Fabric adds color to your bookshelf.

How to Put Fabric on Bookshelves

by Rochelle Leggett

Bookshelves, despite the name, are so versatile and so useful for storage or decoration that they are a common item in homes, and many bookshelves are the kind that you can put together yourself. While this is certainly convenient, you may desire something unique and more suited to your particular home and tastes. While there are many ways to do this, a common and colorful solution to the boring bookcase is to add something to the back, such as fabric, which will be visible past whatever items you put on the shelves.

Remove all items, shelves and pegs from the bookshelf. If possible, lay the bookshelf down on its back to make the project easier.

Clean the inside of the bookshelf if needed.

Cover the sides on the inside as well as the top and bottom with newspaper. This will protect it from the spray glue.

Measure the inside dimensions of the back of the bookshelf. Cut a piece of fabric to slightly larger than these dimensions.

Iron the fabric. While not essential, using some spray starch as you iron will help keep the fabric stable while you work with it.

Hem or baste the sides of the fabric to conceal the raw edges. If you can't or don't sew well, fold the edges under and iron them into place; spray starch will help you make a stronger crease. The hemmed fabric should be exactly the same size as the inside of your bookcase.

Spray the back of the bookcase with a spray adhesive; cover the entire area evenly. Remove the newspaper. Wait for about 30 seconds, or follow the instructions on the spray adhesive packaging.

Place the fabric piece inside the bookcase and smooth into place.

Put the shelves, pegs and other items back into place.

Items you will need

  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Spray starch
  • Needle and thread, or sewing machine
  • Spray adhesive


  • If your fabric is very heavy and the glue does not hold it to your satisfaction, use staples or upholstery tacks around the perimeter of the back of the bookcase in addition to the glue. You can conceal tacks with some hot glue and trim.
  • You can use a similar technique to attach fabric to the sides inside of the bookcase. Applying fabric to the shelves is not recommended, because it may not show very well if you have many items on the shelves, and it will be difficult to clean.

Photo Credits

  • Gary Houlder/Lifesize/Getty Images