Living Well: 4 Secrets To A Carefully Covered Book

September 12, 2012

This post is brought to you by The Martha Stewart Home Office by Avery. Get beautifully organized and get back to routine! Find a 40% off coupon for the new line at the bottom of this post.

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By Lindsey Johnson.

I’ve always loved books! Add that to being married to a librarian, and as you can imagine, there are a lot of books around our house. My husband-the-librarian has gently impressed upon me the importance of taking care of books. Dusting, properly storing, and when necessary, covering them as well.

DIY Guide to Book Covers

As a high-school student, covering my textbooks was always something I looked forward to, (so that I could fill the blank covers with I heart Morrissey), but I assumed that ended when I graduated. Turns out, we still frequently covers books in our personal collection to help protect them and keep them in the best shape possible.

With school starting, it’s the perfect time for a little refresher course on covering books, don’t you think?

Let’s start with paper.

There are so many to choose from! You can go old school with a brown paper grocery sack — sturdy and the perfect canvas for all sorts of doodles and creativity. Or you could go with something like blue prints, vintage maps, sheet music, newspapers from foreign lands, or even vintage wall paper (that hasn’t been used already, of course.)

Secret #1: Sometimes at home we use clear, plastic book covers — the professional-grade types used at libraries — to cover books with jackets on them. But for books without jackets, a paper cover is just right.

Once you’ve picked out the paper you like, you’ll want to make sure it’s just the right size. I like to allow about 1-1/2″ on top and bottom and about 3″ on either side to allow for folding.

Secret #2: One thing you’ll want to watch out for, if you are using a paper that has had a crease in it (such as a map or newspaper) you don’t want to put the edge of the cover on a crease in the paper. The edge will wear out much faster and you’ll have holes in the cover right away.

Lay the book on the paper and use something to mark exactly where you will fold the paper. I like to use a bone folder to score along the edge, but you could easily use a pencil or pen to trace where you want to fold.

Start with the top and bottom and fold the paper where you marked it.

I use my bone folder again for a really sharp crease. Now it’s time to fold the edges.

Close the book and center it.

Secret #3: Leave a good 1/4″ on top and bottom. If you don’t, the book won’t fit into the cover.

Fold one edge down and give it a little crease so you know where to fold it.

Open the paper up and use the bone folder to score or mark where you want to fold the paper down.  It really  makes folding so much easier if you are using thick paper.

Now fold the top down. Use the bone folder to give it a good crease.

I like to use double-sided tape to help hold the fold in place. It’ s not absolutely necessary, but it gives a nicer, finished look when the cover is in place. Be sure to place the tape towards the center — tape closer to the edge will seal the paper shut and the book won’t fit inside the flap.

Wrap the cover around the book and using the technique above, gently give the sides of the paper on top a little crease so you’ll know where to fold it.

Use the bone folder again, not creasing it as well as the other times. Because the book’s hard cover has thicker edges, you won’t want to crease it quite as well as you did the other times, or it might look a little funny. (Think: double creases on pants.)

Insert the book into the top part of the cover where you folded.

Now close the book and wrap the cover around the book and turn it over to mark where you want to fold on the other side.

Repeat the steps for the other side.

Secret #4: Carefully insert the other side of the cover into the fold. You don’t want to bend the book back too far or you might crack the spine and binding.

You can write the name of the book directly on the cover, or you can attach a pretty label.


Ta-da! It’s that simple. Repeat as necessary for all of your book-covering needs.

And just because I’m curious, did you doodle on your covered textbooks in high school? Did you favor band names or boyfriends? : )

P.S. — Want more? Find all the posts in this series here. Plus, here’s a tutorial for fabric bookcovers.

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I’m obsessed with the new Martha Stewart Home by Avery line. It’s gorgeous! And I want one of everything. Here’s a 40% off coupon if you’d like to check out the products for yourself.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ann September 12, 2012 at 9:06 am

Totally!! I used brown paper bags and that’s what we were going to do with my son’s books. I was so surprised to see fabric type book covers at the store with a plastic bag covering it. So much waste when you can recycle paper, and maps! I love that idea! We have so many national geographic maps we could use. Fun! Thank you!

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2 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) September 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

National Geographic maps would be great! I always had a tons of those hanging around my bedroom as a kid. Wish I would have thought to use them all those years ago. :)

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3 Victoria Regina September 12, 2012 at 9:09 am

When I was in school, we were required to cover all of our textbooks so they would last longer. I just used the school-provided covers, which were glossy paper and covered in advertisements for local businesses, and really ugly. In college, I didn’t bother, because most of my books were paperback anyway (yay political science!). Of course, now that I’m about to start grad school, I think some pretty paper covers would be too nice to pass up! That is, if I have any money left after buying all of the books!

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4 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) September 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Ugh. I hated those covers. We had the choice of using those or paper bags. Congrats on starting grad school! That’s great!

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5 aimee @ smilingmama September 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

How fun! Thanks for reminding me how much I loved covering my school text books. I always used brown paper bags and never considered covering any in our personal collection….hmmm…next project?!

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6 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) September 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Now that I’ve started, I can’t stop myself. The books look so pretty in the different papers on the shelf. I have my eye out for some papers to cover my cookbooks now too.

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7 Tasha September 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I KNOW I’d become addicted…so clean, organized and pretty, right!? Have fun!

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8 Malia O. September 12, 2012 at 9:42 am

I loved covering my books. I would use brown paper bags and then cut out pictures from magazines and collage the whole thing. I would cover them with strips of clear packing tape to keep it all in place. Oh memories!

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9 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) September 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm

How fun! I don’t think I ever did that. The idea did come to me to use some cute washi tape on plain paper to make some cute designs and patterns. So many options!

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10 Amy September 12, 2012 at 9:58 am

I can’t wait until my kids are old enough for book covers. Brown paper bags worked the best….and if I remember correctly, some teachers required brown paper covers.

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11 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) September 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Brown paper seems to be the sturdiest, doesn’t it? I had teachers that required brown paper too. A lot of fun for doodling with my favorite markers.

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12 Connie | Daydream In Color September 12, 2012 at 10:35 am

You literally read my mind! The other day I was just thinking about how much I enjoyed covering my books when the school year started. I loved picking the “perfect” brown grocery bag and doodling all over them with my new markers. I stuck with patterns mostly that I could continue to add to when I got bored…

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13 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) September 12, 2012 at 12:25 pm

How fun! One year I was really into drawing different kinds of flowers that wrapped around the covers. I really kind of miss that!

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14 julia September 12, 2012 at 11:36 am

We used brown paper bags too, though thinking about it–I’d probably try kraft paper now. It is so cheap and would be easy to decorate!

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15 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) September 12, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Kraft paper is awesome for so many things, isn’t it? And cheap. :) Even better.

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16 jmbh September 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm

lovely! i always loved covering my books. However, Grammar is spelled incorrectly onthe map covered book. . .whoops!

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17 Lindsey (Cafe Johnsonia) September 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Oh, dear! Looks like someone needs to go back to school and learn to spell. :) Thanks for catching that.

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18 how2home September 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm

thanks for sharing the coupon will us :) I’ll be definitely using that. Love the idea of wrapping textbooks. I remember how ugly mine use to be in school. Great tutorial!

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19 Tasha September 12, 2012 at 6:43 pm

The BEST use for a paper bag! I miss that new feeling…having all that room to marker up!!! I probably spent way too much time decorating my books and notebooks than I did on hw!

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20 Kaely September 12, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Oh, this post makes me want to go and cover my son’s textbooks. This is the first year he’s had books he brings home from school on a regular basis (3rd grade), but I don’t think they do book covers at his school. I’ve never seen any of the older kids with them on their books either.

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21 rachel swartley September 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Thanks to reusable bags, I haven’t brought home a paper grocery bag in years, but a roll of kraft paper would work just as well. And it wouldn’t have any pre-existing creases to navigate!

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22 Chrissy September 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I attended a training session on Monday to learn how to cover books at my daughter’s school! I thought it was pretty funny that covering books required training, but they use contact paper and I actually learned something new! The contact paper works great for protecting all of those little paperback picture books, and since it’s transparent there’s no need for labels. :)

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23 Jela Webb September 13, 2012 at 12:18 am

Our first project at secondary school was to make a fabric cover for the Bible we had each been given (to keep forever). The material was gingham (mine was shades of yellow, brown and cream) and we had to embroider a cross on the front cover.

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24 hyzen September 13, 2012 at 8:38 am

Aww, this brought back fond memories of elementary and middle school, when my dad always helped me cover my new books with brown paper bags–he is a stickler for neat, tight wrapping, whether it’s Christmas presents or textbooks, and he taught me how to do it just this way (although we didn’t have a fancy bone folder–the back of a thumbnail works pretty well instead). Can’t wait to do the same with my kids in a couple years!

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25 Heather September 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Perfect. I actually wish I’d been more creative when I was at school and covering my books.

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26 Julie September 14, 2012 at 8:31 am

Ah, thank you! I was just thinking of book covers a few days ago and trying to remember how we made ours. It was usually brown grocery bags, but one year, maybe 1984, one of my more creative older brothers offered to make mine and used neat old maps and things. AND, that year, he said “I’m going to make you the coolest cover, everyone is going to be jealous” etc. WELL, he used his old STAR WARS movie poster! From the original movie, the poster he probably went to the theater and asked for when they were taking it down! I’ve thought of that often and kind of wish we’d kept that poster intact!

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27 tzipora September 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Thank you so much for such a charming and clear tutorial!
You mentioned that you use library-grade plastic to cover books with dust jackets. We’ve got lots of well-loved books which will much longer if they’re covered, and covering them just happens to be at the top of my “now that the kids are back in school” to do list. Do you have a particular kind or brand of plastic that you would recommend for the purpose?

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28 Amy Jeanne September 23, 2012 at 12:36 am

I am a high school teacher, and I require my students to cover their books. I loved covering my books when I was in school; I was able to decorate them to my heart’s content (usually with doodles and quotes I loved–oh, and of course the name of whichever boy I was “into” at the time).
I used to require the students to bring in brown paper bags; however, so many of my students would forget, now I give them each a length of butcher paper. I bought a huge roll three years ago from Sam’s that was the perfect size (height) for my text books when the top and bottom are folded in. It’s white paper, and the students enjoy getting out the markers or colored pencils to personalize them.

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