Easy Steps to Making a Paper Bag Book Cover

Paper Bag Book Covers are Easy to Make

The paper bag book cover likely evokes memories from your own school days. It is one of the best ways to protect textbooks and a great way to save money while recycling unused paper shopping bags. The best part? They're extremely easy to make and your children can help throughout the process.

For kids with special needs, the fine-motor, sequencing, and custom-fitting demands of this project may be a little too much to take on. That means moms and dads will likely have the homework assignment of book-covering to do themselves.

However, your child can help with things like flattening down the folds, centering the book, and wrapping the front and back covers. Plus, they will enjoy decorating the cover with stickers or drawings once it's done.

Step 1: Cut Open a Brown Paper Bag

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 1 - Cut the Bag
Photo © Terri Mauro

When making a paper bag book cover, the first step is to cut open a brown paper shopping bag. You can pick one up during your trip to the grocery store or use one you already have.

If the local store no longer offers paper bags, a roll of brown paper used for gift or parcel wrapping will work. Simply cut a large piece from the roll that will cover the entire outside of the book as well as the inside flaps, leaving about three inches of excess on both ends.

To Begin the Book Cover

  1. Start by cutting down one corner of the bag, from top to bottom.
  2. Cut around three sides of the bottom flap.
  3. Open the bag up and flatten it out on the table.

You should have a large rectangle with the small rectangle of the bag bottom hanging off one end.

Step 2: Cut Off the Bottom Flap

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 2 - Trim the Flap
Photo © Terri Mauro

Finish preparing the paper bag by cutting off the bottom flap. This should give you a large rectangular piece of brown paper. 

There's no need to throw away this excess paper. Instead, use it as scratch paper or let your kids use it to draw a picture. You could even cut it into strips and have them decorate it to create custom bookmarks.

Step 3: Customize the Fit

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 3 - Customize the Fit
Photo © Terri Mauro

It is now time to customize the paper to fit the book you need to cover. This requires two simple folds and will ensure that the entire book is protected, no matter its size.

  1. Place the textbook in the center of the paper.
  2. Wrap the paper up and across the bottom of the book and make a crease along the bottom of the cover.
  3. Repeat for the top of the cover. 

Alternatively, you can trace the bottom and top of the book with a pencil.

Step 4: Fold Paper at the Top and Bottom

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 4 - Fold the Paper
Photo © Terri Mauro

Once you have the outline of where the folds need to be, it's time to make those folds permanent. This is where your little helper can get in on the action because they can help you make the folds nice and tight.

  1. Remove the book from the paper and put it aside.
  2. Fold the paper up at the bottom crease (or pencil mark) and down at the top crease (or pencil mark).

You should now have a strip of paper that's just the right size to cover the book from top to bottom.

Step 5: Center the Book on the Paper

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 5 - Centering
Photo © Terri Mauro

At this point, you're going to check your book cover for a proper fit before making the final folds. There should be no textbook cover peeking out at the top or bottom of your paper bag cover.

If you find that you've folded the paper a little too much, no worries -- unfold and start again from Step 3. It's important that the cover is equal to the height of the textbook, no smaller and no more than a tiny bit bigger. Fortunately, the folding and refolding you do won't show.

  1. Place the book back in the center of the paper.
  2. Wrap the paper across the front of the book from left to right and then adjust the book position until the two ends of the paper are even. 
  3. Check for a proper fit.

Step 6: Wrap the Cover Around Front of the Book

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 6 - Wrapping
Photo © Terri Mauro

Your book cover is almost done and you're now starting to see how the finished product is going to look. To finish the wrapping, take it one side of the cover at a time so you can make final adjustments. We'll begin with the front.

  1. Fold the overlap around the front cover of the book and make a crease.
  2. If the flap is too long, trim it to reach two-thirds to three-quarters of the way across inside of the book cover. 

Step 7: Insert the Front Cover

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 7 - Inserting Front Cover
Photo © Terri Mauro

For this step, you will simply insert the book's front cover into your paper folds. The paper cover should fit snugly on the hard textbook cover. It should not be too tight so the paper rips, but also not too loose, which can look a little messy.

  1. Insert the front cover of the book into the slot created by the paper folded over at the top and the bottom of the book cover.
  2. Slide the paper down over the book until you hit the crease.

Step 8: Complete the Front Cover

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 8 - Finishing Front Cover
Photo © Terri Mauro

  1. Close the front cover of the textbook, pulling the paper tight across the front of the book. The front cover is now complete.

If you're happy with how it looks, go on to Step 9. If the sizing still isn't quite right, you can go back to Step 3 and try again. Paper bags don't mind being folded and refolded.

Step 9: Insert the Back Cover

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 9 - Inserting Back Cover
Photo © Terri Mauro

It's time to do the exact same thing to the back cover that you did on the front. This can be a little trickier because the back may be a little tighter since the front is already done. With a little careful cajoling, it should work out just fine.

  1. Fold the remaining paper around the back cover of the textbook and make a crease. If the flap is too long again, trim it down.
  2. Insert the back cover of the book into the slot created by the paper folded over at the top and the bottom, just as you did with the front cover. 
  3. Slide the paper down over the book until you hit the crease. 

It may help to open the book up and lay it pages-down on a table. Pull the back cover up and toward the front cover and then slip the paper over. Be as careful as you can be so as not to break the spine of the textbook when doing this.

Step 10: Ta-Da! Completed Cover

Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover - Step 10 - Ta Da! All Done!
Photo © Terri Mauro

If the cover fits snugly, you can stop at this point, sit back, and admire your handiwork.

If it seems a little loose or the top and bottom folds are not lying flat, you can use small pieces of tape to secure the front and the inside flap. Only tape the cover to itself, though. If you tape it to the textbook cover, the pulling and strain of opening and closing may rip the book.

Have your child personalize the cover with crayons and markers.

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