sum is greater than the parts and I have NO TIME–and what would I do with that eighth day I so wish we had?  Sit around nursing a baby just like the other seven, that’s what.  The last couple of weeks I’ve managed to get the toddler and the infant to nap at the same time which gives me 1-2 hours to accomplish what I can.  Not a lot of time, but since I am incapable of NOT having one or a dozen different projects in the works, I have managed to squeeze some creative activities into my days.  However, since I have limited time, documenting those activities has suffered.  In an attempt to fix this, here’s an image dump of things I’ve been doing since my last post.  This isn’t even half of the projects I’ve been working on, but feel free to ask questions about anything you want more information on!


Posted in Arts and Crafts, Digital, Lettering, Letterpress, Paper Arts, Printmaking, Visual Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sneak Peak

Paper cut Blackberries by Sarah (

Cut paper blackberries

I’ve hinted previously at a most wondrous project I’m working on, and I thought I’d treat ya’ll to a sneak peak. I’ve got a couple hundred tiny little paper circles floating around my desk right now–I can tell you I drove my husband crazy with hammering to punch all of them out–but they do look nice put together, don’t they?  And how about that paper leaf?  Does it look leaf-like?  I’m debating about whether to keep the twisted paper for the stems or do flat paper strips.

Posted in Paper Arts, Paper Cuts | 4 Comments

Lunaria Annua or Happy Birthday to Me!

Lunaria annua, silver dollark plant, money plant, or honesty

Lunaria annua, silver dollark plant, money plant, or honesty

A few months ago I saw a dried silver dollar plant arrangement at our local grocery store.  I hadn’t seen them since I worked as a gardener in high school, and I’d forgotten all about them and how fascinating and lovely I thought they were.  I happened to be with my husband at the time, so I gushed to him about them.  Well, halfway through my birthday, my husband remembered it was my birthday 😉 and ran over to the grocery store, coming back with two delicious varieties of chocolate ice cream and a bunch of dried silver dollars.  I was touched he actually listened and then remembered, and aren’t they so pretty!

Silver dollar seed pods

Silver dollar seed pods

The thing about silver dollar plants, or Lunaria annua, is that even though it’s pretty when it’s green, it’s breathtaking dried.  The plant is biennial, and the first year it’s pretty small, but it shoots up to 3-4 feet during it’s second spring and blossoms with pretty purple-pink flowers.  People like it because it’s unusual to see this sort of tall flowering plant in the spring, but I like because that second autumn when it starts to die, the flat, waxy green seed pods start to flake leaving this onion skin-like discs housing little seeds. I really like the pearlescent quality.

Posted in Photography | 4 Comments