Introduction: Refurbish a Vintage Suitcase

How I took a thrift store vintage suitcase and turned it into a cool display case for merch by replacing the old liner and cleaning up the exterior.

About five hours total, taking my time.

Fabric (one yard at most)
Trim material (if needed) (100 inches in my case)
Hot glue gun
Spray adhesive
Boxcutter for when scissors won't work
Toothbrush for cleaning the hard to get spots
Marker for making pattern
Wire brush
Newspaper for cover up during spray adhesive
Gloves will keep your hands free of adhesive

Step 1: Strip Out Original Liner (&trim)

Chances are the liner in your vintage suitcase smells awful. And you can try a car air freshener, dryer sheets, airing it out in the sun...but I decided to just change it out.

You may want to shake or vacuum out the suitcase before you start this step. There will be plenty of dust flying around and vacuuming may cut down some of that.

I pulled up the edges of the trim and found an area where the liner was already coming apart. One controlled tug and the liner started to come out fairly easily. It was quilted, so there was quite a bit of backing that flew around as I pulled it out. (I recommend wearing a dust mask if your sinuses are sensitive.)

It looks like there was a paper backing that didn't completely come off. I scraped some of it away with a paint scraper and then a wire brush and left the rest. It didn't cause any problems to leave it.

At first I thought I would keep the trim, but later decided to go for the gold and replace everything. (It really helped with the odor problem.) Some of the trim was cardboard backed and came out without much problem at all.

The one part of the original interior I DID keep was the pocket. I figured it was in good enough condition and would be useful in the display.

Step 2: Glue in New Trim

Using a hot glue gun, I glued in the new trim around the top and bottom edges - but ONLY the half of the trim closest to the suitcase opening. This allows me to tuck the edge of the liner under the trim later.

In the picture, I glued the coil near the silver lip and left the bottom half of the trim unglued.

You may have to cut out some room for the latches, depending on your case. Also, I tucked the ends underneath the pocket in the back so that it looks nice.

Now it's time to cut the liner fabric.

Step 3: Cut and Install the Liner Fabric

I used a velour like polyester fabric to line my case. You could use whatever fabric you like, even a quilted one (like the original). The fabric I used stretched a little, which helped quite a bit, so that's something to consider.

My liner came out so well I was able to use the original liner as the pattern for my new liner. If needed, you can take paper and lay it in the case to fashion a pattern.
Be generous with this part. It beats buying more fabric and cutting it twice.

My liner took less than a yard to create.

I used spray adhesive to adhere the liner to the case. Make sure to cover up parts you don't want to get sticky with newspaper (see photo). Read the instructions on the spray adhesive to make sure you apply it for a permanent hold.
Spray the majority of the surface. You can always come back and spray small areas along the walls. After spraying, quickly lay the liner piece in place, being sure to smooth out any wrinkles. Recover the trim with newspaper and spot spray any areas that need it.

Next, trim off any excess liner so that it fits snugly tucked under the trim.

Take the hot glue gun and glue the liner to the case UNDER the TRIM.
Next, hot glue the trim to the liner.

Repeat this process for the other side and you're almost done!

Step 4: Dealing With Troubling Trim...

I chose a difficult trim to work with...tassels. The problem was that the tassels hung down and in my way as I tried to glue down the liner and trim. Here's how I solved that issue.

I ran pipe cleaners through the tassels and tucked the pipe cleaner ends under the outside lip of the suitcase edge. This held the tassles out of my way while I was trimming the liner and glueing it under the trim.

In the end, I have an eye-catching display case...with tassles! :) And it smells like new.

As for cleaning the exterior, a little water and dish soap cleaned up most spots. Maybe I'll try a Magic Eraser on the rest. Oh, and a toothbrush to get into the nooks and crannies.

Best of luck if you try this yourself!