Introduction: Vintage Book to Wallet

About: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands

The only wallet I've ever owned would be a coin purse at best, with a single 4.5" by 3" compartment for anything and everything. Thus, when I saw tutorials for making book safes, I wanted to try turning a book into a wallet of sorts. This was an idea that I had a while back, and it was reawakened by none other than a gorgeous, well-loved book.

For the faint of heart out there, no; I'm not the type for book butchery. Instead, I see this as a way to reuse a worn, cherished book. I saw this old book (The Chimes by Charles Dickens) during a book sale for which I was volunteering and the idea came rushing back, begging to be completed.

If your heart is not capable of removing pages from a book, you could alternatively make a faux book cover out of chipboard and fabric and a printout of the particular book. Here's the link to the remix version. :

So here the project is, in all its completed glory!

Step 1: Materials

  • old book (If you want to avoid removing pages from books, grab chipboard/cardboard and fabric and (optional) a printout of a certain book instead.)
  • zipper(s) (one that can wrap around three edges of the book, another for a coin purse insert if you want; this should be at least as long as your book)
  • hot glue or quick drying glue of similar caliber
  • Mod Podge or other brushable glue
  • lining fabric (plus extra fabric and zipper for coin purse insert, if you want)
  • ruler
  • pencil and paper
  • savaged cardboard from cereal box, etc.
  • needle and thread
  • iron and ironing board
  • embellishments (for me, this included a Cricut machine and iron-on)

Of course, tweak and substitute to your heart's desire.

Step 2: Reading

Please pause for a second or two (or a couple thousand) and READ. YOUR. BOOK. FIRST. Just give this lovely creation a bit of respect before you separate the paged goodness from its hardcover protection. If you bought the old book from a garage sale or something, you just might fall in love with the story and, well, time to find another book... BUT AT LEAST YOU FOUND A TRUE LOVE.

Step 3: Cleaning the Cover

If your book is a vintage, worn-out book, chances are that the cover is less than immaculate. Use a baby wipe or simple soap and water to clean off any dirt and dust from the cover. If applicable, use some fancy color restoration formulas; I know that there are some chemicals like that on the market, but I lack motivation to go that far for making my book look brand new.

NOTE: You should aim for books with spines that are about 0.75" or more. Any less and you'll have a hard time zipping it up.

Step 4: Alternative: Making Own Book Cover

You could make your own book cover if you don't want to divest a book of its pages. See this tutorial for a really good (I think, at least) explanation for how to use fabric and chipboard to do this; you'll have to scroll to the middle.

I'm working on a wallet using this method; updates yet to come. I printed out the cover of one of my favorite books and glued it to the front of the fabric so that it looks like a real book but actually isn't.

UPDATE: I've completed a book wallet (or two..) with this alternative method! Here's the lin

Step 5: Removing Pages and Extra Support

Open up the book to the front cover and using your knife/scissors, slice down the middle part where the cover meets the pages to detach one side of the pages. Turn to the back cover and repeat the slicing to fully detach the pages. Set the pages aside; you can still read from them!

I wanted to provide extra support for the spine because it felt flimsy so I measured out a slim rectangle or cardboard that would fit in the niche and glued it in.

Later I found out that the even with glue attaching the zipper to the book cover, the paper lining in the book can rip off and allow the zipper to detach (top layer of paper tears off). Thus, I used mod podge and a brush to cover the paper with a layer of thin fabric to create a stable surface for the hot glue to adhere to. Just measure the paper lining, cut out a rectangle of thin fabric slightly larger than that (about 0.5" longer and wider) and use an iron to press down the four edges so that the fabric is the same size as your paper lining and the unraveling is hidden. Cut off the overlapping parts at the corners so that no fabric will stick out from beneath (see FOURTH picture) before brushing on glue (Yes, you should use a brush so that the fabric is evenly stuck to the book.) to affix the fabric. After that, brush another light layer of glue on the edges of the fabric and use your fingers (gettin' messy here) to smudge the glue around and firmly press the edges of the fabric against the book cover. Brush another layer of glue onto the edges for maximum security (just in case, you know?).

Step 6: Attaching Zipper

Open up the pageless book. Use your hot glue to glue the end of the zipper to the bottom of the book cover's spine. Apply some more glue along the bottom edge of the inside back cover before lightly pressing one side of the zipper along the line of glue. Make sure that you're leaving enough fabric on either side of the zipper so that the zipper's head can easily slide between the book covers when done! At the corner, pivot the zipper to lie along the adjacent side and apply yet another line of glue before pressing the zipper down onto the glue again. Repeat until the entire length of the zipper is attached to the back cover before unzipping the zipper and repeating the process for the zipper's other side and the front cover.

To do the other side, make some marks on one side of the zipper and the part of the cover directly next to them and then the other side of the zipper DIRECTLY opposite to your first set of marks (see sixth and seventh images above). Then grab a ruler to measure distances and mark dots on the opposite, unzippered cover corresponding to the dots you just marked on the first cover. When gluing on the zipper this time, MAKE SURE YOUR MARKS ON THE ZIPPER LINE UP WITH THE MARKS ON THE COVER. This is so that the zipper's teeth match up with you zip up the book. Lemme just say, good luck with this; it gave me a bit of trouble, especially due to hot glue's quick drying time.

Note: Make sure to premeditate so that your zipper ends and starts according to your preference (so you can unzip from top to bottom of the book, etc. -- I wanted the zipper head to stay at the top of the book when unzipped so I glued according to that desire.)

Step 7: Measurements and Cutting Fabric

Take your ruler to measure out the dimensions for your lining and miscellaneous innards for the wallet. You'll need paper and pencil too.

Open up the zippered book and use your ruler to measure a rectangle that will fit within the zipper's borders but also hide the fabric sides of the zipper where it's glued to the covers. For me, this was 6.25" by 9.75" (so it's the WHOLE length of the book cover, cover to cover plus spine; actually, I later found out that this was too much and adjusted. But yea...). Add 1" to both length and width before cutting out one of these rectangles from your lining fabric.

Then set the book on its side and open it as wide as you want the purse to be. Trace the trapezoidal shape on your paper, lengthen the trapezoid by about 2", and add a 0.25" seam allowance along three edges -- not necessary for the long parallel side. Fold your fabric in half before cutting out the trapezoid (top part lined up with the folded edge) so that you have two trapezoids connected by a folded edge.

Decide the dimensions you want for credit card pockets, if you want them at all. I wanted a set of 3 pockets with a side pocket. My cards were 3.5" by 2.125" so I added 1" seam allowances (you'll understand later) and because I wanted 0.375" of the card to extend from the top of the pockets, insert-complicated-mathematical-formulas-to-get-a-rectangle-that's-9"-by-14". (or look at the sixth picture above to see what I did)

I also wanted a coin purse insert in the middle of the wallet so that I could put coins in that and fit paper money and cards on either side of it. The measurements for this consisted of two rectangles, one for the lining of the purse and one for the exterior. The length was just the same as the main rectangle's WIDTH (so 6.125" for me, and this encompasses seam allowance), and the height was the same as the ironed trapezoid's height X 2 (LOOK TWO STEPS AHEAD FIRST).

When finished measuring, just cut out all those required pieces of fabric.


  • 1 X lining rectangle, see second paragraph above for measuring
  • 2 X trapezoidal shapes, see third paragraph above for measuring
  • 1 X long rectangle, see fourth paragraph above for measuring
  • 2 X rectangles, 1 for exterior and 1 for interior of coin purse insert, see fifth paragraph above for measuring

Step 8: Lining Fabric Rectangle

Take the rectangle of lining fabric. Fold and iron down the edges such that the resulting rectangle is the size you determined for the lining. Cut the corners at an angle (see above) so that no fabric peeks out behind the edges. Make sure that this ironed rectangle fits within the zippered borders of your book! Mine didn't in the end so I just ironed the folds deeper down to shift sizes.

Step 9: Sewing and Ironing

A bit of sewing now! Take one of your trapezoidal pieces of fabric and sew along the unsewn edges, keeping in mind your 0.25" seam allowances. Leave a small gap anywhere (about 2") for turning inside out.

Once finished sewing, use that small hole to turn the piece inside out. Close the hole however you like; I just used a ladder stitch, but you could just do a line of stitching really close to the borders if you're lazy. Use your iron to iron this flat, and repeat for the other trapezoid cutout.

Measure the height of the trapezoid (vertical) for the part on the optional coin purse insert.

Step 10: Slots for Credit Cards

Take the long rectangle you cut out for the credit card pockets and fold it in half lengthwise before sewing along the three unsewn edges. Leave a gap about 2" long anywhere for turning out. Once you've finished sewing, flip this inside out using that gap before sealing it with a ladder stitch or whatever you choose. Iron this flat.

Fold the rectangle widthwise a couple times and stagger those folds so that you get something like the fifth picture in step 5. Then sew along the top edge of each pocket to secure the fabric. Sew through all layers along the THICKER left or right side (you'll know what I mean); this is to secure the fabric to allow for the side pocket.

Position this on your rectangle of lining fabric from two steps ago before sewing down three edges (top, bottom, and left or right--the edge you didn't sew along yet) to that lining fabric.

Step 11: Coin Purse Insert

Take the rectangles you cut out for the coin purse part and the zipper too. Place the rectangle of exterior fabric right side face up, and then put the zipper along the top edge (this should be the "width of your lining fabric" edge) with the flat backside of the zipper face up. Put the rectangle of lining fabric right side face down along the top edge and finally sew along the top edge so that all three layers are sewn together. It may be easier if you sew the zipper and exterior fabric together first before adding the lining on top.

Now open up your sandwich and flip the zipper to the other non-sewn side. Place the other edge from the rectangle of exterior fabric along this side of the zipper's top edge before sewing it down. Flip over and put the other edge from the rectangle of lining fabric along the zipper's top edge and again, sew it down.

Unzip the zipper and arrange the rectangles so that the lining faces itself and same for the the exterior rectangles. Sew along both non-zippered and non-folded edges of the rectangles, but for the lining rectangle, leave a small 2" gap for turning everything inside out when you've finished sewing.

When you've finished sewing, use the gap you left to turn everything inside out. Close the hole however you like, but again I just used a ladder stitch.

Push the lining fabric into the exterior pouch, and sew around the zipper so that the two parts (lining and exterior) don't come apart or jam the zipper.

Step 12: Attaching Coin Purse to Trapezoids and Ironing

Fold a trapezoid in half widthwise and tuck a side of the coin purse into that fold. Sew along the edge so that the trapezoid becomes attached to the coin purse's side, and repeat for the other side and trapezoid.

Fold the rest of the trapezoids into a W-like shape (see 3rd, 4th, and 5th images above; read the notes!) and iron the folds flat.

Step 13: Embellishment: Photoshop to Isolate Design

I wanted to keep the paper on the backs of the covers, or at least somehow transfer the design onto fabric. With the Cricut Explore that I won from the Papercraft Contest (Thanks so much for all the votes!), I knew that I could possibly cut out and iron on the design.

Well, first I'd have to isolate the design... with the help of some NEWFOUND PHOTOSHOP SKILLS.

I recently downloaded Adobe Photoshop courtesy of my university's free download site, so I basically followed this tutorial and added a couple steps to fit my needs. See the images above if you want to see what I did.

I've looked at some suggestions of using Adobe Illustrator to turn sketches and the like into digital artwork, but I had no idea how to go about that, hence this Photoshop method. Feel free (please and thank you :3) to post a comment if you have other suggestions.

Step 14: Embellishment: Cricut Cutting and Ironing

After isolating the design, I sent the image to my Cricut Explore be cut on iron-on. I weeded out the excess before ironing it into my fabric.

Step 15: Last Gluing

Start by brushing glue onto the spine and gluing down the middle part of the lining rectangle. Then glue the tab parts of the trapezoids to the front and back covers. Finish by gluing down the two sides of the lining rectangle, making sure that the zipper's edges are covered by it.

Step 16: Ta Da!

BOOM! You've just transformed a book into a wallet (or created a wallet that looks like a book, if you went for the chipboard and fabric cover instead). Have fun and feel free to comment if you have any questions or need clarification.

Vintage Contest

First Prize in the
Vintage Contest

Epilog Challenge VI

Runner Up in the
Epilog Challenge VI

Glue Contest

Participated in the
Glue Contest