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Bookbinding Fundamentals: How to Make Your Own Archival Book Cloth


Book cloth is a beautiful product that can be used for a variety of projects, but it’s usually hard to find, and the colours tend to be bland. If you’re limited by design choices, early store hours and shipping fees (just thinking about it makes me want to pull my hair out!), maybe you should find a fabric you like and try this easy DIY. Read on for the full instructions.


  • Fabric of your choice. I grabbed a fat quarter from the fabric store.
  • Japanese paper or acid-free tissue for backing paper, at least 3cm (1 inch) larger than your fabric piece on all sides. I’m using Yasutomo Sumi Kozo paper.
  • At least 2 sheets of newsprint or any other scrap paper that is bigger than your paper.
  • pH-neutral glue or an acid-free glue with a consistency similar to Elmer’s craft glue.
  • Bowl for the glue.
  • Paint brush.
  • Rubber hand brayer.
  • Scissors.
  • Iron.
  • Large, clean piece of glass that is bigger than your paper. You can use a glass frame or even your window pane if you are out of options.

These materials were chosen in order to make an archival book cloth. You will need a clean, flat surface to work on like a desk or the kitchen table. You may need a helper while gluing if you are planning to make a large piece of book cloth and/or you are using a window for your glass.

Step 1: Prepare Your Fabric

Wash and dry your fabric so that it doesn’t shrink when gluing.

Wash and dry your fabric

Iron your fabric, making sure to remove all wrinkles and fold lines.

Iron your fabric

In case you haven’t yet, trim your fabric at least 3cm (1 inch) smaller than the backing paper on all sides. Don’t worry about making the edges perfect; you’ll get to do that at the end of the tutorial.

Step 2: Set Up Your Gluing Station

Lay a sheet of newsprint or scrap paper down on one side of the table. This will be your gluing station.

Lay out your newsprint

Have your brush and glue ready nearby.

Step 3: Set Up Your Rolling/Drying Station

On the other side of the table, place your fabric face down onto the glass. If you’re going to use the window, just place the fabric on the table for now.

Place fabric down on table

Wherever your glass is, place your rubber brayer nearby.

Step 4: Glue the Back of the Paper

Make sure your gluing station is clean so you don’t get any glue on the front of your backing paper.

Lay your backing paper face down over the newsprint.

Lay the paper on the table

Dip the tip of your paintbrush into the glue.

Dip brush in the glue

Starting from the center of the paper, apply a thin layer of glue using outward strokes.

Apply glue in outward strokes

Do not push down on the brush. Try not to make multiple passes, or you may rip the paper. Apply the glue evenly over the entire surface. Too much glue could make a mess, and create bumps in your finished cloth. Too little could also cause bumps and peeling.

Try not to make multiple passes, or you may rip the paper.

Apply a thin layer of glue

If you need to hold the paper down while gluing, keep your hands to the edges and do not touch the middle area of the paper.

Step 5: Stick the Paper to the Fabric

Now it’s time to unite paper with fabric. At this stage, have your fabric ready on the glass. If you’re using a window, this step is a little harder. What you want to do is cover the fabric with the glued paper and press it all onto the glass. The outer edges of the paper should stick to the glass, holding the whole sandwich together.

What you want to do is cover the fabric with the glued paper and press it all onto the glass.

Apply backing paper to your fabric
Apply the paper to the back of the fabric

Take your hand brayer and, starting from the center, roll the fabric/paper ’sandwich’ using outward strokes. Flatten those bumps and push out any air bubbles!

Roll out the air bubbles

Step 6: Let It Dry

Leave the book cloth on the glass or window until dry. It should be very easy to remove. If you force it, you could stretch the cloth or rip the paper.

Let it dry

To quicken drying time, you can use a fan or blow dryer on a cold temperature setting.

Step 7: Trim the Edges

Once dry, remove the book cloth. If the glue is dry, but the cloth is not coming off, you can take a blade and cut along the edge of the fabric. The remaining paper strips will be easy to remove with a cloth and warm water.

Use scissors to trim the protruding paper edges.

Trim off the paper edges

Step 8: Wrap It Up!

Your book cloth is now ready for any project your crafty heart desires. Cover a book, wrap a gift, or decorate a photo box.

Wrap it up

Have you made your own book cloth? Did you use a different technique? What did you use your book cloth for? Have any questions or advice? Share your experience in the comments below!

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