Though, I will be honest, every time I go into a used bookstore I’m secretly hoping to come across a copy of the Necronomicon with an old, tattered leather cover with intricate engravings and spooky designs. I usually leave with a beat-up copy of a mystery novel. Nice, but never quite what I’m after.
Part of the beauty in some books is simply how they look, and if we can’t find them that way, we’ll make 'em! It’s a perfect and unusual way to display your favorite literary embroidery designs and give your book a little more character.
Step 1: What You Need
- A hardcover book (decide now if it’s just for decoration, or if you want to be able to read it after we’re done)
- Vintage looking fabric (I love linens)
- A container for hot water
- Some tea
- Mod Podge
- Brush and/or sponge applicator
Step 2: Prepping the Fabric
If you're adding embroidery (because machine embroidery is awesome) -
Hoop the right side of your fabric, where the cover of the book is going to be. Remember not to hoop it too close to the right edge, since you need a lot of that room to fold and glue onto the cover. Hoop your design up with regular cut away stabilizer, and stitch away.
Step 3: Trimming to Size
Note to machine embroiderers - now is a good time to cut your stabilizer to size. I’d trim it so it’s exactly the same size as your book cover. That way it won’t show through, even on light fabrics.
Step 4: Tea Staining
Boil up some water and pour it into your container with 2-3 teabags. How dark you want your stain to be will depend upon how many tea bags you add, and how long you let it steep. This is a pretty strong cuppa.
Soak your fabric in your tea. Leave it in only a few seconds if you want a really light stain, longer for deeper, richer colors. Tea will of course show up a lot darker on light fabrics. When it’s ready, remove your fabric from the tea, wring it out, and lay it flat to dry.
Once your fabric is dry, you’re probably going to want to give it a good ironing, as smooth fabric is a lot easier to adhere to a book.
Step 5: The Spine
Grab your scissors and snip these marks just shy of where the book begins. Fold these flaps inwards. This part of the book we can’t glue inside the spine, so we’re folding them in so they look like the rest of the cover.
Step 6: Gluing on the Cover
You can use a brush if you just got a manicure, but I like using my fingers to smooth the sticky fabric to the cover. You’ll get a smoother, tighter fit. Smooth the fabric outwards, working towards the edges, pulling everything as snug as it will go. When you get to the edge, give the inside edge a one inch coating of glue, and then pull and smooth your fabric edge over it. Once it’s smoothed in place, add more Mod Podge on top and smooth it down with a brush or your fingers to get it really flush with the cover.
Once you’ve folded in the side, fold in the top and bottom the same way, snipping off any excess at the corners that doesn't want to lay flat.
A tip! If you’re planning on being able to open this book later, get a piece of scrap paper and place it on top of the front page. This will stop the cover from sticking to the first page as you’re waiting for everything to dry. Once the front is done, repeat this process at the back, pulling nice and tight to make sure everything is staying all snug.
Step 7: Adding Some Age
To make your book look even more ancient, grab your brush and dip it back into the tea again. Wipe off most of the excess tea from the brush, and then gently “dry brush” just around the edges of the book, where it’s most likely to pick up dirt over time. If you want a less harsh edge, dampen the edges first with a paper towel. This will allow your tea stain to bleed a bit.
Step 8: Readable & Decorative Versions of Finishing
For a readable book-
Cut a piece of paper just a little bit smaller than your inside cover, and glue it over the raw edges of your fabric on the inside of the book. This will make it look polished inside and out! Make sure you do this on the back cover too. Your book is beautiful, and readable! It’s got a fancy new cover but you can still enjoy diving into your favorite dark stories.
For a decorative book-
Add some generous glue to the inside of the cover, and close your book, effectively gluing the cover shut (I realize the rest of the pages will still open, we’ll get to that). Do this for the back cover too. Now, to really give it that gilded, antique look, with your book closed, carefully paint the side of the pages with your gold or metallic paint. This mimics fancy books of old, and gives your book that special, decorative touch. Plus, the paint on the side will basically glue all your pages shut, so what you have now is a really cool way to display your cover design.
Step 9: The Finished Book
Could you imagine a whole row of these? I totally can.