Years ago, while working on the early drafts of my novel, I had a business making books into purses. I no longer have my Etsy shop, but occasionally I find an interesting book that I think will make a great clutch purse, or a friend asks me to make one for them. I recently made this book purse with a button and loop closure for my friend from her memoir:
“Tell us how you did this!” Nancy’s friend said. So here’s how:
How to make a book purse
Making a book purse is easiest when you use a hardcover book. Otherwise, you need to mount board to the front and back cover, as I did to make Nancy’s purse. So get yourself an old hardcover book. You’ll need 1/3 yard cotton fabric, heavy cardboard/chip board, a button, elastic, narrow ribbon and craft glue. Also have a pair of scissors, an awl, paper, pencil, and an iron and ironing board ready.
Carefully remove the text from the spine. Back the spine by gluing in a strip of cardboard. Cut the width of the strip 1/8 inch less on either side of the spine so you can close the front and back. Test it before you glue it down. Press firmly in place. Sometimes I weighted it down.
After the glue dries, lay the book flat and trace around it. This rectangle will be the pattern for the inside lining. Cut one piece of fabric with 1/4″ allowance all around. Fold and iron the allowance to the wrong side 3/8″ all around. You will have a lining with clean edges that’s just a little bit smaller than the book, and it should fit smoothly inside the cover. Set it aside for later.
Use an awl (or metal skewer) to poke holes for the elastic band at the back and a button at the front for a closure. Thread the elastic (or you can use ribbon) through the back hole in a loop, and glue it on the inside. Use ribbon to thread the button through the front hole and glue the ribbon down on the inside.
Side gussets for the book purse
To make the side gussets, stand the book on one end and trace the triangle shape.
Use this pattern, with 1/4″ allowance all around, to cut two double-sided gussets (cut the material folded right sides together at the long edge).
Iron the 3 cut allowances to the inside of each gusset. Iron a center crease by folding it in half. Glue the small end of each gusset into the spine at each end. Press firmly and allow it to dry. Then glue the sides.
Lining the book purse
After the gussets dry, glue the lining into the inside of the purse, starting at one edge and working down to the spine, and then back up the other side. You really only need to glue along the edges and the spine, but be generous with glue. You may have to adjust the lining by folding the allowance under a little bit to fit at the very end. It helps to have a damp rag to wipe the glue off your fingers and the book as you work. Let the glue dry, and you’re done!
My Book Purses
Please don’t think I rip books apart for the fun of it. First of all, I never used rare books or first editions. Secondly, turn-of-the-century books were not made to last. They were printed on cheap paper that crumbles over time, and pressed board covers that are so acidic they eat away at the cover fabric. I often did extensive repair work on such books. Repurposing them is a way of honoring and preserving them. The end product is a one-of-a kind purse that can be enjoyed for years.
When I was making book purses for my business, nothing went to waste. I rebound many texts my own library or my customers’. I used the pages of Nancy Drew books to make notecards. Other pages were recycled into artwork, paper roses, book markers, or passed on to my writer friends to use as writing prompts.
Most of my customers are passionate readers and book lovers who appreciate unique fashion accessories. Carrying a book purse is a great way to let the world know your affection for a particular author or book.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the award-winning author of adult contemporary fiction In the Context of Love:
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist in Women’s Fiction
2015 Great Midwest Book Festival Honorable Mention
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.