Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Carrying Case

You will need:

· A book (optional)

· Leather or another heavy material

o The sturdier the better. Technically, you can make this out of book board, rawhide, upholstery leather, clear table-top protector, etc. Experiment a little and leave a comment if you find success!

· Needle and heavy thread

· Something to pre-poke holes in leather (I used a thumbtack. A crop-a-dile or awl would work as well).

· Buttons (optional)

· Material for the strap

o If you don’t use the material you use for the rest of the case, like I did, you could try braiding some jute, hemp twine, etc. Something that will feel secure.

NOTE: This is how I did it. I made this up because I couldn’t find instructions anywhere. You can find an example of this case in the Special Collections room in the Mckay Library. It is easier to find if you ask for the Ethiopian Coptic book, but they might remember the case as well. It can also be found in the Bound and Lettered periodical, volume 8, part 2. It was done by Helen Widenhofer. Please don’t follow these as exact instructions, because they’re not.

1. I started with a book. You don’t have to, but I think it’s easier because often times when I make a book, I don’t know exactly what the measurements will be at the end. Measurements are important with this case, so I started with a book in mind.

2. Measure the book. We’ll say mine was 5” x 7” x 1”. I then made a template for the inner case on a large piece of cardboard (aka, pizza box), mapping out how the pieces fit together. Keep in mind the thickness of the material you are working with. I made mine 1/8” bigger on each side so I wouldn’t have to shove the book into the case when I was done, so it should measure at 5 ¼ x 7 ¼ x 1 ¼ “, and should look something like this:

Note: The flaps are decorative, in my opinion. I like them, but if you don’t, feel free to omit them. Also, I wasn't paying close enough attention when I made this the first time, so there aren't tabs with slits on my first case. I guess that means they're optional, but the original in the McKay has them, so whatever you want to do should work.

3. Cut the cardboard template out and assemble it. This will allow you to see if there are any major problems with the way it folds together and if your measurements were off. If they were off, FIX them, don’t just ignore and hope they go away. It’s better to cut out cardboard twice than leather. At this stage you can test to see if it is the right size by putting your book in the case. Adjust as necessary.

4. Once your template is good, trace it down on the wrong side of your leather or other material. Wrong side being whatever you want on the inside. Cut it out, being careful not to go too far with the cuts. I accidentally sliced my leather a little past the cut, not even going all the way through, and it later tore. Be careful.

5. Sew the buttons on (or whatever you want to use for pull tabs). The Ethiopian case had bits of leather sewn on as tabs. Have some fun with it, or even leave them off altogether.

6. Poke holes in the leather. I made mine ¼“ apart and about ¼” in along every edge that was 7 ¼”. The easiest way I found to do this was to place a piece of cardboard on the floor, fold my leather in half symmetrically, and poke holes with a thumbtack. This way I only had to poke 4 rows of holes versus poking 8 rows. Poking holes just makes it easier to get the needle through the leather.

7. Sew! I kept it pretty simple, but it feels sturdy. Don’t skimp on knots. I recommend not having a LOOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGG piece of thread because it will just get worn out from trying to go in and out of leather holes. I broke my thread once, so be aware. If you’re working with leather or another semi-soft material, it can be helpful to flip the material inside out sometimes.

8. Make the outside template. It will be larger than the last one because you still want to be keeping the thickness of the material in mind. I made mine another ¼” larger for each measurement. So now it will measure 7 ½” x 5 ½” x 1 ½”. Better to go too big than too small. The difference with the outside template is you will be subtracting a section of the 1 ½” side by the bottom. It should look something like this:

9. Repeat steps 2-7.

10. For the strap you can use any manner of long material. It should be sturdy. I used the same leather as my case for mine, but because the pieces were short I had to combine several for the proper length. The length is whatever is comfortable for you. Before you sew or tie it shut you obviously need to thread it through all the slits you cut. I made my strap slightly smaller than the slits on the case so it would be able to move. Sew or tie it shut when you’re done threading it through the slits, and you’re done! Congrats on your very own customized book carrying case!

Laurel Hoffman

If you have questions please email me at


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