Upcycle: A little book clutch (purse) ... | the ReFab Diaries

A couple of years ago Natalie Portman carried a Lolita book clutch to the Black Swan premiere and made Olympia Le-Tan and her amazing creations very cool. You can own one for the small, small price of $1500 - $1900!! Or, you can make a knock off for next nothing.

I've been wanting to share this little book "clutch" refab for a long time but I knew the instructions would be lengthy. So I've procrastinated! Anyway. I made it years ago. It was the prototype "book purse" for what I believed was going to be a line of amazing things under the "ReBooked" name ... book purses, book clocks, book folds etc. That didn't happen for more reasons than you could imagine. There are lots of great book-purse tutorials out there (see a list of links at the end of this post) but they involve using a hardback cover and fabric. I didn't want to do that. I wanted the purse to look like a book (apparently, so did Olympia Le-Tan). I like the treasure-box surprise factor. Anyway, here's what I produced. Like it or not, I can promise this: it's almost 6 years old and has withstood years of use and being moved around. It weighs very little, and holds more than you'd imagine. Here's my best attempt at instructions:

What you need:

1. A small, thick hardback. You need a book that's thick enough to provide depth
2. A small mirror
3. Gallons of Mod Podge. Actually, not true. But do be ready to use it generously
4. A good utility knife and a couple of new blades - this involves a LOT of cutting
5. Ribbon or fabric of some sort for the closure
6. One old button and a magnetic snap
7. One nailless sawtooth hanger 

Instructions for Cutting:

1. Decide on the size of your cutting area then go through the book and actually mark out those measurements on 5-8 pages. You have to keep checking the edges and sizing as you cut, so laying this little trail of breadcrumbs ahead of time will help you a lot.

2. Cut, cut, cut. This is the heart of the thing you're creating so be tenacious and take it slowly. Don't cut more than 5-8 pages at a time. It's much better to cut only a few and have good clear marks to follow, than to gouge out 15 and ruin the book 10 mins into the work.  

3. After every cut, pull the pages back into a block and check yourself. The straighter you can keep your edges now, the less cleaning up you have to do later. 

4. If it feels like you're working too hard / your wrist starts to ache / you want to throw the whole thing out the window... change the blade. It makes a huge difference  :) 

5. Once you're done, you'll need to clean up the edges. Use large binder clips to hold only the pages securely in place - ONLY the pages. Don't use a binder clip on either of the covers - it will dent them badly. Then trim the inside edges with the knife. Think of yourself as a paper sculpter. And take it easy. 

6. Now it's time to Mod Podge. Your first step is to glue the pages together into a secure block. Start by applying Mod Podge to the back cover. Then work your way forward, applying it between the pages. Every 5-8 pages is enough. DO NOT apply any to the top/front pages. You need to weigh down the pages and let them dry and you need a book purse that still opens! 

7. With the book OPEN, weigh down the glued block of pages. This will keep the cover clean and, most importantly, flat. You've now cut the guts out of the book. If you pile weight onto the cover, it'll warp. My "weighing down" involved a strong, flat picture book and multiple dictionaries etc.

8.  Walk away. Go to bed. Let it dry.

9.  Now you get to go nuts with the Mod Podge. Work on the inside of the "purse" first. Then the outer side of the block of pages. You'll do the inside of the front cover and all of the outside last. Again, be patient and let it dry in stages.

Instructions for the closure:

10. Once your book is sealed and sturdily glued together, you're ready for the finishing touch. I used strong grosgrain ribbon because I figured it would last - it has! 

11. Attach the fastener onto the back first. Decide where to position it and mark the spot. You want to get it relatively close to the edge so that you're hammering it into the block of pages. If you knock it into the cover, it'll show (not pretty!). Wrap the ribbon around the sawtooth hanger, pull it tight and push the points through. Then get some glue under it before you hammer it into the book. 

12. Now pull the ribbon around, decide how long you want it and position the front closure. I used a magnetic snap because you can push it through the book cover then bend over the prongs (you cover the prongs by gluing in a mirror). The prongs are not sharp so once you have it positioned, make small marks and cut two tiny holes with a craft knife. Then it's easy to pop it through.

13. Now work with the fabric side. Fold over the rough end and glue or sew it down. Then cut tiny slits and push the other side of the snap through. Bend the metal prongs flat then stitch a cute button over them to finish it off.  Glue in the mirror and you're done.

PS: If you really like the idea of this clutch, but would like to look at different construction options, check out

See Kate Sew (her project repurposes an old book AND an old purse)
Novelstyle (nice shots of the cutting and uses a simple ribbon closure)
SF Public Library (this version uses the cover only and felt lining)
Runway DIY (beautiful Pride & Prejudice clutch with a tiny clasp closure - good instructions)
The Full Measure (fabric-lined, good tutorial)
Caught on a Whim (fabric-covered book clutch)
And finally, because I'm in awe of the work, little clutches by psBesitos that look like old books but aren't. The cover art is printed onto cotton then bound. 
SHARE 4 comments

Add your comment

  1. this is amazing!I would love to try this c:


    1. Glad you like it - please try it! Then please share your final product :)

  2. Good instructions! I've always wanted to try make a book purse but I have a thing with books and when it comes to which one I'll actually "destroy" I just can't chose...

  3. this book-purse tutorial is great..love to try it out!!! Bridal Evening Bags


All comments are moderated. If your goal is to insert spam links to other sites, your comment will not be published.