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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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