Monday, September 12, 2011

Craft: Pretty Paper-Covered Composition Books (Tutorial)

Tess's first birthday party is coming together. I am not quite sure what to call it. It has to do with vintage children's books  (sound familiar?) but also other vintage motifs such as calico fabrics, embroidery, pom-poms, and even the timeless Liberty of London floral prints. If you have a good way of summing that up, let me know!

One thing I have planned is to give all our guests books to take home with them. I was thinking of covering hardbound books in fabric but after some searching (difficult to find affordable, hardbound blank books!) and experimenting I ended up covering traditional composition books in paper. This has mostly to do with the dimensions of the books, and ease (I'm trying!), as they may serve as decor too. (UPDATE: I did end up figuring this out with fabric too! See here.)

This is a very simple DIY project--no special skills required--and the customization options are endless of course. I made an extra for Audrey's kindergarten teacher (great teacher gift!) and then bought a bunch more composition books to make some to keep on hand. Christmas gifts perhaps? I can always use a notebook and the cuter the better.

I hope all the recipients will enjoy these books as much as Audrey has. She and Scarlett have been helping themselves to some of the party prep!

I will show you two ways to cover a book. The first is "old school," using Elmer's Rubber Cement. (Remember that stuff? I really liked it and still do, plus it's acid-free.) The second is new school, using Krylon Spray Adhesive (I love this stuff too--super easy, and yes, also acid-free). They both have their pros and cons and each has it's own smell so you'll have to decide which you favor!

Click for the scoop!


  • Composition book (I bought some smaller ones at Target and a bunch of the traditional kind at my local grocery store. Other books would work too!)
  • 11x17 decorative paper (I made mine by scanning some of this calico fabric, dropping the image into Word formatted for 11x17 and printing in color)
  • Adhesive of your choice: either spray fixative or rubber cement (I suppose good old glue stick would work too)
  • Scissors
First, the rubber cement method:

Before starting, double check to make certain the paper you are using is large enough to cover your book. You'll need about as much as if you were wrapping the book for a gift.

Pick a side to start with, and positioning the book in the center of the paper, quickly (becuase this stuff dries in a blink!) cover with the rubber cement an area of the paper equal to the size of your book cover. (This doesn't have to be exact--just eyeball it. Though I suppose you could also lightly trace the dimensions of your cover on the paper to be more exact.) Be careful to use a think layer of rubber cement as the paper will absorb it if it's thick.

Brush rubber cement on the adjacent cover of your book as well.

Now lay the cover with the cement down on the area of the paper you covered with the rubber cement. It's ok if they dried a bit in the process--it will still stick. I remember we used to let the two pieces dry entirely before adhering but the can recommends that they both be wet for the firmest hold.

Press to get a good "stick."

Repeat for the second cover: brush an area of the paper and the corresponding book cover with rubber cement.

Now fold the paper tightly over the second cover. Smooth the paper into place. Looking good already!

Now for the trimming. Notch a little triangle shape from the paper at the spine of the book. This will make it possible to fold the paper inside the covers. Just trim the tip of the triangle close to the spine.

Fold the paper inside the covers of the book on both sides. These fold marks will create a guide for trimming.

Unfold and cut at a diagonal.

Glue down the flaps starting with the top and bottom.

The glue down the side.

You can trim the paper if it is extra long. It looks best if the paper overlaps the inside cover equally on all sides.

If you want to get extra fancy, you can cut another decorative paper to fit the inside front (and back if you wish) cover.

I used some paper I created for Tess' party based on this Liberty of London fabric (I drew the flowers and colored them in photoshop).

Using rubber cement (or the adhesive of your choice), glue the paper into the inside cover, overlapping the cover paper.

You can also add a bookplate to further personalize this gift.

Now, to do this with spray adhesive:

Simply spray the entire wrong side of paper you are using with the spray adhesive. Then position your book so there is enough paper margin around all sides and lay it down on one side. Press down and follow the steps above to cover it (flip the paper over to adhere to the other cover, open out and trim spine and corners, fold paper in and add paper on the side covers if you'd like).

The spray adhesive method is really much quicker but it's a product that isn't as easily attainable, so it's nice that this works with rubber cement and other options. Give it a whirl!

And to see how this is done with fabric, click here.


Miss Holly said...

these are so wonderful!!! makes me want to go back to school.....sort of.....

cherished bliss said...

Oh this is sooo much better than a regular ol composition book! I would love it if you would link up at my party! : )

Anonymous said...

Cute! I actually just sewed a comp. book cover! I will try to post it later this week.

Jess@craftiness is not optional said...

"Oh I just whipped up this AWESOME paper in biggie" are so talented! I can't wait to see how the party comes together. :D

Jayna Rae said...

You always have the most amazing and beautiful ideas. I know that I will find a use for this awesome project.

Unknown said...

Your creations are so beautiful! I'm such a fan of yours:)

Valentina@baby quilts said...

A very cool way to add color and fun to the otherwise boring, uniform look of notebooks. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

This are great. Reading about these made me wonder what fabric my son would choose to cover his in when the time comes that he wants his own notebooks.

Jayna Rae said...

Okay, so my friend and I just made them for our bible study ladies. We used wrapping paper. They turned out sooooo cute!

Caroline said...

I LOVE this idea! I love, love love it!

Partycraft Secrets said...

oh - I love books and I love pretty paper... so here I am, a 40 year old coveting school books!

Kathy said...

These are just so pretty. I love how they've been transformed from a boring notebook into something delightful to capture thoughts and pictures of your guests. I can't wait to see the rest of little Tess's party!

Lasso the Moon said...

Truly gorgeous! What a transformation!

Anonymous said...

This looks like a fun and easy craft but don't you have to worry about copyright laws when copying the design off fabrics?

Anneliese said...

@Anonymous(Jennifer): I'm not an expert in copywright but if you are scanning fabric you've purchased and using the result for your personal use, rather than selling the finished product for instance, I believe you are within legal and ethical usage. Martha Stewart crafts dept for instance has often scanned/copied fabric for wrapping, etc. See this article:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anneliese. That makes sense that it would be OK for personal use.

Laura Horne said...

Does anyone have an idea what to do if you don't have access to a printer that prints 11x17 paper? Regular scrapbook paper isn't large enough without a seam, right?

I did think of wrapping paper, but anything else?

Anneliese said...

@Laura: wrapping paper is probably your best bet. Or shelf paper (I saw some cute stuff at Michael's last week), which is already sticky!

Angelysty said...

Lovely post! I've always wanted to see how to do this. Very nice and simple tutorial!

::little projects in style:: said...

so pretty!! i love how neat the end result is! :)

Unknown said...

This is really fun and cute! I'm planning on using it to create journals for my students to use. Maybe the pretty paper will help inspire them to write more. :)

Anonymous said...

Loving this idea and trying to replicate your genius creation for an upcoming party. I'm stuck on the 11x17 paper size....Do you have a different version of Word that includes a format for this size specifically? My Word version only accommodates up to a legal size (8.5x14"). And my printer will only accommodate up to that size as well. Tips? I figure I can use my digital paper, format to the 11x17 size and have The FedEx store print on 11x17 paper, but I can't get past that first step. Looks like I have to stick with mini-sized composition books (or wrapping paper) unless I can figure this out. Love your blog!! You have beautiful taste and amazing talent!

Anneliese said...

@Anonymous: That's strange about the paper size! You could get around this by scanning or designing to letter sized paper and then taking it to a printshop and having them enlarge it to 11x17. Or you could use two pieces of 8.5x11 paper and put the seam on the back cover somewhere.

I hope that helps!

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