Bookbinding: Ideas for the Cover… and a Tiny Wee Book!


It seems that in the world of crafting and creating there are as many trends as in fashion, music and general designs. At the moment I would say two trends (because I am also either already involved or really tempted) caught my eye the most: Book binding and embroidery.

The books and leporellos I made at the workshop. Some already with the new owner in mind 🙂

For those of you who follow my blog or Instagram account, you may already know that I started to play with paints and mixed media in general last year again (after a long hiatus). I already did mixed media as a child without knowing that it is called mixed media, I would guess as many of you too. From painting, to rather 3-dimensional pieces I also got addicted to gelatine monoprinting (I make my own plates, easy and cheap). 

So… what to do with these prints? A friend of mine took me to a book binding workshop and there my monoprinting addiction found it’s perfect partner in crime!

Book cover!

My crafting table (now in the living room since my craft room is now just storage and guest room for the son of my husband. He needs to be able to close the door). Also I already always had a lot of stuff there since we want to spend our time together and not in separate rooms. Yes, that is perfect coffee with perfect froth!

My original plan for this post was to show you some experiments with paper staining using leaves and flowers but I had to delay it. My husband had an operation 1,5 weeks ago (a planned one, don’t worry! He needed more “space” to breath 😉 ) and still is not allowed to do anything that may even slightly elevate his blood pressure. Next to this my body thought it would be a good idea to take some virus with it. I am feeling a little bit better now, but went down with a bad cold, fever and **** slime (ewwww…). I couldn’t sleep well the week he had to stay in hospital… he came back and now we have to sleep in separate rooms so he wouldn’t risk getting an infection. Great. Really, really great… 

Long story short: I didn’t buy or collect any plant material. 

So I thought about a Plan B – as in book binding… (yes, sometimes my brain works like this)

I don’t want to go through all stitching methods and binding varieties. You can find a lot of great tutorials, even videos, online. I am also no expert. So this is an inspirational post to show you some of my ideas and how I made a tiny wee book pendant. I’ll try to write down any tips and tricks I have by the way but if you have any specific question, don’t hesitate to ask me. 

Like most projects, to bind a book has different stages. Most of the time I only want to do one part of a project. Like gelatine monoprinting: I love to print… even if I don’t know what to do with all the prints. But why not? To break up projects in single parts can make it easier to start a project at all. Also in case of book binding: There are ready made paper inlays. Not everone enjoys stitching the papers together but rather would love just to decorate the covers. Or you can make a new cover for a beloved book, repair a broken book or upcycle an empty note book. 

First part: Book cover inspirations

  • I got some thick card board stripes for free at our local art supply store. I just decided at a length, made one template and cut them all down.
  • Even thick card board can be nicely and cleanly cut with a sharp exactor or paper knife. The trick is to have a kind of ruler to guide the knife and don’t press to hard but rather go several times over the same cut. 
  • This works slowly but as you can see, it creates beautiful ends! You won’t get this with scissors since the rather press the thick card board (or you may have a really good paper cutter, that would work too…. otherwise you can also just use thinner card board)
  • Regardless of what you want to glue on top: Always use a very thin and even layer of glue! I use an old plastic coupon card to spread the glue (or my fingers, I am one of those person who have paint all over their face after painting….).

  • Now I started looking for material I could use for my book covers. Of course, my favorite material: Gelatine monoprints! They are made with acrylic paint and this give the paper a very sturdy, every leathery feeling. They are my favorites for book covers since the can be wrapped without breaking, they won’t bubble a lot when getting moist due to the glue (a big problem with thin paper!) and the book will later be able to take some “abuse” (after all, acrylic paint is also plastic).
  • Since this was also my chance to try every material I ever considered for a book, I used different kinds of leather as well as fabric. 
  • Isn’t this gorgeous? It is paper made from tree bark. It also look beautiful later one but it is a difficult material to work with. If you use it, let it soak in the glue for some time so it gets a little bit moist and won’t break if you wrap it around the card board. 
  • I also found some magazine pages and rub-on elements (I never ever have used rub-on elements until now!).

  • You can also add interest to nearly all materials using stamps. I used archival ink (waterproof, from stampin’ up) and a stamp from the everything art collection. As it happens, the face had the perfect size for my card boards! You could also stamp the finished book.
  • This is the very thin leather. Works wonderfully!
  • Like the card board, I also like to use the card to get the glue to all sides. For me this works better than a brush and I never got glue on the front. This happened to me using a brush…
  • Don’t make my mistake and try to use paper napkins. And also don’t forget, like me, that they have several layers… I managed to glue it all together at the end but I will have to add some gel medium or something similar to protect the surface.

  • Some tips and tricks for a neat cover: Always start wrapping the upper and lower sides first (“up” in regards how you plan your book later).
  • Fold or tug in the edges (this is tricky, but it is the same movement one used when a gift is wrapped). 
  • This will create this nice clean look after you wrap the sides.
  • The finished cover. 

The covers can be used for a book with a spine (like my book pendant below), for a coptic stitch or a leporello. Yes, the insides have to be covered but that you can decide after you know what you want to use the book covers for.

  • Made with the paper that protects my surface with all the random stuff on top and tiny wee covers with paper scraps.
  • These covers are with fabric. Love the surface but it is really important to use thin glue layers so the glue won’t soak through the paper to the front. Test this before you use your most beloved fabrics!
  • Old paper from a fairy tale book, the tree bark paper and some paper stained with leaves and flowers.
  • The paper napkin (love the birds, hate the surface), some magazine pages (use even less glue, the warp really fast since they are often also very thin) and sturdy gift wrapping paper (work great!).

  • All of these covers are with gelatine monoprints… my favorite material! I need to start printing again because I really run out of material! 

On my work table, on the left are also the two kind of leather covers (one with goledn rub-on elements on top, need more of them). I was just not able to get any kind of decent image of them alone since I chose such dark colours 🙁

Can’t stop playing with them. Now I actually am motivated to start stitching!

As a last note: Paper and card board have a direction (how the grain goes) like fabric. It doesn’t matter for such small projects like I did here but for bigger one it does. The sturdy side has to be along the book spine and it should be flexible to the sides. If you are not sure, there are some video tutorials who show this (probably way better than I describe it here 😉 ). But if you tear a paper, there is always one direction where it will tear in a straight line easily and one where it tears anything but in a straight line. The direction where the paper tears in a straight line should be also the direction of the book spine 🙂


And here for my tiny wee book pendant:

Disclaimer: Somehow the sun gave up before I was finished… so the first images were done with day light and then with the best light bulb I had, still never ever as good as the “real deal”.

  • Cut down paper fitting your cover. Since the paper will be trimmed down, I would start for such a small project with the same size as the cover. I used some paper I stained with leaves (the project I wanted to show you) at my first test. The paper stripes have to be as high as the cover and two times the lenght. Just fold them over.
  • Can you see how nicely they fit? I always stack two folded papers into each other. Just add paper until your book is broad enough for you.
  • I fixated the paper with a clip and marked where the holes will be. 
  • You can use linen thread, waxed linen or cotton thread, any other kind of sturdy thread. For the tiny book I also used a normal sewing needle. 

  • Hold one end of the thread and go through one side of the first paper stack. Come out with the needle at the other end.
  • Take a second paper stack from the mark directly above and come out with the needle from the other side.
  • Keep in mind your thread end is still free, so now you can make a knot!
  • Take the next paper stack and go again through the first mark. All the paper stacks will be sewn together like this.

  • When you come out with the needle at the other mark, bring the needle between the paper stacks before and around the little thread there (to attach the new paper stack to the ones below).
  • At the end you do the same but just add an additional knot.
  • I glued some white ribbon around the edge to give all the paper stacks a little bit more hold.
  • Now to the covers: Glue them to the leather (or whatever else you want to use). Leave on three sides a little bit that you can fold over, trim down the edges (leave a little bit material so it will fold over the card board) and the side that will later be the back of the book you can trim down completely.

  • I prefer to let the front of the cover dry before I glue down the rest. So fix the paper again (really tight, heavy weights can also be used) and carefully glue the back. For this tine book two times was enough, for bigger ones use three to five times. Let it really dry thoroughly in between. Your book will live longer 😉
  • I glued down a ribbon at this point. That was a mistake. Don’t glue down the ribbon now!
  • Add glue to the leather and at first wrap the upper and lower part around the card board. Press tightly.

  • Carefully glue all parts of the right leather part (I used more here than I would normally do due to the really heavy leather…)
  • Tug in the ends
  • Flip the site over to the card board and press tightly (at the side and on the top)
  • Now the covers are finished!

  • Now it is time to trim your paper. Fix the paper tightly and use a good exactor blade or other knife and slowly cut down. I used the heavy card board as ruler (just use a ruler to guide your knife). 
  • As you can see it is not perfect but that also wasn’t what I had in mind for this book
  • But it should look like the roughed edges happens over time and not due to messy crafting (I hope you know what I mean)
  • Glue on the ribbon. No, I glued it on before I trimmed the paper. Don’t do that. Glue it down afterwards.

  • For the back of the book use some thin card board. This is also true for big (real) books. The back should be able to move and not be too stiff. 
  • I roughly traced the around the covers and paper combined. The book end should be as broad as all of it together
  • Filmoplast is actually a linen already combined with a glue side. Our art supply store has a book binding corner and I took the black one. But you can also use good linen and glue it down (this I did at the workshop) or you can use duck tape or any other tape that is a little bit sturdies (or use leather, other fabric, just play)
  • Glued covers and back down to the linen and take care to leave a little bit of space between them. Again, the space is necessary so you can open the book.

  • And fold in (glue in if you don’t use tape) the edges
  • Your finished book cover with the back attached!
  • Have a look of everything fits… you can always cut down the paper or if the paper is already too small, you could add additional paper inside the book cover “to cover” the open space.
  • I decided I wanted to paint everything black so in case something won’t fit perfectly, no bright spots will be seen.

  • What shall I say? The white ribbon added a too stark contrast (could have thought of this earlier) so I stained it with acrylic ink (burnt umber)
  • These are the glues I am using (NOCH glue is a glue for miniatures and Mökotex a professional book binding glue made in east germany, but honestly, all good glue work that are strong and useable for paper)
  • I like to use my finger to spread the glue (but if you are taking pictures with your phone during crafting: Think of cleaning your finger tips before you touch the displas… ask me why I write this warning 😉 )
  • Now glue the front page to the inside of the book cover. Align the paper with a little edge to the outside of the book. The papers will NOT touch the back, otherwise there will be no space for the papers to move if you open your book. The paper and the covers are the only connection is such a book, the “backside” are separated! 

  • Now add carefully glue to the other side (always to the paper NOT the cover!)
  • Carefully close it, press it first with your fingers at the inside and then add some pressure to the whole book while drying (for bigger projects it is also okay just to stack really heavy books on top)
  • Since the book was quite dark now I wanted to add some contrast and tried on a leftover leather piece whether I could add some rub-on elements (normally for scrapbooking)
  • It worked! Love it 🙂 I am not sure how well it will stay on with time but I have to say it survived my first tests! 

  • I tried to get some rub-on elements on the linen book edge… didn’t work
  • Instead I added some leftover rub-on elements at the inside of the book
  • I carefully cut a hole with my exactor blade into the linen and thin card board and added a jumpring (Yes, the only difference between an “object” and a pendant is sometimes a single jumpring!)
  • I also added some bronze dangles and chain

And here it is: My finished book pendant! Love it! Not sure what kind of chain I will use and whether I may change the dangles… but for now I’ll stop. The book is really sturdy and actually useable!

Now “all” I have to do is to actually use all my new book covers!


Claire Fabian

Claire Fabian loves to experiment with materials and ideas. She needs to create to “keep her sane” and the process of creation itself is the most important in her work. She is drawn to weird things, to organic and natural textures and loves a tribal and ancient vibe. She makes beads as well as jewellery, but also loves mixed media pieces and little sculptures. Amongst her favourite materials is polymer clay, ceramic clay, all kind of metals, glass beads as well as everything found in nature. She is also working in research which may explain her desire to experiment.
    • Karen Huber
    • January 22, 2017

    What a fantastic post! I was a librarian and this is so interesting. I hop you and your husband are feeling better soon!

  1. Reply

    love it!

  2. Reply

    Thanks for writing such a delightful post with lots of ideas. I am both bookmarking and sharing the post. I wish you and your husband a speedy recovery

  3. Reply

    Leather and book cloth! I love it. I have saved some paper from tea bags. They would be the right size….

  4. Reply

    Love your mini book as a pendant! Wonderful idea. And your bookbinding is beautiful!

    • Smita Dancklefsen
    • July 8, 2017

    Good detail shown for the final little pendant book. Hope to speak with you one day soon. I still need to experiment with geli plates.

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