Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Sometimes on my tutorial posts I'll get a sweet comment that goes something like, "You make me sick. Don't ANY of your projects turn out less than perfect?!?"
The answer, of course, is a hearty "BWAHAHAHA!!!"
Which is to say yes. Ohhhh yes.
That said, I believe that failure is really only failure when you give up. 'Til then, it's just a work-in-progress.
Uh, I have a LOT of works-in-progress, guys.
So today, I want to share one with you. This is not a tutorial, because I haven't worked all the kinks out yet. However, I'm almost there, and I think you guys might be able to give me some advice/suggestions, while hopefully still getting some fun DIY inspiration out of it.
So, let's get to it!
Most of you have seen these before: books made into purses. You can find them all over online, and they look almost exactly like this one. However, I set out to make The World's Best Book Purse, meaning:
- It would be much more durable
- It would be made from prettier books, with more decorative details
- It would be practical enough to actually use as a functioning purse
Quite a tall order, huh? I guess that's why I'm still working on it. :)
My main motivation in this project was to find a useful way to recycle thrift-store children's books, since I always swoon over the great cover illustrations. (And before you book lovers form a lynch mob, allow me to say I keep all the interior pages for future art projects, and I'm not destroying anything of great value.)
Because every other book purse is essentially a gutted book with handles on it, they have to be made from relatively fat books. The problem? Fat book covers are BORING. (Encyclopedias, anyone?) And if you use regular sized books, like a Nancy Drew, then your purse has a maximum girth of maybe two inches - not very practical. The prettiest cover options (in my opinion) are kids' books, but those are the skinniest of them all.
So, to use children's books (or something otherwise too skinny), you have to first construct a new book spine. I made mine from Masonite, and then covered them in the same fabric I used to line the book interior:
Attaching the new spine to the book is tricky, because you don't want to cover up too much of the front cover. After a lot of trial and error, my solution was to first use flexible clear plastic (think report covers) on the interior, creased to form a fat new spine and glued securely to the interior of the cover pieces. The Masonite panel is then glued to the inside of the plastic spine to give it structure. (So, in the photo above, the order from the outside is fabric, plastic, Masonite panel, and then the fabric lining.)
With my solution, the plastic is holding the entire weight of whatever you put in your purse, so it's important that you have a lot of plastic overlap glued to each book side.
Here's the very first book purse I made:
For the handle I used a recycled chain belt, which looks pretty, but is heavy and rather clanky when you put the purse down.
You can also see my pocket goof. Heh. Sewing skills have always eluded me (most of this was done using hem tape), but I thought I'd be clever and add a pocket to the lining. It wasn't until I glued the lining down that I realized the fabric wouldn't be able to flex, so the pocket was useless. Oops.
After figuring out the spine, my next challenge was the fabric edges on the side, which need to expand when the purse opens. I considered elastic, but I've yet to find a glue strong enough to handle that kind of strain.
My best solution so far is to use more of the clear plastic. I cut a thin, long strip, creased in the middle, and then slipped it into the top edge of the fabric side panels. The plastic lends strength to the top edge, and the crease makes the fabric fold inwards as the book closes:
I also used the clear plastic in the fold over strap with the magnetic snap on it, for strength - but you could also use interfacing.
To make my book purses more durable, I first cleaned and spray lacquered each book cover, making them water resistant and easy to wipe down. The fabrics were all coated in Scotch guard. I experimented with as many glues as I could find to get the strongest hold between fabric and book board - but so far, the best I've found is a combination of fabric glue and Gorilla super glue. (Any suggestions on that?)
For additional detail (and added durability) I began adding brass book corners:
See that line of stitches along the edge of the fabric there? That edge remains one of my biggest hurdles: I need a way to attach the fabric to the book cover that won't lift over time. Because it's on a crease, all of my glues eventually give out, so I thought I'd try stitching. This had to be done by hand, through the layers of plastic, fabric, and paper board, and was a huge pain. You guys have any other suggestions?
With the body of the book purse mostly figured out, I next set about finding the perfect book purse handles.
Store-bought handles like these look cute:
...but they just aren't practical. If I can't comfortably carry it on my arm or my shoulder, it's not leaving the house with me.
So far, this is both my favorite handle and favorite book purse:
When I found this old textbook it was covered in flaky plastic laminate, and filthy. By the time I cleaned it (Magic Eraser, I think I love you) and lacquered it with a flat lacquer, it looked like a new book:
Of course, the problem with a single strap (which I prefer) is figuring out how to attach it, since you can't have one side of the book flopping open. I think this design was fairly successful, with the strap attached on the right of one side, and the left of the other, but it does look a little odd. I'd love to find a way to attach a single strap to the fabric sides of the purse somehow. (Um...any suggestions?)
At least the strap doesn't interfere with the purse opening:
Here you can see the fabric lining lifting on the inner corners and around the fold over clasp. Again, I've yet to find a glue that will hold long-term (I've used this purse a few times over the past few years), and I'm loathe to put rivets or grommets through the actual cover.
Although I did have to try it, at least once:
I actually like the look of the grommets through the cover, although this is my least favorite purse. I think I messed up on the fabric selection, and the handle chain is heavy and hideous:
I should go back and take that chain off, and just use the leather handles. Which, by the way, are super easy to make: just cut a thrift store belt in half, thread the ends through metal rings, and hammer in a rivet to hold them shut. Beats paying $6 for store-bought ones, right?
I'll leave you with a few more shots:
And finally, allow me to preface this photo by saying it was John's idea:
So, my fellow crafty types, here are my questions:
1) Is there some miracle glue out there that can permanently hold fabric to book covers?
2) In the same vein, do you have any suggestions for stitching/riveting through the covers?
3) Can you think of any way to make a book purse actually close, so that your things won't fall out when it tips over? I've debated attaching a zipper or even a metal snap clasp to either side, keeping the fabric edges free, but I'm again stuck on how to attach something to the book edges.
I suppose the alternative would be to build a zippered bag separate from the book and then attach it inside, but I'm not sure how that would work, exactly.
Frankly, any suggestions/advice you guys might have would be welcome. I've poured more hours than I'd care to count into these, and I'd love to make more - but not until I perfect the design further.
And, regardless of whether you have any suggestions or not, I hope you enjoyed seeing the kinds of things I obsess over. :D
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