Book binding

How to convert any fabric into book cloth to cover your DIY books

If you’re into bookbinding, you probably find gorgeous materials every now and then that you wish you could use to cover your books, but you’re not sure how to. One of the chief problems with using fabric directly to cover books, is that the glue can often seep through the fabric, and make the cover look splotchy and uneven. Unless you can find a way to keep one side of the fabric intact, you can’t easily use fabric directly to cover your books. Obviously, this constrains your creativity and cover options 😦

That’s why it’s helpful to know how to convert any fabric into “book cloth”. Book cloth or bookbinding cloth is essentially a fabric that has a sort of “plastic-y” backing on one side, so that when you apply any glue / adhesive, the other side of the fabric stays protected. Not all fabric needs to be converted into book cloth – a rule of thumb is that if your fabric is on the thinner side or it feels a bit porous or it doesn’t have any extra lining on one side, then converting the fabric into book cloth may not be a bad idea.

Here’s a photograph of a fabric that I came across recently. The fabric is cut from a woolen shawl from India. I found this shawl on a visit to the Rann of Kutch in India – it’s so colorful and gorgeous and I knew that it would make for a lovely book cover πŸ™‚ It’s thick but it’s porous due to the woolen weaving, which meant that I could not apply glue directly to the shawl, without it coming out from the other side.

Colorful woolen shawl from Rann of Kutch in India

Luckily, I found this great video on how to convert any fabric into book cloth. This process takes just a few minutes (literally!), and it works really well! Here’s what you need:

  1. Your fabric that you want to use to cover your book – for me, this was the shawl above
  2. Tissue paper
  3. Heat n bond iron on adhesive

Here’s what you do:

  1. You take your fabric and turn it face down
  2. On the backside of the fabric, apply the heat n bond adhesive sheet (rough side touching the fabric), and iron on the top. Iron for a few seconds per section.
  3. Remove the white overlay sheet of the heat n bond adhesive. Only a film of glue is visible now.
  4. Put tissue paper on top
  5. Iron on top of the tissue paper. The tissue paper is now stuck to the glue.

You end up with something that looks like this:

That’s it! You have your own DIY book cloth. You can use this book cloth to cover your own book. You simply apply glue to the film and your front of the fabric will stay as is. Here’s what I made! πŸ™‚

Hard bound journal covered with a traditional pattern from Rann of Kutch in India

Once you know how to convert any fabric into book cloth, the sky is the limit in terms of your options for book covers πŸ™‚ So far I’ve found that this technique works pretty well, unless the fabric is too thin. For example – I tried the same approach with silk, and the heat n bond adhesive seeped to the front of the fabric 😦

Does not seem to work for silk and thin fabrics!

But as long your fabric is even slightly thick, I think this approach works pretty well. Hope you can now create lots of lovely new covers for your books! πŸ™‚

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