Tutorial: A super-simple way to cover a composition book

07 Mar 2010

I loves me some of those old-school composition books. Last August, our local Fred Meyer had them on sale for 25 cents apiece for back-to-school, and K and I laid in a stock to get us well into our old age.

I've been noodling with ways to make them look prettier. There are tons of tutorials on the web for mixed-media treatments, or removable patchwork covers. But I wanted something a little more simple and durable - after all, my notebooks take abuse.

I don't know why it took me so long to arrive at this dead-simple idea, but here you go.

So first, you'll need a piece of fabric that's roughly 1" larger on all sides than your opened-flat composition book.

This project works best with a woven cotton that's a little on the thicker side and tightly woven. Quilting cottons are ideal. Do take a moment and see whether the black-and-white composition book cover will show through the fabric - this can happen with light colors especially.

Next, get a sheet of fusible web that's slightly smaller on all sides than the fabric. You'll notice that I haven't gone to too much trouble to cut anything perfectly straight. This tutorial was shot on a Sunday morning. There's no need to get too exacting about anything on a Sunday morning.

Place the fabric on an ironing board wrong side up. Place the fusible web over the fabric, with the web side facing down.

Your iron should be on high heat with no steam (No steam is really important here.) Pass the hot iron over the paper backing of the fusible web. Keep the iron moving, and make sure you iron over all of the paper - especially out to the edges.

When you're done ironing, let the fabric and paper cool for a moment.

Gently peel away the paper. See the shiny glue fused to the back of the fabric?

You should end up with a nice, even coat of glue fused to the back of your fabric. If you end up with bare spots, try placing the backing over the fabric again in the same position, and iron over the bare spots again to transfer the glue from the paper to the fabric.

Now, place the fabric on your ironing board with the glue side facing up. Place your composition book over the fabric, like this. Then, close the book, folding the fabric over it.

Take a moment to adjust the placement of the fabric as needed. This is why we made the fabric bigger than the book - so we'd have some leeway for adjustments.

Make sure the fabric is smoothly spread over the cover of the book. Then, iron the fabric to bond it to the cover. Again, keep the iron moving and make sure you iron along all the edges of the cover.

Flip the book over and re-smooth the fabric. Iron the fabric to the back cover.

Lastly, run the iron along the spine a few times. Then let everything cool for a moment.

Next, trim the fabric along the edges of the book cover. I like to use my rotary cutter for this, but you can also cut along the edges with some scissors.

(Don't you love all these conversion tables and things on the inside covers of composition books?)

I prefer to use scissors to trim the fabric along the rounded corners.

As a last step, iron along all the edges and corners of the cover one more time, to make sure that fabric is good and fused there.

...And it's done! Don't you love this 70's fabric? I'm only going to use this notebook to write about my dates with Keith Partridge.

Of course, since you're playing with fusible web, you could also fuse a solid fabric to the cover and then fuse some cut-outs from other fabrics over that. There are a million and one possibilities.

OOh -and since we're here, I'll show you another idea that didn't pan out so well. I thought it would be cool to cover a notebook with duct tape. Since I spend a lot of time at marshy bus stops, it seemed like a nice waterproof option. But, I overlapped the strips of tape, and I don't love the look of that after all.

(I cut those flower shapes out of more duct tape with an Xacto knife. As you might imagine, it ended up being decidedly not fun.)

Anyway. Happy New Week, everyone!


This is fabulous!!!

I love fusible webbing! I use it all the time and I cover composition books all the time and never put the two together! How very silly of me. Guess what I am going to be doing tomorrow with my stack of notebooks I've been hoarding! So much more fun than doing laundry! Thanks!

Great tutorial!

Ok, you can have David Cassidy .... but only if i can have Shaun Cassidy :)

HAHA! Agreed about that fabric! (And thank you!)

I've been carrying one of these fabric-covered books around in my bag for about three weeks now, and so far no fraying at all. But you could always put a little Fray-Check around the edges if you were using a particularly loosely-woven fabric, just to be safe.

This is a good idea. I have made them but with scrapbooking paper and supplies. I never thought of the fabric and I do have some of that laying around. I made myself one and it is my very own daily journal. I do really like those note books also. Great job and thanks for the idea.


That's so amazingly simple and perfect.

This is a great idea! I never thought of using fusible web on the cardboard cover of the book. I had an idea for further decoration. I you just cover the book with a plain (or maybe plaid?) fabric and then use a sticker maker for contrasting fabric appliques or even ribbon.

That's an awesome idea! Love it!

a great idea, thanks for the tutorial.

I just found you on StumbleUpon! Brilliant! I am a wedding planner and tend to keep A LOT of notes for my brides. I hate the idea of buying expensive notebooks because I generally only need them for a short while. This is a great way to buy cheap composition notebooks and dress them up until they have served their purpose. Additionally I can have themes that match the weddings!

Cool! Not what I was looking for, I am looking for a removable lining pattern to add to an already decorated panel of needle felting... But I have to say this is really great and will definately use this in the school year when my son brings home his papercover homework book!!! ;-) Thanks for the great idea!!

Thanks for the instructions.  They were great!  My daughter and I had a great time getting her composition book ready and pretty for school!  Thanks again.

Great idea! Actually I had thought of doing this the same way but finding you had already worked out the kinks was a lot of help.

One more note; although not as ubiquitous as the wide-ruled, these marble notebooks also come in 'college-ruled'; much more valuable and efficient for adults!


would fat quarters be big enough for this project?

Fat quarters measure 18" x 22", so I'd say compare that to the composition book you plan to use (since different brands have slightly different sizes). Good Luck!

This is absolutely perfect. For everything. :D You are a genius.

This is exactly what I was looking for....simple and customizable! Thank you. I'm pinning this:)

Wow! Found this just in time. I was thinking of using this as part of a teacher gift for my daughter's co-op teachers. I'm also going to attempt this with the purse size composition books and try to not burn my fingers. Thank you. Brilliant idea.

I do believe they are the same thing, so it should work fine!

Thanks! :) I tried it and it worked perfectly. :)

This is such a great idea. And you could add a piece of ribbon with fusible to the spine and have a permanent bookmark. My grandaughter is crafy and is looking for inexpensive gifts for her friends for Christmas or would make a good party favor too.

I have Heat & Bond. I don't have fusible web though-do you think the Heat & Bond would work? Thanks!