What’s a Zine?

I first wrote this post 12/15/2009, it addresses such a great question of “what’s a zine?”. Since I’m knee deep in working on the next issue and thinking zine-y things, I thought I’d update it, and re-share it with you. Enjoy!

I love getting questions about zines. It’s one of my favorite topics since I spend a lot of time each month making one! “Lydia, Clueless Crafter” asked the question:

“You’ve got a really sweet blog going here. I hope I’m not cluttering it up by asking some silly questions. What is a Zine and what is published in them? Are they handmade and is all the content generated by the maker? Thanks for getting back to me!”

That’s a great question, and not clutter at all :)

I love hearing from readers! A zine is an independently published magaZINE. But “independent” can mean anything from copy and pasting on a copy machine, to laying out in InDesign, to letter press printing, to offset press printing. And “magazine” can mean just about anything too! Truth be told, zines can be made on any topic.

A local artist here in Ames makes a collage zine that has no words at all. On the other hand, another local zine, the Ames Progressive, is almost completely text–political articles and literary arts.


Su Mwamba writes, illustrations, copies and stitches many of her zines. The hand-bound ones are made in limited runs because each one is pretty time intensive with a very handmade feel. She produces all the content for it.

I write, illustrate and layout the Craft Leftovers Zine as a pretty solo act. From time to time my friend Jill will jump in and help spruce up the layout.
With the start of Volume 4, they are print, stapled, folded(for which Jason is extremely thankful as he was my #1 folder), and sometimes trimmed at a local printer. You can get the current issue here: Craft Leftovers 4.2!
It started out as a 8 page quarter-sized zine (including the covers!) and now is a 24 page 5×7″ (not including the cover). I have a mid-sized run of about 250 a month + digital editions.
It’s sold in a growing number of indie book, comic, craft, and gift shops, in the CL shop here, on Etsy Here and by subscription. I started with just printing 10 a month though! Amazing how it’s grown!

Mixtape is produced by the maker, Justine Telfer + a whole team of creative folks. Justine has a lot of contributors to her zine, a larger distribution of 2000 per quarter (I think), and prints on an offset press. mixtape does a great job of residing in the gap between zine and magazine. With a larger distribution and professional printing, it feels like a magazine. But, she retains her full creative freedom by continuing to self-publish. I love it!

Zines can take all sorts of forms, from one off art books to a long standing series. They can be 1 sheet folded like my Collage IT! mini zine or 52 pages like mixtape. They can come out regularly, like mine, or published as the artist is inspired, like Su! You can read all about zine making on wiki here.

There is a book called Make a Zine!: When Words and Graphics Collide If you are interested in making a zine, you should go pick it up, it’s really great! I got it out in San Francisco and have read it 2 times now and am starting on my 3rd pass. I should post a review on that sometime.

Want to check out this zine thing? Get yourself a copy of the current issue of Craft Leftovers, or if you already know you’ll love it, sign up for a subscription!

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Happy crafting!

11 thoughts on “What’s a Zine?

  1. The idea of zines and making books in general has always interested me. I’d like to get my hands on a copy and see one in the flesh.

  2. This is a great explanation – and one that clears up my vagueness as well. Thanks for the book recommendation.


  3. I’ve been interested in zines for a while, and would love to read one. It would be awesome to win a copy!

  4. I was wondering, what kind of software do you use for the editing, Kristen? Is it Indesign or Quarxpress? Would you recommend anything for amateurs-zinemakers that would like to still get a profesionnal look? ;-)

  5. Loving your zine! Can’t wait until holidays to try some of the ideas. I also ordered a copy of Post Script at your suggestion. Thanks!

  6. I’d love to win this copy. I’ve always been super interested in the DIY aesthetic of zines, but haven’t really checked any out yet.

  7. Great information – answered some of my own questions about zines. Thanks!

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