Thursday, July 5, 2012

Vintage Samsonite Goes to the Dogs

I went junking on Thursday, the 4th of July.  Apparently even thrift stores have big sale days.  At my first stop I found this large square Samsonite suitcase.  It was half price.  I bought it.  As I continued my rounds I kept thinking about the case, knowing I'd better have a plan for it lest my husband see me bring home yet another vintage case.  Not to worry.  I had this one figured out.  I'd seen images of pet beds made from vintage cases, and knew this case with its larger uniquely squarish size would lend itself beautifully to such a project.  All I needed now was some type of base on which to set the case or a set of furniture legs.

Unfortunately in all my junking stops I didn't find a base that I could use for my project.  In the past I've attached my cases to a chair or footstool base, but on this occasion I came up empty handed. So after returning home and dropping my finds off, I headed to the big box home improvement store to purchase some hardware and some furniture legs.  The pre-made furniture feet were awesome, and there were many designs from which to choose, but they were costly.  I decided to try some furniture casters instead.  I purchased two locking casters and two regular non-locking.  A few bags of nuts and bolts, and a bag of washers and I was heading home ready to begin my project.  

I headed to the tool bench and grabbed the electric drill, a measuring tape, a wrench, two screw drivers (regular and phillips), a hammer, and a pencil.

First I had to separate the two halves of the suitcase.  Much harder than you might think.  Samsonite cases are very well constructed.  Remember the old commercial from the late 70s early 80s featuring the gorilla who basically beats the hell out of a suitcase? Ok, well that was American Tourister, but the idea's the same here.  They are very difficult to break apart.  Basically I had to hammer and pry with a flat-head screw driver repeatedly to get the machine rivets out and remove the hinges.  I would not suggest using this technique, as, in hindsight, it was probably not very safe.  

I cleaned up the case and then flipped it over to its bottom, so I could then determine where to place the casters.  I started with one, and then measured the others to be sure they were evenly placed.  

Next I marked and then drilled the holes for the bolts.    

You can see here that I put the bolts in through the bottom and to the inside of the case.  This allowed me to feel the location of the drilled holes in order to cut a small slit in the case lining.  

I reversed the direction of the bolts once I was able to cut the lining holes.  Now the rounded tops of the bolts are inside, and the bolt ends and nuts are on the outside.  

I positioned the two locking casters in opposite corners. 

Here's what it looks like empty.  It's starting to take shape.  

I didn't like the way the back edge looked after breaking the hinges off.  The holes from the rivets were exposed.  It's not a sharp or dangerous edge; it just looks unfinished.

I simply took a piece of fabric and two layers of quilt batting and made a padding with which I finished off the messy back edge. 

 I sewed the padding to the case's back edge by using the existing rivet holes. I embellished with some of Grandma's vintage buttons.  

To make the fitted cushion, I first made a pattern of the case's shape by inverting the discarded top of the case (the part I pried off) and tracing it on newspaper.  I then cut my fabric 1/2" larger on all sides for a seam allowance.  I measured the depth of the case in order to determine how thick to make the cushion, again adding 1/2" seam allowances.  

I made this big comfy cushion with some reused fabric.  (These were previously curtains I had made for the school library.  They had to be removed - fire marshall's orders.)  I opted to use 3 coordinating  fabrics.  I wanted the cushion to be reversible.  One fabric is more feminine, the other more masculine.  Even the cushion stuffing is reused.  It was pulled out of some throw pillows I no longer use.  

So here's the finished product!  Super comfy, super chic!

Now I just need a dog to try it out.

All photographs taken by Paulette Rodriguez.

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