Make Your Own Bookcloth

When you don’t have access to a store of easy-to-use bookcloth, try making your own. (Above: home dyed, rusted eco print, mark making with ink, Lino printing)

You will need:

  • Fabric (Cotton calico is good but any natural fabric can be experimented with. Synthetics don’t always stick very well.)
  • Paste – home made wheatflour paste, see recipe below
  • Brush – various sizes, big decorating brushes are useful
  • Acetate – or similar non-stick surface
  • Masking tape

Recipe for wheatflour paste

This is a paste you can make at home and keep in the fridge for about a week. Organic flour is best apparently but either plain or self-raising flour seems to work ok. (You can also make rice flour paste)

  1. Mix 1 heaped tablespoon of flour with 250ml of cold water in a small pan.
  2. Let it stand for a while to let any lumps collapse out of it.
  3. Bring to a simmer, slowly and stirring occasionally. The paste will thicken and become more transparent with the heat.
  4. Simmer gently for 3-5 minutes, then take off the heat and allow to cool a little.
  5. Pour into a storage container and store in fridge.
  6. The paste will thicken up as it cools but you can remix with water to the consistency that you need. If it is lumpy, try “pushing” it through a sieve.
This is a good paste to use to stick your fabric to the cover boards as it does not stain the cloth when it dries. It is not as strong as PVA so use quite liberally. It will also take longer to dry than PVA as it has a high water content. (You can use PVA with your own fabric but it may seep through the cloth and stain it - use with a decorators roller to control the amount of PVA that you use and to get an even layer of glue.)

You can also use this paste to add colour to the cloth:

  1. Stretch your (ironed) fabric onto a non-stick board or sheet of acetate. Use masking tape to secure the edges.
  2. Mix the paste with gouache or similar to colour it.
  3. Spread the coloured paste on to the fabric and leave to dry.
  4. You can mark make in the paste when it is wet or press stuff into it – experiment with rubber stamps etc.
Calico fabric, stuck on acetate with masking tape, with blue paste spread into the fabric and worked to create a texture.
Blue wheatflour paste spread on to calico with a brush to achieve a flat colour

Use your own bookcloths in the same way that you would use the commercially produced bookcloths.

Calico printed “cyanotype” book cover.
Housebound Tip: You could also try recycling unwanted textiles from round the house - tea towels, shirts, bed linen etc

This online tutorial looks interesting

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