Sunday, June 3, 2012

How to Make a Book Purse

I know many of you gasp when you hear that people are actually taking books, gutting them, and re-purposing them into handbags, bookshelves, and other assorted uses.  The thought of defacing a book is horrific.  But, what's more horrific in my opinion is discards like old, non-circulating books, are getting thrown in landfills all over our planet.  Why not put them to use in other ways? 
If you would like to make your own unique and beautiful book purse, here are directions that have worked for me.   

Gather together:

1 book
one large shank button
1/2 yard canvas fabric or medium weight cotton print (often called duck fabric)
purse handles or cotton webbing (see Mother/Daughter Book Purse Pair photo at the bottom of this post )
1/2 inch wide fabric ribbon
empty cereal box about the depth of the book's spine (for smaller books, breakfast bar boxes work well)
elastic string
 hot glue gun
 rotary cutter
 straight cutting blade
 cutting mat
measuring tool
iron and ironing board

Start with a discarded book.  Select one that has the desired color and size of the purse you want.

Using your straight edge cutting tool, carefully cut the end page where it connects the book pages with the front cover.  Be careful you only cut the end page paper and not the spine.  Repeat the process with the back cover. 

Remove the book pages from the cover.  Set aside.  (Save the book's pages for other projects.  See decoupaged suitcase.)

Break the seals of the cereal box along its glued sides.  Lay the cardboard flat.  The depth of this particular box was exactly the right size for this book purse.  If the cereal box, or other similar box is too thick, you can simply create a new fold in order to make it fit inside your book.

Trim the cardboard just shy of the exact size of the book cover.  Make sure the spine of the book and the spine of the cardboard are a good fit.  

 Iron out any wrinkles you might have in your canvas or medium weight fabric.  About half of the fabric will be used to cover your cardboard insert; the other half will be used to create the fabric sides.

  Cut a piece of fabric that is one inch larger on each side of your cardboard insert's sides.  

Place your fabric face-side down.  Now place your cardboard insert on top making sure it is centered.  Begin folding the one-inch allowance over the cardboard and iron to get a crisp edge.  

 Run one bead of hot glue along one side of the cardboard insert and glue the fabric allowance in place.   Stop about an inch from the corner end to give yourself room to manipulate the fabric on the corners.  In order to get a good clean corner, I suggest you miter them.  Fold the excess fabric at the point of the corner and glue in place.  Now glue the each of the sides.  The two sides should meet neatly in the center of the mitered corner.

To create the sides of your purse, you'll create two trapezoid-shaped "wings".  First you'll need to find the measurements for your unique book cover.  Measure the width of the spine of the book.  Add 2 inches to your measure.  Example: the spine measures 2 inches, add 2 inches and this will be the measure of the small top side of your trapezoid.  Add an additional 3 inches to this measure. This will become the measure of the longer base of your trapeziodal wing.  Measure the top of the front cover (width) of your selected book.  Add 1 inch. This will be the height of your trapezoidal wing.  (See diagrams below.)

 Fold your remaining fabric in half.  Using the folded edge as the long base of your trapezoidal wing, measure and draw out your wings.  Cut them out.  

Now that you've created your "wings" you're ready to glue them in place.  Start with the smaller base of your trapezoidal wing.  Glue the 1 inch allowance to the spine of your cardboard insert.  

Now run a bead of hot glue along the back-left side of the cardboard/canvas insert.  Fold over the trapezoidal wing seam allowance to the back face of the cardboard/canvas insert and glue in place.

If the top of your "wing" sticks out and doesn't align with the top edge of your cover, don't sweat it.  Just neatly fold the excess over to the inside and glue in place.  

Repeat the process to the back-right side.

(Cardboard/canvas insert with side trapezoidal wings.) 

Repeat the process to the front face of the cardboard/canvas insert.

You should see the structure of the cardboard/canvas insert really taking shape now!

Put a several beads of hot glue in the spine of the book cover.  Place your completed cardboard/canvas insert in place making sure edges and folds are aligned.

With both the font and back covers splayed open, prepare to attach purse handles.  Cut four 6-inch lengths of ribbon.  Thread ribbon length through the metal rings and fold ribbon in half loop.  

Glue the ribbon loops to the inside of both covers making sure they are centered.   

Now fold some elastic string in a half loop.  Knot.  Glue in place.

Thread some elastic string through the shank of your button.  Knot.  Glue in place.
As another option for a closure, you can use loops of ribbon.  Sew the button to a short loop, and simply leave enough of a longer loop to slip over the button.

Now apply a liberal amount of hot glue all over the inside front of your purse cover.  Attach it to the cardboard/canvas insert.  Repeat the process with the back cover.
Simple Book Purse
Trim off any stray strings, both fabric and hot glue.  

Now just enjoy your unique handbag.  

Unique Book Purse with Monogram Tag
This smaller book purse with printed fabric is the perfect size for my Kindle!

Book Purse with Fabric Flower and Vintage Button 
Chic and Simple Book Purse
Small Child's Book Purse with Fabric Flower and Cotton Webbing Straps
Book Purse
Mother Daughter Book Purse Pair

 All photographs taken by Paulette Rodriguez


  1. Great step-by-step directions! Can't wait to make my own this summer!

  2. Susie KralovanskyJune 3, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    I love this!!!! I would like one please.

  3. Great directions! Very easy to follow. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi,
    There are heaps of instructions online - this is the only set I have understood, so I won't look any further. Thank you very much.

    1. Bryn, thanks for your kind comment. I wish you success!

  5. Did you use canvas and fabric? I was confused where the inside of the purse was in canvas but then I saw patterned fabric? Help please. thanks.

    1. Sorry about the confusion. I used a solid canvas on one purse and the brown floral print cotton ducking fabric on a second purse. I wanted to show a picture of closure options - the solid canvas with the elastic string, the floral with the ribbon and loop. Hope this clears things up for you. I appreciate your question.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Awwww, youre unbelivably talented!!!!


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