Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Attachments: Book Arts Style

My last post discussed attachments with a conservation focus. Sometimes the creative possibilities are more important than the archival ones, or piercing holes in items is part of the artwork itself. In that case, here are some further ideas to attach loose items onto a page or in a book.

Just keep in mind that some of the methods below may create permanent changes in the mounted item and are not recommended for valuable, historic, or borrowed materials. Consider the long-term effects of any of these before using in your own projects.

As we saw in the last post (July 22) these were some options for attaching loose items to pages:

Paper clips:

Historically paper clips were made of metal, but those can be prone to rust over time in certain environmental conditions. Alternative shapes to the classic double loop include this dog and the circle. Those made from plastic or coated wire are also commonly available. The binder’s clip is useful for thicker materials. Both paper and binder’s clips come in a variety of sizes.


This creates a hole in both the page and the item attached. It requires an eyelet setter such as this one often available where craft or sewing notions are sold.


Brads usually come in a brass colored metal, but are also available in mini sizes and in a variety of colors. Some even have a shaped head, such as a star or square, like this one.  Brads, like eyelets
and staples, create holes in both item and page.

Staples: These can be hard to remove without causing damage.

Adhesive: Paste and Glue

Adhesives are generally a permanent method of attachment, whether glues, double-sided tapes, or dry-mount adhesives.  Pastes (as opposed to glue) are generally reversible, however they often leave evidence of their application and use.

Pockets & Envelopes:

Loose pockets or envelopes can be attached by a variety of methods, like any loose item. They can also be incorporated into an album during its creation by sewing them in as part of a section or in binding of single sheets. Extensions (or guards) can be attached to the binding edge to allow for ease of use, like in this example where the purple extension is sewn in on the binding edge of the brown envelope. This album is bound with screw posts.

Slits and slots:

Photo corners:


These plastic snaps are a scrap-booking item, and operate much like a traditional sewn snap, but are attached more like a brad. A tiny hole is made in both item and page. The two parts of the snap are inserted through from front and back and “snap” together holding them in place.

Screw posts:

Screw posts are much like eyelets, as holes must be made in both item and page. They can hold thin to very thick items, and come in a variety of metals. These are usually used for binding, with extensions available to adapt the original to hold a collection of expanding material. But they can be used for putting a single item onto a page. These are often available at hardware and stationary stores.

Adhesive: Tape

All kinds of tape can work: traditional adhesive tapes such as medical paper adhesive tape, electrical, masking, double-sided, or cellophane. Newer products like colorful washi tape can also be used highlighting the attachment or construction while at the same time adding decoration. Just keep in mind that all tapes have adhesive that is extremely difficult if not impossible to remove.

Needle and Thread:

By machine or hand sewing a needle and thread can attach paper together not just cloth. Paper is not as forgiving of mistakes when sewing, but it works well for many things. I’d recommend testing the paper, needle size and type, and thread combination with the intended materials before embarking on a big project.


Attached with thread, buttons can also be used with a paper page to attach items. To help avoid tearing through the paper, sew a small piece of Tyvek behind the button to reinforce the attachment. Old shipping envelopes can be cut up for this purpose. The button can be used to help secure the thread attachment, sewing through the item and page, or it can be used with a buttonhole if the item can be cut into and has enough flexibility and strength to do so. Often flat buttons are most useful, especially if they will go into some kind of book or album. Stores that sell scrapbook supplies often have such flat, decorative buttons, and these are available at sewing stores as well.

Paper Frames:

Like pockets and envelopes, paper frames can be attached to a page as a means to hold a photo or bound in as pages when binding a new album. These frames can be folded to fit a photo and hold it in place without using adhesive.

This photo shows the reverse side of the frame above.

As I mentioned in my last post, with all these attachment methods remember to keep the spine and foredge of your book balanced with regard to the thickness of your added items. Doing so will help you avoid the foredge splaying out and the book not closing. When creating a new binding, stubs can be added at the spine to accommodate the addition of items over time.

I hope these suggestions prove helpful. I often collect small pieces of paper or ephemera, especially as reference for future projects. Sometimes I just toss these into a box, but perhaps I ought to create a “book of inspiration” using some of these attachment methods. Like commonplace books of the past, my book would be both personal and useful. What kinds of uses do you see for these attachments? What other attachment methods do you find helpful?

Written by Stephanie Wolff

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