A DIY Christmas Accordion Book

I spent quite a bit of my time last week preparing a Christmas accordion book for you to download and make. The cutout is based on an imagined skyline of the town of Bethlehem, and the text consists of the first verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem in a reproduction of the author’s handwriting.

The open accordion makes a nice Christmas display for a bookshelf or mantelpiece. The photo above was taken at dusk with a dollar store electric tea light behind the stable.

The carol was written by Phillips Brooks, rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia. His inspiration was his visit to Bethlehem, made three years earlier. The Wikipedia entry on the carol includes a recollection from Lewis Redner, then organist at the church, about the composition of the music.

As Christmas of 1868 approached, Mr. Brooks told me that he had written a simple little carol for the Christmas Sunday-school service, and he asked me to write the tune to it. The simple music was written in great haste and under great pressure. We were to practice it on the following Sunday. Mr. Brooks came to me on Friday, and said, ‘Redner, have you ground out that music yet to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”? I replied, ‘No,’ but that he should have it by Sunday. On the Saturday night previous my brain was all confused about the tune. I thought more about my Sunday-school lesson than I did about the music. But I was roused from sleep late in the night hearing an angel-strain whispering in my ear, and seizing a piece of music paper I jotted down the treble of the tune as we now have it, and on Sunday morning before going to church I filled in the harmony. Neither Mr. Brooks nor I ever thought the carol or the music to it would live beyond that Christmas of 1868.

To make the book you will first need to download and print it: you will find the pdf here.

I printed my final copy on 67# (148 g) cover stock. If you are printing on A4 you will need to use the “fit” setting.

Please print in black and white. (The location of that option will vary with different printer drivers.) I discovered part way through the design process that if you drag and drop images from Illustrator into InDesign, the only changes you can make are to their size and proportion. Since I figured this out only after spending a great deal of time fiddling to get things in the right place to match the folds of the book, and after discovering that I was unable (no, I have no idea why) to change the black line additions I had made to match the blue of the imported image, I just left things.

I hate learning experiences.

If you have printed on A4, your first step is to trim off the black lines at the sides and bottoms of the book pages.

Cut the three printed sheets in half horizontally to separate them into the five strips (marked A through E in the bottom right corner) that will make up the accordion. On sheets two and three, the cut will not be a straight line. Here’s one of my test prints.

You will note that there is a folded hinge on the right end of the first four sections. To make the hinges, score a line vertically at the right hand end of sections A through D, 0.5 inches (1.2 cm on A4) from the edge. The E panel will need to have 0.5 inches (1.2 cm. on A4) trimmed off so that the pages will all be the same width when the accordion is folded.

It’s time to cut out the silhouette. To make this easier, I pricked holes in all the interior corners of the outline. I also fudged things that didn’t quite match the folds despite all my re-arranging and re-sizing. (Ironically the mismatch shown below worked perfectly in the A4 version.) There are also some rough parts that you will need to smooth out a bit rather than match exactly —the cutout in the palm tree in the picture above, for example.

I used a combination of scissors, scalpel, and box cutter, but you can use whatever works best for you. I do recommend a scalpel or box cutter for the windows and the stable half door (see image of page C below).

Next, fold the hinges along the score line —valley fold on section A, B, D, and E, mountain fold on D— you will need to fold each section (excluding the hinge) in half —mountain fold on pages A, B. D. and E, valley fold on page C. Finally the first half of pages C and D are folded again —mountain fold on page c, valley fold on page D. Just to make that a little clearer, here are images of the folded pages.

Pages A and B:

Page C: (note the stable half door)

Page D:

Page E:

It’s time to put everything together! I used an acid free glue stick, but you can use whatever adhesive you prefer. Double sided tape would work nicely for this project. Make sure you align the bottom edge as well as matching the fold line of the left hand section with the cut edge of the right hand section. In fact, the matching of the bottom edge takes priority. All hinges are glued to the back of the following page. You will need to do a little re-cutting where windows are blocked or edges don’t quite match.

And there you have it: a Christmas accordion and a decoration that takes almost no room to store for use again next year.

I didn’t time myself while making the sample copy, but I would think most people could manage to make this in 2 hours or less. That should easily fit into the copious spare time you have before Christmas.  ; ]


And now the news that many of you have been waiting for: the results of the Christmas Draw. Our lovely assistant, Kemuri, has spent much of her time during the recent cold snap looking like this:

Can you guess where the hot air register is located?

This morning, however, she was ready, willing, and able to take part in the selection process.

And the winners are:

James K. Wood

Keri Schroeder

Leila Olfert

Congratulations, your books will be on their way ASAP.

My condolences to those whose names were not selected. Perhaps you can console yourself with making your own copy from the DIY post, or by making today’s accordion book.






About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
This entry was posted in artist's books, book arts, bookbinding, Design, free printable, instructions and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to A DIY Christmas Accordion Book

  1. Leila Olfert says:

    Thank you! I am excited to receive my ‘winning’ in the mail.

    Merry Christmas!



  2. Pingback: A Christmas Draw | Byopia Press

  3. Thank you very much for such a wonderful Christmas accordion Book. Amazing!


  4. wendyfe says:

    Love, love, love, Cathryn


  5. Thanks so much!!! Happy holidays! all the best in new year! 🙂


  6. Amy says:

    Thank you, it’s so beautiful!


  7. Pingback: Teaser | Byopia Press

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