3. Sew a Book Cover

salvagebox.co.uk - tea and lists

This episode is subtitled: ‘Love your lists…’

Thursday and Friday last week were frantic while we created everything for the big wedding and got it delivered to the groom’s house, the bride’s house, the church and the venue. The trauma of the preparation is well documented in last week’s episode, but the good news is that we were delighted with how everything looked in the end, the bride was happy, and no Sharpie was needed (phew!).

The physical work and the mental tension are exhausting so I really did feel like I deserved a full night’s sleep when I went to bed on Friday. Being woken up early by a phone call from Kim wasn’t what I’d hoped for. We have a weekly get-together late on Saturday afternoons when Tulips customers have thinned out and cake remnants from Teacups need to be eaten (we hate waste, remember). I look forward to moving from the cold side of the shop into Teacups where the staff serve us steaming tea and the end-of-week leftover cake. It’s a time to catch up with how the business is doing, decide whether there are likely to be any hotspots in one side or the other the following week so staff can be pre-warned if they are going to be working in Teacups rather than Tulips (which requires scrupulously clean fingernails and fewer layers of clothes) or vice versa, and go through any new thoughts for promoting the business.

It was about 5.45am when the phone rang.

‘Jenny, I’ve got a great marketing idea that could bring us in a lot of business.’

It took me a couple of groggy seconds to work out where I was.

‘Oh, hi Kim. Have I overslept? What time is it?’

‘It’s nearly time to get up anyway. Listen….’

‘Couldn’t we talk about this this afternoon?’

‘Just wanted to give you the heads-up early, Jen. I’m so excited about it!’

I love Kim but I just don’t get as enthusiastic as she does about the prospect of email campaigns, networking meetings and sales pitches.  She’s much better at the business stuff than me so she knows I’ll agree. I chose this career to lose myself in magnificent creations of contorted willow, proteas and xanadu leaves. Having said that, I wish I’d been a bit more animated when she rang because I do realise I wouldn’t get the opportunity to be creative without the customers.

So, I’ve made a promise to myself that I’ll keep a notebook to list the marketing ideas I have and every Saturday afternoon, while I eat cake and drink tea, I can make a positive contribution to the business direction of Teacups & Tulips. And I decided to make it a very pretty notebook and share it with you. (Thanks to Margaret for telling me how to make it.)

salvagebox.co.uk - finished book cover

Blue's pawTo make this lovely book cover for your own lists you need a boring notebook (my local supermarket has hard backed A5 books in red or black for £1.25) and a few salvaged bits of fabric.

Basically you’re going to make the cover out of a rectangle consisting of three identically sized pieces of material, one for the outer, one for the lining and a piece of stiffening for the middle.

To work out the size of your rectangles close the book and measure all the way round from the edge of the back, over the spine, to the edge of the front (see photo below). When I pulled my tape measure to the correct starting position on the back it measured 315mm (my Dad instilled in me that using millimetres instead of centimetres makes everything more accurate).

salvagebox.co.uk - measuring the book

You’re going to extend the fabric cover inside the front and the back of the notebook so add half as much again to your measurement. A quick way to do this is to take your measurement and multiply it by 1.5, so my 315mm became 472.5mm. OK, this particular measurement doesn’t have to be exact, but it’s a good principle.

Next, measure the height of the book. This does need to be fairly accurate (a couple of mm extra won’t be a problem but if it’s under then it won’t fit your book). My book height is 220mm.

Next, add your seam allowance. I usually use 10mm as my seam allowance so that’s 2 x 10mm to add to the width and 2 x 10mm to add to the height = 492.5mm x 240mm for each of the three rectangles. (I agree, quoting my width measurement to within half a millimetre is a bit pedantic!)

Not only have I switched from a red to a black book to confuse you, I’ve also complicated things further for this design by using a scrap of blue fabric that I’ve pieced together with part of a pretty floral fat quarter from Hobbycraft. Whether you’re piecing it or not, just make sure that each of your cut rectangles measures the right amount for your book. Remember, it’s one piece for the outer, one for the lining (mine were identical) and one piece of stiffener.

salvagebox.co.uk - three rectangles of fabric

Now is the time to appliqué an embellishment if you want one.

salvagebox.co.uk - appliqué a design

I pinned this on to the front outer piece and used a simple blanket stitch in a lighter blue thread but you could just stick it on with something like Bondaweb if you don’t fancy stitching it.

When you’ve done that, pin all three pieces together – right sides together for the outer and lining, then place the stiffener behind the other two pieces (if you pin your stiffener in the middle then it will end up on the outside when you turn the whole thing right way out). I machine stitched around the edge, leaving a few centimetres unstitched to enable me to turn it right way out. I’ve left the gap at the corner but if you leave the gap along the top or bottom edge, away from the corner, it will be easier to hand stitch it later.

salvagebox.co.uk - stitch fabric

Snip the corners to make them neater, turn it right way out, press it and hand stitch the gap. At this point I also hand stitched a piece of thin ribbon to the lining, quite near the top, in line with the spine, to act as a bookmark. The ribbon was cut from the inside of a blouse or dress – you know those ribbons that are meant to keep the garment on the hanger and usually show when you’re wearing it (I always cut them out and keep them in my salvaged stash). You can’t see it very well on these photos so have a look at another cover I made. With this one the ribbon wasn’t quite long enough so I added a tab out of the same material as the applique. I bonded it then stitched it.

Now wrap the fabric rectangle around the book, tucking it inside the front and back cover of the book. Make sure it’s pulled taught, pin it, and use a ladder stitch to secure it in place, top and bottom, front and back. Because it’s a tight fit, this can be a bit tricky.

salvagebox.co.uk - hand stitch edges

Here’s a summary of what you need to do (click for a larger version).

salvagebox.co.uk - summary of instructions

And here’s a reminder of what the finished book looks like.

salvagebox.co.uk - finished book cover


  • If you’ve not quite got enough height in your fabric to do your ladder stitches then check you’ve not tucked some of it in when you’ve pressed it – make sure the machine stitches are right at the edge as you press it (hope this makes sense!).
  • If your spine is wider than mine you might want to add a little extra to your width measurement to compensate. This measurement doesn’t have to be exact.
  • If you’re using quite thick fabric you won’t need the stiffener. I didn’t use any stiffener in this one (do you like the old buttons in the centre of the flowers?).

Salvaged Items:

  • Fabric scraps
  • Ribbon hanger from the inside of a dress or blouse

I’ve just thought of a few more lists I could benefit from:

  • Places Blue and I should explore
  • Places in Spain I’m desperate to visit
  • Spanish verb tenses I need to master (in readiness for the list above)
  • Places I’d like to go to for the Teacups & Tulips post Christmas party
  • Craft ideas for future Salvage Box projects
  • New Year’s resolutions (no point!)

Leave a comment and let us all know what you’ll be using your lovely book for.

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2 thoughts on “3. Sew a Book Cover

  1. Love this upcycling of a cheap note book. I always end up cutting the ribbon from jumpers and blouses and saving it but never thought to use it as a bookmark!

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