The Etsy Blog

How-Tuesday: Seed Packet Book handmade and vintage goods

For this week’s How-Tuesday, designer and bookbinder Dan McKinney of Pixel Point will show us how to transform an old seed packet into a mini heirloom journal. These make great gifts for the gardener in your life and are perfect bound in hardcover to last a lifetime. This wonderful project is included in Making Mini Books.

Finished Dimensions
23?4 x 31?2 inches (7 x 8.9 cm)

Stitch Used
None (Perfect bound)

Vintage seed packet, 4 1?4 x 6 11?16 inches (10.8 x 16.9 cm)
Cotton bond paper, 8 1?2 x 11 inches (21.6 x 28 cm)
Tree-free or other paper, 20–24# text weight
Wheat paste (see recipe on page 41)
1 piece thick (3?32-inch/2.4 mm) mat board, about 5 1?2 x 3 1?2 inches (14 x 8.9 cm)
2 pages from a gardening almanac for endpapers
1 mull or super, 1 x 3 3?16 inches (2.5 x 8.1 cm)
End bands, 1?4-inch (6 mm)
Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue
Tea for dyeing (optional)
Wax paper

Tools Needed:
Paper cutter
Binder clip or 2-inch (5 cm) clamp
Small brush
Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) glue
Utility knife
Hinge spacer, 1?4 x 5 inches (6 mm x 12.7 cm)
Cover board aligner
Self-healing cutting mat
Bone folder
Weight, such as a brick or heavy books
2 small (1?8-inch/3 mm) wooden dowels, 8 inches (20.3 cm) long


Preparing the Seed Packet
1. Find a vintage seed packet for the cover. I went to my old-timey seed store and was rewarded with a box of vintage seed packets with illustrations from the 1940s. Pick up an old or new garden almanac for the endpapers at the seed store.

2. Steam the seed packet open so it will lay flat. I boiled some water and placed the packet in a steamer over the rising steam.

3. Use wheat paste to glue your seed packet to a piece of cotton bond backing paper. You can buy wheat paste or make your own. (There are directions at the bottom of this post for making your own.) Place your paper-backed seed packet under a weight, such as a brick, until the glue is dry.

Making the Cover
4. Cut out the paper for the cover and make sure to allow a 3?8 inch (5 mm) allowance for the foldover.

5. Cut out the covers and spine from the mat board: 2 pieces, 2 1?2 x 3 1?2 inches (6.4 x 8.9 cm), for the front and back covers, and 1 piece, 7?16 x 3 1?2 inches (1.1 x 8.9 cm), for the spine.

6. Referring to figure 1, center the spine mat board piece on the back side of the cover and place the front and back mat board pieces 1?8 inch (3 mm) in from the spine, leaving 1?4 inches (6 mm) on all other sides to allow for the cover fold over. Trace around each mat board piece and glue it in place. Rub the cover with a piece of wax paper to remove air pockets, and place under the weight until dry.

7. Cut the corners of the cover material at 45-degree angles about 3?16 inch (5 mm) from the corners of the mat board. Apply glue to the fold over sides on the back side of the book and use a bone folder to neatly secure each side. Place the cover under a weight to keep it flat until the glue dries.

Making the Text Block
8. Cut 100 sheets of paper to 2 1?2 x 3 1?4 inches (6.4 x 8.3 cm) using a paper cutter. I preprint paper with a title and lines, but that is optional. One hundred sheets will make a 1?4 to 5?16-inch (6 to 8 mm) thick book.

9. Jog the stack of paper to square it in preparation for making a perfect bound text block. (Pretend you are squaring a deck of playing cards.) Place the stack neatly into the clamp.

10. Fan the spine so that the edges of the paper are slightly exposed and brush on glue. Fan the text block in the opposite direction and apply more glue. Reposition the text block to be square (no fan effect) and set aside until the glue dries.

11. Cut two endpapers at 5 x 31?4 inches (12.7 x 8.3 cm). I selected interesting pages from an old farmers almanac. Fold the end papers in half to 21?2 x 31?4 inches (6.4 x 8.3 cm). To attach the endpapers to the text block, apply a 1?8-inch (3 mm) wide strip of glue parallel to the spine side of the block and position the endpaper.

12. Apply glue to the spine liberally and brush lightly. Place and center the mull onto the spine. Brush or rub with your finger to work the glue into the mull.

13. Apply an end band to the head and tail of the text block. Cut two pieces the width of the spine, apply a small amount of glue, and position with a little pressure. Place under a weight and allow the text block to dry.

Casing in the Book
14. Place the text block into the cover. Fold the cover over the text block and center all the edges. The text block is not going to fit properly against the side of the cover until you apply some compression, as the hinge area is designed to “grow” a little when the cover is compressed against the block. You are making a pre-fit during this step to get the head and tail alignment correct.

15. Open the cover. The text block and cover will be laying flat on the table. Place a small sheet of wax paper between the sections of the endpaper to prevent glue from getting between the papers and spoiling the text block. Place a weight on the text block to keep it aligned during the pasting step.

16. Spread a bead of glue along the spine under the mull and glue the mull to the text block. Be sure to work glue into the mull liberally at the bend with the spine.

17. Spread wheat paste adhesive to the entire cover not covered by the flap and along the edges of the endpapers. Leave the back cover flat on the table and use your left hand to raise the front cover to a 90-degree angle. When you bend the cover the spine board should also be at 90 degrees.

18. Position the spine of the text block tightly against the spine board by pushing the text block with your hand. Let the cover fall onto the text block and push it down with your hand. Turn the cover and block over and remove the piece of wax paper. Rub out any wrinkles with a scrap of wax paper and then insert a fresh piece of wax paper between the endpapers. Repeat the procedure for the back cover.

19. Place a dowel on the table and tape the ends down so it won’t roll. Place the cased-in book over the dowel, parallel to the spine, so the dowel fits into the hinge area of the spine. Place the other dowel onto the front side of the cased-in book in the same position and place a weight on top. The dowel will drop into the hinged area and make a nice, crisp edge. Allow to dry overnight.

Making Homemade Wheat Paste
1. Add 1?4 cup flour to a small saucepan. Add 1?4 cup cold water and stir. Add a second 1?4 cup cold water and stir. Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir.

2. Cook over low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Continuously whisk or stir until the paste thickens and starts to bubble.

3. Cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator.

If you make your own seed packet book, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group. Thank you to Lark Crafts for sharing this project with us. For more bookbinding projects like this one, check out Making Mini Books, by Kathleen McCafferty, available from Amazon or an independent bookstore near you.

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