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December 22, 2006

Preparing fabric for book covers

Filed under: Uncategorized — jackie @ 11:14 am

Here’s a quick tutorial on several ways to prepare fabric bought at your local fabric store for use on bookcovers. Sorry about the text only format. I’ll add a few pics when I get a chance.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the process.

Here are two ways to prepare fabric for using on a book cover.

Method 1- Pasting paper to fabric:

You will need a work surface that you can leave your paper backed fabric on until it dries. A large sheet of card board or heavy binders board works well for a work surface. Even a large smooth wooden board.

Cut your fabric approx. 2″ bigger than the finished size you will need all around then iron it smooth.

You’ll need a large sheet of lightweight drawing or similar paper for the backing. Make sure your paper is no thicker than regular copy or printer paper weight. One of my favorite papers to use is Speedball Printmaster Paper. It comes in 18″x24″ 50 sheet packs and is similar to Japanese tissue. Your paper needs to be a little bigger than the fabric piece you cut. At least 1/2″ all around. Lay the paper on your work surface and brush on a layer of straight wheat paste (recipe below).

You can also use a putty knife or a scrap piece of binders board to smooth on a layer of paste in lieu of the brush. (Here are some great instructions with videos for paper backing silk that show how this is done)

Remove the paper and lay your fabric face down on the work surface. Lay the paper pasted side down carefully on the fabric and gently smooth it with your hands making sure to get out all the bubbles. Try not to press too hard. I use a clean 2″-3″ wide paint brush to help smooth the fabric down. You can tap the bristles of the brush onto any air bubbles to get them to lay flat. Leave until dry. Then trim to size.

(Note: in his book Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions From A Master Craftsman, Kojiro Ikegami has a nice section with photos on how to prepare fabric for book covers. It’s def. worth checking your local library to see if they have a copy of this book.)

Method 2 Ironing paper to fabric:

For this method you can use either lightweight drawing paper or tissue paper. You can buy acid free tissue paper at any craft store. It is similar to the tissue used inside boxes and as bag liners when giving gifts but feels a little stronger. Cut your fabric and backing paper a few inches larger than you’ll need to cover your book with (including turn-ins). Cut a piece of lightweight iron on adhesive web such as Heat N Bond Lite (available from any fabric store) a little smaller than the fabric piece. Note: I cut it a little smaller to make sure that none of the adhesive seeps over the sides of the fabric and onto my ironing board cover.

*Please note…If you’re having problems with the Heat n Bond bleeding through the lighter fabrics, especially silks, you may want to try a product called Lite Steam a Seam. It’s a little more expensive than the Heat N Bond but the adhesive doesn’t bleed thru the thinner fabrics. I’ve started using it almost exclusively now. If you can’t find it locally at your fabric stores try your local quilt shop.


Iron both the fabric and the tissue to remove any wrinkles.

prep4.jpg  prep7.jpg

Note: Do not use any steam when ironing the tissue paper.

Here is a photo showing the surface of the Heat n Bond Lite adhesive side that is ironed onto the fabric.


Iron Heat n Bond Lite onto fabric according to the directions.


Strip off the backing paper.


Note: You can see in the photo above that the Heat n Bond Lite thermoweb has adhered itself to the fabric. It has a shiny appearance.

Iron the drawing or tissue paper to the adhesive according to the directions.


You now have a piece of fabric ready to be used to cover a book.


*Just a note about paper grain…you will still need to be aware of your paper grain when using drawing paper as a backing for your cloth. You will need to know the grain of the paper so that when you cut and attach the paper backed cloth to your cover boards the paper grain is running in the same direction as the boards or warping may occur. This is not necessary if using the tissue paper.

Wheat paste recipe:

2 cups water
1/2 cup unbleached flourPut water in a sauce pan
Stir flour into water with a whisk if you have one
Let sit for a few mins.
Put pan on med/hi heat
Stir constatntly until the mixture starts to boil
Let boil for 5 mins still stirring constantly
Take off of heat and transfer the paste to a plastic container
Let cool in a pan of cool water stirring occassionally
If the paste thickens too much during the cooling you can add a little water.
You want the consistency to be like heavy cream or thick gravy.
Will keep for about 2 days without refrigeration a few more with.
When mixing with PVA, you’ll want to use a mixture of half wheat paste and half PVA. Make sure to stir it up well. This mixture will keep a few days without refrigerations. Make sure to keep a cover on it.

When mixing with PVA, you’ll want to use a mixture of half wheat paste and half PVA. Make sure to stir it up well. This mixture will keep a few days without refrigerations. Make sure to keep a cover on it.

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