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Q & A : Albums + An Organizing Update


One of my goals this past weekend was to finish up that big album organization project I started a few months back. In addition to putting all those layouts into 12x12 albums I also wanted to get them labeled so we could actually tell what was inside.

As I was putting the layouts into the page protectors I found that I needed to trim some of the 8.5x11 pages to fit just right into the page protectors (ended up ordering all American Crafts).


In 2006 I had a TON of 8.5x11 pages (way more than 12x12). For some of layouts I decided to back them with 12x12 cardstock. This is a great option if you wanted to have all 12x12 pages in your album but still wanted the flexibility of creating on 8.5x11 surfaces. Basically you are just matting them on a neutral background. The easiest thing was to just have a stack of cream colored cardstock + my trimmer out on the table to easily cut +adhere.


I created the circle tag labels. Stacy + Cathy both use something along these lines. I set up a file in Adobe InDesign and used the Fiskars hand punch (1 inch) to cut them out.

Finishing this project felt so darn good. Being able to open them up and see them in a certain context (date and/or theme) makes me really, really happy.


The following questions were asked in response to my Anatomy of an Album post. I am including some of the photos again to put the Q & A in context. 


What company makes the albums and where to buy? :)
Posted by: Karen aka lindse

American Crafts (you can find them online here, here, and here : I choose the D-ring vs. the postbound for flexibility)


Where do you find all these different sizes of page protectors?
Posted by: Linda

I have picked them up at various stores I have visited around the country. I posted a list of online sources here. The American Crafts page protectors can be found here: 8.5x11 and 12x12.


I was wondering where you found the page protector that has two 6 x 12 compartments?
Posted by: Joan

I found that one at a scrapbook store - it is made by Crop In Style and is marketed for a storage binder (comes in a package with other divided page protectors). Ask for them at your local store or click the link here. American Crafts now makes individual 6x12 page protectors as well.



I'm searching everywhere for the pages you used as your "opening page". I've found tons of other great divided page protectors, but not that one! Can you help me out and point me directly to it?!?!?
Posted by: robyn charles

It is also in the storage package from Crop In Style.


How many page protectors are in Simon's album? Are they all AC brand besides the divided ones? How many layouts do you think are in that album, do these albums hold, depending on layout thickness, use of embellishments?
Posted by: bonnierose

The American Crafts album comes with 10 and I have been averaging about 20-25 page protectors per album (they are all AC brand). When I order them I order a second pack of 10 for each album I am ordering.


It looks like you have about 26 pages (52 layouts) in your album...which is awesome...but, I just purchased a WeR 12x12 D ring album (the linen ones, which I just LOVE) and I can only fit about half that many pages in my album....totally bummed about that one, do you find that your albums are stressed at all? I feel like if I add more pages that they won't stay in the rings...? My pages are not all that bulky, a couple of them may be, but mostly just paper. I work at our LSS, and I have been comparing the AC albums that you use, and the WeR album that I purchase for a while now (before purchasing my albums) and I decided to go with WeR, mostly for the color and texture of the album, I truly felt as though they would hold the same about of pages, that is the only thing I'm disappointed with. I only have 12x12 pages in my album right now, and I have plans to add some other sizes, do you think that is what gives you so much more room? The different sized pages?
Posted by: Hannah

I don't think it is the different sized pages that allow 20 protectors into the album. Most of the albums hold just the 12x12 page protectors (it was only in the last couple years that I started playing with different sizes).
Right now the albums are holding up just fine. They aren't perfect, but they are definitely providing a home for the layouts.


I do have a question for you, on the pages that are oddly sized I can see that you have them in page protectors that are close to their dimensions but I wondered if you adhere them in some way to keep them from shifting around.
Posted by: Houston

I size the inside pieces to the page protector so that they fit just right (at least I try to do that). I don't adhere them to anything.


When you decided to take out and organize all of your layouts, are you putting them all into brand new albums (3 ring) or are you reusing some of your older albums? Did you have to buy all new page protectors for the 3 ring albums or are you using all of the old protectors from the post bound albums?
Posted by: Betsy Gourley

I went with all new page protectors (except the ones that were from American Crafts) and mostly new albums (I had a few of the same ones before). Some of my older albums were passed along to my Mom and others were donated. In the past my album organization has been completely haphazard - once I knew what I wanted to do with all those layouts (how I wanted them organized) I was ready to have them all be consistent.


Even after your column in CK and post I am still confused about the page protectors. I'm having a mental block and don't feel like I know enough to ask an intelligent question. Can you tell us more about them ... how you've altered the sizes? Made pockets or bought them with pockets? Where are you finding them? Will any page protectors fit into the American Crafts albums?
Posted by: Annette

Most of the page protectors I am using (when I am using the divided page protectors) are ones that were created for product storage (see links above).

When I am ready to create a page I pull out the page protector, measure the pocket sizes, and then put things together to fit right into the pockets.

There are a few instances where I ended up cutting + stitching a page protector to fit a layout. In these cases I place the layout into the larger page protector, lay it on my trimmer, cut leaving about a half-inch to an inch, and then stitch along the edge to close the page protector.

All the page protectors I have tried so far have fit into the AC album.


My question for you...does it bother you (obviously not) that your page protectors are of different weight or texture? Do you put everything into a page protector? Does it limit your embellishment process? I like depth.
Posted by: Shelly Kettell

It doesn't bother me much at all. In a perfect world the page protectors would be all the same weight etc, but I am more happy with the variety and flexibility. All of the pages in these albums go into page protectors (most of my minibooks are not in page protectors). I don't use a ton of dimensional embellishments these days but in the past I had pages with a bunch of metal on them and they fit fine within the page protectors.



I noticed that you do not put backing or another page behind all your pages, why not? It would bother me if I left them like that, what was your thinking?
Posted by: jen

Most of the ones that do not have pages on the back of them are the divided page protectors that I plan to add stuff too. I will just add new content (photos + words + embellishments) right into the pockets. It's on my list of things to do and a part of my overall process.



I bought a few 8 1/2 x11 page protectors (by AC), but the holes don't work well with the 12x12 D ring binder. How do you fit non 12x12 page protectors in a D ring album? I also noticed you sewed a few of your page protectors to accommodate your 12x6 you have any tips for people who don't have a sewing machine?
Posted by: lizee

I have been using 12x12 and 8.5x11 American Crafts page protectors. They are working together great (are you using the American Crafts album too?). So far all the divided page protectors I have used have fit right into the album.

As for the recommendation if you don't own a sewing machine, you could always hand-stitch to create the pocket size you want (or attach a couple together). I also noticed that American Crafts now has 6x12 page protectors available (that really makes it simple). I also have to say that bringing out my sewing machine and using it on my paper projects (or in adding fabric to my paper projects) has been a door-opening experience. Sewing machines are fairly inexpensive and are a great tool to use in such a variety of projects. The key is having it in a place that is easily accessible.


I noticed on some of the pages there are tabs sticking out at the top. I was wondering if these marked months in your album or if they were just design pieces of various layouts?
Posted by: Stephanie

Those are design elements. It's fun to have little bits of this and that peeking out the top.


My only question is since you like some chronological order in your albums how will you then fill in your empty spots? Perhaps with pictures from last year that didn't get into a LO or new current ones?
Posted by: Carey

Good question about the empty spots (most of those were behind divided page protectors). My plan is to go through the album + make a list of the sizes that are open and have that list above my desk. When I want to scrapbook something from that time period I will make something that will fit into those spaces.


Question: where do you keep all the mini/smaller sized albums you make? Are they out on display also?
Posted by: Cristina

I like the keep them out in the open - usually in a basket in the living room or dining room. I want them to be easily available for Simon or others to look through.



I'm just starting my school days Becky Higgins albums and they are three-ring, a new thing for me. So, on the sewing, you are just stitching with no thread? What do you set the stitch length to?
Posted by: Maggie

I am using thread. If I am stitching on the page protector my goal is to make a new pocket - the stitching is what creates the pocket so you definitely need the thread. I don't know much about sewing - not sure what the stitch length is - I just set it to a straight stitch and adjust so that it is fairly tight. When stitching on the page protectors I do push the plastic along as I am stitching so that it does not stick and jam.


Couple questions, specifically about using the sewing machine. What kind of thread do you use? Any special needle? Or any specific sewing directions, like dropping the feed dogs, or tension adjustment? I've been wondering for use on page protectors, but also on paper. Any hints would be appreciated! Thanks so much!!
Posted by: karoline

I have no specific sewing instructions. So much of what I do is just trial and error. I do a lot of muttering and talking to myself: "Let's see what happens if I stick this thing through the sewing machine?"




Wondering what, if anything, you put in the
window on the front of the album? I use these same albums and have yet
to come up with anything I really like.

Posted by: Samantha VanArnhem

I decided to go with metal-rimmed circle tags. Each tag includes the title (usually initials around here) and date. I removed the metal tag (you can get them with string as well) and adhered them to the album with foam dots.


What are your thoughts on longevity of canvas
albums over leather? I started with canvas albums back in 2002 and had
to switch them out later...granted they were in the humidity of Japan
where we had no A/C which would certainly do it. Just throwing the
question out there...

Posted by: Anna Aspnes

question Anna. I am not sure since I have only had canvas albums so
far. One thing I try to keep in perspective: I know that I will likely
change things up again in the future.


I am considering making the switch to the AC 3-ring albums and was wondering - do you like the way they stand on the shelf? They seem like would be sturdy and not want to tip to one side, which my current albums do.
Posted by: Lisa Dickinson

They stand up really nice. I especially like them now that they are labeled.



Do you try to do the pages as you take the photos or do you wait until you have time to do several pages? My husband and I are taking my grandson on a 2,000 mile driving trip this summer and I plan to take my computer, printer and scrapbook supplies to do a scrapbook, for him to have, along the way (we'll be in a motorhome). I thought I'd have my grandson do the journaling. I'm going to try to do most of it digitally. I have PE. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us.
Posted by: Sue B

I do both.

Some of my favorite albums are ones I have created while traveling. There is nothing quite like documenting an experience as you are living it - especially when you are traveling.

Not all trips are great for documenting on the go. Some trips, like our recent spring break, are just for relaxing. We took a bunch of photos but I found that I didn't really have anything to say except how happy we all were to do nothing. On other trips (for me this is especially true when traveling overseas) I feel compelled to write as I go.

You may want to consider a hybrid album where you are combining digital and traditional scrapbooking - there are so many cool pieces of paper you can pick up along the way. Brochures, receipts, newspapers, etc make great backgrounds and really ground your project in the places you are experiencing.

I love the idea of including your grandson in the process. Your album will be that much richer by including different perspectives (especially across generations).


I'm wondering what the Heidi Swap clock is between the pages - is this a layout with photos/content only on the bottom half?
Posted by: Molly

Yep. It is actually a three-page layout. The front and back (page one + two) cardstock sandwich the clock (I love the transparent nature). The third page is just a 12x12. This is an example where I stitched near the binding of two page protectors to keep them together in the album.


Am wondering what you do with scraps? Do you have techniques that revolve around using them up or do you usually just toss?
Posted by: young c-m

They go into a box below my table and I reach down and grab pieces as I go. I toss really small ones and keep ones I can use with my punches.


Are you sorting your pictures using Stacy's 4 categories. I started trying to sort my pictures using the 4 categories and got totally overwhelmed. I still have some pictures from my son's first year that are not scrapped yet and he is five. Also, I have lots of pictures that need to be scrapped. Do you use the photo albums to store your pictures like in LOM approach?
Posted by: Jessica S

I've been thinking about this a bunch lately, thinking about what makes the most sense for the way I work and what makes sense for our family down the road (and our limited storage here in our house). Right now I am not sorting into the 4 categories. Mainly because I have not printed out all my photos - that may be the next project I tackle because I think that I really do want to print them all out.

I have the category drawers and have begun storing photos in there as I come across them (bot not really into any categories just yet).

I also use some photo storage albums for trips and events that include a lot of photos (and I have already scrapbooked the story): our honeymoon, my brother's wedding, my trips to Japan and Australia.

And speaking of Library of Memories and Photo Freedom, Stacy has been doing some Q&A on her blog this week that is totally worth checking out.


I think I remember you posting that you had read Stacy Julian's new Photo Freedom book, which basically outlines her Library of Memories class. I'm currently taking it on her BPS site. Good stuff. I am excited to break free from the pressure to scrap chronologically. (I just finished 2005, so perfect transition time.) Love her idea of storage binders to "see" the photos to scrap and the category drawers to make connections between photos over time. But I noticed that you recently pulled all your completed layouts and were putting them in albums by year and approx date w/in the year. I was thinking of doing the same for the final step of LOM, instead of filing in category albums. Just wondered your thoughts on that. Free to scrap non-chronologically, but add to yearly albums.
Posted by: Amy

I will most likely always be a non-chronological scrapbooker. I am much happier to scrap as I go and tell the stories I am inspired by at the moment rather than being bound to making sure I finish one story before I move on to the next based on the calendar.

That said, the way I have set up my albums, the way that makes sense to me right now, is to have Simon's story told chronologically. I like that I can pull out 2003 and see where and when and what he was doing at that time. Maybe this works best for me because he is an only child?

I have additional theme albums for layouts about (1) me, (2) about Chris and I and our story, and (3) one about my siblings/parents/extended family. These are not in chronological order.



So here is my question for you Ali. I have been learning from you for some time. Over the years, so much product has evolved. What lines of product do you prefer? Where do you order from? As I look through this blog I love how your photos "pop" and your paper is subtle, yet crafty, creative and eye catching...not too bold. Can you point us in the direction of where you find the "right" paper?
Posted by: Lynette

Lately I have really been keeping things simple. Cardstock + photos and a few embellishments.

Online I order from, Two Peas in a Bucket, and Dots-n-Details. Dots-n-Details is a newer online store that tends to have things that the other two don't. I also really like the clean design of their site.

I pick up a lot of stuff when I travel to scrapbook stores. I always find things that I have never seen before.
Over the years I have gotten pickier. I gravitate towards things that are classic or more generic: themes such as memories, time, family, everyday life, numbers, etc. All those themes can be used to tell really any type of story.
If you were to come into my office you would see a lot of things from 7gypsies, Scenic Route, Heidi Swapp, K&Company, my five colors of cardstock (white, black, cream, kraft, + red), a bunch of stamps (most with either words or squares/circles), as well as lots of basic office supplies (tabs, circle tags, etc).


So I do have a funny question. I have been loving how you and Becky Higgins have all your albums in the same kind of album. Love that. But my issue is that I would like to convert from a Creative Memories album to a normal 12 by 12. I cannot figure out how to what year do I start. I wish I could just cut off the tabs and slide them in a sheet protector. But my friends think I am crazy to try that. Hah! Also, I have friends who had their albums with normal top-loading sheet protectors who recently converted to side-loading sheet protectors. They didn't like having all that dust at the top of their albums. Have you found this to be a problem?
Posted by: Margaret

I have not found dust to be a problem yet (that could come in the future).

How many Creative Memories albums do you have right now? If I had a bunch of albums that were set in their inherent structural design I would just leave them + start with new albums going forward (or at whatever point you are in the process of telling your story).

Has anyone out there taken their layouts out of CM albums and care to comment on their experience? What did you do?


What kind of printer do you use for all of your photos? I'm shopping for one and would love some recommendations.
Posted by: Valerie

Right now I am using a HP Photosmart 8750.


Any suggestions for how I can create a digital scrapbook for my students' school year? (I have 20 fourth graders.) I don't mind putting in some time, but since I have so many photos of them all, this "yearbook" project might take too much time to do by hand.
Posted by: Stacey from Two Writing Teachers

I would try a photo book service such as Shutterfly. There are many templates available through their site and the quality of the books is really nice.  The process is really easy: upload photos, choose template, drag + drop into the album, add text if you want, and order.



I scrapbook not only as a creative outlet for myself but for the joy I see in the faces of my children when they see the moments of our life on paper. I would love to hear some of your thoughts of how Simon feels about seeing himself in these marvelous books. Does it do wonders for his self-esteem? You have such a fantastic grasp on scrapbooking as art + life and am thinking about that philosophy and how it translates to the ones we love.
Posted by: cori

Simon definitely enjoys the books. What he loves the most are the photos. That is what he really wants to see and what he talks about as he goes through the albums.

Does it help his self-esteem? I am not sure. He has seen photos of himself and has been taking photos with our cameras from a really early age. It is a normal part of his life. Our house if full of photos on the walls - I like living with them out in the open as a continual celebration of memories + time.

Most of the time he is really just interested in being a kid: playing outside + swimming are high on his list of things to do.

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82 thoughts

  1. Carrie says…

    Holy mother of all posts!! LOL
    The albums look so nice and neat all lined up like that.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. Emily Hoadley says…

    Wow! Lots of great questions. I have friends who had a bunch of CM albums they hadn't used-the strap hinge type where you create on the album page. One friend used these to transfer photos directly from the old cling page albums. I thought these were a great use of what she had on hand and now her old photos are preserved. I've been reading Stacy's Photo Freedom book and really love how it puts into words what I've been feeling all along. I am doing the drawers because that makes sense to me but I'm wondering if anyone has been using these categories on the computer? I'm trying to organize all my photos with iphoto by date but that doesn't seem to be enough. Any iphoto organizing tips? Also, is there any product that you've bought and regretted?

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Rebecca says…

    This is so great! But I now have NO excuse to try and get things organized and try to finish many of my (ahem) numerous incomplete layouts. As my family tries to tighten our spending belts, I am getting ready to hold a garage sale and I think this organization project would be a great way to invest my earnings - a real investment for our daughters to have this all organized and recorded down the road someday.
    Thanks SO much for generously sharing of all the wonderful things you do! You make a difference for all of us folks who don't live near great stores and get to classes.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. Angela says…

    Do you like Adobe InDesign? I checked it out and saw that it was $699 and wondered if I would be able to navigate it or if it was more for design professionals?

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Molly says…

    That was a lot of effort to compose that post, Ali. Thank you; wonderful Q+A.
    Regarding the books becoming worn, I have to say one of my favorite things about looking through my grandmothers albums from the 1930's and 40s is their well-loved corners. It's nice feel evidence of the pages lovingly turned over time.

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Diana says…

    Just wanted to say how generous you are to take the time to answer all these tedious questions. I really appreciate it and I am sure everyone else does too. Di

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. margaret says…

    Wow; what a marathon session pulling these questions/answers together into a blog!!! Did you stay up ALL night to do it?!?
    Thanks so much for sharing so much of your life and your creations with us.

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Jen says…

    Thanks for all the Q&A. I learned a lot. I have one question. I am working on my first 8.5 X 11 album (have done 12x12 and 8x8 in the past) and actually want it to be 11 X 8.5 (landscape) but I can't find any landscape D-ring albums/page protectors - anyone found any. Any one found any?
    Ali thanks again for all the great information. Best wishes,

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Nicky Anderson says…

    Thanks for sharing Ali - always so inspiring.
    I do want to add one comment for your readers - if they have not ordered any books from Shutterfly - I have just received my 12 x 12 copy of the Everyday Life book, your template - and the quality is exceptional!!! I can't put it down - Brody loves it and has to tuck it under his pillow at night after we have our reading time. He so loves pictures!!!
    Have a great day.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Terri Porter says…

    Thank you Ali for all the time and effort you obviously put into this post. I agree with an earlier poster who said she can't believe you offer us all of this information for free! On the subject of CM albums, that is what I started with and will stay with. The only frustrating thing to me has been that they are not a true 12x12 size; however, they have recently discontinued all of those albums and the new ones are true 12x12. To me, they are the most sturdy albums made. The only thing that would possibly convince me to try a D-ring would be to be able to do the different page sizes and the divided pages. Love the look of those. I do wish I had bought all the same color albums because I really like how that looks. But it would cost a fortune to change all 30 of my CM albums to the same color, so guess I'll live with them. Thanks again, Ali, for all you do.

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Cris says…

    I used to use Cm albums and switched to postbound years ago (I will be switching again to D-ring soon). Anyhoo, I dismembered all my old CM albums and used a trimmed to cut the plastic edges off...then slipped them into the new page protectors. I worked well (I did need to glue a few things). Hope that helps.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Aby says…

    Seriously. You are a Goddess. I can't believe this post. Amazing. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your TIME!

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Stephanie T. says…

    I hopped on the CZ train a couple years ago, switching everything over to AC, leather, d-ring. Best thing I ever did!
    Holy moly! Now THAT was a post marathon!! I am amazed at how thoroughly you covered the whole process! Kudos!!
    I need a nap...

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. Candi Tardio says…

    what a great post!! thanks for answering all those ?'s and sharing with all of us ;)

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. jamie says…

    o.k...i have to take a break from reading your post...amazing!
    i have switched some of my cm albums over to ac.
    ac's stand up so much better on a book case and actually look nice.
    ac's are so much more flexible: which means simple to me.
    some of the cm were actually coming apart...i did not think they were suppose to.
    it was a pain to convert especially if i actually adhered the layout to the insert. but i worked through it. i have not converted all of them over. maybe some other time and season when i am really bored (ha!)
    very dissappointed with the way the page protectors don't look right on the cm albums.
    thanks again for your insight and epic post.

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Artful Yogi says…

    Thanks so much for taking the time to do this. One day you'll look back and ask yourself how you did so much in one day or one month. Really!
    I agree that three ring binders are the way to go. I need to just invest in a bunch and change all mine over since the post bound get really unstable after several years.

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. Becky Donohue says…

    You'd never guess from those unassuming and uniform binders what colorful, unique things are inside.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Tanya Grossie says…

    I just stumbled onto your blog and I love it. You are so talented! Do you print all of your pictures your self for your scrapbooks? If so and if you do not mind me asking what type of printer do you use?

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. DeDe Smith says…

    What an amazing post! I have been reading your blog for several months and I have really enjoyed all of your amazing inspiration! Thank you so much for everything!
    I TAG YOU! See my blog for the details if you want to participate!

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. vivian says…

    you are DA BOMB! wow!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Ann says…

    Thank you so much for taking the time and making the effort to answer so many questions. I really appreciate it and can't wait to start my own reorganization projects.

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. tchrtiff says…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you...what a great Q+A post!! A question for your next Q+A post--how do you manage/organize photos on iPhoto. I just switched from PC to Mac and am learning iPhoto. It already sorts photos by date but wonder if I need to do more. Any suggestions would be appreciated. :-)

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. D'Nese says…

    What a great thing to come home to after a very stressful day at work. LOVE that you shared this!!!! You are soooooo one of my favs Ali~!~
    You really need to do this more often (hint hint)

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Barb says…

    Wow, you are a doll to post all of this. I will be referring back to it again and again.
    Here's a question for all of you scrappers, though. Would you continue to scrap even if your family didn't seem interested in your albums? It seems like I am the only one who looks at mine. (I have one child and a husband.) Am I the only one in this situation?

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Jac says…

    Thank you so much for sharing! this is so helpful! love it!
    btw, where did you get those circle tag labels?

    Reply 0 Replies

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