If your 2021 was anything like your 2020, then you probably spent a lot of time at home with your pets this year, too. But as 2022 approaches, how are you going to memorialize it?
Years ago, you probably would have had a photo album that you put printed pictures into, enlarging and framing a select few for display. In the albums, though, that’s all it was — page after page of photos, nothing more.
There was always a fancier way to do it. It just didn’t become really prominent until fairly recently.
The Tail of Scrapbooking
The concept of scrapbooking is to preserve history and memories for future generations by including various memorabilia, like drawings, letters, journal entries and, eventually, photographs.
The modern version can trace its roots back to commonplace books in 15th century England, which contained things like maxims, aphorisms, proverbs, quotes, letters, poems, notes, prayers, and recipes. They might also include tables of weights and measures and legal formulae.
They were organized according to the particular interests of their creators, and were often used by writers, students, and scholars as a reminder to themselves of useful concepts or facts. They were originally intended as private compilations. but once moveable type made printing much more affordable, some were published for the general public.
In a lot of ways, they were like Pinterest centuries before the internet existed.
The Next Stage of Evolution
The 16th century saw the rise of what eventually became known as Friendship Albums, although they initially started out in Europe as ways to create souvenirs of tours through the continent, and would include things like ephemera from the trip, illustrations of local coats-of-arms, and color plates depicting local costumes or scenes. (Hello, Instagram!)
By the early 19th century, these trip mementoes evolved into true Friendship Albums, most often used by young women who were about to graduate school, and it was a way to remember their friends, who would contribute illustrations, notes, memories, signatures, and even physical artifacts as mementoes.
Sound familiar? Yes, this is exactly where the concept of high school and college yearbooks came from.
From here, the idea of scrapbooks eventually evolved as people started using the idea of Friendship books to memorialize events in their lives, saving things like news clippings, theatre tickets and programs, guest lists, calling cards, and so on in what were literally books of scraps.
This kind of visual record-keeping and storytelling was actually easier than journaling or other written records, and its popularity grew as cheap printed items became much more common. And then photography became accessible to more and more people, which changed everything.
The Age of Scrapbooking
One day in 1981, a woman named Marielen W. Christensen opened the first scrapbooking store in Spanish Forks, Utah. It all came about after Ms. Christensen was invited to present at the 1980 World Conference on Records, put on by the Mormons.
The Church immediately saw how scrapbooking could be a boon to their attempts to document their families and their histories, and after Ms. Christensen opened her store, Keeping Memories Alive, scrapbookers from all over the country would go there to gather supplies and meet other scrapbookers. You can often find facsimile versions of those scrapbooks in the Mormons’ Family History Centers.
Scrapbooking hit its peak year in 2004, when it was a $2.5 billion industry in the U.S., and it looked like there were no signs of slowing down. Then the Great Recession of 2007 hit in the wake of years practices that led to a housing bubble as people were locked into homes they really couldn’t afford to buy.
When the bubble burst, the economy tumbled and, as always, one of the first things people cut back on were what they considered unnecessary luxuries, which included things like hobbies — especially potentially expensive ones like scrapbooking.
Eventually, the industry stabilized, although most of those small, independent stores went the way of Blockbuster, replaced by larger craft store chains for which scrapbooking was only one section among many.
But scrapbooking is not dead. Instead, it has evolved into something more than what it used to be. You can read a much more detailed modern history of scrapbooking at ScrapbookingBee, if you’d like.
How to scrapbook your pets
First, the really good news. When it comes to scrapbooking, the most important part is knowing what you’re going to be scrapbooking about. Grandma’s favorite recipes? That family trip up north last summer? Your child’s high school years?
We all already have so many memories and events and so on that we could document that it can become difficult to decide. But you already have your subject: Your pets.
Once you have the subject, you need to narrow the focus. Are you going to include every pet you’ve ever owned and that you have material for? Or are you going to focus on just one pet? Or just one aspect of your pet — your dog’s agility training history and awards, for example, or your cat’s appearances in many shows.
Find the subject and your focus and you’re ready to begin. Well, sort of. Like a lot of creative endeavors, scrapbooking requires knowing how to do it, plus various tools and techniques.
For the how-to part, you can find plenty of guides online, many of them geared toward beginners. You can also find tips specific to scrapbook layouts for your dogs and cats — part one and part two. (Although, realistically, you can use any of these ideas for any of your pets.)
You’ll need to select the photos you want to use and arrange them into particular themes or stories — for example, pet holidays, pet vacations, trips to the vet, getting into trouble, family fun, etc. (More on this below.)
If you’re covering a year in your pet’s life, you can also arrange the photos by month and center each month’s theme on a holiday or common events associated with it, like President’s Day in February or Dads and Grads in June.
Once you’ve settled on the theme, layout, format, and story you’re going to tell, it’s time to head to your local scrapbooking store which, of course, is going to be just one section of a major craft and hobby store or one department in a big box store, where it will be time to stock up on supplies.
The most important thing to start with is cardstock, preferably acid- and lignin-free. This will form either the basis for your pages or a backing to matte your photos. Base your color selections on both how well they will work with your photographs and whatever themes you might be covering.
For example, if you’re doing a one-year scrapbook, you might want to start with cool winter colors, move on to pastel spring colors, segue to bold and primary summer colors, then fade to mellow, earthy fall colors.
In addition to cardstock, you’ll need patterned papers, which come in many varieties and styles — this is also a good use for those left-over wrapping paper scraps you probably have sitting around right now.
These can create additional backgrounds on your pages, define sections within a single page, matte photos or other items, and work as section separators. Your imagination is your only limitation here.
Other supplies include adhesives for putting everything together; fade- and waterproof pens with pigment inks for adding personal notes, captions, and the like; scissors and trimmers both for cutting large pieces at once and doing delicate detail work; and embellishments, which include everything else. Rubber stamps are also a possibility, but optional.
Embellishments in particular can get very elaborate, and can include everything from stickers to jewels to vintage cutouts to miniature metal ornaments. A visit to your craft store’s scrapbook section is worth it just to see what they have. It might even spark your creativity.
Two things to note on the supplies, though: First, make sure to match your adhesives to the materials you’re using. You might need different ones depending on whether you’re attaching photos to cardstock, paper to cardstock or photos, or plastic, rubber, or metal embellishments to anything.
Secondly, regarding the scissors, if you’re left-handed it is 100% worth it to invest in those left-handed versions to save yourself a lot of awkward motions and hand and finger pain later. Plus, it will keep your right-handed family members from “borrowing” your scrapbooking scissors and making them vanish.
You can use various techniques with the above supplies to make your pages stand out. For example, rubber stamps can add highlights or borders. Paper punches can create specific tiny shapes, like stars, hearts, and so on, that can add texture to your pages.
Another technique is peekabooing, in which you use a craft knife to cut a shape into your card stock and use this to reveal parts of an image on a subsequent page. Alternatively, you can also use other materials, like cardstock or vellum, to frame your photos on the page by placing strips of the material around the edges.
These can be cut perfectly to size and placed with perfect right angles or can be more irregular and ragged — it’s up to you. A lot of people prefer vellum, though, because it’s semi-transparent, meaning that it can create a unique ghost-image effect around the edges of the photo it’s framing.
Finally, combining supplies and techniques, you can also purchase themed scrapbooking kits, including for pets, to make the design of layouts easier.
Time to Create
Now that you know what scrapbooking is and what it entails, here are ten ideas for themes and projects you can create for your pets to commemorate 2021 and beyond — in either direction.
1. My pet’s year
This should be fairly straightforward — everything your pet did in 2021 — although there are lots of ways to arrange the pages. You can go for a straight chronological approach, broken down by month, or break it down into categories revolving around things your pet loves to do.
So, you could have sections like eating, sleeping, knocking things over, walks, dog park, sitting in boxes, snuggling, getting on top of high things, trips to the vet, the beach, and so on. Group similar photos together and then arrange those by date. This also works great if you started with a puppy or kitten, because you can document their growth and development, and their changes in how they engage with things at the same time.
2. Pet vacations
If you took your pets on a vacation or two this year, you’ve probably got plenty of photos, so why not show them off? You may even have some memorabilia from the trip, like ticket stubs from events or attractions, receipts for meals or souvenirs, tourist guides or pamphlets from your hotels, and so on.
You can also easily find embellishments specific to where you went in terms of not only the city and state you visited, but any local landmarks or attractions. Don’t forget to include these and write down your pet’s thoughts on the trip at each stage of the way.
3. Pet holiday highlights
Maybe you didn’t go anywhere in 2021 — a lot of people didn’t — but you probably celebrated all kinds of howlidays, and probably have plenty of pet photos to prove it. Whether it’s only a couple of biggies, like Halloween and Christmas, or whether you and your pets hit up pretty much every festive celebration throughout the year, it can make for a great scrapbook collection.
You can even have fun with it and theme it something like, “What these holidays mean to me by (your pet’s name),” then add narrative based on your pet’s personality. Maybe you have a cat who hates everything except food, or a dog who gets crazy excited about any interactions with humans. Caption accordingly and who knows what you’ll come up with.
4. Pet birthday celebrations
If you celebrate your pets’ birthdays, then this is an ideal subject, and you can limit it to the most recent year or go back for as many years as you have material for. If it’s the latter, this is another great way to document your pet’s growth and development — and don’t forget to include photos of you with your pet along the way to show how you’ve both changed.
5. Outside adventures
If you have an outdoorsy pet, whether it’s the cat patrolling the yard or you and your dog going on hikes, to the dog park, walking through the city, or whatever, use these photos to create the story of your pet’s favorite things to do when they get out of the house.
This can also be a subset of the Vacation scrapbook under the heading of something like “Mini-Vacations” or “Our Staycations.”
6. Pet fashion parade
Do you like to dress your pet up in outfits and take pictures? Then this idea is for you. Arrange your pet fashion photos by season and present it like a designer would introduce their new collection during fashion week. Have fun by adding descriptive captions with ridiculous prices next to them — “Fluffy’s collar, white and red rhinestones studding white leatherette by Lily van Chat, Tiffany’s, $975.”
Look at some fashion magazines for inspiration on how over-the-top you can go with the descriptions and go ahead and name your scrapbook with a pun based on a fashion magazine and your pet. Dogue and Catsmopolitan immediately come to mind.
7. My pets and my kids
If you have pets and kids, why not do double duty? You probably have plenty of pictures of them together and separately, and there are lots of possible ways to format this one. You can introduce each of the pets and kids in their own separate sections from youngest to oldest, for example, then move on to the kids and pets together. Include all their extracurricular activities in another section, whether those be band, sports, agility or obedience training (pets or kids on the second), and so on.
Be sure to cover any awards or special achievements for all of them as well, whether it’s a high school or college graduation or a pet completing training. This is another idea that can extend across multiple years if you have enough material available, and another great way to document the family growing up together.
8. My pets being naughty
It can happen. Even the best of dogs or cats will sometimes get into trouble because they forget themselves — or you forgot that you dumped that leftover takeaway from two nights ago in the trash and it was just too tempting.
This only works, of course, if you happened to document the damage and the culprit each time — but if you’ve read this far down the article, well — you have, haven’t you?
9. My pet’s lifetime
Maybe you’ve recently lost a beloved pet, and this can be the greatest memorial to them — tell their life story from when you first brought them into the family until you had to say good-bye. Sprinkle it with sections covering many of the themes from above — holidays, birthdays, vacations, time with family, etc.
An activity like this can be very therapeutic as well as a way for the entire family to cope with grief and firmly embed the good memories that pets who’ve crossed over the rainbow bridge have entrusted us with.
10. The story of my pets from...
Finally, this is the more ambitious version of the previous entry and can include every pet you’ve ever had from the first all the way up to the present. You can even add “from” and “to” dates to the title or title page indicating the date the first pet joined your family to the date that you made the scrapbook.
Or, if you want to, you can leave the second date open-ended and turn this into an ongoing project that will continue to grow throughout the years you spend with your pets and adding the pets you have yet to know and love.
The Future of Scrapbooking
So far, we’ve only discussed physical scrapbooking, but of course we’ve long since moved into the era where we don’t need paper and glue and scissors to do this. Scrapbooking has moved into the digital world, using images taken on your phone or camera and combining those with graphic layouts and all the other kinds of things that would have once been done physically.
There are plenty of sites online that can provide resources for digital scrapbooking, and a lot of them also offer daily freebies of things like embellishments, borders, layouts, fonts, and more, that can all be used in your layouts. Most sites also include tutorials, so it’s like having a neighborhood scrapbooking shop right on your desk or laptop.
If you’re the type who still prefers to go it OG with paper, glue, and the like, don’t worry. You can use the computer to create the original base layouts of your pages, print those out in high-quality color — color laser printers have gotten ridiculously cheap lately — and then border, peekaboo, and embellish to your heart’s content.
It’s your scrapbook, so you can do it however you want to.
Scrapbooks are more than just a photo album, and there’s a good reason that the concept has been popular with people for five centuries. They’re like a little treasure chest full of not just pictures, but decorations, narrative, memorabilia, and other reminders of our beloved pets and how much they bring into our lives.
Of course, our fur babies are the real treasures in the scrapbooks — which makes it well worth creating one.
But don’t think that you’re going to stop at just one. You’ll see!
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