Back-to-School Crafts – Fabric-Covered Notebooks

With the holiday season now behind me, I am turning my attention to the next big “occasion” which is back-to-school crafts. Even though I no longer “go to school,” I can’t go past a stack of Mead notebooks in the store without salivating at their potential for repurposing into journals. Notebooks come with all sorts of pages from primary school rule to grids and college style rule and they are a great size. At this time of year with plenty of back-to-school sales around, they are great value and there are plenty to choose from.

I generally buy notebooks with hard covers if I am going to cover them in fabric, but if I’m painting, then spiral bound notebooks work well, too.


  • Mead or other school notebook
  • Fabric
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Adhesives: fabric glue and fabric glue stick
  • Scissors and ruler

Once purchased, I head off to my fabric stash or the store to find the perfect fabric to cover it with. I like to use fabric on the outside and paper on the inside covers so that’s about a fat quarter-size piece of fabric and a couple of sheets of scrapbook paper – letter size or 12″x12″. You can also repurpose old tea towels or flour sacks to cover the book. I also have a stack of furniture fabric swatches that I use sometimes, and I’ve been known to cover a book in an old favorite tee shirt that is beyond wearing but which I can’t bear to part with.

Measure the fabric against the book and add about 1″ all around to allow plenty of fabric to turn over the edge. Cut the fabric to size.

Cover the outside cover of the book with fabric glue – I use a fabric glue stick because it sticks well but doesn’t wet the fabric. Put the glue on the book (not the fabric) and press the fabric to adhere. Push from the middle outwards to smooth out any bumps.

Once the outside cover is dry (it takes a few minutes), you will know how much excess fabric you have. Cut across the corners to remove the excess fabric so when you fold the corners under there is only one layer of fabric on the corner not three. Cut the fabric into the spine at an angle and trim.

Now, run glue over the inside 1″ of the book covers and fold the fabric under and press onto the glue. Hold in place until dry.

Cut two sheets of scrapbook paper and glue to the inside cover over the fabric to keep everything in place and to cover any frayed edges.

Of course, this is just the basics.

Covered journals can be sewn before you glue the fabric to the book. So, if you’re using floral fabric, stitch a few French Knots or running stitches around or over the flowers in the fabric. Add hot fix rhinestones to the cover. I’ve even glued a watch face to a travel journal so I always have the time accessible without having to wear a watch.

If you’re not a fabric person, then grab a jar of gesso and your favorite paints. Slap on a coat of gesso and then get to work painting the journal cover. The journal is a blank canvas for your art!

The top notebook is covered with Japanese fabric. This one is painted and then collaged with padded fabric, paper, ink, and a polymer clay accent.

by Helen Bradley (

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