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the literary purse – literally

This is such a neat idea! I came across it while perusing the internet for another craft entirely, and fell immediately in love. There are numerous tutorials out there, all of which use the same basic process, plus or minus certain details. This one is a good place to start and see the basic process in video form. Here’s another tutorial that takes a bit more time and care with the craft.

In my enthusiasm to make these incredibly cute bags, I forgot to take any in-construction photos. Whoops! Just have a look at the tutorials linked above, though.

Like a hand-knit sweater or a homemade quilt, this is a craft that’s out there, it’s general public knowledge, so the idea is to make it your own. It’s all in the details:

While looking at examples of these book bags on various sites, I noticed that everyone’s got a slightly different way of attaching handles. Some use ribbon, some use plastic store-bought handles. Some use fabric straps as I’ve done in my two examples. I also plan on trying another bag with chain handles, cheaply bought in 1-foot intervals at the local hardware store. You could use cut-up pieces of belt, maybe you could even knit handles. Long or short, thick or thin. Experiment! I also like the look of those little metal whatsits that the handles are attached to, but I saw lots of bags without them. And they, too, come in different shapes, sizes, colours and materials. I bought mine at a fabric store for about 25 to 50 cents apiece. You could also try using single pieces of large chain, or washers.

When I was in elementary school, I refused to wear skirts for two reasons:

1) You can’t hang upside down from the monkey bars in a skirt, and what good is recess at all if you can’t hang upside down from the monkey bars?

2) None of the skirts in stores had pockets.

My mother eventually solved this by sewing me skirts with shorts underneath and pockets in the seams. My prom dress even had a pocket.

In any case, the bottom line is: pockets are necessary! Vital! Every intelligent woman knows this, and resents the fashion industry’s refusal to put practical pockets in women’s apparel. When looking at book purse examples online, I found very few that included any kind of pocket. True, there’s not much room in there to have a pocket, but even a small one for your phone or bus pass or debit card is handy. So my bags have pockets.

For added interest, especially if using a book that has a blank cover, you could embellish it a bit with ribbon, buttons, beads, drawings, etc. (You could even cover it with postage stamps!) You may also want to throw a quick coat or two of varnish on the book cover – this gives it a nice shine and a bit of added protection against bumps and scrapes and life in general.

For your teeny weeny bikini only
It’s worth noting that these are small bags. Even an unabridged Victor Hugo novel isn’t going to provide a wide enough storage space for three tubes of chapstick, your favourite Buffy comic, your lunch and a hairbrush. Unless you’re one of those rare women who doesn’t habitually carry a bag the size of an adolescent hippopotomus, these purses are for special occasions and those rare times when all you need is your wallet and keys. But they’re just so damn cool.

But… but… you’ve destroyed a book!!!
Well yes. There is that drawback to this particular project. I adore books, and I collect them like mad. I’ve been running out of bookshelf space since about age five. But the artist/crafter in me refuses to get hung up on this, much as I try to convince it that this is at least a little wrong.

I’ve got a couple suggestions for getting past this:

1) Get someone else to make it. Find an artistic friend who has fewer qualms about cutting into literature, and trade favours. Or, look around on Etsy – I’ve spotted at least a couple different artists there who make this kind of bag. Or be patient – I’m hoping to make a few of these to sell myself, as soon as I get my sewing machine fixed. (It went all wonky on me right at the end of the 2nd bag, which is why one handle is still missing…)

2) Find a book you really hate. Example: I’d have no problems seeing that the world had one less readable copy of The Odyssey. Of course, you might not want to carry the shell of such a book around with you.

3) Keep the pages and rebind them. I may work this up into its own blog post and tutorial in the near future. Unless the book is really old and falling apart, the pages should come out in one clean block. Keep them and make a new cover for them out of cardboard and fancy paper, or even fabric – you could have it match the fabric you use to turn the book’s cover into a purse.

Happy Crafting!

Leave a comment


  1. Awesome Tally! I love it :) Saw something fairly similar at the Urban Craft Uprising in December. I believe they sold like hotcakes :P

  2. LOL I love the Hugo reference!

    I still feel sorry for the book though… The librarian in me can’t bear it >_<

  3. Thank you! I would now go on this blog every day!
    Have a nice day

  4. This article was very useful for a paper I am writing for my thesis.


    Bernice Franklin
    UGG Purses
    UGG Bags
    Classic Tall Chestnut

  5. My daughter combed garage sales and her grandmother’s bookshelves for old Hardy Boys books (those were her favorites) and colorful books that no one ever seemed to have heard of, with the pulpy “grade school book club” quality paper, thus overcoming my qualms about cutting up books. She made several of these purses for her closest friends, and they love them. Yours are very nice–I particularly like the oversized Jack London one!

  6. Eve

     /  September 7, 2011

    Now this is something my mom would’ve literally killed me for :D Thanks for posting though.

  7. Catherine

     /  November 26, 2013

    I am a former omg-you-didn’t-just-do-that-to-a-BOOK person, however I have recently gotten over it.

    I think it is important to note that with many books, there are THOUSANDS or MILLIONS of copies out there. There are more books than there are happy homes (there have been stories of libraries throwing entire collections in the garbage!!!). Having the final resting place of a book be a way that it can be enjoyed & loved, then that is all that matters.

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