Crafts: Preserve family history in a heritage scrapbook

Preserving family history in a beautifully¬ designed album takes time and patience, but simple steps add up to a treasure well worth the effort.
By Traci Smith, Associate Editor
May 2009

CREATING A TITLE PAGE: I placed a torn strip of striped paper on the left side of a 12x12 piece of green cardstock, then added two strips of ribbon at the top of the page. I centered a clock die cut on the ribbons, and used die cut letters in the middle of the page for a title. Flowers with brad centers, placed overlapping in the bottom corners, complete the page.
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Here are some tips to help you create a heritage scrapbook to share with your family. Be warned, though. Once your relatives see it, they’ll want one of their own – and more than likely, they’ll ask you to make it.

 

Choose an album

How big do you want your scrapbook to be? I like the 12x12-inch scrapbook albums for heritage books, because the larger pages allow you to use more photos and embellishments than the 8x8-inch pages. However, the choice is yours.

Next, decide whether you want to add more page protectors to the album or just use the ones that come with it. Most 12x12 albums include 20 page protectors, which means the album will hold 40 pages. It’s important to determine this before starting, so you’ll know how many photos you’ll need for the book.

Once you know how many pages you’ll be making, figure out how many photos you’ll need. To do this, I usually average two photos per page, even though some pages will have only one photo, while others may have three or four. (My album has 20 page protectors, which holds 40 pages, so 40 pages times two photos per page means I’ll need 80 photos. To that number, I add five, just so I’ll be sure to have enough. That means I’ll need to find 85 photos.)

 

Find photos

Finding photos is generally the most time-consuming step in the project. I go through and pick out my favorite photos, count them to see how many more I will need, and then go back through the photos I didn’t pick and choose more. I do this until I reach the number needed. Then it’s time to make copies of them.

I have a scanner-printer and a computer, so I scan the photos onto the computer, then print them out on photo paper in various sizes – 3½x5, 4x6 and 5x7. Occasionally I’ll use an 8x10, but not very often – they take up a lot of room, which makes it difficult to add embellishments. Not everyone likes to use different size photos. Some prefer to use all 3½x5 or 4x6 photos. Others like to use both 3½x5 and 4x6 photos, but avoid any 5x7s. The choice is completely up to you.

If you don’t have a scanner-printer and a computer, you can take your photos to a photo center and have copies made.

 

Gather information

Information about your photos is needed to tell the story of the photos on your pages. This is where family comes into play. Ask parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings to help answer the “Who, what, when, where and why” questions about the photos you’re using. This process can take awhile, but it’s a lot of fun, and very helpful.

To keep things organized, buy a package of index cards and write the information you gather on them. Then put each card and its corresponding photo together until they’re needed.

 

Plan your photo layout

Now it’s time to plan the layout of your photos. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to pick three or four photos at a time that look like they belong together. For instance, three photos of Grandma celebrating different holidays, three photos of different relatives cooking a holiday meal, or three photos of family members holding their first child. Continue organizing the photos until all are grouped.

Now count the groups of photos. In my case, I’ll either need 39 or 40 groups of photos – 39 if I don’t use a photo on the title page (or front page), or 40 if I do.

Keep your groups of photos, along with their corresponding index cards, together until you’re ready to start laying out your pages.

 

Choose your materials

You can find hundreds of embellishments and papers available for heritage scrapbooks, as well as many pre-made kits. The kits contain papers and embellishments, and sometimes even a scrapbook album.

Some people prefer the kits because they take the guesswork out of choosing coordinating materials. I’ve found that picking my own papers and embellishments gives me more freedom to create the pages exactly the way I want. I’ll admit, though, the kits provide a convenient and quick solution when you’re in a hurry, and they also serve as a great teaching tool for scrapbookers who are just starting out. If you decide to use one, you’ll be ready to start building pages as soon as you get home.

If you decide instead to use individual materials, plan a trip to your favorite craft store. Be sure to allow plenty of time; you don’t want to be rushed.

Craft stores sell single sheets of paper, as well as paper packs – 80 to 120 sheets of papers in many designs. Paper packs work great for making large, themed scrapbooks, and they even make packs designed just for heritage books. The packs aren’t cheap, but if you buy them when they’re on sale, they’re a great bargain. I like to shop at Hobby Lobby because of the wide variety of supplies, and because they frequently have half-off sales.

Once you select your paper, look for embellishments that coordinate with your papers. Ribbon, lace and brads look great on heritage papers, and they’re relatively inexpensive. Other embellishments that work well for heritage books include photo corners, postage stamp stickers or die cuts, envelope stickers or die cuts, eyelets, tags and other die cuts that coincide with your photos. Embellishments can also be expensive, so try to buy them when they’re on sale, too. If you’re a dedicated scrapbooker, you might consider purchasing a die cut machine, which allows you to make your own embellishments. I have one, and it was well worth the money.

With embellishments, it’s better to buy more than you might need than to run out in the middle of your project. You can always return unopened items you don’t use or keep them for a future project. However, if you run out of something, such as a patterned ribbon, before your book is complete, you’ll be upset if you find the store where you bought it has discontinued or sold out of the product.

 

Putting it all together

Finally, it’s time to create your pages and put your scrapbook together.

The first page will be your title page – a page stating what the contents of the scrapbook are, such as “Our Family History” or “Our Wedding Day.” Or, for a more creative title, “Once upon a Time ...” or “Happily Ever After.”

My title pages consist of a title and a few embellishments. However, I have a friend who wouldn’t even consider making a scrapbook page without a photo, so her title pages have a title, a photo and a few embellishments. If you’re not sure whether or not to use a photo on the title page, try it both ways to see what you like best.


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