A wedding guest book filled with Polaroids

Our dear friends Amy and Drew celebrate their one year wedding anniversary today. This time last year, my husband Tony and I headed up to Chicago for their big day.

Tony and Drew have been best friends since middle school, and Tony was the best man in their wedding (just as Drew was the best man when Tony and I tied the knot). For my contribution to the festivities I created a custom wedding guest book, which was filled with Polaroid pictures and messages from guests.

wedding guest book display table

I made a handbound hardcover guest book with landscape-format pages. Amy and Drew wanted each page to be large enough to hold a Polaroid photo and a handwritten message.

The book was displayed on a large wooden table near the entrance of their wedding venue. Several Polaroid cameras and a box to hold the photos as they developed sat along side the guest book. And the table decor was completed with an awesome print from Hatch Show Print that they picked up on one of their trips to visit us in Nashville. 

polaroid wedding guest book

Amy and Drew picked out some great film from The Impossible Project that had golden, rounded edges. The photos really looked great against the textured, light gray pages and the black photo corners. They requested a minimalist design for the covers — black bookcloth paired with black handmade paper and black thread for the exposed binding — so the photos inside the book would be the focal point. 

handmade wedding guest book by linenlaid&felt

I don't often get to see exactly how my handmade books are put to use once they leave my studio. But I love it when I get the chance. I really enjoyed seeing guests interact with the book and pose for pictures at the wedding, as well as writing in the book myself. 

And when Drew and Amy came to visit us in Nashville again earlier this month, they brought their guest book with them. I had the chance to flip through the finished book, filled to the brim with photos and congratulatory messages. There's nothing better for me than to see one of my blank books transformed into a treasured keepsake, and I was honored to be able to create such a book for my friends.

wedding polaroid photos

To see more examples of how my handmade books have been filled and enjoyed, check out the inspiration page on my website or explore the #myusedbook hashtag on social media. 

A wedding book that's a little different

Wedding guest book handbound by Katie Gonzalez

For this wedding guest book, Chloe and Matthew had specific hopes for how their guests would share in the memories of the day. I hadn't bound one quite like it.

For this book, the couple anticipated about 100 guests, a group made up mostly of couples. They wanted a book to hold a photo of each couple. On that page, the guests would write their message to the newlyweds.

I bound this book with fewer pages than normal, just 32, and included spacers in the binding to accommodate the later addition of photos. I also chose to bind the book with a single signature (grouping) of pages, with a simple pamphlet stitch. It's a hardcover book, with one of my most popular paper patterns, a mums print.

handmade book cover with inset by linenlaid&felt
handmade wedding memory book by Katie Gonzalez
handbound wedding guest book by linenlaid&felt

A wedding album to hold Polaroid photos of guests

Japanese stab binding hardcover thread

Picture this: a little table at your wedding that holds a Polaroid camera and your guest book. Your best friends and family members snag the camera, take awesome photos, and immediately mount them into the book and write messages to mark the day.

This particular book was made just for that purpose.  I've found that more and more brides are opting for something a besides a traditional book with lined pages in which guests merely sign their names.  Rather, a book with more space for guests to leave messages and plenty of room for photos leads to a more meaningful keepsake, and one that's more likely to be treasured and enjoyed long after the festivities are over. 

Another exciting thing to note about this book is that it was just featured in Nashville Lifestyles Weddings magazine among their round-up of "lovely local details."  The most recent issue is on newsstands now, so if you're in the Nashville area pick up a copy and check out all of the local talent in our city. 

Aside from binding books and scoring magazine features (this is my second one of the year; check out the first one here), I've been busy applying to art shows, planning new classes, and filling my Etsy shop to the brim.  

Be sure to take a peek at my latest e-newsletter to find out about all the exciting events I have coming up this fall.  (You can sign up for my mailing list to ensure that you'll never miss out on my beautiful, informative e-mails packed with gorgeous photos.)  My busy season is starting off with the Handmade & Bound book arts festival this weekend. I hope to see you there!

A sweet gray and yellow baby book

Handmade book with Japanese stab binding and floral print

If you've been looking around lately (hint, hint, on Pinterest) you're probably familiar with "grellow." That's the chic gray and yellow combination that's as popular in home decor as in fashion. This book takes that scheme and glams it up with silver accents in one of my favorite handmade papers.

Floral print paper handmade book

This baby book was made for a little girl named Zoe, and in my opinion, she has one of the prettiest baby books around.  The paper used for the covers was made in India from natural plant materials, and was printed with a yellow floral pattern.  Depending on the way the light hits the book, the silver outline around the flowers shimmers.  The hinged spine edge of the book is covered with a grey linen bookcloth that I made myself, and the book is sewn together with a sunshine yellow ribbon using the Japanese stab binding. 

Custom handmade baby book

I designed the pages of the book to coordinate with the yellow and gray color scheme, and handmade photo corners are attached to each photo spot so pictures can easily be added to the book.  There are pages for Zoe's parents to record all of the important details, starting with pregnancy memories and baby showers, and spanning through the delivery, her baptism, important milestones, and holidays. There are also pages for a family tree, for handprints and footprints, and for Zoe to write a message to the future on her fifth birthday. 

Handmade baby book

Handmade baby book family tree

Japanese stab binding with ribbon

A coral, orange, and gold wedding guest book

Handmade wedding guest book

I finished making this wedding guest book yesterday for some friends of mine in Nashville who are tying the knot next month.  To personalize their book, I included a portion of Anna and Troy's lovely wedding invitations in an embossed cutout in the front cover.  

Their wedding colors are a vibrant mix of warm tones, so the bride-to-be selected a coral handmade lokta paper for the covers of the book and an orange lokta paper with shimmering gold brushstrokes for the guards, which are seen along the spine of the book.  And for a playful surprise when you open the book, the endsheets are made from a paper with a bold orange and magenta flower print.  

Anna is an artist with exceptional taste, and it was fun working together to create this book.  While she was visiting my studio, I pulled out all of my decorative paper options that matched her color scheme and she immediately gravitated toward that papers shown here.  I love the way this book turned out, and I can't wait to see how all of the other details for her wedding come together.  

Handmade guest book for June wedding

A custom, classic black-and-white wedding book

Mums paper wedding book

This wedding book won't let guests off the hook with merely a simple signature. Dreamed up by a friend of the bride, the book's pages ask for self-portrait doodles by guests and predictions for what the couple will be doing in 50 years.  Each guest gets an entire page to fill with their memories, advice, and well-wishes for the couple. 

The end result was a book that's both fun and classy.  And I can only imagine how entertaining it was for the Maryjane and Barry to flip through the book after their wedding and see all of the drawings and messages that guests left for them. 

In keeping with the couple's black-and-white wedding theme, I used a handmade paper printed with a black chrysanthemum pattern for the covers of the book. The pages were printed in black and shades of gray, and the design features an Art Deco-inspired typeface.  Throughout the book, there are a few pages with my coordinating handmade photo corners where Maryjane and Barry could add wedding pictures to complete the book. 

For couples that prefer something other than blank or lined pages for their wedding guest book, I can design and print custom pages to further personalize their keepsake.  I can include the lyrics to your favorite song along the bottoms of the pages, sprinkle quotes about love alongside floral illustrations, pose questions for your guests to answer, or anything else you can dream up.  You can view my portfolio of wedding books with printed pages to see examples and get ideas for your own book. 

So you might be wondering what types of questions to ask your guests. Here are a few examples from books that I've designed:

What is the key to a happy marriage?
Where will Maryjane and Barry be in 50 years?
What has been your favorite part of the wedding so far?
What is your favorite memory of Maryjane and Barry?
What is your advice for Maryjane and Barry?
What will Maryjane and Barry have first: a new pet, their own home, or a baby boy or girl?
When did you first know that Maryjane and Barry were in love?

Close up of mums paper wedding book

Learn to make a handbound wedding guest book

I'll be teaching a new class next month for creative brides (and grooms!) in Nashville.  In the three-day class, I'll show students how to make their own personalized, one-of-a-kind wedding guest book for their big day.  

I'm always dedicated to making unique books for my customers, but I'm especially excited about this class because I think a book made by the bride and groom themselves could result in something even more special.  
More details about the class are available below, and if you're ready to sign up visit The Skillery website. And if you're not getting married, it's not a problem. You’re still welcome to enroll to make a wedding book for a friend or a journal for yourself.  

4 books Nashville bookbinder

Make Your Own Wedding Guest Book

If the details matter in your wedding, don’t forget the guest book. You’ll work with a professional bookbinder to create a meaningful and long-lasting keepsake to hold messages written by friends and family on your special day. 

You’ll use high-quality materials (all provided) while working over three days to go from concept to completion — with numerous opportunities to include your personal touch and wedding colors. Your invitations, engagement photos, and other mementos could even be bound right into the book. 

The class begins with a brainstorming session to introduce the world of handmade books. We’ll talk about the possibilities for your guest book while handling a collection of professionally made examples so that students can choose between two traditional binding techniques. Everyone will have about a week to gather or buy special materials (if desired) before completing the bindings in the final two classes. 

You’ll leave this class with a completed and customized book, as well as the techniques to make handcrafted books in the future — journals, sketchbooks, photo albums, or even another wedding guest book for a friend. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 7 - 9 p.m.
Saturday, May 19, 2012, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Sunday, May 20, 2012, 1 - 4 p.m.

$160 (includes $20 materials fee)
If you'd like to bring your spouse-to-be to the workshop so you can make your wedding guest book together, they can attend the workshop for a discounted ticket price when you purchase your ticket here. Spouse-to-be tickets are $40, and can be purchased at the door.


Cummins Station, 209 10th Ave South, Suite 126
Nashville, TN 37203

A photo book for a world-traveling photojournalist

When a book leaves my studio and is shipped to its new owner, I like to think that the book's journey has only just begun.  The pages are folded, the covers are glued and pressed, and the binding is stitched neatly into place, but the book is not yet complete.  Most of the books I make are meant to be filled.  Perhaps with congratulatory notes from wedding guests, or records of a baby's first steps and words, or photos of travels far and wide.  Once a book is filled, it takes on new meaning and importance, and it is transformed into something even more special than when it left my studio.

I wish I could check in with all of my handbound books months or even years later to see how they've come to life in their new homes, but I don't always get the chance to see my books when they've been put to use.  On the occasions that I do, however, it's always thrilling to me. 

Photojournalism book, handmade

This particular book was commissioned by Lianne Milton, a San Francisco-based photojournalist, to hold a special collection of her photographs. She requested a simple design for the book.  The pages were made from thick, textured watercolor paper.  For the covers, I made my own bookcloth using a soft grey linen fabric.  And I bound the book with the Coptic binding using navy waxed linen thread.

When the book left my studio, the pages were blank and I was curious to see how they would be filled.  Lianne was kind enough to photograph her book for me once she had added photos to the pages, and I'm excited to share her images of the book here.  

Lianne Milton photography book

I highly recommend that you take some time to look through Lianne's online portfolio of her photographs.  She is a world-traveling photographer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and many other publications.  Her work mainly focuses on the effects of politics on people and their environments, and she travels around the globe to capture her stunning images. She also photographs a limited number of weddings each year, in a similar documentary style to her editorial work.  You can view her wedding portfolio here.  

Lianne Milton photography handbound book

The craftsmanship of the blank book is very important to me and I enjoy the detailed process of creating a handbound book completely from scratch.  But a book like this clearly takes on more meaning once it has completed its journey.

Photos courtesy of Lianne Milton.  

An elegant wedding book bound for Norway

Norway bookbinding

I created this customized wedding guest book over the summer for a couple in Norway.  The bride, Nora, selected a teal paper with a tiny gold dot pattern for the covers of this book.  I had just one sheet of this beautiful chiyogami paper from Japan in my stash, and I'd been waiting for the perfect project to use it.  

I was excited with Nora picked this paper for her wedding book, and I loved the way this book turned out.  I paired the teal paper with a gold coated lokta paper for the endsheets (the paper on the inside of the covers) and the guards (which gives the spine of the book a shimmery touch of elegance). The book was sewn with white linen thread using the Coptic binding technique. 

Soon after making this book when I wanted to order more of this particular teal paper, I was disappointed to learn that it was no longer available.  I only had a partial sheet left, just enough to make one (or maybe two) more books.  But thankfully my luck changed a few months later.  In late December when I placed a large paper order from my favorite paper supplier, I was thrilled to discover that it was back in stock. I ordered several sheets of this design in teal, pink, and orange — all of which are now part of my 2012 paper collection for custom wedding books or baby books

Book for Norway couple

Nora and Truls

A handmade baby book welcomes Liam to the world

This summer, I made a baby book for a little boy named Liam.  For the covers, I used a colorful paper with animal shapes, which I think is a perfect choice for a baby book.  I paired the paper with an orange bookcloth for the spine of the book, which perfectly matches the color of the lions on the paper.  To complement the orange, I bound the book with blue thread, which also coordinates with the printing on the pages and the endsheets.  And the handmade photo corners made with and orange and yellow striped paper adds a playful touch to the pages.  

The customer came up with some great ideas for things that she wanted to include in the book, like a spot to write the story of Liam's name (what a great name, by the way!) and a page all about Thanksgiving.  I've since added both of these to my standard baby book template.  The design for my baby book continues to evolve.  I love the way that it started out last year, but with every customer I've worked with, I've come up with ideas to make the book better.  

As always, you can find more info about customized baby books in my Etsy shop.