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Another quilt for the gallery from Pat -
she hangs it between her "real" bookcases
where it looks quite at home.


Fabric At Work Bookcase Quilt

  Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt 
       I received a lovely email from Janet Easter in Cooranbong Australia,
thanking me for the Bookcase Quilt tutorial.

She was kind enough to send a picture of her finished quilt. I always love how
these turn out - each and every one a "happy celebration" of the maker.             

I got another lovely email from Irene Hogben of Denmark, Western Australia
who had made a bookcase quilt using the directions on the Fabric at Work website:

"Attached is the bookshelf quilt that I made for my sister Shirley in 2018.
Please share it with your group if you think it is suitable. I really enjoyed making this quilt,
I learnt many new techniques and played around with some of my own ideas."

Irene has added her own touches (I really like the wonky pile of books in the center right).
The email came at a good time - I've been feeling a little neglectful of the Fabric at Work stuff
(a full-time job will do that to you) - but this told me that even the small bits I do get to,
actually have an impact.



Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt 
Note: Someone named Sally submitted a question but left an invalid email - here's the response:

Question: On page 5, option 2 where it says "sew a line of book scraps to each of the 4 top of the books background strips, I don't understand the illustration. The top of the bookcase should not have a line of books all on the same level.

Actually, yes at this point you are sewing to a background strip with the same width (easier than sewing every book to a different sized background). When you cut the books apart and start placing them on your shelf (see "Assembling Shelves of Books") this is where you will stagger them (and trim excess from the tops and bottoms).

I have received two form submissions from a Sandra Abuthnot - but the email given is incorrect.

Question: I am stumped at the "do it alone" area where it says to sew a line of book scraps (narrow end) to each of the fpur "top of books" background strips. Will my strips all have unsewn sides? or do I sew them together at some point? The picture on page 7/13 shows a bunch of scraps horizontally. 

The answer is to scroll to the next step, where it says to cut apart the strip of books. You will cut apart the background fabric by following the edge of the "books" into the background fabric - from there you will have your book/top of books units.They will have unsewn sides until you sew them to each other to make a row of books.

Fabric At Work Bookcase Quilt Instructions

This page has been created so we could share the (scrap paper) instructions I (Victoria) developed for a guild workshop on making a bookcase quilt. They are designed more as creative starting points for individual expression of "your" bookcase than as a blueprint for an exact copy of what anyone else has made. Let the "fabric do the work" (i.e. book, wood, knick-knacks) and enjoy yourself.

Please feel free to use these instructions and share with others - just play nicely and credit 

If you do make a quilt please send a picture to me and I will create a gallery.

The original large bookcase quilt was made as a family Thanksgiving holiday project for a sister-in-law who is a librarian.

The smaller quilt was made from leftovers from the first project, and that is what the guild requested as a workshop.

The "Knick-Knack" objects on the shelves are appliqués cut from novelty fabrics, that matched family interests or collections.

The Springer Spaniel is an actual photo (on glossy paper, from the photo processing store - remember those?) of a family pet that was placed in a 3-dimensional fabric frame (instructions included below).

The yardages in the instructions are for a smaller quilt (the guild workshop was only for a half day) - but could be doubled, tripled or more depending upon the size you need.

As you can see, you can also change the color, size, shape, or style of the bookcase to match decor.

Have fun.
Fabric At Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern
Fabric At Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Bookcase Quilt Workshop for a ~36” x 40” Wallhanging


Use accurate ¼” seams throughout. Press, don't iron. Starching fabric is recommended.




• Book-like fabrics (see explanation)    
     Option 1 - Group   16 “book” fabrics per person ~9” x 10.5” of each
     Option 2 - Individual 60-70 “book” fabrics Scraps ranging from 8”-10” by 1.5”-3.5”
• Shelves Wood/shelf pattern Half yard (one yard if directional pattern)
• Knick-Knacks Life-size appliqués Optional, as desired
• Bookends Marble, glass etc. Optional ~ 8” x 7” per set
• Picture Frame Wood, metal etc. Optional ~ 9” x 11”
• Background Mottled dark One and a quarter yards


Other Supplies

• Fusible web (if fusing appliqués)

• Sewing machine, black or dark grey thread and bobbins

• Rotary cutter, 6” x 24” or similar ruler, 10.5” or larger square ruler, and mat

• Scissors, pins, seam ripper etc.

• Disappearing ink pen, masking tape or painters tape

• Iron, ironing board/surface and press cloth


Fabric Preparation

Starching (overnight soak is best) is recommended to make the multiple strips easier to handle. Since you are sharing - if you have any doubts about bleeding - pre-wash. Don't run the risk of ruining everyone else's quilts.


Book-like Fabrics

This quilt requires about one yard total of about 60-70 different “book” fabrics (too many repeats make a boring shelf of books). These should be in rich, muted colors, tone-on-tone or very low contrast, with small, dense prints – i.e. fabrics that look like book jackets. Solids, high contrast patterns and novelties don’t seem to work well.


Option 1 – Group – “Trading and Sharing”

This is the most effective way to make this quilt, each person makes multiple books and trades with others.

Each person will need 16 different “book-like” fabric pieces measuring approximately 9” x 10.5” – no need to cut to exact size – you can use leftovers or cut pieces off your yardage (this ~9” x 10.5” chunk is also a quarter of a fat quarter or a quarter of a quarter yard – see diagrams).


Fat Quarter

Fabric at work Bookcase Quilt

Quarter Yard

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt

Note: this is a good time to raid your stash – if you buy what is in season you are more likely to duplicate someone else.

Option 2 – Individual – Go it Alone”

There may be a need for you to “go it alone” – for example a specific color group or theme is needed for your quilt (like a child’s quilt in favorite colors). In this case you will need about 60 - 70 different fabrics cut 8”-10” by 1.5”-3.5” (see diagram). For the “average” bookcase, the majority of the books will be about 1.5” wide (finished) so make sure at least half your scraps are 2” wide. Scraps, Jelly Rolls, Honey Buns, Skinny Strips etc. can all be used here.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt

Background Fabric

For the group option the group (or group coordinator/instructor) needs to decide on the background so that everyone matches. There needs to be ~1.25 yards per quilt/person. This should be a dark mottled fabric with no obvious pattern or directional print.


Bookcase/Shelf Fabric

Everyone will need to have at least a half yard of bookcase/shelves fabric. This can be wood grain (fine or coarse) or simply brown mottled. Your shelves need not be wood, but make sure they will stand out from a dark background and not compete with the books. Pick any color that complements your décor (oak, cherry, silver etc.). If you have an obvious directional print, purchase at least one yard so that your sides and top/base/shelves all flow in the same direction.



These are optional – you can use as few or as many as you prefer. The appliqués will be applied by your favorite method (fused, needle-turned etc.) and can be any item(s) you (or the quilt recipient) would like. Since the bookcase is “life size” choose a fabric with close to life-size objects. I will have some knick-knack fabrics available at the workshop.


Picture Frame and Bookends

Again, these are optional, there are some nice "stone" fabrics out there and can be selected to meet tastes.



Cut the background fabric from selvedge to selvedge:


of strips      Width          Name/Use

     2           3.5” wide     "Top of Books" strip

     2           4.5” wide     "Top of Books" strip

     1           5” wide        “Slice and Dice” strip

     1           6” wide         Background for books on their sides and knick-knack blocks


Keep the remaining ~ 9” for extra books, spaces between blocks, appliqués and “oops.”

Book/Background Sets


Option 1 – Traders and Sharers

Sew 4 “book-like" fabric pieces with the longer (~10.5” side) to each of the four “Top of Books” background strips.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Option 2 – Go it Alone

Sew a line of “book scraps” (narrow end) to each of the four “Top of Books” background strips.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Press the seams toward the background fabric.


Creating Book Units

Block Units
From the Book/Background strip sets, you will be making ~ 60-70 Book/Background units like these:

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern
In an average bookcase, the majority of the books will be about 1.5” wide (finished) so most (over half) of your cuts will be 2”. For variety you will cut the rest of the books ranging in width from 1.25” to 3.5”. 


Option 1 – Traders and Sharers

Cut the sixteen ~10.5” wide book/background pieces into individual books as follows:

2@   3.5” / 2.75” / 2” / 2”

2@   3.5” / 2.5” / 2.25” / 2”

2@   3.25” / 2.5” / 1.5” / 1.5” / 1.5”

2@   3” / 2” / 2” / 2” / 1.25”

2@   2.75” / 2.25” / 2” / 2” / 1.25”

2@   2.5” / 2.25” / 2” / 2” / 1.5”

2@   2.25” / 2.25” / 2” / 2” / 1.75”

2@   2.5” / 2.25” / 2.25” / 1.75” / 1.5”


Use the book/background seam as a guide and make your cuts perpendicular to that seam. For all the pieces the last “book” may be a little wider or narrower - make the last cut to maximize the fabric (if the “book” will be cut less than 1” wide, just discard).

Within the workshop group, stack book/background units into piles and place on the Trade and Share table. Keep one of each of your book/background units (~16 books). Select another 50 - 60 book units from other piles (you can duplicate a few book fabrics if you have some favorites).


Option 2 – Go it Alone

Trim each book/background piece to a unit between 1.25” and 3.5” wide. Use the edges of the scrap "books" to cut apart the background fabric. Aim for the majority of books being cut at 2”.


Your “Library”

You will now have ~60 - 70 book/background units each between ~1.5” - 3.5” wide and ~11” - 14” long – these will form your quilt.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt

Making Book Groupings


For all book groupings – although you want variety – when you place books next to each other keep the colors balanced and somewhat complementary.

Books on Their Sides

Cut the 6” background strip into three ~13” long strips (set aside one strip for the Picture Frame block below). Choose 3 - 5 book/background units and arrange them with the “tallest” book on the bottom – you can have them stack to the left or right. Your stack should measure at least 5” high – if shorter add another book. Sew the book stack and a background strip together. Trim off the ends of the group to even up the edges. Repeat, stacking the books in the opposite direction. You now have your first two grouped book blocks.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Tilted Books

Cut a 12” length from the 5” “Slice and Dice” background strip. Cut this 12” x 5” piece from corner to corner from upper left to bottom right.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Select two books of complementary colors. Keeping the book/background units intact – trim the background on the top of each unit to 3.25”. Trim one book to 8.5” x 1.5”. Trim the other book to 9” x 2”.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt
Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt

From the 5” “Slice and Dice” background strip cut one 2” x 2” piece and one 2” x 1.5” piece. Sew these pieces to the bottom of the books. Press toward the background and trim.

Place the fatter, taller book toward the left half of the block. 

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Place the thinner, shorter book on the right half of the block.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

For both halves – the book units and the hypotenuse (long side) of each of the triangles (handle carefully as this is a bias edge) are approximately the same length – center the book units on the center of the hypotenuse and sew together. Press seams toward the background triangle.


Take the two halves, offset the bottom of the books with the right, thinner book lower by ½” and sew the two halves together.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Press the seam open.

Fabric  at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Trim the sides and bottom of the block so that the block is a rectangle (~ 6.5” by 10.5”) and the four corners (marked with circles) are ¼” from the edges of the block (a square ruler really helps here). Trim the top of the block so the edges are even.


Optional Items


On the top of the stack of books, appliqué any knick-knacks you desire. You can also add a strip of background fabric between books to give you more places for your knick-knacks. Again, make choices to match your taste (and/or real bookcases) and have fun.


Picture Frame

Place two pieces of 4.5” x 5.5” frame fabric right sides together. With a disappearing ink pen draw a line 1” from each edge. Use a quarter or bottle cap to round the inside corners. Using a smaller stitch length, sew around the oblong shape that you have drawn. (A smaller stitch will make turning the corners easier.)

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern
Cut out the center, trim to 0.125” (very close) to the sewn line. Clip into the rounded corners to just before the seam line. Turn right sides out by passing one side through the center to the back and press. 

Using a very scant ¼” seam, sew frame along the outside edges to the wrong side of a scrap 4.5” x 5.5” of book or background fabric (this will be what is seen if you don’t have a picture in the frame). 

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Clip the points off the corners. Turn picture frame right side out (by passing through the center of the frame) and press.  Pin the frame – do not sew – to the 6” x 13” background strip (reserved from the “Books on Their Sides” blocks). You will appliqué the picture frame to your quilt top *after* you have quilted your quilt (otherwise, you can’t put a picture into the frame).

Note: The frame is three-dimensional and you can insert any photo or artwork into the frame, changing them out as desired. You can also use any novelty fabric you like in place of the book or background fabric – anything that would make a good framed picture, including pictures printed onto photo fabric.



From the 5” “Slice and Dice” background strip, cut two 2.5” squares and two 5” x 4” rectangles. From a piece of bookend-like fabric (marble, glass etc.), cut two pieces 4” x 7”. Place the 2.5" background square – right sides together – on a corner of the bookend piece. Sew the background square corner-to-corner. Repeat with the second bookend piece, but place the background square on the opposite corner. Trim the seam to  ¼” and press toward the background.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Sew the tops of these units to your 5” x 4”  background rectangles, press to the background and trim. You now have a set of bookend units.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Assembling Shelves of Books

Measure the height of your shortest assembled book groupings unit (this will be probably be the “Tilted Books”) – this will be your maximum shelf/block height (usually ~10.5”). Place two strips of masking tape on your cutting mat ~10.5” apart (use the actual height of the shortest block). Lay book units on your mat so that they are staggered between the two strips of tape.

Although you want variety, when you place book units next to each other keep the colors balanced and somewhat complementary. Aim for a smooth slope from book to book, you are wanting “rolling waves” rather than “zipper teeth.”

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Continue laying out book units and “Books on Their Sides,”  “Tilted Books,” picture frames or bookends to create a “shelf” that is ~40” long. Use the sample photograph on the pattern cover as a rough guide, but have fun arranging your books your way.

Fabric at Work Bookcase Quilt Pattern

Flip and pin pairs of book units or book units and book groups to keep your alignment and sew all the book units in the row together. Trim the tops and bottom of your row of books and objects, so they are even (dotted lines). Repeat to make 3 shelves. When sewn, the shelves should be equal in length. 

You can adjust the width of your rows by adding or subtracting books or adding a background strip (books can also be trimmed a little narrower if necessary).

For this workshop finished rows will measure ~30” - 32” in length – and can be adjusted to meet your desired size. However, make sure when finished that all your shelf rows are all the same length. 


Adding the Bookcase Shelves

Cut your shelf fabric from selvedge to selvedge:

of strips      Width          Use

     2           1.5” wide     Bookcase shelves

     2           2.5” wide     Bookcase sides

     1           3.5” wide     Bookcase base

     1           4.5” wide     Bookcase top


Note: These directions are for non-directional fabric. If you have directional fabric, you will have to cut your fabric both selvedge to selvedge and parallel to the selvedge. Wait until your rows of books are together – this will let you know exactly how long each shelf needs to be and the height of the shelves. In most cases (if you have a yard or less of shelf fabric), you will want to cut the parallel-to-selvedge strips first (as this will be the shorter length).

Sew a 1.5” wide shelf strip to the bottom of the top row of books and the bottom of the middle row of books, trim even with the ends of the row of books. Sew the top, middle and bottom book rows together to form the center of the bookcase. In this workshop your center will be approximately 30” - 32” wide and 28”- 32” tall.

Sew the 2.5” shelf strips to the sides of the rows of books, trim even with the bottom and top of your center. Sew the 3.5” shelf strip to the bottom of the rows and the 4.5” shelf strip to the top of the rows. Your bookcase quilt top is complete.


Finishing the Bookcase Quilt

Quilt as desired. When quilted, sew the picture frame to your quilt by using a machine or hand blanket stitch or a straight stitch on the outside edge of the frame.

Congratulations! Display and enjoy. Now that you know how to make a bookcase quilt, make another for a book-loving friend, teacher, school or library.

Other Bookcase Options


If you want to make a bigger quilt simply estimate the number of books by sizing up (guess-timating) from the small quilt and widening and/or adding shelves. You will need more book fabrics, background and bookcase shelf fabric in approximately the same proportions.

Creative Ideas

For a children’s bookcase quilt you may want to make taller, thinner books (story books) in brighter colors. The background and bookcase shelves could also be lighter and brighter. Office or reference books (like law books and encyclopedias) are usually wider and darker with horizontal stripes and metallics.


You can also trade book-like fabrics within a group over a year – pick a theme (boys or girls, color group, holiday etc.) and have fun swapping and sharing the “books” you make.