tutorial: beach reads book cover

Even though it has been ridiculously, hellishly hot lately, I find myself wishing I was going to the beach. A friend of mine is going to the Cayman Islands this weekend, and I am insane with jealousy. I just know that the weather there is going to be normal-for-summer sunny and hot, the way you want it to be at the beach, not the I-can’t-breathe-outside kind of hot it’s been here lately.

For me, a critical accessory when going to the beach, along with a pedicure and aloe vera, is a thoroughly trashy novel. Preferably something without any literary value whatsoever. Something that could be considered the paper-and-ink equivalent of an ice cream float, you know what I mean?

The last time I went to the beach, one of my companions was reading The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. I was absolutely horrified. That’s the kind of book that might be assigned to you for some reason!!! At the beach, I’m more interested in reading the kind of book that would embarrass you if your brainy book club friends caught you with it.

Which is the thought that inspired my latest tutorial, a pretty little cover to keep judgmental eyes away from your guilty pleasure. You’re on vacation, after all, no?

This cover is quite simple, and can be whipped up quickly using less than a half yard of fabric. It also lends itself to mixing coordinating (or not) fabrics, if you’re interested in using up scraps. Additionally, for those of you more technologically advanced than I, it can easily double as a cozy for your new-fangled e-readers like the Kindle or Nook. Check it out:

the pattern
…is only two rectangles, one 11.5″ by 9.5″ and the other 7″ by 9.5.” You can measure out your rectangles on some spare paper or posterboard, or directly onto your fabric. The larger rectangle forms the outside and inside base for your book cover, and the smaller rectangle forms the inside pockets, where you’ll slip in the covers of your paperback or snuggle in your e-reader. The finished dimensions are (closed) 8.5″ tall by 5.25″ wide.

materials needed
I used quilting cotton for all parts, but something heavyweight like denim, corduroy or upholstery fabric would be great for the outside. You’ll also want at least one layer of interlining for padding and/or stiffness. I planned on using a layer of felt and a layer of thick upholstery fabric, but ended up using only the felt. Some great possibilities for interlining include felt, batting, fleece, minkee, or timtex interfacing. I also used grosgrain ribbon for the bookmark/tie closure.

I also used lightweight interfacing to stabilize my quilting cotton. I like to use a woven, fusible interfacing. It gives quilting cotton a nice body without making it too thick.

cutting your fabric
Of the larger rectangle, cut:
*one of your outer fabric (I used the dark orange fabric above),
*one of your lining fabric (the striped fabric)
*one of your interlining (the black felt)
*two of your interfacing (the white bits above; originally I was also going to use a layer of thick upholstery fabric to add additional stiffness, but decided I didn’t need it; ignore those bits!)

Of the smaller rectangle, cut:
*two of your lining fabric (the light orange fabric)
*one of your interlining (the black felt)
*one of your interfacing (the white bit)

start with the interior pockets
1. Although we have two pockets, we only cut one of the interlining and interfacing, because each pocket only needs half of each. The first step is to cut your interfacing and felt in half lengthwise.

2. Set aside the felt for now. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply the interfacing to the wrong side of one half of each pocket. Using only one half eliminates thickness in the outside edges of your book cover, which is pretty important if you’re going to use thick interlining like felt or batting.

3. Next, fold your pockets in half lengthwise, and iron flat. Sandwich your felt (or whatever interlining you chose) inside each pocket, and use a few decorative stitches to quilt the felt and the pocket fabric together. Make sure the side with the interfacing is on top, facing you.

I just stitched a few straight-ish lines, but you could quilt the whole thing in a traditional harlequin pattern, or stitch some other design here. The point is to keep the felt in place underneath the fabric.

prepare the inside lining
4. First, apply one of the large pieces of interfacing to the wrong side of your lining, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. To create the spine and bookmark, I used 1″ wide grosgrain ribbon. A length of 9.5″ for the spine, and 30″ for the bookmark/tie closure. You could use any type of ribbon, or a strip of fabric for this part, in either matching or coordinating colors.

Find the center of the inside lining by folding it lengthwise and then again width-wise, and pinching the corner formed to mark it. Pin one end of your 30″ long ribbon at the center mark.

Secure the ribbon end by stitching a little square and then an “X” through the center.

Next, pin the shorter ribbon in place down the center, covering the square you just sewed. Sew the ribbon down using a straight stitch down each side, as close to the edge of the ribbon as you can.

6. Now it’s time to attach the pockets! Pin the pockets in place on each side of the lining, matching the raw edge of the pockets with the raw edges of the lining, so that the folded edges of each pocket are facing inward.

Baste the pockets in place with a straight stitch down each side.

prepare the outside
7. If you are using something very thick for the outside like denim, corduroy, or upholstery fabric, you probably won’t need a layer of interfacing. Since I used quilting cotton, I chose to use my favorite fusible interfacing to add body. Interfacing also helps thin fabric wear better.

If you are using interfacing, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply it to the back of your outer fabric. Then, quilt your outer fabric together with your felt backing. I chose more straight lines, to echo the stitching I did on the interior pockets.

I used topstitching thread, which is a bit thicker than regular thread, the same as buttonhole twist. But regular thread or quilting thread works just as well, whatever you have. Like with the pockets, the point of this step is to keep the felt in place underneath the fabric, as well as add a little decoration.

Now you have two complete pieces, interfaced, quilted, and ready to join together to form your book cover!

8. Pin the front and back together, lining up all four sides and four corners, and stitch all the way around using a 3/8″ seam allowance. Make sure you leave a hole to turn it right-side-out, and thread the ribbon tie through the hole, to make sure you do not stitch over it.

I double sew all of my seams. Depending on how thick your layers are, you might want to triple-sew your seams, just to make sure the force of turning it right-side-out doesn’t bust any of the stitches. Cut off the corners and the seam allowances, to make it easier for the edges and corners to lie flat once it’s turned right-side-out. Do not trim the seam allowance around the open hole.

final steps!
9. We are almost done! Once it’s turned right-side-out, iron your book cover flat, using a press cloth over the lumpy parts so as not to mark or burn your fabric.

Take special care to press all the seams completely open. With lumpy interior layers like felt or batting, it takes a bit of finesse and finger-massaging to make everything lie flat, and squared-off. After ironing the inside and outside flat, fold it in half along the ribbon spine and iron again.

10. You’ll also need to make sure the seam allowance that you didn’t trim around the hole (you didn’t cut it, did you!?!) is tucked inside and ironed flat. It will make closing the hole much simpler!

Close the hole you left for turning your cover right-side-out using a blind stitch. You’ll probably need to iron it flat again after stitching, as well as iron the spine fold as well. A hot iron will easily flatten out any lumpiness, and make it almost impossible to find where the opening was!

We are done! This cover is approximately the size of most paperback novels, but can easily be adjusted to fit any size book. Just make the appropriate changes to the pattern pieces to make it wider or taller for bigger books, or with a wider spine, for your sci fi/fantasy epics.

Slip the covers of your book into each pocket and use the long ribbon as a bookmark, and you’re ready for the beach, with your embarrassingly trashy literary choices safe from prying eyes (I may be projecting here…)!

Or, if you’ve evolved past paperbacks, slip your Nook or Kindle into one of the interior pockets, and use the long ribbon tie to tie the cover closed securely. The padding will keep your fancy e-reader nice and snuggly inside your beach tote!

Enjoy your summer beach reads, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about what you read for fun…even if it is something serious like the President’s musings on race and culture. 🙂

If you make one of these, I’d love to see pictures! Especially if you adapt the pattern to fit other size books or e-readers!

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13 thoughts on “tutorial: beach reads book cover

  1. you are in luck, because this requires absolutely no ability/experience! Only cutting and sewing in straight lines. I'd be happy to "help" you make one. 🙂

  2. Hi Valerie!
    Just found you through your comment over at RHH B-School today.

    I just love what you have going on here! This is beautiful stuff – I definitely need to bookmark you. 😉 Looks like I can get all kinds of ideas to try here… 😉

  3. Hi Jess,
    Thanks for stopping by! I hope you do find something you like…and I'd love to see pictures of anything you make!

  4. I love this! Thanks for the great tutorial. I'm on a fabric-covered book kick at the moment and hope to find some time to give this a try,

  5. Christen, I'm so glad you're going to make some! I'd love to see the special touch I know you'll add to my (very simple) instructions. 🙂

  6. Made a google search for fabric novel covers & your site surfaced. I’m glad I clicked on yours! Fantastic photos & great instructions. Thank you for sharing, I bought a fabric cover at a quilt show for $10.00, I can now make my own for much less thanks to your tutorial. 🙂

  7. Brenda, I’m so glad you find me! I’m thrilled that you like the tutorial & found it easy to follow. I’d love to see pictures of your novel cover! Thanks for dropping by & for commenting.

  8. I’ve been looking for something exactly like this for just the same reason. If I’m on vacation then I’m not going to be thinking and trash books have the worst covers. I’m definitely going to try this.

  9. Brenda, I know exactly what you mean. It’s like the book publishers are *trying* to embarrass us. Please share pictures of the one you make for yourself!

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