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!


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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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!


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


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.