Hand Made & Painted Cloth Bookmarks

        Re-purposing ”new” cotton handkerchiefs to make great looking, long-lasting, handmade and painted, bookmarks.


A few of the bookmarks, save from the early days.
A few of the bookmarks saved from the early days.

Many years ago, after I had just begun to paint as a hobby, I started to include small paintings with the many letters that were mailed out.  I was new to painting but wanted something extra to share with those who would receive a letter.

How exactly bookmarks became the main item to include with a letter I’m not sure. It was likely because of their small and ease with which a nice useable piece of art could be made.  Bookmarks became the item though and many were painted and mailed.

The first bookmarks were made using paper or canvas strips. Many bookmarks were made from regular art paper but being into re-purposing and upcycling as well, tea bag divider strips and snack box pieces were used, as well as leftover strips of canvas from larger paintings.

Paper and plastic bookmarks prints are everywhere, true.   Handmade hand painted are much nicer. Yet I was also looking for something with a nice feel to it, something that made the finished piece a little more interesting. This is when I worked some with the handkerchiefs.

Here are a couple of the ways I prepare and paint cloth bookmarks using new handkerchiefs.

IMG_2157    The handkerchiefs here were purchased from Dollar General.  A 4 pack was $2.50 plus tax. Plain white is used because I basecoat the cloth whatever color needed.

IMG_2158IMG_2159    For this demonstration one of the cloths was painted a light brown with a slightly darker brown blended in.  I got ahead of myself again…to prepare the cloth for this part of the project it is taped to a plastic covered canvas board so the cloth can be removed after the basecoat has dried.

IMG_2160       A second handkerchief was painted a light blue with a slightly darker blue streaked in.  The two shades of paint are blended slightly to fade the intensity of the added color. The cloths are given time to dry completely before removing for the next step.

IMG_2161IMG_2162IMG_2163   After the cloth has thoroughly dried they are removed from the support and readied to be trimmed and cut to the desired size.

I do not remember changing cloths but since this shows the steps it will be used.

The finished size of each bookmark will be 7” by 2”.  these strips are cut at 15” by 3.5” because a quality paper is added to the inside of the piece that is then folded in half later. There are a couple of reasons for adding the paper one being to keep the painting that will be done from soaking through to the back side.

IMG_2164IMG_2167IMG_2166     After the strips of cloth have been cut to size, strips of art paper ( cotton fine art paper or good watercolor paper is used / 90 lb 250 gsm is ideal ) .  are cut to 14” by 2” and then secured inside the cloth. Both papers can handle the painting process and if need be pressed back into shape.   After you have used the plastic to hold the cloth a couple of times the paint left often sticks to the back of the cloth. This has not posed a problem when the paint has a color.  It can sometimes show through if leaving or painting the cloth white.

Once the paper is in place the edges of the cloth are folded in and taped in place.  Only small pieces of tape are needed to hold the cloth in place. Later the bookmark will be folded and glued in place.    The included pictures show the steps for securing the paper in place.

It is not important to glue the bookmark together right away unless you prefer to do so. ( look ahead for the gluing options ).

IMG_2192      Occasionally  I work on one bookmark at a time but more often two or more are taped to a support so more can be completed in a shorter length of time.  A similar scene is done on each with minor variations to each picture to make it unique.

The bookmark once folded in half can be glued in place with your choice of adhesive. I most often use regular acrylic gloss and then sandwich the bookmarks between plastic covered 5” by 7” or 6” by 8” canvas boards until the gloss has had time to dry. Just recently I have also used heat and seal hem tape to secure some.  If you sew, sewing works really well and would provide you options for the stitch.

IMG_2193IMG_2194 IMG_2145   Here are just a few of the finished cloth bookmarks.

The final photo shows some of the bookmarks done recently.

The artwork, of course, is mine and is copyright protected. You may make any of the paintings for yourself or friends. And you may if you prefer to, paint and sell finished bookmarks in local flea markets and craft fairs.   Enjoy !

A few of the bookmarks are available from ” Up the Creek ladies consignment Boutique Owego NY.   http://www.facebook.com/upthecreekconsignment

Or at   http://www.bonanza.com/booths/PCJR57?utm_campaign=booth_complete&utm_medium=Notifier&utm_source=email

I would enjoy hearing from you.