by Phillipcardjr
3 Hours
Many years ago after I had just begun to paint as a hobby , I started to include a small painting with each of the many letters that were mailed out.
How exactly bookmarks became the main item to include I'm not sure, though it is likely because of the size , and that it provided something the receiver could use for a long time.
Many of the first bookmarks were made using paper or canvas strips. Being into re-purposing and upcycling then too, I also used tea box divider strips and other thin pieces of material.
This photo shows a few of the bookmarks. Some are on canvas , some on paper , and a couple on cloth.

Though bookmarks have been made using different size pieces, a friend early on suggested that a 2'' by 7'' support was a good standard to work with.
Hand painted, hand made bookmarks are nice ( and have done very well in fundraising auctions and fundraising craft bazaars). Yet I was also looking for materials that provided a nice texture. ( handkerchiefs were available and easy to work with). The new handkerchiefs in this demonstration were purchased at Dollar General for $2.50 /4 to the pack.
To prepare the cloth to make this type of bookmark, it is pressed out on a plastic covered 18'' by 24'' canvas board. The corners are taped on the under side. This helps hold the cloth in place. Once some of the paint is on, that holds the cloth as well, even when the wet tape comes loose.Then lightly dampened to remove any wrinkles, and right after that a base coat of acrylic paint is brushed on. If the dampening made the cloth too wet I take a dry cloth or towel and pat it down.
Dampening the cloth also helps when applying the base coat of paint. It allows the paint to spread easier. The base color is generally tinted with white to lighten it. If I'm not going for a solid base color, once the base is applied I streak in some darker color. Here the streaks were to give a wood grain look to the cloth.
After the paint has dried the cloth is then cut in to the strips needed to make the support covering. In this photo the hemmed edges were cut off. Interesting color change..I think a different cloth made it into this photo.
Handkerchiefs very in size so not every inch gets used. For the bookmarks being made here, the strips of cloth are cut to 3 1/2'' by 15'' pieces. I have worked with cloth strips that were 3'' by 15'' but found it easier to go a little wider for the next step to go smoothly.
Inside the cloth a paper strip is placed. One for support. Two to prevent the paint applied to one side from bleeding through to the other. I use good watercolor paper or 100% cotton fine art paper. both papers can handle the moisture from the paint. The 14'' length is more convenient to work with when folding the edge of the cloth over.
The paper is 2'' by 14'' The paper is then taped inside the cloth and the cloth is folded over. It is only necessary to use enough tape to hold the cloth in place to make an even fold. I had been applying gloss along the cloth edge then folding the strip in half to seal the fold. ( it works ). Of recent though I have been working with Heat n Seal hem tape that has worked okay so far. I don't happen to sew. Sewn would even be nice.
Here are three finished bookmarks. The blue one is from another cloth that was painted at the same time. The back of most of the bookmarks are left blank.
I did not happen to show the painting process in this post since the first part is quite long already. You have artistic license then .. paint what you like. Smiles.

This is posted at my site under Handmade painted cloth bookmarks.
These will be part of another post. The cloth for these shown here are that color already, allowing the material to stay soft. The overall time for the project w/o the art work depends on the time it takes for the cloth to dry. Time is also needed for the glue to dry. The work time to put it together is reasonable, yet what a nice finished piece you will have in the end.
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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  • Mim8413664 Mim8413664 on Jul 20, 2016
    handkerchief bookmarks- after the watercolor paper is taped to backside to absorb paint bleed I don't follow what happens to the paper or ? Is the paper part of the bookmark? Or is paper removed and fabric folded over to make backside?

  • Jean Ferrara Jean Ferrara on Jul 20, 2016
    Do you apply a solid backing material to the underside?

  • MK McDonald MK McDonald on Aug 01, 2016
    They are very beautiful! I like a solid bookmark and was wondering if starching it with something that wouldn't ruin your beautiful painting is an option?

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