ncharshaf handmade Adventures of a self taught bookbinder


Tools of the trade

Recently, I have been hard at work on my new 2011 calendars which will debut this week. The calendars are all fabric hard cover notebooks, and the cover alone is a fairly time consuming task. However, I was making it much harder on myself by not having the right tools.

See, each cover starts with a piece of fabric, then I sew on a little date patch that has been printed on fabric using my home computer, measure and cut illustration board for the front and back cover, spray adhesive the fabric to the board, and then line the inside of the cover with paper. Then comes what used to be the most time consuming part, punching the holes on the cover and back for the string holes, and the elastic strap. Each book requires 12 holes to be punched, and then each hole gets an eyelet set into it.

Previously, all of my eyelet tools were too puny to get through 1 layer of paper, 2 layers of fabric, and illustration board. So, I resorted to this: my awl.


Basically, I would punch through the cover, and push the awl all the way up to the ridges. This made the hole the correct size, but created a slew of problems on the other side. Because this was not punched, all the material that used to be there, just got mushroomed out. This lead to having to then take my utility knife, and shave down the hole....all 12 of them.

Yesterday, I got tired of this process, as I am making a large quantity of these books at a time. If I had any hopes of finishing, I needed a new solution.

Everyone, meet my new tool, the Crop o Dile!

I read the package, which stated that this thing could punch holes + set the eyelets at 1/8th" and 3/16" sizes in a variety of materials....paper, leather, plastic, metal, chipboard, acrylic, fabric, wood, etc. It does more stuff too, like grommets, but at this point I am not so much interested in that at this time. To top it off, it was 40% off, so I gladly put down $17.99 to take this beast home with me.

What I did not realize was that the blocks at the top and base of the tool actually pull out and rotate to gt different size and style settings, this is pretty cool, but slightly confusing. I did not even realize in the beginning that you did not use these to punch the holes. I did however finally find that there were two side pieces that were each responsible for hole punching.

After some testing (yay it punches through my material...and with ease!) I got to work. I am SO pleased with this tool, it does exactly what I need, and has probably tripled my production time of this step in the process, also it is a good forearm workout!


Decoding code: Adding a badge to your site

Having badges on your blog has become quite popular lately, and a great way to link to other websites or blogs in a more visually engaging way. Often, badges are used to show off if you have been featured somewhere, or to just link to a site or a cause that you support.

So, on to how to do them!

1. Find a badge that you like. For this example, I am going to use etsy's new "Every gift has a story" badge.

2. Generate the code Most places are generous enough to include everything that you need for the badge to allow you to just copy and paste, but lets pick this apart in case you ever want to modify, or build your own badge.

Here is the full code:

<a href=""><img src="" /></a>

I have color coded this into its two sections, the link, and the image

The link: The link has an opening, and a closing tag. In red is the only text you need to worry about changing if you want to modify where the link takes you, everything else stays the same.

The opening tag: <a href="">

and the closing tag: </a>

The image: You want to put the image in between the opening and closing link tags, this "wraps" the image inside of the link, so people click on the image and it takes you to the specified link.

The image tag starts with <img src=" and is closed by "/> The part in between the quotes, highlighted in red is where you put the url that your image is at.

<img src="" />

Once you have this code, you just copy and paste it into your website where you would like it to show up, I can post a tutorial on this later if needed.


Using Color Theory to Create a Cohesive Treasury

I only recently started creating treasuries, but I really love doing them. It gives a fantastic excuse to browse through etsy and discover new things, and I have also found that they are a unique way to express my creativity in a whole new way.

As a designer, color is extremely important to me, and I love creating a feeling, mood, or story using color, and treasuries are a great way to play with color.

So, before I show the treasury, I thought I would go over some basic color ideas, if this excites you like it does me, you can dive pretty deep into the rabbit hole...but for now lets keep it on the simpler side.

The color wheel:

Important terms (don't worry, no test!)

Primary colors: These are the colors that all other colors are created with

Red, Yellow, and Blue

Secondary colors: These colors are created by mixing two primary colors together

Orange, Green, and Purple

Tertiary colors: these colors are created by combining a primary, and a secondary color together.

Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Purple, Red-Purple

Warm Colors: Reds, Oranges, and Yellows

Cool Colors: Greens, Blues, Purples

Hue: The color

Tint: Adding white to a color creates a tint

Tone: Color Adding gray to a color creates a tone

Shade: Color Adding black to a color creates a shade

Value: The lightness or darkness of a color.

Color Schemes:

There are some basic groupings of colors that are great guidelines for creating successful color schemes

Monochromatic: Using a variety of tones, shades, and values of the same color.

Complimentary: Using two colors that are opposite of each other on the color wheel

Analogous: Using three colors that sit side by side to each other on the color wheel

Triadic: Using three colors that are equal distance apart on the color wheel.

Split Complementary: A variation on a complementary color scheme, picks the two colors adjacent to the complementary color.

With all of this in mind, I wanted to create a treasury that celebrated both Fall, and winter, which was a unique way to explore both warm, and cool colors with an emphasis on natural colors.

I looked for items to snuggle up in: hats, and scarves, reasons to snuggle up: books, and tea, as well as things to dress up in for upcoming holiday parties: jewelry and accessories.

Here is what I came up with:

I went with a natural base color of rich browns and grays to help unite and ground the selections. Most of the items contain some form of these two colors. (Keep in mind, I do not only look inside the item itself to build my color palette, for me the entire image is extremely important to if I will use the item or not).

I then chose a triadic color scheme of the three primary colors to use for accent colors, this creates an exciting color scheme, but it still feels very unified.

color diagrams from:


Shop Update Complete…and a Blog Feature!

Last week I put unpacking on the back burner (yes, I was devastated) and worked on getting my shop all updated with all of the new photos that I had taken. I am so pleased with how cohesive my shop looks now. I also added a fun Halloween banner & shop avatar that are super fun. Go ahead, go take a look!

I also decided last week to try out Handmade Spark. I am a huge lover of etsy, but I am always looking to get a little extra exposure for my products. I have looked into other online marketplaces but none of them have incited me enough to go over. Handmade Spark however, seems like a great fit. It is not it's own marketplace, instead it feeds from your etsy shop, and just adds a little extra SEO for people to be able to find your products easier.  On top of that, it has a great active blog, and feels to encompass the supportive artists community that etsy has. One of the biggest draw backs of adding a second shop location is the time it takes to add new items. I would much rather be in my (not yet set up) studio working on more products, than sitting at the computer listing items.

Adding to the excitement of getting all of these set up and ready, today I am the Featured seller! Woo. Check out my write up here!

So, me and my newly updated shop can now be found not only on etsy, but on Handmade spark too!


New photos: A sneak Peak

Moving this time around has been quite an interesting experience. We moved all of our stuff in, and then slowly started moving my boyfriends parents out. They have given us the pretty cool opportunity to live in their house while they move into a smaller fixer upper and work their renovation magic. My boyfriends mom has a ton of odd old things passed down to her from her father, and not all of it can fit into their new place, so for now I get to keep it!

This got especially exciting today when I decided to start re-photographing my books. I started out with a crazy old typewriter which i was totally excited about. I photographed all of my books in multiple positions,  (254 photos) loaded them up, adjusted one, and then let it be for a bit.

Then I was leaving, and something on the bookcase caught my eye. A bundle of over-sized wooden crayons. Regardless of the time spent photographing the previous set of photos, I knew I needed to rephotograph the books with these crayons.

I am in love with these crayons. They are a wonderful mixture of nature mixed with bold, bright colors. I think that those two things sum up my aesthetic pretty well, and while photographing the colors in the crayons helped bring out the vibrancy in the prints of the book.

I will be cropping and editing these, and then doing a massive shop update! Here is a little sneak peak.


Etsy Holiday Boot Camp

Last Saturday I moved, and every time that I move my goal is to reorganize, and refocus. Life has been pretty crazy the past few months, I have been in a creative flurry trying out all sorts of new things. It has been exciting, frantic, and chaotic...and tons of fun. However, I feel that in the flurry of my first season of local craft shows, connecting with other local artists, helping run a handmade group, and working in collaboration with other business owners to bring fun and creative events to Redding, my etsy shop has taken a back seat.

So, I feel that it is time to start to nurture and expand my etsy shop with some of the ideas that are floating through my head. I am a bit late to the party (I blame the move) but I have decided to participate in the Etsy Holiday Boot Camp.

So, here it goes!

I, Nicole Charshaf, pledge to participate in the Etsy Success Holiday Boot Camp to the best of my abilities. I vow to check in every week, do my homework and support my fellow Holiday Boot Campers. I will read the weekly newsletters and blog posts, check in on the weekly forum thread, read the weekly blog post, check off the checklists and salute the mascot. I promise to share what I've learned with those who need it, support my fellow Etsy indiepreneurs and, most of all, have a positive and persistent attitude. I understand that together we can spread the word about our handmade and vintage goods, making this holiday season a more unique and meaningful one to gift givers and give-ees everywhere!

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Christmas in July Sale

Earlier this week I saw a post on etsy about participating in the Christmas in July sale. I thought this was a fun idea, and decided to have a sale for my handbound notebooks & stationery shop. I have free worldwide shipping, free gift with purchase, and a section that has my items that are 25+% off!

To celebrate the sale, I decided to deck out my banner and avatar with a themed banner.

Christmas in July banner - ncharshaf's handbound notebooks

Last week, I opened up a new etsy shop where I offer Graphic design services, and creating my own banner made me think that I could offer this to other people as well.

So, if you would like your banner customized with Christmas in July spirit, check out the custom package here where I will work with your current look, and Christmas-ify it.

I also thought I would offer a few free premade options for those who just want a quick and easy fun and free banner to celebrate this sale. Click here to download a zip of all the .jpg files for these banners.

Free Christmas in July Etsy Banners


Polka Dot Love Treasury

I have a small (ok large) obsession with polka dots. Anything with polka dots pretty much makes my heart beat a bit faster. I think that they areso versatile and wonderful, they can be fun and playful, or classic and elegant, and really everything in between.

Today I searched through etsy for some polka dot items, it was quite hard to narrow it down to just 16 items, but I think I found some really lovely items.

Make sure to stop by and give the treasury and all of these sellers some love!

Polka Dot Love Treasury on Etsy

1. ECO POLKA DOTS II by ikabags

2.  True Blue Print by jellybeans

3.  Cupcake liners- Green polka dots by DivineBakingSupplies

4. Cotton chenille burp cloth set Brown and Blue Dots Flowers by OurLittleMesses

5.  Lolli Dot Baby Booties by blowingkissesdesigns

6.  Red with Colorful Dots Large Fabric Thumbtacks by fabric farrago

7.  linen notepad cosy by PilliPillihandmade

8.  The TUTU PARTY DRESS by loverdoversclothing

9.  Set of Two 16x16 inch Designer Pillow Covers by thislittlehome

10.  Movie Screen Big Audry Hair snap by chrystalyn

11.  Suburban Relapse Black with Cream Polka Dot Fingerless Gloves by ZenAndCoffee

12. Auto Trash - Car Litter Bag - Light Bright (Black) by allysonhill

13.  Trinket Box Le Cirque by funwallart

14.  Retro Halter and Boy Brief Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Harajuku

15.  Bumblebee Matchbox Goodies by ivylanedesigns


75 Minutes to Hardcover Redemption

I have already talked about my first bookbinding experience and how lovely it was. I am so thankful for this first experience, because my second go at bookbinding was disastrous. I was in my advanced typography class, the third and final one in the series, and probably the class I had been most looking forward to my entire college career. The main focus of the class was to create an artist book. Basically this meant finding something we are really interested in, research it, find the content, and then produce it in a creative artistic way. In continuations of my love for bookbinding, I decided to create a hardcover notebook.

I had done some research, bought the supplies, but never practiced actually creating a hardcover book. When it came time to bind the book (the day of my final) things went from bad to worse real fast. The book fought me at every single step, and then fell completely apart when I tried to adhere the fabric cover to the board, and then the book to the cover. It was a wet sloppy mess that was barely holding together. I think I was about an hour late to my final at this point, and needed to just go to class and accept the wet, sticky, mess of a failure to my first experience with hardcover bookbinding.

So, fast forward a few years, and here I am, finally brave enough to try it again. Spoiler alert, there is a happy ending this time!

Delicate flower & bold polka dot hardcover notebook

These little pint sized books are a true labor of love. Although they are a lot of work, it is so rewarding to finally have some redemption.

Here is how in 10 steps, and 75 minutes I got my hardcover redemption.

Step 1: Fold paper into signatures - 10 minutes.

2. Punch holes in signatures to prepare for sewing: 5 min

Step 3: Sew book and apply cheesecloth to spine allowing for structure, while remaining flexible - 20 min

Step 4: Trim book - 10 min

5. Cut illustration board for 2 covers and 1 spine - 5 min

6. Adhere the fabric to the two covers - 10 min

7. Attach spine to cover - 5 min

8. Attach book to cover - 5 min

9. Glue end-papers to inside of book. - 5 min

10. All done!


Cleaning Up

Not sure what it is, but it seems spring cleaning has come a bit late, as everyone seems ready to clean up their studio spaces. Nothing like the first 100+ degree day to get me inspired to spend 5+ hours cleaning my own disaster space.

My craft space ranges from unusable to disaster zone on most days. Lately it has been stuck in disaster zone after a few back to back craft shows. It seems that no matter how much time I spend cleaning the space, it always gets messy faster than I can keep up. Nothing like a messy room to ruin all creativity.

I am ashamed to show how bad it got, as often times I see people post their "before" photos and they look better than my "after" photos. But I wanted to show the transformation.


Very messy studio

Very messy table top of my studio

Very messy floor of my studio

Very messy floor of my studio


The first major change that I made was to move my laptop and printer off to a side cabinet freeing up a ton of space on my desk. I also got some assistance from my boyfriend in hanging some long overdue artwork. The piece here is a beautiful photograph taken by Richard F. Gaston.

The desk looks a whole lot nicer now, and I also have more space available on my humongous cork board. I hope to start using this more now, although I am not sure how yet. So far I added a few pegs to hold my sizzors, ruler, and thread. I thought that this was a good start. I also hung one of my Grandmas drawings above my table.

Much cleaner table plus a drawing of my Grandma's

A nice space for some of my tools

Now that it is all clean, I hope to get back to being creative, although I know it will just get messy again...just hopefully not as bad!