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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Gift idea for couples: DIY relationship journal

I'm a sucker for gifts, and I like my gifts to reflect the amount of thought and effort that I like to express via my gifts.

Of course, a well-chosen store-bought gift, especially when it is something that your partner has been wanting for a long time but has been holding off on purchasing it, is as good as - if not better than - a handcrafted gift.

For our first year together, I wanted to hand-make something sentimental as a token to celebrate our first year. I Googled "anniversary gifts for husband", and I clicked into a Pinterest page filled with all sorts of DIY gift ideas - from couple mugs, to papier mache picture frames, to quaint personalized gifts. For the life of me, I can't find the exact page, though many pins looked very familiar.

I got a bit of dirt on the cover, and got a little cheesy with the wordings LOL
I bought a ton of colored construction paper because I wanted to do something like a book/album-like thing, but I had no solid idea how to go about it. I combined two ideas I got from that Pinterest page: 1. a relationship journal that serves to chronicle our relationship through the past year, and 2. a unique piece that incorporated the mushiness of a relationship with typography design (how to make this would be in another post).

I made mine in A5 size, because I'm a sucker for cute things, and the size was more suitable since I focusing on some of our more memorable days and moments together, punctuated with a few thoughts handwritten in the blank space.

I used:
  • A4 sized colored paper (approx. 70-80gsm would give nice, solid pages)
  • steel ruler, cutting mat & box cutter
  • scissors & A LOT of double-sided tape (or glue, but be aware that it might leave patches on the paper)
  • printed photos
  • custom-made paper labels
  • black gel pen (I used black because my pages were already colorful)
  • resin stickers (or any type of stickers you like)
  • 1x A4 sized thick card (used as cover)

I wanted to focus more on the highlights of our relationship. We both use a couple app called Between, and we organized a lot of our photos according to date, so I thought why not use that?

Here's the step by step process of getting this project done:

1. Planning

I had to decide which occasions to include and which to leave out, and how to organize them. Then I had to lay down a plan on how arrange the elements. I opted for date and title labels as opposed to handwriting them, because my handwriting gets skewed sometimes, and I didn't know how to make them stand out from the rest of the text.

A rough sketch on rough paper was made for the first few pages - there wasn't any extensive, in-detail formatting, but the titles and dates were to be on the top right of each page.

2. Page arrangement

It might help to have some sort of angled ruler or similar that can help you with the folding. I selected a few sheets of a few colors respectively, then folded all of them in half (one sheet of A4 paper is equal to two sheets of A5).

Fold them all tight, then use the box cutter to slice through them, making two sheets of A5 paper. I arranged all of them in non-consecutive colors, so I won't have two of the same color in the range of 3-4 pages at a time.

3. Photo collecting and printing

From the key occasions that I selected, I chose at least one photo each, from Between, Facebook, Instagram, and my own photo albums. Double and triple check for repeats - I scanned through the photos but still managed to print an extra copy of a few photos.

Select all (Shift-A), right click, then select Print... A dialogue box should pop up, prompting you to choose your style of printing, your printing quality, paper quality, etc. Since my book as A5, the photos had to be small enough to fit into the page nicely. Also, I made sure to uncheck the Fit picture to frame box because I didn't want any photos cropped.

I printed 9 photos to a sheet of 70gsm A4 sized white paper, then meticulously cut each and every one photo from 9 sheets of paper with a box cutter and steel ruler.

4. Custom-made date labels

I have a mild case of OCD where my tables in MSWord has to be all uniform and with adequate spacing. I made one table for each type/category of labels - the dates, the occasion, and I did one for the page numbers, but by the time I had the dates and occasion labels cut out, I gave up on them. LOL

I made a point to use 0.5 point dotted lines as the table outlines so it wouldn't be as hideous when I got round to cutting it. 

5. Adhesive backing

About half to three-quarters of a standard roll of double-sided tape was used to stick everything to the pages - the labels as well as the photos.

For the photos, I used a small square in each corner. For all the labels, a small knob at each end, and one more in the center for the longer ones. I contemplated using the gluestick for this, but I tried it on another DIY venture and the adhesion wore off after just a while.

6. Content

After arranging all the photos in chronological order, I set to work labeling each page with a date and the appropriate occasion title, then the relevant photos. Then each page was slowly filled with any thoughts and feelings that were synonymous with that particular day/occasion.

Every now and then I put in a resin sticker that I got at Mr DIY.

7. Cover and binding

I was aiming for the look of a spiral bound journal-type look, with a wrapped hardcover. What I used for the front and back cover was a piece of A4 thick card that was sliced in half much like the book pages.

I DIY-ed the cover illustration, printed it out, then wrapped it around one piece of the A5 thick card, securing with more double-sided tape. Some extra white paper cut to size was used to cover up the back of the cover. I didn't bother with wrapping the back cover.

As for the binding, it was done at a printing shop opposite my old high school, for less than MYR5.


So there it is. My projects usually come out looking almost there but lacking something, but I was proud of this particular one. The cover could've looked better, but yeah.

Hope this served as a reference to some of you guys or gals who's into putting a little sweat and blood into a thoughtful gift for you significant other.

Photos taken with Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Edited with

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