Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week 3: Book Cover Rescue

As luck would have it, this week's project is another book cover. At my daughter's Hebrew school, the parents of third graders made a special book cover this week, to be presented to our children in a ceremony this month.

Unfortunately, this seemingly innocuous book cover decorating project was fraught with peril. For one, we were cautioned to make something that our child would keep and treasure for their whole lives. Um, no pressure. Worse, decorating fabric is something I've never done. So I accidentally got iron-on transfer muck all over the front of the book cover. Then one of the cover's fabric handles fell off. Time for a do-over. Art metal and fusible web to the rescue!
From messed-up book cover #1 . . .
. . . to a final cover using art metal and fusible web.
What You Need
  • fabric book cover
  • art metal (Ten Seconds Studio; I used Peacock color)
  • art metal mold (Ten Seconds Studio; I used #BM02)
  • paper stump
  • sanding block
  • fusible web (Pellon Wonder Under or Dritz Stitch Witchery)
  • paper towels, parchment paper, press cloth, and fabric-safe glue
  • fabric and ribbon
  • glitter glue (Ranger Stickles; I used Patina color)
Materials needed, clockwise from left: art metal, book cover, art metal mold, paper stump, sanding block, glitter glue, fabric pieces, fusible web, and ribbon
This week we'll explore two techniques: working with art metal and with fusible web, a.k.a. iron-on-transfer for fabric. You may not have a special book cover presentation in your future, but you'll find plenty of uses for both art metal and fusible web in your own projects.

Step 1: Art metal
Art metal is amazingly cool: thin, colored metal sheets that you can cut easily with scissors, emboss, distress, and then overlay on almost anything. You can sew it onto fabric. You can glue it onto pretty much any surface to create picture frames, pen-and-pencil holders, card embellishments, or in this case, to class up a blue book cover.

Get started by taping the mold in place under your piece of art metal. Then, using a paper stump, rub over the metal, and your embossed image starts to appear. Outline the shapes thoroughly so that they're well-defined. You can use special metalwork tools for this; I don't have them, so I just applied pressure via the paper stump.
Embossing with the paper stump
Remove the mold, then lightly sand over the metal with the sanding block. The block removes the color from the metal, giving the raised areas an aged, distressed look. Make sure to keep a light but thorough touch so that the raised surfaces are uniformly sanded. Finish by wiping the metal surface with a damp paper towel to remove stray bits of sanded-off color.

Step 2: Fusible web
Now it's time to work with the fusible web to affix the fabric. Gather the fabric you'd like to attach to your project; I used wide corduroy ribbon and a tie-dye print fabric.

Position your fabric on the rough side of the fusible web. Heat your iron to a hot setting, then put a piece of parchment paper on top of your fabric so that you don't get iron-on transfer muck on your iron. Iron the fabric for about ten seconds and check that it's affixed itself to the transfer backing.

Cut out your shape (you can pencil it in on the smooth paper backside of the fusible web). Then, peel off the paper backing. Now you're ready to iron your fabric to the book cover or to your chosen fabric background.

Step 3: Finishing
Measure your book's spine width and leave room for the book's spine in your book cover design. Then do a dry run, placing your shapes and metal before affixing them.

When you're satisfied with your design, iron on your fabric first, so that the art metal doesn't get in your way. Position your shapes on the background, then take a damp cloth and cover your fabric with it. I used a lightweight white fabric so that I could see what was going on underneath. Press firmly with an iron on "wool" setting for 10-20 seconds to affix your fabric. It takes a minute or two for the fabric to finish heat-setting, so you do have a bit of leeway if you make a mistake. I kept messing up -- the fabric would move from where I'd placed it -- so I just peeled up the fabric and tried again.

Next, glue the metal to your background. I used my favorite Tacky Glue, but any glue with a strong bond that's fabric-safe will work here. You can also sew the metal to fabric with a sewing machine. Use paper towels to wipe up excess glue that seeps out after you press down your metal.

Finish with embellishments as needed. I messed up by using too much glue, which dried unattractively on the front cover (ack! again!), so I added a distraction in the form of Stickles, which is a classier version of glitter glue with an easy-to-control fine tip.

My daughter may or may not keep this cover for her whole life, but now, at least, it's something I can feel proud to present to her.


  1. That is so lovely! Your daughter is so lucky to receive such a meaningful gift from her mother. I was wondering what kind of stores sell the art metal and fusible web. A craft store? Fabric shop?

  2. Thanks so much, Grace! Locally in San Jose, A Work of Heart studio sells these items in their store. You can also find art metal and metalwork tools on (search for Ten Seconds Studio), and you can buy fusible web at fabric or craft stores, such as Jo Ann's or Michaels. Several different brands are available; I happened to use Stitch Witchery (for the first botched cover) and Wonder Under for this project.

  3. Thanks for putting source stores in your post. I've never worked with art metal - that looks like fun!

  4. It is fun! Art metal is surprisingly easy to work with -- it's really lightweight and you can treat it kind of like thick paper as far as cutting it out into shapes, gluing it, and so on. Good luck and let me know how your project turns out!

  5. This is beautiful. I love the layout, the colors, the patterns - it all comes together to make something quite wonderful. A treasure indeed for your daughter.

  6. Thanks so much, Janice! It was a lot of fun to make, and best of all, my daughter really loves it. :-)