How to turn a faux leather coat into a peek-a-bookbag

Peek-a-bookbag side

Never throw away interesting looking fabric! I’ll prove that piece of wisdom in this post.

A friend gave me her old faux leather jacket to put into the quilt I’m making for her (see this post: The big quilt for a lovely friend). However, she only wanted part of the back in the quilt. The rest of the coat was pretty worn out anyway. Nonetheless, I ripped the whole thing apart, because that’s a lot of fun to do. Also, I wanted to see how much I could salvage of the coat. It turned out quite a lot of the fabric was still usable. Also, there were three good zippers. Below is the piece used for the quilt. I love the pattern of lines on it.

Leather jacket

The birth of a sewing idea

One fateful afternoon I was working on my Dear Jane. I was using a particularly difficult to handle green fabric. It frayed like mad, but the colour was gorgeous. While I was sewing tiny pieces with it my mind tried to think of a way to use this fabric in something with big pieces. Then it clicked and the combination of the green fabric and the leather jacket was made. Because I wanted to add a new element I decided to try to work in a zipper on the side for an interesting effect. That’s how the bookbag got the name ‘peek-a-bookbag, I am funny like that.


It took quite some thinking, pinning and re-pinning to work out how to sew the zipper in so it would be both attached to the bag and the lining. In the end, I decided to just treat the front and lining as one piece of fabric. This worked fine. Next time, however, I’m going to try to sew the bag and lining separately. Now the seams are on the inside of the bag and I prefer them between the lining and the front. That’s why you use lining after all. I started with the zipper. My aunt who has much more experience sewing backs once gave me that tip. It really helps

Peek-a-bookbag open

Experimentation with presser feet

Frau Pfaff, my sewing machine, came with several presser feet. Those are the things you put on your sewing machine to guide your fabric. One of them was a rolled hem foot I had never used. Since I haven’t discovered ‘my way’ of making the handles yet I decided to give the rolled hem a try. The idea was to sew the green fabric on a strip of the leather giving the green a rolled hem and letting the leather stick out. This would work great, I thought, because leather doesn’t fray. I still think this would look really nice. Unfortunately, I need to practise working with the feet some more. Some pieces look fine, others went wrong. Ah well, I actually like the handmade look that gives, especially because I’m planning to use the bag myself. It usually takes some trial and error before I get the hang of a new technique. This is the trial and the error, the next one will be great!

Handles peek-a-bookbag

The handles are put in when finishing the edges of the lining and the bag itself. I usually fold the edges inwards and finish with a top stitch. At the sides, I stick the handles in to secure them and zig zag over them for extra strength.

Inserting handles peek-a-bookbag

And tying the knot

The handles are connected with a knot. In this way, each recipient can adjust the length to their own preference.

Peek-a-bookbag knot

That’s the end of it

I am so pleased with myself that the zipper idea worked. Now I can show very subtle which book I am reading to fellow book lovers. I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have some funky ideas or examples of zipper use in bags leave a comment! I would love to hear,  see and make more craziness.

Do you want to see more bookbags:

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blogpost every Sunday or Monday.


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