creative play | customizing sketchbooks with fabric

by | Jul 15, 2021 | art supplies, Artistic Endeavors, Creative Play | 10 comments

I know I’ve already done a post on customizing sketchbooks (you can find that post here), but I spent a little bit of my creative playtime last week addressing something that bugged me about another style of sketchbook I use.  If you don’t have a sketchbook, I bet you keep some kind of book…a fitness journal, a diary, a scrapbook, a recipe book, a photo album.  You can definitely take this idea and use it for the kind of book(s) you keep.

I love these sketchbooks by Ranger.  They have thick off-white paper, they lay flat, and they come in several great sizes for sketching and designing.  Buuuuuuut, they have a bright red spine!  I really don’t have anything against red, but it’s not my color and it really jumps out against my cool blues, greens, and whites.

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

ranger notebook/sketchbook portrait | larger 11 x 8 | landscape

And you can see it through a cutout in the spine, so I can’t just close it to make it go away.  Plus, I want all of my sketchbooks to be a reflection of my style, color palette, and to be tools that I love looking at and using.  Necessary?  Nope.  A little gripe?  Definitely.   A bit over the top?  Perhaps.

Worth it to me?  Yes.

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

Since this is the book I use for sketching out fabric designs, I thought it would be fun to cover the spine and front of the book in fabric.  So, I went to the sewing room where I store a basket of scraps that are too small for home decor sewing projects.  I keep them for little projects just like this.  I had a piece of this fabulous embroidered fabric leftover from the slipcover I made for my studio desk chair.

desk chair slipcover | art studio | antique embroidered linen fabric | miss mustard seed

this is the chair | post about making the slipcover | six-part video slipcover tutorial | painted checkerboard floor tutorial

I cut the fabric to a little larger than the book cover and spine…

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

I applied some YES! paste with a palette knife all over the cover and spine.  I love this thick paste for gluing things into my sketchbooks.  It’s a little on the thick side and I find that to be an advantage.  I can smear it on and it doesn’t drip, pool, or absorb into the paper, causing wrinkles.

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

I then stuck the fabric onto the glue and trimmed the edges. If the fabric is lightweight, you could fold it over the book cover to make a cleaner edge, but this fabric was pretty thick, so I just left the edges raw.

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

I even changed out the black cord closure for the envelope with some blue and white twine.

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

my favorite forged scissors | blue & white butcher twine

While I had the glue out, I took some time to customize the front cover with my business card and some pretty fabric and ribbon scraps.

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

I also glued some woven ribbon and antique papers onto another Ranger notebook to cover up the red spine.  Now, it’s all ready to go!

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

It’s a little thing, but one of those things that didn’t take very long, it got me working with my hands in my studio, and it’s a change that makes me love these sketchbooks even more.  Wins all around.

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

I think it’s easy to dismiss little creative projects like this that seem frivolous.  They don’t really serve a purpose, they don’t increase the function, they don’t make it more valuable.  It’s easy to consider it a waste.  But, I think this is a good kind of frivolity.  It’s permission to play, to create without an end goal, to do something just for the sake of doing it.

customizing a sketchbook with fabric | miss mustard seed

Take the time to do those things, even if it’s just for the purpose of covering up a little bit of red peeking through a tiny cutout in the spine of a sketchbook.  You never know where that might lead.

I hope this inspires you to try customizing your own sketchbook or journal or recipe book or photo album.  Whatever kinds of books you keep, I hope you take a few minutes to really make it feel like it’s yours.  To make it a favorite thing.

If you need some inspiration for creative play, everything from making brushes out of sticks to taking a sketching class with your kids, you can find Creative Play posts HERE.


  1. Ana

    I completely agree! I wish those books had a neutral colored spine.

  2. Irene Kelly

    Take some time and hand write a note to Ranger telling them your wishes etc. If you send anything these days in your hand I will assure you it will get read and probably immediately. I sold to all the major retailers then became a buyer for one of them so I know from experience your note will stand out and get read. Good Luck ! Love your books !

    • Julie | Home On The Hill

      Good point Irene – in a world of electronic mail a hand written letter is a novelty – who would have thought just 20 years ago that such a thing would be unique enough to draw attention?!

  3. Laura L WALKER

    I love this idea. Takes me back to covering school books when I was growing up. Laura

  4. Kristine

    I almost didn’t read this post, but the my inner voice of wisdom said ‘read it!’. And I am so glad I listened. Your advice “to create without an end goal” really spoke to me. I don’t take the opportunity when it presents it self, and I truly do see the value in it. Thank you for giving me the chance to give myself permission to take on a creative project … just because!

  5. Kathy Scruggs

    I would cover them in red!

  6. Vicki

    Inspiring! Beautifully done!

  7. Carolyn L Dietrich

    Glad you personalized your sketchbooks! Thank you for sharing about the Yes! paste. I like to use card blanks and collage on the front to make notecards. The glue I have been using make the card curl and even sitting something heavy on it for days doesn’t solve the problem. I have ordered some Yes! paste. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s a little thing to cover up the red, but it makes you enjoy your books and that’s what matters!

  8. Jolynne Murphy

    Just an idea, but what about going two shades lighter of your wall color for the mantle, wet bar and banister. You are the painting queen. Cue Abba singing instead of dancing queen. 💙

  9. Charlotte

    Thank you for the tip!!! I bought an inexpensive binder to cover in fabric to hold my recipe collection and made the mistake of using spray adhesive… now I know about Yes! Paste and I’m ordering some right now! As a kid I loved covering things with paper to make them my own. As an adult, I like covering old sketch books and journals with different fabrics and what not… super excited to use it!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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