ncharshaf handmade Adventures of a self taught bookbinder


Tuesday Treasury – Monsters Under the Bed

I have been on a total cute furry kooky monster kick recently, so today I scoured etsy and found some truely cute and creepy monsters that just want to be your friend.

These monsters want to live under your bed and be your best friend!

Make sure to check out the treasury here: and give the sellers lots of love, they sure deserve it for creating such creative little monsters.

Sellers in this Treasury:

1. Lonnie the radioactive monster from MonstersEtc

2.  Sally and Fred from badbird

3. D.A.M.R. necklace from IchibanJoyas

4.  Melvin from obsoleteworlds

5.  Gary Takes up Knitting - Limited Edition Print from KillTaupe

6. Somebody's watching you from  asher82281

7. Hand Knit Monster with Leg Warmers from pinandpaper

8.  Creepy Plush from gush4plush

9.  Spork - Handmade Plush from DollyOblong

10.  Hunt the Beastile from Beastiles

11.  Scrabble Tile Pendant Necklace MONSTER Introductory Price from bippityboppityglue

12. Frank pinback button from thepinksamurai

13. so that's how we fell in love - 5x7 limited edition matted print

14.  the monster Decal sticker for iPad by CoolDecal

15.  Movable Teeth ring in Solid Sterling Silver by TwilightDistinction

16.  Hot Pink Monster Hat by wattlebird


Product Photography

Today, I got back my shop critique from  Amber over at Mommy the Marketer. I highly suggest investing the $20 into your business and doing this. She came back with a really great critique of my shop with tons of detailed ideas on how to improve. It all made tons of sense, and I am starting right away in implementing her ideas. The only thing that I am sad about is that I did not do this a long time ago.

I already knew that working on my photos was something that I wanted to work on, which is why I have been working on getting my lightbox set up. Amber made a great suggestion to look at photos from your favorite brands for inspiration, and to look at it like a photo in a magazine page. So, I started thinking of my favorite sites that I go to for eye candy and my top two popped right into my head Decor8 and Papercrave. I surfed around for a bit and my heart began to sing. There is something about every single product shot in each of these blogs that just make me happy. I decided I wanted to take photos that made my heart sing, no pressure.

What I noticed from these two blogs, is that staging of the product is quite important. After a moment of near defeat thinking I could not afford to buy cool things just to stage my photos, I put on my creative hat and got to work. I gathered some tulle, and colorful buttons that I had gotten from a recent Craft Buffet I attended, a pencil, tall shot glass, and then picked some pretty weeds from my overgrown backyard (I knew there was a reason we had not mowed it yet!)

I moved the objects around a ton, and took tons of photographs, and then came back inside thinking I did not have anything I would like. It was not until I got them into photoshop, that I started to get excited. Not only did I have some that I like, I had way too many that I liked. I spent the next two hours adjusting, sorting, and refining my selection until I had something that I liked.

I wanted to post some before and after photos of what the listing looked like before, vrs what it looks like now. Granted this was one of my worst photographed items that I took in a dimly lit room with my iphone (I am not sure what my logic was on this one), but needless to say I think I have made an improvement.


Before Photo


After Photo


Finding the (white) balance

Eager to try out my lightbox that I built yesterday, I went outside and took a huge batch of photos. The problem was that I got them inside and they all had a beautiful tungsten glow to them. My goal with the lightbox was to shorten my time in post production as opposed to raise it. I use a Canon EOS Rebel XT camera, and I have been a bit spoiled with how well it points and shoots without much fuss. Although I do typically shoot in manual, I enjoy how the camera is fairly easy to get great photos out of. Up until this point, I have been using the camera's auto white balance and changing the rest of the settings.

However, with the auto white balance not getting the color that I wanted, I decided to start experimenting with the other white balance settings. I went outside and took a picture of the same object on each setting, one with flash, and one without. I am glad that I did, because I think I found the right mix that will get me beautiful photos with minimal touch up. I have gotten used to adjusting my own shutter speed, focus, and f. stop, and now it looks like I will add one more setting to my list.

I thought it was interesting how drastic the photos changed with each settings, and I set up a chart for reference.

Testing the different white balance settings on my camera.


Building a lightbox

I have been working on different aspects of improving my etsy shop recently, working on tagging, descriptions, sorting, etc. It seemed that the last thing on my list was to work on my photographs. While I do not think my photographs are terrible, I think that there is room for improvement with them to make them more clear and engaging.

I had been toying with the idea of creating a lightbox, and after finding this guide today, I decided it was time to take the plunge.

I was amazed at how simple this process was, and also fairly inexpensive.

My materials:

Supplies needed to create my lightbox

  • 3 pieces of foam core -  $10.60: one thick piece for $5 for the bottom, and 2 thinner pieces that were slightly banged up, and sold "as is" for $2.80 a piece
  • 3 Clip on Shop Lights - $15
  • Bright White Light Bulbs - $8
  • Painters tape
  • Straight Edge
  • X-Acto knife
  • pen

Total Cost: $33.60

Step 1: Cut the foam core
It worked out pretty well that the thick piece that I bought for the bottom was a half sheet of the thinner pieces that I bought, meaning I could cut the 2 thin pieces in half  creating my 2 sides, back, and top. After cutting these in half, I trimmed a bit extra off to get rid of the bent corners that allowed me to get them for so cheap.

Step 2: Adhere the sides
Now, here is my admission, I hate measuring. Forget measuring twice and cutting once, I prefer to not do it at all. Instead, I took the thick bottom piece, and used it to trace the proper width for the sides. I then used my tape to attach the two sides to the bottom piece.

Adhering the sides to the lightbox

Step 3: Adhere the back
Ok, so my non measuring plan worked out really well for the sides, but as far as the back goes, I had not accounted for the extra width of the two side pieces. Luckily the back piece fit between those two pieces, so it ended up being ok. The height of this back piece was also a bit tall, so I marked off where the sides hit it and did a final cut. Finally I taped the back piece to the sides.

Lightbox with the back attached

Step 4: Adhere the top
The top came together pretty nicely, but I did need to call in my boyfriend to help me hold the piece up while I taped it, and then it was done and ready to attach the clamp lights!

Fully built lightbox - view from the back

Step 5: Insert paper into center of box at a curve
I bought a few pieces of paper as well to adhere to the box and create a curve to eliminate the seam at the back of the box. I bought standard large sheets of paper in black, grey and white to give a variety of background colors that I could easily switch out.

Finished lightbox with paper insert

Step 6: Photograph!
I wanted to test it out a bit, so so I grabbed my trusty X-Acto knife. I have a little bit of playing around to do with the exposure and white balance, but so far I am pleased, and looking forward to update my product photographs. I think that this was a great project that did not take a lot of effort but I believe will create good results.


Trying my hand at teaching

I spent most of my childhood wanting to be a teacher when I grew up. I have always loved kids, and it seemed like something I would enjoy. As I grew up and got more into computers, my career goals changed a bit, and began to lean more towards doing something with computers. Now that I am out of school, I have been thinking that it would be fun to somehow incorporate teaching into what I do.

Today, I was invited by a local cupcake shop called Sweetspot to attend the last day of their camp, and teach the kids how to bind a book that contained the recipes that they learned that week. It was a group of about 8 kids ranging from 4 - 11 years old, and I really had no idea what to expect. I went in with the idea that there was a chance that they would just watch me make the books, or that they would be bouncing off the wall not wanting to sit and concentrate on the project.

However, Most of them seemed pretty interested, which made it really fun.  We started by letting them decorate the covers of the book however they wanted to, and they had tons of fun punching out decorative papers and gluing them to the cover. Once they were done, they came up  one by one, and I let them punch the three holes with the awl, and then gave them a needle and thread, and held the book wile they sewed it. I was very impressed that everyone was able to sew their own book. I wonder if I just trained the next great bookbinder ;)

The final bound books that the kids made at Sweetspot today


Thursday Treasury – Summer Grilling

I have found that I really enjoy creating treasuries, as it stretches my creativity in a whole new way. My goal is to always find items that fit together in more than just theme. I want there to be a logical gradation of colors, and it is also important the the photography is clear and engaging.

Creating treasuries also touches on a theme that has been incredibly important to me recently, which is supporting the craft community. Sometimes the business side of takes over and you get into this vortex of promote promote promote, and you forget to spend time being inspired by what everyone else is doing.

So, this new treasury was inspired by our first family BBQ that we hosted last weekend, hope you enjoy.

Summer Grilling Treasury on Etsy

Summer Grilling Treasury on Etsy

The sellers in this treasury:
1. gourmet spice rub and barbeque kit by purposedesign

2. boulder wine charms by chrystalyn

3. Mint - Antique Spoon Garden marker by Hammermann

4. Vintage Amber Blend Tea Canister by 8pointdesign

5. Wood meat tenderizer by Brownfamilyworkshop

6.  Handmade cutting board by TRwoodworks

7. Fragility II by makye77

8. Butterfly Letterpress mini cards by sweetharvey

9. Yummy Burger Necklace by BabyLovesPink

10.  Cow Sculpture by Jimmyshandmade

11. T-Bone Steak Card by OrangeTwist

12.  Red Multi Print Summer Dress by emilyelizabethcoutur

13. Hot Shot Upcycled Barbecue Mitt by undoneclothing

14. Lemon Citrus Cloth Napkins by QuietudeQuilts

15. Citrus Colors Glass Coasters by bprdesigns

16. Hand painted wine glasses by PrettyMyDrink


A Bookbinder is Born

I fell in love with bookbinding in college when I decided I wanted to perfect bind my final project after my teacher showed a small demo in class. The first attempt at bookbinding turned out fantastic, and I was hooked. A  year later I took a workshop on how to to a 3 hole stab bound notebook, and my love for bookbinding was re-ignited.

My first handbound book

It was not until my first day at work after graduation that I pulled out this little notebook that I had created and began to use it. I wrote tons of little notes in it from tracking my time, my to-do lists, random thoughts, sketches, project revisions and meeting notes. I carried the notebook with me everywhere, and captured my stream of consciousness for a period of time. It became so much more inspiring to use a notebook that I loved to look of, rather than the plain books I had been getting from the art store throughout college. I found that I wanted to sketch more, and the small size meant that I could carry them everywhere with me.

The book I made at a workshop and later used at my first job after college.

It was at that time that I made a goal of creating these books to sell on etsy, and here I am today nearly a year later. This has been a challenging, and rewarding learning experience, and I am looking forward to how my shop will continue to evolve.