Step 1: Materials
Ribbon or thin elastic
Scissors or rotary cutter
Glue stick (optional)
Step 2: Measure
Measure books and come up with an average size. I measured 6 paperback books that were all mostly the same size- some thicker and some thinner. When measuring, you want to make sure you include the spine of the book; otherwise it will be too small! I used a sewing tape measure, which is easy to wrap around the book, but you can also use a regular ruler, measuring the cover widths and spine width and adding all three measurements together.
For my paperback books, I used this fabric measurement (in inches): 15 1/4 long by 7 1/2 tall
9 1/4 + 6 inches for the front and back flap = 15 1/4 inches long
6 3/4 tall adding 1/4 inch for sewing /ease + 1/2 inch for folding under the edge (If you are using a fleece or knit fabric that doesn’t unravel, you can cut this at 7 inches) Woven fabrics will need to be turned under so that the fabric doesn’t ravel with use and washing (like cotton, wool, or anything that has definite woven pattern)
Step 3: Cut fabric
Cut fabric to size. You will need to make a straight edge along at least one side. I like to tear the edge with woven fabrics as it almost always ends up as a straight edge. (Cut a tiny slit with scissors and then pull apart or tear on this cut. It will tear along a woven thread giving you an almost perfect straight edge.) Or you can use your scissors or rotary cutter to cut a straight edge.
Step 4: Iron
Iron fabric. You can also reverse these steps, ironing first and then cutting second. It all depends on whether your fabric is new or has been crumpled up a while… I usually have lots of scraps that aren’t neatly pressed, so I iron before I cut. But if you buy from the store new, this fabric has a lot of sizing (starch) and is fairly flat without wrinkles. But either way, you want to iron the fabric a little and then double check your measurements. I like to add starch to my ironing as this gives my fabric a little stiffness that is helpful in cutting and sewing. I use starch that I dilute and have put into an old fabric freshener bottle as it gives it a nice scent too! A little tip- when you’re starching things, do a whole pile and just layer things on top of each other when you’re spraying. Then the excess starch actually is used on the fabric just below. Let everything rest a few seconds or two and iron on the other side so you don’t get as much starch build up on your iron.
Step 5: Turn under edges
Turn under all 4 edges 1/4 inch and finger press. To do this evenly, take a ruler and measure an 1/2 inch line, draw with a pencil. Fold the fabric to this line and then press with your finger, scraping your fingernail over this line makes a finger pressed edge. Cut a small triangle from the corners and you will have a nice beveled corner which will help your sewing of the corner.
You will sew this edge in step 5.
Or, if you’re a little nervous about sewing on this tiny edge and keeping it straight, use a glue stick to glue the edge. Then go mow the grass, check out a website (instructables?) or something for about an hour to let the glue dry so that it doesn’t gunk up your needle and your sewing machine.
Step 6: Sew
Sew the edge. You’ll be sewing on a teeny tiny edge. I find it best to sew all the around the 4 sides at once, putting the needle down at the corner and turning the edge and continuing on. (If you are using a knit fabric you can skip this step and you will need less fabric as you don’t have to turn under the edge to keep it from unraveling.) After you’ve been to the beach a couple of times and gotten all that sand and sticky stuff on your fingers on the cover (not your book!!), you’ll want to wash the cover and if it is a woven fabric, it will unravel. As long as the book cover is washed in cold water and air dried, it won’t shrink either.
Step 7: Flaps
Step 8: Book mark
Ribbon or elastic book mark: I like to include this into the sewing of the flaps. Measure the ribbon or elastic so that it is in the right place and has a long enough tail. I’ve found that with ribbon, you want to sew this closer to the spine of the book, whereas with elastic it needs to be nearer to the open edge, and I like to include it under the flap so I’m sewing less.
Step 9: Sew
Sew the flaps, including the ribbon or elastic bookmark. You can do this on the sewing machine, or by hand; which ever is the one you can sew the closest to the edge. If you turned under that 1/4 inch edge, you can sew along that same line as you sewed before or even more towards the edge if possible. If it is knit fabric, like fleece, you’ll need to sew as close as you can to the edge of the flap—so if you’re nervous, sew by hand so that you can sew right on the edge. Even though my pattern has a little ease, the closer you sew to the edge, the easier your book will slip in. On the other hand, you don’t want too much ease either or your cover will keep falling off.
Step 10: Front? back? don't care?
Make a pattern or something on the front cover so that you can tell front from back. This doesn’t bother me—but for some people, it is an issue to know what is the front or back of your book. So you can sew, write neatly with a sharpie or some other permanent marker to make the front distinguishable.
Or if you’re like me…if I open to the back, I just flip the book- no problem!
Presto-- off to the beach or pool to read without worrying about getting your book dirty or getting dirty looks about what you're reading!