Monday, February 19, 2018

Super Simple Slip-On Sketchbook Cover

Have you ever heard of oilcloth? It's a finely woven cotton fabric that has a waterproof vinyl coating applied to one side. I happened to spy some cute oilcloth on the clearance table at Hobby Lobby the other day and thought, "Wouldn't that make a great sketchbook cover?"

So, I snapped up a half yard of a couple of different designs and came home and whipped up some easy slip-on covers for my hardbound sketchbooks.

If you can't find oilcloth locally at a Hobby Lobby or Jo-Ann Fabrics, here are two online sources:

Since oilcloth is vinyl-coated, it doesn't ravel when it's cut, making construction an easy process. You will need a sewing machine to sew the seams, but trust me, it's easy!

Begin by gathering your supplies:
  • Oilcloth (Yardage depends on the size of your sketchbook. A half yard would be enough for any size you might want to cover.)
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Flexible tape measure
  • Double-sided tape
  • Pencil
  • Sketchbook to cover

Step 1 - Measure the sketchbook to determine what size to cut the fabric.

To determine the CUT WIDTH, place a flexible tape measure inside the back cover, 1/2" from the gutter.

Measuring the width

Holding the tape measure in place, continue wrapping it around the outside of the back cover, across the spine, across the front cover, and inside the front cover.

Note the measurement on the tape that is 1/2" away from the gutter. For my sketchbook, the measurement was 23 1/4". This is the CUT WIDTH of the book cover.

Purple line shows the width measurement

Stop the measurement 1/2" from the gutter 

To determine the CUT LENGTH of the cover, measure the length of the sketchbook and add 3/4". For my sketchbook, that measurement was 9 1/4". (It might be best to add an extra 1/4" the first time you try this, to make sure the cover doesn't end up too tight to slip on.)

Step 2 - Use a pencil to draw a rectangle on the wrong side of the oilcloth. It should measure CUT LENGTH X CUT WIDTH. Mark the center of the long side at the top and bottom with a small pencil tick mark.

Center mark

Step 3 - Position the cover on the sketchbook, wrong side out. The tick marks should be positioned over the center of the spine.

Positioning the cover

Tuck the end flaps inside the front and back covers. Make sure the cover is centered perfectly and the flaps are the same width in the front and back.

Cover fabric in place on sketchbook

Step 4 - Begin to pin the cover in place. Insert pins lengthwise in the seam allowance. Do not pin anyplace that is NOT in the seam allowance, as the holes will show in the finished cover.

Pin the top and bottom seams on the front and back covers.

Cover pinned in place

Remove the cover from the sketchbook.

Cover pinned and ready to sew

Step 5 - Stitch the pinned seams with a 1/4" seam allowance. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam. Remove pins as you approach them along the seam line.

Stitched seam

Cut across each corner to reduce bulk, as shown.

(At this point, you may want to turn the cover inside out and do a test fit to see if you need to take the seams in a bit more, then proceed with Step 6.)

Step 6 - At the spine area, where there is no stitching, place a piece of double-sided tape in the seam allowance.

Double-sided tape in spine seam allowance

Pull off the tape backing.

Fold over the seam allowance. Press it in place with your fingers.

Step 7 - Turn the cover right side out. Push out the corners using a something pointy, like a mechanical pencil with the lead retracted.

Corner of the cover

Step 8 - Install the oilcloth cover by folding the front and back covers of the sketchbook back on themselves and sliding the fabric cover on. It helps if you work each end simultaneously, sliding it on an inch at a time.

Sliding the oilcloth cover onto the sketchbook

The completed cover should fit nice and snug. If it doesn't, you can flip it inside out again and take in the seams a bit.

The cover is bright, pretty, and waterproof, just right for protecting my sketchbook from wear and tear.

These basic directions could be expanded upon by adding an outside pocket to hold pencils and pens.

You can tuck ephemera like ticket stubs, business cards, etc. under the inside flaps, and the cover can even be reused for other sketchbooks of the same size. How about making a matching slipcase to slide the whole sketchbook into for stashing in a backpack or art bag? So many possibilities!

Give this project a try. The only challenge may be in deciding which of the many colorful oilcloth fabrics to choose. Will it be polka dots, floral, stripes, plaid, or camo? Pick one to suit your mood, then give it a go!


  1. Hi Leslie,

    I love this idea! I am heading to JoAnn Fabric asap! Thank you!


  2. What a great idea! I love vintage fabrics, so old oilcloth tablecloths would make fun covers, I think. Thanks for the step-by-step visuals--always a great help for me!

    1. Great idea, Susan! I'll have to hit the flea markets this spring and see if I can find some.

  3. Wonderful idea Leslie! -- And thanks for the instructions on how to make it!


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