Fabric Covered Books

A little over a year ago I shared the fabric covered book I made to put in our guest bathroom to class the joint up a bit.  Well, a few days ago I went bananas and started covering all of my thrift store and yard sale hardback books with fabric.  So I thought I’d share this super easy and inexpensive DIY with you.  Some of you may wonder why covering books with fabric is necessary.  Answer: it’s not.  But fabric covered books are pretty, cheap decor pieces that you can disperse throughout your home.

how to make a fabric covered book

So a few days ago I went a little crazy covering a bunch of books with fabric, which helped me perfect my book covering technique.  However, when it came time to photograph the process I had run out of books.  Whoopsies.  I decided to run to Goodwill since it’s the closest “thrift store” to our house.  I grabbed a book and headed to check out.  When the cashier said, “that’ll be $2.66″ I was all “say whaaaat?!”  Forgive me, but I don’t think a pre-owned book published in 1987 should cost more than two items on McDonald’s dollar menu.

This book debacle has solidified my boycott of Goodwill.  I’m over it.  I’ve been on the verge of breaking up with them for a while, especially after reading this article and this article and viewing this news report and watching their prices slowly skyrocket.  ($9.99 for an ugly, 1970s lamp– sans lampshade?  Me thinks not.)  One of their employees with a disability would have to work for 12 hours in order to pay for the book I purchased.  I get that this practice is legal, but it doesn’t sit well with me.  I can’t support a “nonprofit” that prides itself on doing good, though it operates the way it does.  So if you see me shopping there I give you permission to punch me in the throat.

Now, I’ll dismount my soap box and head into the meat of this post– the tutorial.

I prefer to use interesting books for this project– ones that will surprise the people who open them.  This specific literary masterpiece is Vanna White’s autobiography, published in 1987.  While I’m not a Wheel of Fortune fan (Jeopardy is my jam), I’ve always liked Vanna and her sparkly gowns.

fabric covered book materials needed

To recap, you’ll need:

hot glue gun
butter knife
spray adhesive

Before you get started, I recommend ironing the fabric if there are any creases in it.  And remove the book jacket, obviously.  Also, cut your fabric with roughly 1-2 inches of overhang all the way around the book.

Note: it’s best to put down some newspaper, or the like, before breaking out the spray adhesive.  Unless you prefer glue on your table.

Begin by spraying the spray adhesive on the back book cover and spine.  Don’t go too wild and crazy.  Just give it a nice coating.  Turn the book over, position it on the fabric how you want it, press down, turn it over so the back is now facing you, and smooth it out with your hand.

fabric covered book instructions

Do the same for the front cover.

fabric covered book tutorial

You should leave at least 1 inch of excess fabric around the book.  You can always cut the fabric down if you have more than an inch.

book covered with fabric

Cut two slits on each side of the spine.  We’ll come back to the spine later.

fabric book

Grab your glue gun.  Add some glue along the longer edge of fabric where it will meet up with the book.  Don’t go completely to the edges of the fabric.  Fold over onto the inside cover.

book tutorial

It should look like this.

fabric book tutorial

Put a dab of glue where the fabric meets on the corner.  Press the fabric together.

fabric book instructions

Run some glue along the edge of the fabric.  Secure the fabric to the inside of the cover.

DIY fabric covered book

I fold the outer corners in a little bit and glue them into place so the finished product looks like this.

DIY fabric covered book instructions

Now, onto the spine.  I recommend cutting the fabric to 1/2 inch.

fabric book how to

Get that butter knife and use it to fold the piece of fabric into the spine.  You can use a little dab of glue to secure the fabric if you want.

book with fabric

This is how the spine should look after using the butter knife.

book how to

And now you have a beautiful, fabric covered book.  Added bonus: it’s all about Vanna White’s mysterious life.

book covered in fabric

Remember, this DIY shouldn’t break the bank.  Use old hardback books you already own or pick up some at garage sales.  Utilize leftover fabric from other projects.  If you’re going to buy fabric use a coupon.  I never pay full price for fabric– that’s just silly.

how to make fabric covered books

fabric covered books

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  1. I agree with not paying full price, but more than that I love these and may have to do them at some point!
    Thanks for the tutorial!
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  2. I love this project for color and decor, and am glad you talked about book selection, as I can’t imagine using most of my current hardbacks for this project (but the box waiting in the garage to go to the used book store might get to stay). Also, check out the practices of your local GoodWill. They can differ a lot, and the local to me CEO has been doing interviews lately to explain how ours operates. It’s just like all the scandals, one bad apple makes a mess for the group.

    Excited to pick out fabric now!

    • Oh yeah, give those old hardback books a new look with some fabric.

      While this is dated, our local Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, Inc. socked away $20,800,485 in assets (total revenue for 2008 was $58,142,665) in 2008, per their tax return report. The local CEO made $393,990 in 2008. I don’t know if you live in the area, but central Indiana has a low cost of living so nearly $400,000 is quite a hefty salary. The CEOs’ salaries is just part of the puzzle to me.
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      • I don’t live in the area, so I don’t know how the 400,000 salary relates to the local cost of living. I would ask though what the salary of a CEO of a 58,000,000 for-profit would be in the area? I don’t mean to be argumentative, but this is one of my pet peeves. If nonprofits are to get the most of donor dollars, they should be able to recruit and keep top talent, and that sometimes means recruiting them from for-profit positions. Also, I would argue that the net assets are low rather than high. Nonprofit and for-profit businesses, just like households, should have a rainy day fund. I’m conservative with money, so for their budget, I’d think they should have closer to 30,000,000 in assets.

        While I’m sure there are a plethora of reasons to boycott your local Goodwill, I’m sure these should be among them. The high price of their goods definitely should be!

        • The median household income in Indianapolis in 2011 was $50,826 so a salary of nearly $400,000 is quite grand for the area. I understand your argument but I don’t think you can compare for-profit and nonprofit companies and CEOs. For-profits are in it for the money, thus the name. Nonprofits are supposed to be in it to give value to the group of people they administer to. I don’t like how many regional GW CEOs are rolling in the dough while they are paying some of their employees with disabilities pennies. And GW gets tax breaks because it employs felons and those with disabilities, so they’re getting kick-backs and treating these people unfairly (although it’s legal) IMO.

  3. I’m so glad you posted this! I want to cover some books with fabric leftover from some another project in our Master BR, and I’ve been looking for a good tutorial. Love the tip about how to fix the spine–I probably would have just cut it off :)
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  4. This is a great tutorial! This gives a cute and easy way to “recycle” those old and ugly books!

  5. So cute! Can’t wait to try it! Perfect for some fabric leftovers.

  6. As a former Goodwill of Central Indiana employee I can assure you that it was never in our practice to under pay any employee regardless of disability or not. All Central Indiana Goodwill employees start out at least minimum wage, but I believe they raised the starting wage to 7.50 a few months ago. Unfortunately Goodwill Industries as a whole have the same basic set up and mission, but they are not one in the same. Even within the state of Indiana different Goodwills are operated independently. Central Indiana differs from Northeastern Indiana, etc. I will admit the prices have gone up over the last few years, but I just wish that people understood where all that money is going-not just to the CEO’s bank account. I do not agree that someone of his rank or power should make quite that much considering Goodwill is still a ‘non-profit’ organization. But I will say this, with the money of Central Indiana’s Goodwill’s they are able to completely run/operate a charter high school downtown, they completely run/operate at least 4 adult high school Excel centers(a place adults wishing to get their high school diploma can do so…for FREE!), not to mention all the benefits and classes and opportunities provided for employees. And least not mention just the simple fact of job opportunity. In the short time I was there, I was able to hire a man who had gotten out of prison for dealing drugs, his current job was holding a sign outside of a restaurant (this was in the middle of December), once he was hired we were able to guide him, offer him an adult class provided solely for Goodwill employees who want to set and keep goals and improve their lifestyle. When I hired him he was a part time donation attendant, after a little over a year, he is now a manager, and no longer on house arrest. Those are the types of stories that I wish reached the public more than the negative. I’m sorry to blow up your blog (which I am a big fan of!!) I just want people to know more/all of the facts before they hate something or want to boycott something that I was once a part of.

    • Thanks for your comment, Carol. You offered a great perspective since you used to work for GW. And I’m happy to learn that all Indy GW employees make at least minimum wage. While I appreciate GW’s outreach efforts it’s not like they’re the only nonprofit or for-profit that gives back to the community. I’m not trying to undermine your point, I’m just saying that there are plenty of nonprofits who give back to the community without paying their CEOs crazy salaries and price gouging their customers in the middle of a recession (when most of their inventory is donated). $4.29 for a pre-owned women’s shirt? Absurd. It’s like they’re taking advantage of their customers who have been effected by the economy. I’m aware of how they employ those with criminal convictions because my husband used to work as a case manager for a work release program in Indy, and he had offenders who worked at GW. It’s great that GW gives these people second chances. I just wish all GWs would fairly pay their employees (whether it be a convicted felon or a person with a disability) at least minimum wage, especially because GW receives tax breaks for employing them. Again, thanks for your comment and perspective.

  7. These turned out super cute! I love the idea of covering cheap-o books with scraps of fabric I already have. I was actually planning to cover some books last night for decor for book club tonight but I ran out of time. Maybe I can squeeze this project in after work. Thanks for the inspiration.
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  8. This reminds me high school when we had to cover our text books {I usually used paper bags…classy}. I LOVE the fabrics you used!! Gorg
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  9. What are you going to do with those books when that fabric is no longer on trend?

    • Oh, I dunno. I could skin and re-cover them with more on trend fabric. Or I could donate the books back to the thrift shops I purchased them from. I’m not too concerned seeing as buying and covering all of those books maybe cost me $10.

  10. Samantha says:

    Great tutorial, and perfect timing.
    I’ve been getting ready to create these invisible bookshelves using old hardcover books: http://www.wikihow.com/Create-Invisible-Shelves Now I can have a pretty fabric-covered “base” instead of the old James Patterson novels I borrowed from my dad’s collection.

  11. I’m not sure about DFW Goodwill’s practices, but Kev and I have stopped shopping there for the most part. They never have any “good stuff” and their prices are really high! Luckily Dallas has a ton of smaller charity run thrift shops that are much more fun to hit up.
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  12. I need to do this with a couple of old books! It looks so good and would really spice up some of my decorating!
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  13. I almost picked up the bird fabric on your top book today. Now I’m kind of wishing I had. Super cute!
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  14. Oh lawd, my craft stash is HUGE and I own a lot of books… this is a bad bad bad bad bad thing for me to know!
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  15. Super cute DIY. They would look great for nursery styling!
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  16. Nice to meet you and I will give your lovely idea a go! I love collecting the classics now I willl
    Give them the glam they deserve.
    Here in Canada, the GW has raised prices and so has the Salvation Army . The good works of both have been called upon a great deal, both here and the US. That said, unfortunately greed and inflated ego’s justify huge salaries for the few. I would like to see the US get the minimum wage in line….. With the inflated salaries of the so called management, executives, CEO’s,
    Well enough..fairness and profit are never in the same breath….
    Thank you for the beautiful crafting idea and reminder to be more thoughtful wher to spend our hard earned pennies! xDebi
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  17. Sabrina says:

    This reminded me of a project I had to do in college. I thought it might interest you. We took several sheets of plain typing paper stacked up, sewed a stitch across the middle of the width to bind the pages. Then we covered 2 pieces of plain cardboard cut slightly larger to make the cover. Last, you glue the front and back page of the bound papers to the inside of the covers. This covers up the rough edges of the fabric. It made a little Notes book. We used them for kids to make their own picture books.

    It also gave me an idea. I am going to buy some composition books when they go on sale this year. I plan to cover them the same way you did. I am also going to cut some cardboard to slightly smaller than the covers and cover it, then glue it to the insides to finish the insides. I might use the same fabric or maybe just some pretty paper. I think I could even just glue some stiff paper to the inside to make the insides look nice. I am going to give these journals along with a decorated pen (maybe a flower wrapped or just a fancy tape wrapped cap) for teacher gifts at school. I think the kids can help with this.

    • MB Nelson says:

      Great idea for finishing inside of covers ! So happy I continued reading the comments instead of spending time trying to come up with a solution. ; D

  18. Definitely, definitely doing this!! I quite like the covers of the hard backs I already own so will be heading to a car boot sale or charity shop this weekend! I’m thinking that this could be a good way to disguise those biographies I’m usually too embarrassed to buy!

  19. That’s gorgeous! I wrapped some of my ugly books with fabric, but I just wrapped it around the cover and didn’t get this fancy… Also, your book choice – a 1987 Vanna White book? Epic.
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  20. Ugh! I feel your pain! My local and favorite “thrift shop” hung up an “Antiques” flag in front and then jacked up all of their prices. I found an Ikea lack side table ($7.99) priced at $35!! Haha

    The books look awesome!
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  21. What a terrible thing to do to those poor people! I read the articles that you posted. The funny thing is, where I live in Ontario, we don’t have Goodwill stores (not that exact company anyway). And I’ve always wanted to go into one after reading your blog. Now, however, I wouldn’t step foot in one!! Thanks for the interesting view into the corrupt world of business.

    That being said, I LOVE your fabric covered books! Once I have the space to make my own office/craft room, that will definitely be an added punch!

  22. I might suggest checking out the local Salvation Army. In our area they have thrift shops and the items seem to be reasonably priced. The SA gives back to the community. We know for a fact that they help pay for rent, deposit, utilities and other, because my husband owns a couple of rentals and some folks get help from the S.A. when they move in. Also, the S.A. is usually first on the scene during disasters, giving aid where needed. I know nothing of their internal structure or their salaries, so I cannot comment on that. However, when a charity visibly gives back, I am more in favor of doing business with them and also donating when they help in disasters. Now I will crawl back in my shell and disappear. Have a wonderful day…..OH, thank you for the tute on covering books, yours look fabulous!
    Best Wishes,

  23. Angela S. says:

    Could this be done with paperbacks?
    What would you do then if you can’t tuck the little fabric flap into the spine?

  24. Love this(: I had to know what Vanna had to speak about…I looked on Amazon for a description and the only copy was listed for over 500 dollars!!! Have a great day and thank you for the smiles this post brought into my day(:

  25. Hey,
    It helps if you cut the corners of the fabric off (cutting a straight triangle off), that way the fabric sits flat when you fold it over. :)

  26. MarieRoxanne says:

    Just found this on Pinterest today! This looks like fun, I like buying second hand /Goodwill dresses that I will never wear and skirts that are too short or shirts that are too small or too big just because I LOVE the fabric! Now I know what to do with them!

  27. K. Koschke says:

    Pretty darn cute, glad I read through all the comments.
    I have my own beef with GW. When we were moving, I took sever bags and boxes of items to donate. The intake person said he had to know exactly what I was giving because……”GW is a big business and we cannot afford to have people suing us”. Needless to say that and a few other news items was enough for me. We have a local charity called Father Fred and all our donations now go there.

  28. Wow! What a fun idea! Gotta try this……
    hugs x Crystelle
    Crystelle Boutique
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  29. So fun and easy! Thanks for idea!
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  30. This is awesome! I think i am going to do this to my old photo albums which have really ugly covers. If you get a chance, please link up to my linky party going on now: http://suburbsmama.blogspot.com/2013/08/sunday-linky-21.html
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  31. These look great. I’ve made cloth covers for things, but always sewed them and made them slip on and off. This is so much smarter for things you want to have a permanent cover. I love the fabrics you chose.
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  32. Such a cute idea! A great way to make the books match with your room! I’d love it if you linked up to The DIY’ers! http://homecomingmn.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-diyers-and-our-country-weekend.html
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  33. Hi, your books are adorable! I had no idea about the wages for Goodwill workers! I read the articles you linked to and I am flabbergasted. No more Goodwill for me. I can’t think of any justification that makes it okay to pay less than minimum wage. Thanks for the heads up! (linked over from Roadkill Rescue)
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  34. Love this idea. I love old books but they often don’t look nice. Will have to try this. This would probably also work for three-ring binders which I use a lot to organize patterns.
    Also you can probably find big enough pieces in remnant bins, which is usually cheaper than new pieces.

  35. Such an adorable idea!

  36. This is a great idea….

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  40. You could make a really cool journal like this and cut out a big letter of the persons name and stick it on the front and cut out letters saying ‘journal’ or whatever you like on the spine in a contrasting colour!! Hmm I’m getting all inspired!!

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  42. Love this!
    Any chance you know where I could find the striped fabric or know the manufacturer?

  43. I’m going to have to bookmark this and keep it in mind next time I have to buy an ugly journal

  44. Hi,
    This is a great idea and tutorial. Where did you get the flower and bird patterned fabric from on the top book on the pile?

  45. Funny I read this now. I went to my local GW last week and was shocked at the prices. Shocked, I say. I was looking for a nice frame to spray paint and found an old oil painting, and it was $40! Unless it gets me onto Antique Roadshow, I’m not paying $40 for an old painting. So yeah, I hear ya. Love the post though :-) I’ve been meaning to re-cover my “ideas” notebook, so this comes in perfectly handy! Hey, hopefully I’ll see you at Haven this year!

  46. I totally did this with pretty wrapping paper when I was in school to my text books but never thought about doing it with fabric.. brilliant! and I never did know the butter knife trick! :)
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  47. I used the fabric idea to cover cardboard magazine holders. I used fabric salvaged from full cotton skkirts purchased at Salvation Army. They look very spify on my bookshelves. I also shop St. Vincent dePaul. I have found the prices at Goodwill in my city to be considerably higher than these other two sources, and I do not believe Goodwill’s merchandise to be of any greater quality. I buy children’s books at the thrift shops and since they are usually well “loved”, covering them with cute fabric makes them acceptable gifts for my great grandchildren. Yes, I said “great”!

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  49. I love this. It would be great to cover those ugly books and create a great look on a bookcase. I just might have to try this one. Thanks! :)

  50. I love this idea. It would be great to cover those ugly books and create a great look on a bookcase. I might just have to try this one. Thanks. :)
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  52. These are too cute! I’m going to get some Dollar Tree notebooks for my girls and use this technique to spice them up. We’re going to make “Things That are Awesome” books this summer and fill them with photos, drawings, writing, stickers, etc. of (of course!) things we think are awesome.

    Also, thanks for the info on Goodwill. I was getting fed up with them already. I was in there last week and they wanted $5 for a plain, used Hanes T-shirt. Really? So, as a person with a slight disability herself, I think I’m pretty much done with Goodwill.

  53. This is really interesting , the old books can get a complete new and beautiful makeover , I always cover my books the very day I buy them with a thick transparent sheet , keeps them safe for generations , will try this idea for my old books , thanx for sharing the wonderful tip.

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