The Cheater’s Guide to Scrapbooking Ephemera

There’s a rumor going around that it’s hard to include ephemera (memorabilia) on pages.

They say it makes the page ugly, or it’s hard to work it in with your favorite papers and products.

Well, I have some secrets for how to include all those rich bits of life while still knocking out fantastic layouts.

If you’ve struggled at all with ephemera and memorabilia, consider this your cheater’s guide…

Fold Double-Sided Patterned Paper and Slip It In.

We Are the Tooth Fairy (full spread)

Most of the time I don’t hide it (see below), but there is some seriously ugly ephemera inside this super cute pocket.

We Are the Tooth Fairy (closeup)

There’s some kind of gunk on it, and it’s hard to make sense of it without a back-story anyway. The story makes more sense if you just read the journaling. But the precious handwriting and the real item that went back-and-forth between our own hands is here for my son to enjoy when he’s delivering money for the teeth of his own babies.

Since the ephemera is 8.5 inches wide, I cut patterned paper to the same width, folded it so the inside of the back back would show above the front, and punched a half circle. This allows the ephemera to peek out so you know it’s there. Then I stuck it into an 8.5×11 page protector, which I then cut down to the proper height.

We Are the Tooth Fairy (full spread, pg. 3)

When you do this you have an excuse to use even more of your favorite paper supplies!

Hold It In Place Without Adhesives.

My 3rd Birthday

If you don’t have photo turns, try clear photo corners or large-sized brads instead and let the ephemera sit (un-pierced) on top of the brad stems, but underneath the edge of brad.

Lisa Noell (pg4)

I did something similar to this with this original photo. Three of the corners sit in clear photo corners. One corner is held in by the beak of a cute wood veneer bird. That part of the bird is not adhered, so you can slip photo out of it.

Dominate the Ugly with the Beautiful.

Declared Intentions

Granted, I partially hid the ephemera in an envelope, since it’s 3 tiny notes torn from corners of scrap paper. But I also wanted those pieces to peek out. And as you see, the biggest piece that shows itself is a rather hideous super-bright yellow.

Does it ruin the page?

It doesn’t, for two reasons…

  1. There’s enough of all the other colors that they dominate it.
  2. As we learned in my video tutorial #182 – How to Make a Misfit Photo Work, you can make any monstrosity disappear by putting it in or near the middle.

Declared Intentions (closeup)

Design Your Page Around It.

Love Potion #9 (closeup)

Oh yeah — here’s another piece of ephemera in that same hideous bright yellow. Sometimes you just can’t choose what your family members write their treasures on.

And this note, with Izzy’s addition to my grocery list, is really a treasure. How sad if I had chosen not to scrapbook it because the color is ugly.

I decided to go with the crazy color and find another, more palatable, vibrant hue to accent it.

Leonardo da Vinci

Here’s another example of working the ephemera right into the design. I started with my main design pieces: two photos and the torn drawing. I formed them into a structure: a visual triangle, and designed the rest of the page around it.

Want to know how the ephemera adds to the design, instead of detract from it?

  • The ephemera provides the title.
  • The top edge leads the eye to the focal point photo.
  • The bunting embellishment leads the eye to the drawing.
  • The torn edge leads the eye to the bottom photo.

love SHARE (closeup)

On this layout I worked with the post-it note from my son as if it were a second photo.

Make It Open-able.

Symphony (closeup)

We all have programs.

Make the inside easily accessible by cutting slits in the page protector around the top, bottom, and open side of the program. To make it even easier to open, attach the plastic and front of the program with an embellished clip so that the top of the click sticks out of the protector.

Symphony (closeup)

You can work the program into the design of the page by adding embellishments over both the inside of the program, and the background paper. From a design standpoint, this anchors the program to the page so it doesn’t feel like it’s plopped on — a common reason scrapbookers avoid ephemera (unnecessarily!).

Give it it’s own page protector as a pocket.

Lisa Noell (pg3)
This newspaper article sits in a 6×6 page protector. No adhesive necessary.

And thank goodness, as adhesive would ruin this 40 year old treasure my mom clipped and made notes on.

Underneath this protector is a 12×12 pocket that holds four more pieces of valuable ephemera. Both protectors have patterned paper inside, but nothing is taped.

Lisa Noell (pg1)

Embellish the Outside of the Protector.

Tell Tale Heart
This is a great way to keep the ephemera in it’s original condition, make it easily removable, but still have decoration.

Treat It Like a Focal Point Photo.

Dance Company Description
At the beginning of a dance year, our studio put out a handbook that let’s dance parents know our standards, and gives descriptions of the teams their dancers might aspire to being in. If you or your child is on a team, in a club, or part of an organization, you probably have descriptions available somewhere too.

I love organization descriptions because someone else has already done the writing for you, and that person has better knowledge of the description than we do.

Make a Pocket From a Screen-Printed Transparency.

Tiny Baby

I put the “pretty” ephemera on the main page, as part of the overall design. Then I made a 6×12 page on the right for the not so pretty stuff.

Alter It

Here’s a super thick program. I tore out the non-relevant pages (there were many).
NYCDA - inside program
Here’s a super thick program. I tore out the non-relevant pages (there were many).

Then to bring attention to the most important page (with Trinity’s dances) I glued her convention bracelet in as a book mark. On a part of a page that was insignificant I added a journaling box.

Show It Off, Bare-Naked.

When you turn the page (the program inside of a page protector) you see an award certificate. There’s nothing added to it at all — it’s bare naked in it’s original condition.

Notice how I took the green-blue color from the certificate and made it the accent color of the opposite page to make the whole spread flow.

Make It Your Background

Owl City: First Concert
I cut a concert t-shirt down to 12×12 and adhered it to cardstock. Then I added my photo and goodies right on top.

Of course, none of this is really cheating.

But if you want to pin this to your Pinterest wall it can still be your guide. Maybe we should call the the Expert’s Ephemera Guide instead of the Cheater’s Guide.

Want to be an expert at including the real scraps of life in your scrapbooks, and give your stories texture and intimacy? Go match your ephemera with your scrap-able photos and start scrapbooking them together using any one of the methods above.

It’ll add a whole new layer of realness and story that you will always love.

Want some inspiration to listen to as you give it a try right now?

Hear me talk with three other well-loved scrapbookers about how they use ephemera on the Paperclipping Roundtable.

Shine On,

P.S.> A majority of the scrapbook pages in this article were assembled on video in tutorials for the Paperclipping Members. Think you might like to watch them?

Click here for info!

  • Laura Bohall

    excellent ideas! thanks for sharing!

  • Jezabel

    Thank you! great ideas!

  • JillT

    Tons of great hints! And for anyone that discusses “ugly” on their layouts, I would ask whether they are recording stories or sending works of art in to win the great scrapbooking prize of 2013 :) I know I won’t be winning prizes and memorabilia is important in my pages.

  • Iraida

    Great ideas!!!!

  • BJ

    WOW! Thanks for sharing so many creative tips & ideas for scrapbooking with ephemera!

  • Marie

    Super cool pages loaded with great ideas! Thanks Noell!

  • Kyle

    So many great examples! Thanks so much for putting this post together, Noell!

  • Fantastic post NOell!!

  • SheriE.

    Thanks Noell! I love using those bits and pieces, after all, they are the real story. Thanks for more ideas.

  • When I’m looking through my layouts I find that I love the pages with ephemera so much more! At the same time — for those who scrapbook for the creative expression of it, it’s great that you can have both worlds: attractive pages WITH the real stuff from life! :)

  • Lots of great ideas, and love the samples to showcase each one!

  • Vicki Parsons

    Thank you! It was refreshing to see memorabilia used so creatively. I am always saving everything and you have given some very creative ideas for scrapbooking those kinds of items to add to my family’s memories.

  • Chriss

    For memorabilia I want on the page but don’t want adhered I use my Basic Grey Notch and Die tool (remember those from 2006?). I kept it specifically to use with memorabilia. I simply punch a notch (usually with the rounded one) into the my layout to create little flaps under which I can tuck my keepsakes like cards and maps, especially anything I want to be able to open. I’ve also tied stuff on with string/baker’s twine if it is a folded item. I did both on this layout:

  • I never got one of those Notch and Die tools — sounds great! How does the string work? From the picture it looks like you poked holes in the background to put the twine through in order to hold the booklet in place. Is that right?
    Great ideas — thank you for sharing!

  • Yay! Thank you!

  • Chriss

    Yes. That’s exactly how the string works. I wanted that pass to be able to open as well as flip out of the way to get to the map behind it, so the map could unfold completely. If I’m using the string technique I like to add a wee bit of tape or similar over where I will punch the hole (on the backside) if I’m only punching through a single layer of paper to help reinforce the area. I don’t expect it to get a lot of wear, but I don’t want the background paper to tear from the weight or handling.

    As for the Notch and Die tool, you could do the same with a sharp rounded chisel from the hardware store or woodworking section of a craft shop. :)

  • Vicki Jackson

    I have been known to slip programs BEHIND the layout when they just don’t fit with design. That way we keep them forever– they have a home and we can easily pull them out should we want to see them.

  • Jennifer A.

    I listened to this episode yesterday at work, and I was inspired to reorganize all my memorabilia the minute I got home! It had all been stored in various plastic bags and piles, just shoved onto a bookshelf… I went through it all and organized it by trip– I found stuff I thought I’d lost, including some notes I wrote up to use when journaling SB layouts of a trip we took in 2005!! (I had made the SB pages years ago, just never got around to journaling on them.)

    This episode- and the layouts you gave in this post as examples- are going to be so useful to me! For some reason, I had this idea that memorabilia was some how ‘precious’ or ‘special’ so when Stacy and Ashley were talking about it like ‘it’s just PAPER- use it like your other paper’ it was sort of an epiphany for me. I’m excited to finally use (some of) it on my layouts, and include it in my photo albums!! Thanks to all of you for providing such useful- and fun- content!! (I’d love to see some of Izzy’s Project Life layouts, if he ever wants to share them on the blog!)

  • Jennifer A.

    I don’t know how I messed up where my comments ended up, and mixed up the roundtable one with this post?? But regardless, I appreciate you showing your ideas for using memorabilia on SB pages, and I’m going to scraplift at LEAST 3 of these methods for adding ephemera to my own pages!

  • Anna Bradshaw

    This was an exciting start to my day- thanks for sharing these wonderful ideas with us for free today!

  • Do you do something to identify that there’s a program there? Do you make a note on the layout?

  • I’m so excited for you to start using it! It really adds a greater level of joy and appreciation for me!
    Yes, I’m planning to share some of Izzy’s PL in the next few weeks. :)

  • Awesome!! :)

  • Keitha R

    Fabulous ideas, Noell! Thanks :)