Paper Bag Brag Book

I am not a scrapbooker. I could show you my twelve-year-old attempts at being a scrapbooker... but that just reminds me of how many pictures I mutilated unnecessarily. So just trust me on this: Lorene = not scrapbooker.

However, I love these little brag-sized scrapbooks:

These little books appeal to my papercrafting desires without inflaming my craft fatigue syndrome (which causes me to bail on a long-term craft halfway through because I am boooored). And the best part? You can put one together in around 30 minutes, making these brag books perfect for last-minute gifts. Not that I nor any of you have ever put together a gift mere hours before a party. Never.

As much as I'd love to take original credit for this wonderful idea, I cannot for that would be dishonest. I did not come up with this idea myself. I learned from a college neighbor who presumably originated the idea, but since then I have lost contact with her and even forgotten her name (sorry!). I've also seen a similar idea posted a couple other places -- see my note at the bottom of the tutorial -- so this is just my version of doing something that I learned from someone else that I want to share with y'all. 

Time spent: 30 minutes (triple that time if you're teaching a group of teenage girls ;)
Money spent: approximately $2 for each book
Yield: One 10-page, 5-inch square brag book

For ideas and instructions about variations on this basic book, including adding more pages, making photo sleeves, and including pull-out inserts, see Paper Bag Brag Book: The Sequel(s).

What you'll need
  • 3 paper lunch bags (brown, white, or otherwise)
  • 8 - 5 inch squares of scrapbook paper
    • These will be for pages 1-4 and 7-10, so you should have four pairs of coordinating or matching squares.
  • 2 - 5 inch by 12 inch rectangles of scrapbook paper
    • One of these will be for the cover, and one will be for pages 5-6 (the center spread).
  • 2 - 6 to 10 inch pieces of ribbon or twill tape (for the ties)
  • glue stick
  • scissors (not pictured)
  • sewing machine (not pictured)
If you have a paper that has a fun embellishment, such as the velvety flowers on the book shown above, or you want to stitch or embellish your cover like the book to the left, remember that your embellished goodness needs to be at the right (not left) end of the 5x12 paper to show on the front cover. Any of your own embellishing that pierces the paper (stitching, brads, staples, etc) must be completed before you assemble your book.
What you'll do
1. Arrange your three paper bags out in front of you like in the picture above. Alternating the bulkier folded end helps the book to be more balanced. For the purposes of this tutorial, since I can't stand next to you, we'll lay the bags out in this arrangement several times, and I'll refer to the bags like this:
  • A - (the bag closest to you) - becomes center spread (pages 5 and 6) and pages 4 and 7
  • B - (the middle bag) - becomes pages 2, 3, 8, 9
  • C - (the bag farthest from you) - becomes cover, pages 1, 10
2. Then stack the three bags on top of each other, putting bag A on top of bag B and those two on top of bag C. 3. Fold the stack of bags in half horizontally (hamburger style) and crease well.
4. Lay the book in front of you with the fold to the left (like a normal book) and label the pages: front cover, pages 1 through 10, back cover.

 5. Open to page 1 and glue one of the 5" paper squares in the center of the page, and then glue a coordinating/matching paper square on page 2.
  • The glue is only to hold the paper until you secure it permanently by sewing it, so don't use too much glue and then be sure that your glue is dry before you start sewing (step 12). Too much glue or glue that is still gluey can gum up your sewing machine -- blech.
6. Keeping the book in order and together, glue a pair of coordinating/matching paper squares on pages 3 and 4.
7. Skip pages 5 and 6 (the center spread) for now.
8. Glue a pair of coordinating/matching papers on pages 7 and 8 and then pages 9 and 10.
9. Open your book flat to pages 5 and 6 (the center spread) and arrange your paper bags again like you had them in step 1: A closest to you, then B, and C farthest from you.
  • Make note of which papers are located where, so that you can remember to place them back in that same arrangement.
 10. Glue one of your 5x12 paper rectangles across pages 5 and 6 (the center spread and the blank side of bag A). The paper will will hang over the edge(s), so...
11. Trim the edges of the paper to be flush with the edges of the bag.

 12. Sew along the long edges only of bag A, using about a 1/4 inch seam, and return the bag back to its spot in the arrangement.
  • Be sure that your seam catches the paper on both sides of the paper bag as you sew. 
13. Sew along both long edges of bag B next, and place it back in your arrangement on the table.
14. Turn over bag C so that you can see the blank side, labeled front cover and back cover.
15. Glue the remaining 5x12 paper rectangle on the front and back cover and trim it like you did for page 5 and 6.
16. Sew along the long edges only of bag C.

 17. Tuck one of the pieces of ribbon between the paper and the end of bag C about 1/2 an inch.
18. Sew along that short edge of bag C, making sure that your seam holds the ribbon securely.

 19. At the other end of bag C, tuck the other piece of ribbon inside the paper bag (since this end is the open end of the bag) about 1/2 an inch.
20. Fold bag C in half (where you're previously folded) and line up the second ribbon with the first so that your ties will match up.  
21. Sew along that short edge of bag C and return it to its place in the arrangement on the table.

 22. Stack the bags back in order: A on top of B, and then those on top of C.
23. Fold the book in half again, crease well, and then open flat again.

 24. Holding the bags very securely, sew carefully along the crease that you just made to bind the book pages together.
  • Because machine stitched paper looks much smoother on the top side, I always sew with the cover up, since you'll see that binding seam more than any other seam. 

 Voila! You are now a book binder and publisher! To add your photos, keepsakes, recipes, or whatever else, use glue dots or photo corners. Just be sure not to use anything that will poke through to the other side of the page, such as staples or brads.

OR you can give the blank book (with some glue dots or other supplies) as a gift and let the recipient fill it with their own photos/mementos.
Wondering about some of the other variations pictured above? [Update: Get the details here.] I'll share those, which include a fabric cover and album-like plastic pockets, with you on Thursday. (Tomorrow I'm over at Housewife Eclectic showing you the magic of Picasa -- it'll solve all your Blogger photo upload troubles!) But this post has been in draft form too long already.

In fact, when I first started this tutorial over a week ago, I had never seen anything exactly like it online or anywhere. However, since then, not one but two different blogs have posted similar books. What are the odds?!?

Answer: the odds are quite good. There are so many creative people out there that the odds of me being the only person who had ever seen this idea AND who decided to share it with blogland... THOSE are the odds that are sooo small. (The timing of the other posts does serve to teach a lesson about leaving posts as drafts for long periods of time, though. ;)

So, I'm not original. Not in the least. I know you're shocked (not!) but I've come to terms with it and am more than willing to share and share alike. What good is creativity if it's not shared and improved upon? I once had a college professor who was always telling us that our best friend in the professional world is Sharon Steele (share 'n steal) because everyone knows her and everyone puts her to work on every project.

I do believe that Sharon Steele and everyone else who works on a project should be given credit though -- my mother did her best to teach me manners and I guess it's finally stuck. ;) In addition to those who inspire and otherwise contribute to a project, I believe that the blogosphere should be a place to promote others' good ideas too, even if sometimes others are so clever that you wish you thought of it first or could take credit for it!

So, if you'd like to see a couple variations on the same type of book, The Dating Divas embellish their book to beyond adorable, Creativity Prompt employs a cardboard cover and ribbon binding, and Katie's Nesting Spot shares a fold-out book that doubles as a greeting card.


Tricia said...

Great job Lu. It does seem that just as you get ready to post something in blogland fifteen other people post your same idea.

I'm not a scrapbooker either, but I am in YW, so I feel you pain (both in the scrapping and the teaching teenage girls).

Great shared idea. Congrats on Stashbusting September.

Nick and Keira said...

Oh please oh please oh please can we do this craft for November??? I have PLENTY of extra brown bags (and scrapbook paper) lying around and I would LOVE to do this as a Christmas present idea for sooo many people. It's so cute! So seemingly simple! I actually followed this tutorial without my head spinning! ;)

Also, can you do more than 10 pages, or is that too much for the stitching to hold?

Oh, and you rock.

elizabeth @ twelvecrafts said...

So cute! I have yet to sew through paper . . . so I'm definitely curious about the entire project. When I first saw the three paper bags, I was wondering how it would all come together. And it ended up being super cute . . . who knew paper bags could be used that way? Apparently, you did!

the 30 girl said...

Wow! I love this! Thanks so much for sharing...I'm so going to make one!

Our Family said...

My girls made these at girls camp two summers ago. They always do a book that they write notes to each other. They made these and then were able to put all the cute handouts and things in the openings of the bag. They didn't sew theres of course. Very fun!

Melissa said...

Beautiful...but for some reason, they intimidate me!!

Katie's Nesting Spot said...

Great tute and I love that you sew yours. So much nicer and sturdy that hoping double sided tape holds up to repeated handling. The black and white design is especially striking. Thank you for mentioning my version and for the link. I gave you a shout out on my Facebook Fan page and linked. My FB and Twitter accounts are linked so it will automatically send out a tweet too:)

Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

These are so cute! I'm not a scrapbooker, either... too much of a commitment. Love that you use paper bags and that they are sewn... very cool!

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