Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Binding With Fabric

I have recently been using fabric to bind books. I love a closed spine when it comes to storing a book. Open spines are nice in some cases, and I have made quite a few of them, but when giving a special book to someone, I prefer it to be closed. Fabric gives the illusion of a closed spine and is easy to work with.

I first experimented with fabric for book binding in the Encouragement Journal. I used the same technique has I have in some of my mini albums, except that I used signatures instead of folded paper.

Signatures were machine sewn

 I glued the signatures to cardboard...

Cardboard recycled from a water color paper pad

 and covered it all with fabric.

Journal before it was trimmed and the heart was attached.
A brown strip of fabric was added to give it a more finished look.

I was inspired to use fabric in the book binding process from a small album I found at Goodwill. It was bound with fabric and loosely tied with twine on the spine. It was difficult to open. I suppose that's why it was never used and it was donated. (I recycled the paper for another project.)

Basically, just fabric covered cardboard on inside and outside

I loved the raw edges, the simplicity.
Gluing the signatures to fabric for the Encouragement Journal was easy. I omitted the holes, and glued the cardboard directly to the fabric leaving the spine without glue.

I recently bound a book with loose pages. I wanted to use fabric for the cover also, but the same construction could not be used. I wanted it to open easily and I did not want to use rings. Without some modifications, I would have the same issues as the above album. It would not open enough to turn the pages for viewing.

The Kindness Book

For my sister's birthday, several of her friends and family practiced random acts of kindness to others in lieu of birthday presents to her. They wrote about their experiences and shared them with her via email. I bound all of the messages together into one book: Acts of Kindness.

Book bound with fabric and cord

You can see some of the similarities and differences in each of the three albums. I will take you through the process of how I bound the Kindness Book.

Book Binding With Fabric (and cord)

  • Thick Cardboard (recycled from art pads, or use chipboard)
  • paper for pages, cut to desired size of book, PLUS 2" if you want to add items to your pages later
  • Fabric (duck cloth, denim, or other heavyweight fabric is best)
    • I used muslin, then burlap over that
  • pva or tacky glue
  • eyelets, optional
  • twine, cord, or ribbon for binding
  • paper pierce tool, awl, or large nail
  • embellishments
  • scissors
  • paintbrush or credit card to spread glue
If you are using signatures, hopefully the above photos will be enough to guide you through covering your book with fabric. Note:  Apply glue to the front and back signature only, not the spine. The spine should remain free.

If you are using loose pages, you will need to cut  4 cardboard pieces. Two of these will be the spine. Here's how to cut the 4 pieces:

Cut two pieces of cardboard about 1/4 inch larger than your book pages on 3 sides. (Not the spine side, I'll show you.) After you cut those 2 pieces, cut 2 inches away from each, vertically, from top to bottom. This will give you the 4 pieces needed. (see below)

Below is a photo of the front and back covers for the Kindness Book. I suppose I should have put the spine on the left side before taking the photo. (Sorry.) The larger piece will open much like some scrapbook albums, the smaller piece will serve as a spine. You will want your spine to be about 2 inches wide. The other photos will help you understand this better, I hope.

Cut the cardboard first, then paint it 

Paint the cardboard if the fabric you are using is light colored. The color of the cardboard may show through.

For each piece, apply glue to the cardboard, spread EVENLY with a paintbrush or credit card all the way to the edges. Be sure to cover the edges well. Do this for all 4 pieces.

Keep your fabric RIGHT SIDE DOWN on your work surface and place each glued piece onto the fabric. Be sure each piece is centered correctly and evenly before applying pressure. 
I use a ruler to line mine up.

Also: leave a small gap between the spine and the larger piece. This gap should be the equivalent of the thickness of your cardboard. (see photo b)

The gap between the front and back should be the equivalent of the pages. Be sure to measure before you glue down both spines. (see photo a)

photo a - measure width of pages

photo b - be sure gap is large enough to allow the cardboard to bend

Once your cardboard is centered onto the fabric, use a brayer or bone folder to smooth and secure it. START FROM THE MIDDLE and work your way out to avoid any bubbles or wrinkles. 

Please note, if your fabric has a loose weave, the glue may seep through. I used burlap, so I first covered with muslin, then burlap to hide any glue spots. Test your fabric first. 

Trim fabric as desired. For the Encouragement Journal, I left an edge of fabric because I wanted it to fray slightly. I trimmed closer for the Kindness Book.

Trim fabric before the glue is completely dry so that it doesn't get too hard to cut.

If you plan to sew your embellishments onto your cover, do that BEFORE you glue the fabric onto the cardboard. I glued the muslin down first, then adhered my embellishments to the burlap, then glued that onto the muslin.

I used a stamp to print an embellishment and adhered that with paper fasteners. 

I always check to be sure it will bend and open before I bind it.

Next step is to bind the book. My paper had holes in it already because I salvaged it from another album, also from Goodwill. The handmade paper was all I was interested in, not the cover.

Ideally, your paper will not have holes; making the holes at the same time as the holes in the spine helps the pages stay together better.

Also, folding each sheet of paper the same size as the spine will give it some "grow room" to add photos or embellishments, but it is not necessary. Each sheet of paper in this book was folded over 2 inches near the spine. (You can see the folds in photo c below.)

photo c - paper folded
The fold was made BEFORE cutting the paper to desired book size.

Secure the paper together on at least 2 sides. Line up the spine edges exactly, leaving 1/4 inch around the top, bottom, and other side.

Mark your holes, and use an awl, paper piercing tool, or nail to make the initial hole. I started with a paper piercing tool, and then used an awl until it was the size I needed. At this point, you are only making holes in the cardboard, not the paper.

I wanted to use eyelets, but that is not necessary. If you use them, understand that the cardboard is thick and use the right size. Mine were barely big enough, but they would not show on the inside so it was OK

USE A MAT to protect your work area. Yes, I forgot!

Once the holes are made, and eyelets adhered, you can cover the inside (cardboard) with fabric if you'd like. One piece on each side, front and back.

At this point, if your paper doesn't have holes in it already, line up your paper and attach it to front and back of the cardboard with clips. Using the holes in the spine as a guide, punch  holes into the stack of paper with an awl or large nail. Yes, it will take work!

If you already have holes in your paper, line up the holes and proceed with the next step.

To keep the book bound, put tape around one end of the cord, string, or ribbon. Working from the back insert the cord into the book. Do this for the top and bottom and then tie (tightly) into a knot or bow.

Work the cord into the back spine, then the pages, then the front.
Tape helps to guide it through easier. 

And that's it! 

I added the title with some iron-on letters I found on clearance. 

Here's the Intro page:

And the finished book again.

If you have any questions, please ask in the comment section. I'm not that great with tutorials, yet.

I hope you have great success binding books using fabric. There are several ways to do it, these are just two I've discovered. I'll be sure to post about any other variations I find. 

Thanks for dropping by!

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  1. What a great idea! On the to make list! :D

    1. The one with signatures is the easiest, if you ever get to it. (My to make list is pretty long.... lol)

  2. These look BEAUTIFUL! You are right - it does wonders for finishing the edge! I've been told book binding isn't that difficult but I have yet to give it a try. LOVE how your books turned out!!

    1. Thanks Adrianne, it is usually a labor of love when I make one. I don't think I've made one for myself yet!

  3. Wow, that looks like a ton of work, but it turns out so gorgeously!

    1. Thanks, The Hope was easier than the Acts of Kindness (no pun intended lol)

  4. I'm pinning this!! Thanks for the great tute!

  5. This is a fabulous idea! I will have to try this sometime :) Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks for dropping by and for the sweet comment!

  6. Great tutorial. I have been wanting to figure out how to do this for a while now. Thanks for sharing!

    1. No problem. I've wanted to share the idea since I found that little fabric book. I used to use paper to bind books and I found this so much more flexible and fool proof. Thanks for visiting!

  7. Great tutorial, thanks for sharing! I love the look of these fabric books.

  8. Your books are really pretty, you did a wonderful job! =)

  9. Great job, beautiful outcome and so well explained. Thanks for sharing. You have a new follower :-)

    1. Thanks for dropping by, and for the follow :)

  10. These are beautiful! So glad you shared - I'm going to have to try this. These would make great gifts.

    1. Yes, they are great gifts. Seems like the only time I've made any, it was to give away ;)

  11. Great step by step - the finished project is awesome - great job!

  12. These are beautiful, Rox. I love working with paper and fabric, but I've never tried a book like this before. I'm going to pin it for future reference. Lovely work!


    1. Thanks for dropping by Jeanette, let me know if you ever make one. I'd love to see it. Everything you make is beautiful!