Fabric Wrapper Covers

Pictured above are a few Christmas gifts that I made this year. They are pamphlet sewn books with fabric covers. A notebook to jot down grocery lists, music, or general to-do lists were the end-uses I had in mind for these checkbook sized books. They were each wrapped with an extra set of pages. The cover is secure, but easy to remove when it is time to replace the pages.

I made this diagram to demonstrate the 3-hole pamphlet stitch and the folding process of the cover. Click on any of these images to get a larger view. I've made many of these covers using paper, and discovered a few differences should be employed when using cloth. As in the paper version, sewing and adhesives are unnecessary. It is necessary, however, to use a hot iron, rather than a bone folder to make creases. The dotted line on the left and the right indicate the first fold which is unique to this fabric version. I found that it made for a cleaner look to have a folded edge on the inside of the wrapper. In the future I might introduce thread to the wrapper by serging or hemming that inside edge.

Here are standing versions of the book, so you can peek inside and see how the wrapper extends all the way inside to the valley of the folds.

The image of the seal on the book to the left (and below) was transferred onto the cloth using a Vogart hot iron transfer pattern. I have an assortment of these and have had luck finding them at antique stores and garage sales. I've also come across some on etsy.com.

In its original form, the image looks like a layer of acrylic painted on very thin parchment paper. The side with the pigment is placed directly on the surface of cloth or paper. Use a hot iron on the back of the parchment paper until the pigment is transferred to the new surface and the parchment readily peels away from the newly pigmented cloth or paper. If heat is not applied long enough, bits of the parchment will remain. The image will still transfer, but it can be rather time consuming to pick off the little bits of paper! Just test the corner of the parchment before you pull it off completely.


This is my entry for the 2009 Designer Bookbinders International Competition. I completed it this past August and sent it over to Oxford in November. Confirmation was received that it made it to England in one piece, and now it's time to sit back and wait for the judging, which will take place in January.

I was trained in the English tradition at North Bennet Street School by Mark Andersson and Jeff Altepeter. While studying at the Uppsala University Library Bindery I was able to learn about the French tradition from Adam Larsson.

Tradition calls for sawn in cords, but we decided it would be nice if this book actually opened, so it is sewn in more of an English style on separated cord, flat against the spine.

Graphite top edge. From some angles looks like a regular graphite edge, and from other angles shows the wave pattern made with my thumb that mimics the theme and pattern on the book.

Beveled Boards and Paring to match. I tried everything out on multiple plaquettes before the real deal!

As one can see in the paring example above, the corners are very interesting. Two turn-ins come together and meet at a bevel while the little tab at the corner comes up over the board and is pleated on top of the previously met turn-ins. Make sense? After all that, pare a piece of matching leather to less than zero and paste it on top of it all! The listile can also be seen in this image.

This is where I stood during gold tooling. I had everything I needed at my finger tips. My wave pattern was made up of four different gouges that I used at steady intervals. I really enjoyed having all of my tools hot at the same time. It made for a smooth work time, not having to stop and re-heat each tool. There wasn't any vaseline available to put on my cotton for picking up the gold, so I just used the oil from my forehead and have decided that I prefer it. Authentic, one might say. The oil is lighter than the vaseline, which just seems appropriate when dealing with delicate gold leaf.

Gold Tooled Listile. This can have many variations. Multiple tooled lines, or different materials for the central portion. I used a Swedish marbled paper from the Uppsala collection. Suede, or leather is often used in that area. There is a natural recess in the central area because of the full thickness turn-ins. I folded the marbled paper around a card (about 20pt or so) and adhered it on the back side. I think that the leather border is technically the listile regardless of what is contained in the central portion. Creating the border with ultra-thin leather and then tooling it (blind and gold) was my favorite part of this binding. This image shows the side closest to the spine and how the fourth side is added and adhered to the end sheet.

I experimented quite a bit and came up with a fun new technique. I wanted to incorporate a glassy sheen on the cover somehow. I cut out my letter-forms from the leather after covering and tooling the book. I cut matching shapes out of the same marbled paper used on the interior. The marbled paper was glued into place with PVA. Initially I thought that epoxy would be the perfect thing for my glassy sheen, however, it dried with a milky finish. PVA achieved the desired result, but over time I knew that its reaction to pressure and temperature might prove fatal for the binding. Bosse Carlsson recommended super glue, the main ingredient in super glue is acrylic resin, that sounded promising, and it was! The final result was achieved by applying a layer of PVA with a top sealing coat of acrylic resin.

A total of 500 sets of sheets were printed. I'm not sure how many entrants there were in total, but 125 of the books will be displayed at the Bodleian Library with their "1000 Years of Bookbinding" exhibition and will then be part of a traveling exhibition to the states. I've seen Adam's entry and am looking forward to seeing John Nove's. I'm not sure if I know any of the other binders who have entered, but I'm definitely glad that the entry fee includes a catalog! I can't wait to see all of them.