For today’s DIY I’m gonna show you all how to make a book bag. Now, when I say book bag I don’t mean a bag to carry your books around in. I mean an actual book made into a rad and totally useable handbag. Sound cool? Here’s how it’s done!

You’ll need:

  • A hardcover book (preferably with a pretty cover). The one I used was this boring lavender color, so I went ahead and decoupaged it. There’ll be a how-to for that within the tutorial.
  • A piece of thick cardboard cut to fit the spine of the book.
  • Half a yard of fabric for lining.
  • Purse handles and some type of snap closure. I cut all the hardware off of a purse that I thrifted for a dollar. If you don’t have an old purse on hand you could just make straps out of your lining fabric.
  • Scissors.
  • An X-ACTO knife.
  • Sewing pins.
  • Fabric pen/chalk/some other type of fabric-friendly marking utensil.
  • Extra-strength glue.

Making the Purse Base:

1. Start by hollowing the book out. Run your X-ACTO along the binding of the book, between the first page and the front cover. Repeat this in the same area for the back cover and last page of the book. Do this a few more times until you’ve separated the pages from the cover.

2. Grab the pages of the book and pull them out. They should come out all in one bundle. The rectangular piece that you see on the left (the book cover) will be the base for your bag!

3. Now you’re gonna make a paper pattern for the sides of your bag. Take the book cover and open it up to as wide as you want your purse sides to be. For example, mine were five inches at their widest point. With the book cover open to your desired width, stand it up on a sheet of paper and trace along the inside of it with your pen. After tracing the inside area of the book, add a small seam allowance to all sides of the original tracing and cut it out.

Cutting out the pieces for the lining:

1. Fold your lining fabric into quarters and stick the side panel pattern you just made on top; pin it in place and cut around it.

2. Now put the book cover (your purse base) on the fabric and trace around it with your chalk. Cut that rectangle out. (You won’t need any seam allowances for this piece because you won’t be sewing it to anything.)

After cutting all of your lining stuff out you should have five pieces in all: one book-size rectangle and four trapezoidal side-panel pieces.

Assembling the side panels:

1. Arrange your side-panel pieces in pairs, and stick each pair together with the right (patterned) sides touching. Sew right along the edges of each pair with a straight stitch, all the way around the trapezoid, leaving a 1.5- to 2-inch gap between the beginning and end of your stitching. Stick your finger into this gap and pull the fabric through, to turn the pieces right side out.

2. Iron the side panels down flat.

Adding the straps:

1. On the inside of the book cover, mark where you want your straps to go on both sides. I just kind of eyeballed where I wanted mine to be. Marking them to be the same distance apart on both sides with a ruler would be ideal, though.

2. And glue them in place! This step is pretty self-explanatory. Just apply a good amount of glue to your straps and stick them to the inside of the book cover where you marked the strap area off. At this point you should also glue on any sort of purse closure that you want to use.

Also, if your straps are leather (or pleather, vinyl, or any other thick/heavy material), you’re likely gonna need to weigh them down with something (weights, heavy books, etc.) while they dry. Fabric straps dry faster and don’t need to be weighed down for a long time.

Making your book look less ugly (aka it’s time to get our deco on):

This part of the tutorial is for those of you who weren’t able to get your hands on any books with neat-looking covers. This problem can easily be remedied with image clippings and Mod Podge! Mod Podge is my answer to everything, if you haven’t already noticed.

For decoupaging you’ll need:

  • Something to decorate your book cover with! This could be image clippings, stickers, fabric, etc.
  • Matte-finish Mod Podge.
  • A large paint brush.

1. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to your book cover.

2. Place your desired image(s) on top of the Mod Podge and press them down. Run a plastic card over the images to smooth out any bubbles or creases.

3. Let the images set for 15 minutes or so before adding a coat of Mod Podge on top of them. This will make the outside of your bag waterproof and keep your collage looking pretty.

Putting it all together:

It’s time to start getting this thing looking like a real handbag! In these next few steps I’m gonna show you how to add the lining and side panels to finish things off.

1. Starting on one side of the book cover (it doesn’t matter which), line up the edges of your side panels with the side edges of the cover. Apply a layer of glue to the edges of the book cover and press the edges of the side-panel pieces down on top.

2. Apply a generous amount of glue to the rest of the book cover on the same side. Apply glue to the book spine area, too.

3. It’s time to add the lining fabric! Well, partially. Place one side of your lining fabric—right (patterned) side up—on top of the glued side of the book and press it down. Make sure to line up the edges of the lining fabric to the corners/edges of the book so everything will be even.

4. Now it’s time to do the other half of the purse! This could get a little confusing, so just refer to the image above if my explanation isn’t making sense. First, fold the other half of the lining fabric (wrong side up) over the fabric you just glued down. Then fold the side panels in half, inward, on top of that.

5. Apply glue to the other half of the book cover just like you did in step two.

6. Close the other half of the book cover (the side you just glued) on top of the whole shebang.

7. Carefully open the book cover just the slightest bit, and go in and press the other half of the lining fabric and the side panels onto the cover. The bottom of the side panels will also need to be folded inward and pressed down to secure them.

8. Once you have your lining and side panels glued in place, let the bag dry for at least a day in this position, with the cover closed and the side panels pointing outward.

Here’s what the bag looks like on the inside after it dries and you can open it up! It’s actually a lot roomier than you would expect it to be. I suppose this will really depend on the size of the book you decide to use, though. I was able to fit my wallet, lipstick, a pack of gum, a couple zines, and a camera in mine. You know, the ESSENTIALS. You might also be wondering if it’ll fall apart once you stick stuff in it and wear it out—it won’t! I’ve used mine twice since I made it, and it’s held up just fine. It’s surprisingly durable for something made out of just glue, fabric, and an old book! ♦