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Super-simple ribbon bookmark

There’s something about a big, heavy hardcover book that feels very… for real.

I like them a lot. And I like them best without a dust jacket, even though I know how important a dust jacket is if you want your nice books to stay nice. It’s just that they detract from the old-timey credibility of a big, heavy book. They’re too modern, too flashy. After all, no matter how practical it is to keep the dust jacket on, there’s no denying that when you peek underneath, the book inside is at least 50% more appealing and impressive without it.

I guess that’s true of people, too. Some people just look better naked. That’s a fact. In one of my college life drawing classes, we had a model for the later part of the semester who was built perfectly from head to toe. She was almost offensively good-looking. But at the end-of-class shindig, I didn’t recognize her. It turned out that with clothes on she really didn’t look that great.

Come to think of it, I guess maybe she just didn’t know how to dress. But you see what I’m saying. Wait. What was I…? Books?

Hardcover books are for fancy, is what I’m trying to say.

I especially love the metallic lettering on the covers of nice hardcover books. In a way, it’s baffling that virtually every hardcover book, regardless of how highbrow it may be, gets its title gets stamped in foil. Especially in this age of cost-cutting and high fructose corn syrup. But I’ll take it. It adds luxury, like when they edge the all the pages in gold.

And as we all know, the most luxurious part of the whole hardcover experience, the strongest tie to an age when books were the hottest thing going, is that little ribbon bookmark that they sew into the binding for your convenience.

Except when they don’t.

What the hell, bookbinders?

I understand that sewing a bookmark in is more costly than not sewing a bookmark in. I have a stable background in basic math and economics and I know that except in very rare cases, something costs more than nothing. There is no such thing as a free bookmark. But it’s only a little piece of ribbon, bookbinders! Go ahead, spend the extra penny on us! We’re worth it!



I don’t know about you, but I have some huge hardcover books that for whatever reason just don’t have the little ribbon bookmark. And I don’t like it. Unlike crappy paperbacks, which are easy to keep my place in as long as I have some unopened American Express offers I haven’t thrown out yet, I think reading nice books warrants using nice bookmarks. Nice books don’t deserve to be stuffed with garbage. So for once, rather than complain, I decided to do something about it. I opened up my sewing box and made a one-size-fits-all fancy ribbon bookmark that I can use in all my favorite books. Voila!

Here it is. It’s a fifteen-minute project, and all you need is some ribbon (enough to wrap vertically around your tallest book three times with a few inches to spare), something you can use as a slide (anything shaped like a figure 8 or a circle with a line through it will do, including actual bra slides if your ribbon is narrow), and a needle and thread.

I made this decorative slide out of a little brass charm I had and a bead that matches my ribbon. The charm was a circle, so I wrapped some wire securely around its middle like a belt. After that, all I had to do was sew one end of the ribbon to the wire-belt-part I had just made, which took about ten stitches. Ten sloppy stitches. Because no one is going to see them and I’m not good at sewing.

So, step one: Sew one end of your ribbon securely around the center of your slide.

Knowing that the ribbon will be going away from the slide in an upward direction, toward the top of the book, should help you determine which part of the ribbon is the back so you know where to do your sewing. My slide has a little loop with a bead dangling from it, so I wanted that to be the bottom. But if your slide doesn’t have a top and bottom, it doesn’t matter which side of the ribbon you face toward the front.

Either way, be sure to sew the ribbon as close as you can to the belt-part of your slide, so that the stitches will be hidden.

After it’s sewn, all you have to do is put it on! The idea is the same as the way bra straps and other adjustable straps work. It’s explained pretty well here, on a blog called ‘You Sew, Girl.’ These pictures may help if you still aren’t sure what I mean:

Step two: To put it on, just place the slide against the front of the book, wrap the ribbon over and behind the front cover, and bring the ribbon back up to the slide. Then thread the end of the ribbon upward through the slide so that it holds tight to the front cover (remember the bra straps!), and the loose ribbon is at the top of the book. Man… this is not easy to illustrate verbally. More pictures?

Now it’s a bookmark! You can run it down through the pages of your favorite fancy book and pretend it’s sewn into the binding. (This is easiest if you’re extremely gullible and have a short memory.)

Make it big enough to fit all your books and you can switch it from one book to another, depending on what you’re reading. Then you’ll always have a fancy bookmark to use, and your less expensive books can feel like a million bucks. Look at that! This just turned into something better than the thing it was made to replace! Take that, bookbinders. Your move.

If you have some favorite books you’d like to display, you can choose ribbon and hardware colors that complement the covers of each.

Since it’s so quick to make, doing one for every book on your shelf may actually start to sound like a good idea. When you run out of books, you might even want to start making little ribbon straps for other things in your house, too, like your toothbrush or your microwave. I hope you don’t do that, since it will mean you’ve lost your mind. But if you do make a bookmark for your microwave, please be sure to use a plastic slide and not a metal one. Safety first!

Kristina Ackerman

Kristina Ackerman is a busy freelance web designer, living and DIYing with her fella and their little fella in a cute old house in Atlanta, GA, USA.