Fast Scrapbooking: Creating a Scrapbooking Gift Under Pressure

by Lain Ehmann on February 5, 2011

Scrapbook projects seem to be the gift of the moment. As we head into heavy gift-giving season (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, babies and weddings and graduations…) I’m starting to get more and more pleas for help from readers who want to create a little scrappy somethin’-somethin’ for a special person.

The requests for help usually go something like this:

“Dear Lain, My husband’s birthday is next week, and I want to give him a scrapbook of our first 50 years together. I have 32 boxes of photos. Can you help?”

Umm. Sure I can! Put the boxes back in the closet and buy him a nice tie.


While I don’t recommend trying to scrapbook under severe time pressure, there are some times when you just have to whip up a scrappy gift in a minimum of time. I get it – surprise parties happen, Mother’s Day creeps up on you (it’s not like it occurs every year, right?), beloved teachers need something other than a “World’s Greatest Teacher” mug. So if you are facing a project that HAS to get done, and you are feeling slightly stressed about the whole thing, here are some tips to keep you sane:

  1. Reduce your expectations. I know, you really want to use those 32 boxes of photos. I know, you feel like you MUST create a 12×12, 50-page custom album for your cousin’s aunt’s next-door-neighbor’s bridal shower. I get it, really I do. But I also know this: If you bite off more than you can chew, you’re going to end up resenting the whole process, and maybe not even getting your gift finished in time.So what I suggest is that you scale back. Instead of a 50-page 12×12 album, create a 10-page 8×8” album. Instead of using 32 boxes of photos, use 32 photos from your last vacation. It will be much quicker to complete, you’ll be less stressed, and the recipient will still love it. AND you have great present ideas for the next 10 years as you work your way through the rest of your photos!
  2. Choose wisely. Let me be blunt: Some people don’t DESERVE handmade scrapbooks. They won’t appreciate them, they won’t use them, and they will wonder why you didn’t just buy them the darned Boppy pillow they really wanted.The solution is to know your audience. I’ve given family members scrapbook calendars I slaved over, only to have them languish, unused, until the year had passed. Only give your scrapbooks – those small pieces of your heart and soul you are handing over – to people who will give them the care and attention they deserve. Note: The likelihood someone will “get” your efforts is NOT directly related to how close they are to you. If you have the chance, test them out on some smaller gifts and see how they react. If you have any doubts at all as to their appreciation of their efforts, just buy them the darned Boppy.
  3. Limit your world. The key to creating scrapbooks quickly is to limit the amount of decisions you have to make. Choose one piece of patterned paper as the inspiration piece and choose three or so colors to complement it. Decide on one design for the album, and use the same page layout on each and every page. Select a handful of embellishments – buttons and brads, or ribbon and rhinestones – and use only those. The fewer choices you have, the more quickly you can finish.
  4. Go with a smaller album. If you’re giving an album to a non-scrapbooker, stay away from the 12×12. That’s a pretty big book if you’re not accustomed to scrapbooking. Instead, opt for an 8.5×11 or 8×8 album. It’s less intimidating to the recipient, and it’s quicker to do. AND it’s less expensive, too! (Cheap scrapbooking is always a consideration, right?)
  5. Create a process. If you’re scrapbooking under pressure, now is not the time to wait for your muse, dilly-dally around, play with photo placement, etc. NO! Now is the time for action! (Picture me in a General Patton uniform, slapping my leather riding crop against my thigh).
    Instead, you want to:
    -choose your photos
    -choose your page layout (yes, use the same one through the whole album)
    -choose your products
    -get a big table and lay it all out
    -hustle your bustle and PRODUCE!

Crank it out, baby. Cut your patterned paper, cut your cardstock, mat your photos, and STICK IT DOWN. Embellish, add your journaling, and you’re DONE.

Yeah, I know, there’s a little more to it than that. But that, right there, is my patented five-step procedure. It’ll work. I promise. And if you get distracted/sidelined/depressed/tired? Got get that Boppy. No one will ever know. ;)

P.S. If you don’t already have a copy of my “Super-Secret Guide for Fast Scrapbooking,” now’s the time to get it! Grab it here: Fast Scrapbooking.
  • Dawn McC

    I love these ideas. I will sure use them. My brother is having a baby in october and i’m going to make him a book. Great thanks

  • monkeygirl

    oh Lain how true you are!!! I have slaved for many hours creating gifts for my family that they simply do not appreciate…… Thank you for reminding me and pointing out that they are not worthy lol xx

  • Anonymous

    Just did a video on this!

  • Cathy

    Hilariously TRUE! I get these “wild hair” ideas all the time at the last minute that are “seeminly simple” in my head and then end up burning the midnight oil to finish! Great tips I will definitely keep in mind for the next time inspiration strikes!

  • Anonymous

    Glad to know that I’m not the only one! Thanks, Cathy!

  • Pingback: Weekend Reading for February 11, 2011 | Simple Scrapper()

  • Marina

    Just pinned and shared on FB! Finishing my daughter’s Pre K scrapbook in time for graduation tomorrow. Your post helped, thank you!

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