How To Turn Old Paperbacks into Custom Hardbacks

published Sep 24, 2010
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(Welcome to New York Times readers! We’re republishing this project described in “Expanding the Creative Horizons of Your Printer” by Sonia Zjawinski – enjoy!)

We love to integrate books into our decor, but does your child have favorite books that aren’t quite in display condition? Beat up paperbacks can easily be turned into custom hardbacks with some scrap cardboard, fabric, a gluestick, and an inkjet printer. Unleash your inner graphic designer with this quick and easy tutorial!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

about 1/3 yard of cotton fabric
glue stick
one sheet of cardstock

1. Lie your book on the cardboard and trace it. I used white cardboard because the fabric I used is pretty thin and I was afraid brown cardboard would show through. Add 1/4 inch to the height of the cover you traced, and subtract 1/4 inch from the width. Cut out 2 like this with a sharp craft knife. Also trace the spine. Add 1/4 inch to both the height and the width, and cut it out.

2. Cut a piece of fabric that is 17 inches wide and 11 inches high. Adhere the fabric to a piece of cardstock as shown in the photo (sort of folded in half like a book around the cardstock) with gluestick. Smooth it out really well making sure that it’s totally stuck to the front of the cardstock. Trim the right side edges of the fabric so they don’t hang over the edge of cardstock. Leave about an inch at the top of the cardstock for your printer to grab onto. Tape around the top and right side edge to help the cardstock slide more easily through your printer.

3. Create any book cover design you want on your computer. I used these gorgeous, downloadable labels from Poppytalk. Print directly onto your fabric-covered cardstock.

4. Lay out your 3 pieces of cardboard with the spine in the center and 1/2 inch between each piece. Cut two strips of regular white printer paper and gluestick them as shown in the photo to hold the cardboard together.

5. Carefully peel the fabric off the cardstock and align it on the cardboard. If you hold the whole thing up to the light, you can see through it to help you get the fabric lined up properly. Fold about a third of the fabric down and apply gluestick all over the cardboard. Smooth the fabric back up, and lift up the rest of the fabric, applying gluestick underneath, and then smooth it back down, too. Smooth out all the wrinkles.

6. Cut triangles into the fabric as shown (fig. c). Gluestick the top and bottom edges of the fabric to the cardboard, tucking the corners in as shown (fig. d). Gluestick the sides of the fabric to the cardboard.

7. Apply gluestick all over your paperback and stick it in the new hardback cover. Make sure the spine lines up and is pressed strongly against the new hardback spine (fig. h). Let the glue dry really well before reading your new book.

You’re done! Great job!

(Images: Katie Steurnagle)