busy book: the cover!

during the time that my quiet book (busy book, whatever) was a work in progress, i often wanted to take a few pages in the car or to church to try them out.  rather than carrying them around, loose, i sometimes clipped them together using binder clips.  this got me thinking… why not use binder clips as the permanent binding mechanism instead of messing with all those eyelets or grommets?  i looked all over the internet pinterest to see if anyone else had come up with this idea so i could follow their tutorial and… i didn’t find this idea anywhere.  so i came up with my own tutorial and i’m sharing it with you now!

here’s what you need:

two binder clips–the larger and easier to open, the better.

four rectangles of sandpaper, cut to fit inside the clips

glue.  i used j.b. weld because that was the glue that this to that (love that site!) suggested i use.  you could probably get by with something a little less intense for this project.

alternate, untested idea:  instead of sandpaper, you could try using sticky-back felt.  the idea here is to make the insides of the clips less slippery.  i’m not sure that the felt won’t be too bulky, but if someone tries it and likes it, let me know!

you will also need:

vinyl cover piece and inner spine.  my cover was about 26″ x 9.5″, but your book may be a different size than mine, so please measure (instructions below).  the vinyl i found was fairly heavyweight, almost rubbery on the yellow side and the back side was sort of fabric-y.  it was on a remnant table, so i don’t have a lot of information about it, but you could probably use any sort of cover material, as long as it’s pretty sturdy and not stretchy.  the “not-stretchy” part is especially important for the “spine” (1″x9″) part listed above.  i also like vinyl for it’s don’t-need-to-finish-the-edges properties.

felt for the “end papers” of the book.  measure your cover then cut felt about a half-inch bigger (so if it shifts during sewing you can just square it up and trim off the edges later).

a large-ish button (preferably one with a shank, or at least one that doesn’t sit very flush with the cover of the book when sewn on)

a length of elastic (i think mine was 8″?  might have been 6″?  you can make adjustments to the length when you’re sewing it in.)

(optional):  something to decorate the cover of your book.  could be fabric cut into the child’s first initial, or favorite object (a car, perhaps, for a car book?).  i was boring and chose squares/rectangles.  feel free to get crazy creative with this portion of the project.


step 1:  glue sandpaper to the inside of your clips, both sides.  then, clip them onto a scrap of cardboard to dry, so you don’t glue the tips of the binder clip together.  if you use j.b. weld, it takes 15 hours to cure, so you’ll want to do this step first.  possibly the day before you really want to finish your book.

why are we doing this?  when i first made this binding and left the clips un-altered, the pages could just be pulled out of the clips because they were too slippery.  i took a cue from the flannelboards i use at work all the time, and decided to try sandpaper to give the clips some traction.  the sandpaper might start to fray your pages if you take them in and out of the clips a lot, felt would be just as effective at keeping the pages in, and wouldn’t damage the material, but it might be really bulky inside the clips and make it difficult to get the pages inserted.

step 2: temporarily clip your book together with another clip and measure the circumference of your stack of pages.  add an inch or two for growth and so that your cover might hang over the edge of your pages a bit for more protection.  cut out your cover and all the rest of the pieces described in the second supplies picture above.

step 3:  design and sew your cover decoration (optional). and attach a button (not optional).  for mine, i chose an accent fabric, ironed a narrow hem around the edges, sewed it to a piece of felt, sewed my button on, then sewed that whole thing down to the vinyl cover.

step 4:  sew your felt to the inside of your cover.  instead of two pieces, you could also just use one large piece of felt, slightly larger than your vinyl.  be sure to tuck your elastic loop into the edge of the cover that will be opposite the button.  trim the edges, but don’t cut your elastic loop! step 5:  place your clips where you want them to go on the inside of the spine, and mark the top and bottom edge with a water-soluble pen.  i made mine about 1.5″ from the top and bottom of the cover.

alternatively, you could place pins in the felt (not through the vinyl, or you’ll poke permanent holes!) at the top and bottom edges of the clips to use as guides.

step 6:  with your book cover facing inside up, sew rectangles (as shown below) along your inner spine piece, leaving spaces for your clips.  backstitch a few times over the seams that will be right next to a clip.  you want those to be super strong!

step 7:  once your glue has dried, install your clips!  this is bit tricky, so in addition to the pictures below, i’ve also included a little how-to mini-video.

step 8:  clip your pages in!  start by stacking your pages so that the spine sides line up.  if your pages are not all the same width, measure the shortest one and trim down the rest to that size.  the pages in this book ended up being about 9″x11.”  (the book for the twins was smaller, but i’ll discuss that later.)  once they’re all stacked up, hold the spine side of the pages together, open the clip with your other hand and wiggle the pages into your clip.  once both clips are on, you may need to adjust both clips a bit, tucking wrinkles in and wiggling the pages as far back into the clips as you can.  if you’ve already watched the mini how-to video above, you’ve seen this process in action.

and you’re done!  close the book, fasten the loop around the button and admire your work!

notes on alternate options:

for the twins’ book, i tried trimming the pages down so that the spine side (all the fabric not sewn directly to the 9″x9″ page) was only as big as the depth of the binder clip.  this resulted in the silver arms of the clip being closer to the bulk of the pages when they were folded towards the book, and they made pokey, awkward bumps in the cover:

not terrible, but i came up with a solution that would work well, especially if you don’t plan to take pages in and out of the book all the time.

1.  after the pages are inserted, take the silver arms out of your clips.  (squeeze the wider ends together and they just pop out!)  this makes for a very neat and tidy binding.2.  sew a pocket to the inside of the back page to keep your clips in (the one problem with this particular design (velcro pocket) is that kids will think it’s another “challenge” page just like all the rest!  you might want to make a pocket for both the front an the back cover and attach the silver arms to ribbons sewn inside the pockets….  or make a more challenging pocket closure technique)

no more pokey bumps!

that’s it!  you’re done!  if you participated in this sew-along, i’d love to see your projects.  if you make a cover using this tutorial, i’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions for improvement.




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