SCRAPBOOKS Albums craft pieces of time that live on

Modern technology has renewed interest in preserving family history.
One of the fastest-growing trends in crafts, and one that has women joining classes, taking cruises and calling themselves "scrappers," is also the best way to preserve the memories that are dear to you and your family. It's scrapbooking -- the organizing of photographs and mementoes of your life into creatively designed albums.
Though the idea of scrapbooking has been with us for many years, modern books are artistic and preserve photos that may otherwise lie decaying in shoeboxes or in plastic-sheeted albums in your attic for far too long.
"Scrapbooking is a trend that's not going away," says Michele Gerbrandt, founding editor of Memory Makers magazine and author of "Scrapbook Basics" (Memory Makers Books, $22.99). "I think that people are staying at home more, as well as valuing their personal and family time more. It's a creative outlet and a great release, as well as a way to tap into your creativity, no matter what level you're at."
In fact, "crops," as they're called, are becoming modern-day quilting bees for scrapbooking enthusiasts as groups ranging from 20 to 2,000 gather to exchange ideas and find new products to enhance the look of their albums.
Not just a photo album
These aren't just photos pasted on paper and bound together. And design ideas are endless, as are themes a scrapbook can encompass. There are albums devoted to babies, weddings, vacations and holidays. I have been working on one for my eldest son, Patrick, trying to piece together all his memories (via photos and coins and train tickets from the semester he spent in Rome).
But perhaps the most important is a "heritage" album, one chronicling a family's history. Think about those old photos of your grandparents and the cousins you played with as a child. By now, those photos, if not treated properly, are probably yellowing and will one day decay completely.
Scrapbooks are more than just photo albums. These memory books are part album, part journal and part scrapbook. You use your best photos, memorabilia, documents (such as invitations or newspaper articles) and personal stories to tell how your family lived and enjoyed life.
But how do you get started?
"Even before they start going through their photos, I recommend people take a scrapbooking class so they'll get a better understanding of all the materials involved," says Gerbrandt. "The goal is to preserve photos and to learn how to display them correctly using acid-free papers and high-quality art materials."
Once you come up with a theme and sort out photos and mementoes, there are some basics for starting a scrapbook. Check your local craft store for supplies:
UChoose an archival-quality album. A 12-by-12 inch album is preferable, with heavyweight pages that are photo-safe, meaning acid- and lignin-free. Avoid albums with plastic sheeting; they tend to ruin photographs.
UUse the right adhesive. Hermafix, for example, can be permanent or temporary, but neither will harm pictures.
UUse the right pen. Permanent pigment ink pens are best for writing in your scrapbook, and the ink should be waterproof and chemically stable.
UChoose a pleasing layout. Arrange your scrapbook so that each two-page layout (both the right- and left-hand pages) is based on one idea (a vacation trip, for example).
UEdit your photos. Use only the best that tell the story of that trip. Consider them the main characters of the story, and design your layout from there.
URemember to include small items. Postcards, a small bag of beach sand, even a matchbook cover will remind you of that special time.
UEmbellish your design. Use themed stickers, colored paper and perhaps cutouts you make yourself.
In a time when so many of us have family members scattered around the country, scrapbooks are pieces of our lives that can live on for generations to come.

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