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,


  1. Love it, it turned out fabulous! So...what's with the blue book with the stripey side panels? Did you make a practice one first that you're not showing us? I wanna see.

    I agree, the side panels were the hardest. I too did mine alone. There was a lot of cussing and a blister or two from a couple hot glue incidents that happened along the way, but I eventually got them done. Plus I didn't measure mine right so mine are folded down at the top. Made me realize that even if you bungle things a bit it can still be fabulous!

  2. LOL! I didn't take pictures of the side panels - mostly because I was too busy gluing my fingers to the book cover - so I "borrowed" those pics from the Country Living tutorial. ;)

    And yes, there were definite "bungles" along the way (and a fair amount of cursing), but overall, It was a really fun project. And I have a *absolutely fabulous* little bag.

    Next time I come visit, we have to take our book purses on an outing somewhere terribly nerdy. ;)

  3. Awesome. Especially in the age of Kindle.

  4. Use to pages to make a lovely book page wreath. I've made 2 from one old book that fell apart. They are SUPER EASY & make a BIG impact for very little $. When I get a camera/phone that lets me load to internet, I will send you a picture of mine. But there are many on pinterest & other sites