"night circus" reveur book cover

The September project for the #craftblogclub was to make a book cover, and I got An Idea. It wasn't a very good idea for my skill set, because it involved sewing (I'm much stronger at knitting and crochet), but it was An Idea that would not be silenced. So I did some math, found my way to a fabric shop, and crossed my fingers a lot.

The concept was to make a book cover in the theme of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. For those who haven't read this exquisite book, it centres around the goings-on at a travelling circus which is housed, decorated, and costumed entirely in black and white: black-and-white striped tents, black-and-white costumes for the performers, and even black-and-white food at the concession stands. Fans of the circus follow it from location to location, and call themselves reveurs. The reveurs wear black-and-white to show the affinity they feel to the circus, but they always wear something bright red to show that they are only visitors, not members. So my book cover is black-and-white with a red tie to keep it shut, because readers by nature are always reveurs.

A clock plays an important part in the story, hence the clock face on the front. Also, it's one of the few elements from the story that I can actually draw.

The first step was to figure out how wide the front of my copy of The Night Circus was, and to determine the clock face's dimensions from there. Then I drew the numbers and the hands. I don't know why I picked 7:00, but it looked good to me.

The paper sketch went on top of the applique fabric for embroidery. Yes I know that tracing/transfer paper is preferable, but I didn't have the right paper at home, and wasn't sure where to buy any! If I could do it again, I'd at least make sure I worked with onionskin instead of printer paper. I just stitched right through the paper and the fabric.

The paper started tearing away as I worked, but stayed in place until all the elements were stitched.


The major disadvantage of the paper was that I couldn't see if my backstitching wasn't right. Definitely thinner paper next time. Live and learn.

The whole thing got pinned to the black border fabric, then edges of the embroidery got notched and turned under. I don't know how to applique a circle, so it got turned into an octagon.


This is a stitch test to check zigzag length and density before stitching the actual applique.

It turned out pretty much how I wanted it on the first try. After all the "oh well, it will have to do" moments, that made me happy.

The black fabric got twice as many notches as the embroidered applique (having a bigger circumference and all), and got pinned to the outer cover fabric. I'd wanted black-and-white stripes for the outer cover, but the fabric shop didn't have anything. I think the edelweiss pattern here still suits the aesthetic.

It's amazing how much extra work one applique adds to a project!

After the applique was attached to the front, things went more quickly. The next step was to sew the front and the lining together (with the right-hand loop in between), then pink all the raw edges because this fabric was fraying a lot.

The left flap was made when I did the topstitching. You can see that my seams aren't very straight, but neither was the fabric edge. Sigh. It still works.

The book fits by slipping the front cover into the flap, and sliding the back cover under the loop. I got the design from Jocelyn Allen, who wrote You and the Pirates and who made these style book covers as promotional items (her size fits most trade paperbacks).

The cover closes by wrapping the tie around the button on the back. I like this design because it keeps the book closed during travel/handling.
The other thing I like about this design is that the extra fabric on the right-hand side creates a built-in bookmark.