Kraft-tex is a great material for making book covers. Kraft-tex can be washed and sewn but is lightweight, easy to work with and difficult to damage. It’s often referred to as a paper fabric, and all sorts of crafters enjoy using it.
Another characteristic of Kraft-tex is that there are many ways to decorate it, which means the sky’s the limit with Kraft-tex book covers! To get some inspiration for decorating Kraft-tex, we turned to members of the Handmade Book Club to show us how they bring this material to life. You can watch the Facebook Live above, but the methods are explained in detail below.
If you’re not experienced with using Kraft-tex, check out this blog post for the basics!
Marbling is the process of using acrylic paints to create a (you guessed it!) marbled effect on the material of your choosing. Mary Ann Miller created the above book covers using pre-washed Kraft-tex. The black/white/pink one was gray, and the blue/green one was green. She put together the covers using two sheets of Kraft-tex attached with cloth bookbinding tape.
To make the marbled effect, Mary Ann experimented with Golden Hi Flow acrylics from the local craft store and carrageenan. She rubbed the Kraft-tex with alum (dissolved in water) as a mordant before marbling.
2. Dye Sublimation
Laurie Taylor Gregg made these beautiful books using a technique called dye sublimation. Dye sublimation is used to transfer images to substrates made of at least 65% polyester.
T-shirts and wearing apparel are the most common items used for dye-sublimation transfers, but they can also be made to ceramic, wood or metal items that have been specially coated with a polyester layer.
Images are first printed onto dye-sublimation paper using a special ink that turns into a gas when heat and pressure are applied. The ink permeates and becomes infused into the actual fibers of fabric substrates, which gives it an advantage over other transfer methods that only transfer to the surface.
Dedicated dye-sublimation printers are fairly expensive, but more affordable inkjet printers can be converted to using sublimation ink.
To make these covers, Laurie used unwashed white Kraft-tex. She says that the process will work with every Kraft-tex color except black because you can’t see the transferred ink on black. Check out Laurie’s work on Instagram.
An accessible way for most crafters to decorate their Kraft-tex book covers is drawing! To get her drawing on her book cover, Jenna Magee first sketched the drawing on paper. She then transferred it to the Kraft-tex and used Prismacolor colored pencils to color it in.
She wrote the words on the bottom with a white gel pen and created a whispy effect by dragging the wet ink down with her fingers. There are real clock parts glued onto the cover with contact cement! The closure is the crown of a watch with a gear glued onto the back.
Jenna’s book has four signatures made of Canson mixed media paper. The cover is unwashed Kraft-tex in chocolate. See more of Jenna’s books and artwork on her Instagram.
Most of us crafters have some stencils lying around, and they’re a great option for decorating Kraft-tex covers. The above book by Sheila Mahanke Barnes was made with unwashed black Kraft-tex and Maribu Art Crayon. She explains her process in more depth on her blog.
5. Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paints are a simple but effective way to decorate Kraft-tex! As illustrated by Shelley Barbour’s book cover, you can create any design or artwork you like with your paint. Shelley made her book with washed Kraft-tex in deep indigo blue.
To make her art visible against the dark background, Shelley painted the flowers and bees first with white acrylic. Once it was dry, she painted them in color. The paints are Winsor and Newton galleria acrylic paints, and the stitch is a bead stitch with buttons. The pages are 180gsm flat white paper from Artway, an arts and crafts supplier in the UK.
You can find Shelley on Instagram.
For all of the bookmakers out there, this one is probably a no-brainer. You can add additional stitching to your Kraft-tex cover to match the design on the spine of your book. This extra stitching adds some visual interest and can help bring a book together.
This brown book was made by Daria Welch Wilbur with unwashed Kraft-tex in chocolate. The binding is a four section, adapted woven chain based on the Handmade Book Club’s August project.
Daria lined the interior of the cover with cotton book cloth that echoes the diamond shape in the binding and flap to provide contrast to the exterior. Covering the interior of the cover ensures that no rough holes are visible on the inside of the book.
For the flap, Daria used the same waxed linen threads as she used for the binding. She wanted to coordinate the spine and flap designs, so she used the diamond shape and carried it forward with the closure, a four-strand braid with a handmade glass bead that wraps around the book.
This book is made of washed Kraft-tex, and it has no lining. The design on the flap mirrors the binding—it was first sewn onto a small strip of Kraft-tex and then glued to the flap with PVA.
Find more of Daria’s work on Instagram.
7. Hand-Cut Designs
Another great way to decorate Kraft-tex is to simply cut a design in the cover. For example, Daria cut out the petals and center of a flower on her unwashed Kraft-tex cover using a sharp blade. Daria says “You must be careful because Kraft-Tex is paper, you can overcut your design easily. Best to practice on scraps before you dig in, especially if you are cutting after the book has been bound!”
She then backed the flower with black and yellow heavily textured, recycled, Indian cotton rag. The endpapers and book block are from handmade cotton rag with leaf inclusions. Daria used a heavy bookbinding PVA.
The binding is called The Rope and can be found in Keith Smith’s 1, 2, & 3 Section Sewings, Non-Adhesive Binding Volume II.
This method adds some extra texture and dimension to the cover.
8. Gelli Printing
Many bookmakers use a technique called gelli printing to create unique designs for their books. If you enjoy making gelli prints, you’ll be happy to hear that you can make them on Kraft-tex! Amy Atkinson made this book cover with gelli printing.
9. Stamps & Rub-Off Letters
One simple way to decorate your Kraft-tex covers is to use stamps and rub-off letters. In these journals, Ruth Dailey used washed Kraft-tex.
The closures were made with strips of the Kraft-tex, hair tie elastics and shrinky dink buttons made to match the colors of the journal. Ruth machine stitched the spines to the front and back covers and long stitched through the spines.
For this book, Ruth used unwashed Kraft-tex. She always makes her signatures with either 98lb Canson mixed media or 110lb Neenah paper so the journals will accept wet media.
Find more of Ruth’s work on her Instagram.
Zentangle “is an easy-to-learn, relaxing and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.” In other words, it’s a method of drawing that can be seamlessly integrated into your Kraft-tex journal cover.
Laurel Storey used Zentangle on her unwashed natural Kraft-tex cover. She used a black Micron pen for the Zentangle embedded letters and white and gold Gelly Roll pens for the embellishments.
To create the book, Laurel cut the Kraft-tex to size following the instructions of the August project for the Handmade Book Club, allowing plenty of room for the flap/closure. The lining is quilting cotton, which she applied to the Kraft-tex using double-sided fusible web. The Zentangle drawing was completed before she stitched the book together.
After the ink dried, Laurel stitched the cover and watercolor paper signatures together, positioned and sewed the button, cut the buttonhole and trimmed down the flap. You can catch up with Laurel on her Instagram.
The Ways to Decorate Kraft-Tex Are Endless!
There is no shortage of ways to bring your Kraft-tex cover to life. From simpler methods like stitching to more complex strategies like dye sublimation, there’s something for all skill levels to try.
If you’ve never worked with Kraft-tex before or want to make a simple book for testing decorations, our free long stitch journal class is the perfect place to start. Just sign up below!
Be sure to let us know how you decorate your Kraft-tex covers by commenting here or tagging Ali on Instagram.