Making a Paper-Bag Book Cover

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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, the kind you get at the grocery store. Start by cutting down one corner, from top to bottom, and then cut around three sides of the bottom flap. 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.

Tip: For kids with special needs, the fine-motor, sequencing, and custom-fitting demands of this project may be a lot 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, of course, decorating the cover with stickers or drawings at the end.

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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. Alternatively, you can cut a piece from a roll of brown parcel-wrapping paper or very sturdy gift wrap to stand in for the paper bag.

More fun: Big opened-up bags are also great for art projects.

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Step 3: Customize the Fit

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

Place the textbook in the center of the paper. Wrap the paper up across the bottom of the book and make a crease along the bottom of the cover. Repeat for the top of the cover. Alternatively, you can trace the bottom and top of the book with a pencil.

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Step 4: Fold Paper at the Top and Bottom

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

Remove the book from the paper and put it aside. 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.

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Step 5: Center the Book on the Paper

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

Place the book back in the center of the paper. 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.

Tip: At this point, 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 be just 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.

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Step 6: Wrap Cover Around Front of Book

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

Fold the overlap around the front cover of the book and make a crease. If the flap is too long, trim it to reach two-thirds to three-quarters of the way across inside of the the book cover. You should be starting to see how the finished product is going to look.

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Step 7: Insert Front Cover

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

Insert the front cover of the book into the slot created by the paper folded over at the top and the bottom of the paper-bag book cover. Slide the paper down over the book until you hit the crease. The paper cover should fit snugly on the hard textbook cover, not to the point of ripping but not looking loose and messy either.

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Step 8: Complete Front Cover

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

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 about how it looks, go on to Step 9. If it you still haven't got the sizing quite right, you can go all the way back to Step 3 and try again. Paper bags don't mind being folded and refolded.

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Step 9: Insert Back Cover

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

Fold the remaining paper around the back cover of the textbook and make a crease. 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. Slide the paper down over the book until you hit the crease.

Tip: It may be a little harder to slip the back cover into the slot than the front cover. If it helps, you can 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 not to break the spine of the textbook when doing this.

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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 pull the front and the inside flap together a little more securely. 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 textbook.

More fun: Have your child personalize the cover with crayon and markers.

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