17 February 2012

Feelin' Crafty

Behold: My creation! *lighting crashes* Mwahahahahahaha!

I'd seen these cute little purses made from books at Etsy and other places and, being a huge book nerd, of course, I lusted for one of my own.

But they seemed so expensive, when I knew they could be made for so much less money. And yet, I was too intimidated to try to make one myself. (My crafting projects too often end in tears and feelings of inadequacy.)

But, after a friend of mine made this gorgeous bag for herself ...

  ... I got the guts to try to make my own.
I took bits and pieces from several tutorials I found online and Frankenstein'd my own method of doing it.

Mostly, this involved me thinking, "Now, how how can I do that without any sewing?" Cuz, you know, laziness is the mother of invention. Or something like that.

As I'm generally pleased with my results, I thought I'd share the method to my madness.


Frankly, I was too focused on figuring out how to make it work to really document my steps very well, though I did, obviously, snap a few pics along the way. So, as far as step-by-step tutorials go, this is a little weak. Think of it as more of an inspirational report than a how-to manual. ;)

  • A hard-cover book
    Just this once, you should judge a book by its cover: I find older books and children's books have some of the best covers. But, for this, I chose one of Barnes & Noble's Leatherbound Classic Series. Specifically, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. My friend used Grimm's Fairy Tales from the same series. It was actually really hard to choose just one book - they had so many of my favorites with such gorgeous covers! I wanted to buy them all. But, then, I get that feeling in bookstores all the time. The final deciding factor for me was size: The Anne Rice anthology was more than twice as wide as most of the others, meaning a bigger purse.
  • Coordinating fabric
    How much depends on the size of your book. I bought four fabric quarters - two each of a Gothic-looking black/purple tie-dye and a bright arterial red to complement my blood-sucking fiends theme - and that was more than enough - even with a few mistakes and re-cuts. (Most of the bags I've seen use only one fabric. But I wanted different colors for the sides and lining.)
  • Purse handles
    I went with pre-made. My friend made her own out of wire and beads. It doesn't really matter, as long as they coordinate with your book/bag.
  • Glue
    I mostly used fabric glue - the kind you can buy at any craft store for hemming and the like. But you could use hot glue or other kinds of crafting glue.
  • Cardboard
    Sturdy, but not too thick. Enough to cover the front, back and spine of your book. 
  • Plastic report cover
  • A utility knife, scissors, 2-3 blank pieces of paper, a pencil and maybe a ruler.
All of these supplies cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $35-40 - including the $20 book.

You'll note that this list does NOT include a sewing machine or a needle and thread. Again, this is sheer sewing-aversion on my part. My bag is sew-free. Yours doesn't have to be. Just substitute "neatly sew a lovely hem" for "glue the shit out of it" and you're good to go. ;)

Or, if you're the sewing type, you should check out this great how-to article at Hungry Panda. I loved the concept of her design, but the thought of all that sewing made me start to hyperventilate.

CHAPTER 1: Remove the cover

Yes, this is absolutely the most painful step - you have to cut the pages from the book. I know! I might have wept a little. I recommend doing it quickly - like ripping off a band-aid.

Use your utility knife to cut through the end paper and stitches holding the cover to the pages. But, carefully, so as not to cut any pages or the spine binding itself. Because we are going to recover that book when we're done, are we not?

Now that your book is naked, take it's measurements: Use blank paper to trace the front and back covers and spine. Then stand the book on it's edge, open it to the width you want your bag to open to, and trace that triangle outline all the way around the book, including a straight line along the front opening.

CHAPTER 2: The Guts: Preparation 

From this article at Wiki-How, I borrowed the idea of using fabric-covered cardboard inserts for the bottom and sides of the bag, to help reinforce the the book/bag and make installation easier:

Cut out two pieces of thin cardboard that are just a little smaller than the front and back covers of your book and one that is just a bit smaller than the spine.

The finished pieces should fit all together inside your book, while it is closed, without going over any of the edges. Check this sizing and then double-check it. And then check it again. THEN, use fabric glue to cover the cardboard with your fabric. 

(As you can see, my craftier-than-I-am friend added some awesome pockets to the lining of her bag. I do love pockets, but they didn't fit into my no-sew agenda, so they got left on the drawing board for this bag. If there's ever a sequel to this project, I'll probably try to add pockets.)

CHAPTER 3: Handles

I went with a single loop handle and attached them to the middle of the bag with one strap for each. You can see on my friend's bag that she went with the half-loop handles that attach to the bag in two places, requiring a total of four straps. There are pros and cons to each, but really it's your preference.

To attach the handles, I cut two long strips of the red fabric I used for the "guts" of the bag and "hemmed" the long edges with fabric glue. (Don't worry about the short edges.)

I just looped the fabric through the handles and glued the bottom part of the fabric securely to each side of the inside of the book cover - making sure that the handles were even with each other vertically and horizontally.

I think this method of using one strap per handle is a little easier than trying to make sure that FOUR handle straps are all even and equidistant. But, again: I'm a lazy crafter. The potential drawback to this method is that the strap sits right in the middle of the purse, so it could get in the way of the ...

CHAPTER 4: Clasp/Closure

A lot of the tutorials I saw used ribbon and a button - one mounted on each side of the bag in the center, to hold the book/purse closed. I liked the concept, but, as I said, my "middle" was kinda taken up by my strap. So, I just moved my button over to one side. I used a satin-covered black button and thin black leather twine that I had on hand, rather than a ribbon.

I threaded the leather through the button, leaving a long tail and secured that to the inside of the book with glue and electrical tape (No, it's not pretty, but it's strong and no one will ever see it.) with the button just poking out over the top of the book. On the opposite cover, I secured a loop of the black leather the same way - again, with just enough poking over the top of the book to be able to hook around the button and hold the bag closed.

One word of advice that I was thankful that my friend shared with me: Check the distance on this closure carefully and use something that has a little "give" for the strap. You want the book to stay closed, but not so tightly that it cuts off your storage space inside. I considered elastic, but I didn't have any on hand to try out. Plus, I liked the black leather. Hey, who doesn't? ;)

CHAPTER 5: Side Panels

I'm not gonna lie to you, Marge: This was the hard part. If you have access to another pair of hands, this is the time to call in reinforcements.

I found several slightly different, but all good, methods for doing this online. If it weren't for my severe allergy to sewing, I probably would have used this one at Curbly. But, I did this instead: 

Take that triangle tracing from waaaay up there in Chapter 1 and add about an inch to the sides and a couple of inches to the top. This is the template for cutting out the side panels for your bag.

Double over your fabric and cut a triangle from your template. Glue/hem the two sides of the doubled-over fabric together. Repeat, so that you have two equal-sized side panels.

I stole this idea from Jen Yates at EPBOT: Cut a medium weight plastic (like the kind you'd use for a report cover) into two horizontal strips about 1 inch tall and about an inch shy of the length of the top of your triangles.

Hem (glue) that plastic strip into the top of the fabric and crease it in the middle, so that the point of the crease points to the inside of the bag. This helps the side panels to fold inward, as opposed to outward, when the bag closes.

Glue the bottom point of the triangle to the inside of the spine of the book on one side - carefully checking the height before gluing to make sure the panels reach, but do not go past, the top of the book cover. Ditto on the other side.

Yes, I wish I had taken pictures of this part. But I didn't. Fortunately, Country Living did, for their very excellent tutorial on the subject.

Now take the spine-sized piece of cardboard that you covered in fabric earlier and glue it down on top of the edges of the triangles that you just glued down.(You can wait until step 6 to do this, but I thought doing it now was easier and less messy.)

Glue the long edges of the fabric up along the inside of the book covers.

That is so much harder than it sounds. Seriously, that one sentence does not accurately convey the contortions and cursing required to hold the book open at just the right angle with one hand while simultaneously holding the fabric in place with another hand while gluing the fabric down with another hand. Yes, that's at least three hands - that's my point!

So, learn from my mistakes: Either get another hand or two to help you hold the book in place or put together some kind of contraption to prop the book open at the right angle while you are gluing the sides.

CHAPTER 6: Guts: Installation

Once you've got the side panels glued in place and have let them dry - I took my time and let each side dry a bit before moving on to the next - then it's all down hill from here:

Just take the cardboard "guts" that you covered in fabric earlier and glue them in place to the insides of your bag. I used some paper clamps to hold the insides to the cover while the glue dried, which really doesn't take long.

Voila! You now have a lovely book-bag perfect for every nerdy occasion!

But, wait! There's still one last thing to do:

CHAPTER  7: Re-cover your book!

Unless the pages of the book you used were un-salvageable, you'll want to re-cover them to save the book for actual reading! Don't worry: It's not hard.

I re-covered the pages of my book with cardboard and some light denim fabric I had lying around. It's certainly not as pretty as the original cover. But the pages are protected and readable. :)


I know I don't usually do this crafty-mom thing on my blog (or in real life!).

But, I'm so pleased that I was able to make this successfully, that I want to share. Who knows, maybe there's some other book-loving-but-sewing-challenged person out there feeling, as I was, a little intimidated by this particular project.

So, if you want your very own "book bag" - don't be afraid to try it. And absolutely DO post a link to a pic here if you make one of your own!

No, my bag is not "perfect" - but it's mine. I made it. And I had fun making it. And that'd be enough right there to make me love it.

Bonus: It's a gorgeous book cover and I think I did a half-way decent job of transforming into a fun and useful bag. I even took it on it's first outing the other night - to my son's school's "Literacy Night". It seemed a fitting debut. I can't wait to wear it to even more geeky places.

The End,

14 February 2012

As You Wish

Happy VD! ;p

Yeah, I know, I've pretty much made it clear in the past that I'm not a big fan of V-Day.

As far as February holidays go, I much prefer those that involve prognosticating rodents, as opposed to a made-up (I know, technically, they are all made-up, but you know what I mean.), commercialized, over-sentimentalized holiday designed to squish the most complicated of all emotions into a 24-hour window of "displays of affection".

Still ... I'm not entirely unsentimental.

In fact, this year, I'm offering a glimpse of my soft white underbelly by admitting that I am kind of a sucker for romantic movies, well, some of them, anyway. I know! It's so ... so ... girly! But, I can't help it. I just have a soft spot for them. Many of them live happily in my DVD cabinet next to my action flicks, sci-fi collections and kung-fu movies. There are even a few classic musicals dancing around in there. It's an eclectic neighborhood of a cupboard, to be sure, but they all get along.

So, in honor of Valentine's Day, here are 21 of my favorite romantic movies, in no particular order:

1. The Princess Bride One of my all-time favorite movies of any sort and smashing good tale of "Wuv. Twue Wuv."

2. An Affair to Remember
This is a remake of the classic Love Affair from 1939, and it's a story that's been re-told on the big screen several times, but this Carey Grant and Deborah Kerr version will always be my favorite. I still tear up at the end. Every. Time.

3. Bull Durham
"Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days."  ... Nuff said.

4. Casablanca
Really? If I even need to explain this one, you should just stop reading now. 

5. Wall-E
I don't care if he is a trash-bot - don't even try to tell me that the montage of him trying to wake and woo the dormant EVE is not some of the most sweetest footage ever, animated or otherwise. Speaking of ... 

6. Up
If you know anyone who doesn't get at least a little choked up by the end of the first 10 minutes of this film, check their pulse.

7. Notorious
More Carey Grant - gawd, I love that man - this time paired with Ingrid Bergman in a war-time spy thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Okay, I know Nazi Germany doesn't sound romantic, but, if you haven't seen it, you're gonna hafta just trust me on this one. There's this one kiss - omg, I melt.

8. Breakfast at Tiffany's 
Bittersweet and charming, this one is Audrey Hepburn in one of her best roles.

9. Sabrina (1954)
Audrey Hepburn again, in a lighter role this time and paired with Bogart in a classic romance with some very cute moments.

10. Charade
We've already established my love for Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant, so how can I NOT love them together? Especially when they're hip-deep in espionage

11. Brigadoon
Gene Kelly sings and dances his way around the Highlands of Scotland with Cyd Charisse while sarcastic Van Johnson cracks wise - that would be enough to make me love it right there. But, there's a sweet and sappy romance at the heart of this fanciful musical that just appeals to the fairy-tale loving little girl in me.

12. Dirty Dancing "Nobody puts Baby in a corner." I was about 13 when it first came out , so it will always be a formative romance for me and it still makes me *sigh* a little, and remember what it feels like to fall in love for the first time.

13. Pretty in Pink
Again - a formative one for me, as were almost all of John Hughes' films. His movies felt very "real" to a lot of teenagers at a time in life when it's hard to find anything to connect to at all. For the nostalgia factor alone, this would continue to be a favorite.

14. When Harry Met Sally
The anti love-at-first-sight romance. Sweet, funny, quirky - everything love (and a love story) should be.

15. French Kiss
Another quirky love-in-strange places theme with the adorable, everybody-loves-her Meg Ryan. But it's Kevin Kline who really makes this movie for me.

16. Armageddon
The innocent joy of sweet, romantic love and the heart-wrenching sacrifice of omg-it-still-makes-me-cry parental love, both reflected in the unbelievably sweet face of Liv Tyler. Bonus: Steve Buscemi trying to ride a nuke.

17. While You Were Sleeping
I love Sandra Bullock, and she and Bill Pullman are so quirky and cute in this. I can watch this one over and over.

18. The Proposal
One of the few more recent romances to make more than a blip on my radar. Probably more for the fact that I adore both Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock than because of anything genius in the movie itself. But it has some really sweet and funny moments that give it re-watch-ability for me.

19. Shakespeare in Love
I like to think the Bard himself would have liked this tale casting himself as a star-crossed lover.  

20. Say Anything
How can you not love that moment? Gawd, I haven't seen this one in ages. I might have to go watch it now.

21. Terminator
Shut up. It is TOO a romance.

I'm sure I've left out other great movies, trying to keep the list manageable. And, as you can see, my tastes tend to run to mostly older movies. What romantic movies would YOU add the list? Do you have favorite "classics"? Are there other modern romances you think I should give a try?

Gentlemen: These questions are not just for the ladies of the club; don't be afraid to chime in on this, too! My movies tastes generally run to "guy flicks" anyway. Share!