Monday, September 26, 2016

Vintage Suitcase Makeover: From Trash to Adorable Treasure

I have a thing for vintage suitcases. They represent a time when people didn't wear pajama pants on airplanes. What can I say? I'm nostalgic like that.

Something else I love? Reusing and upcycling things to keep them out of landfills.

So recently when my husband and I were returning home from running errands and I noticed a vintage suitcase sticking out of the top of a trash can--what is wrong with people?--and my husband offered to pull over so I could grab it.

It was charmingly worn but also in good shape, nice and sturdy. I brought it home and knew immediately what I would do with it. Fairly often when I'm at meetings or get-togethers people will ask if I have any honey or skin care stuff in my car. I never do because something about selling stuff out of the back of my SUV isn't as adorable as having people come to the cottage and tour the garden. But one day it dawned on me that if I could create a portable bit of charm to carry things I might be willing to do that.

About a week later I saw the suitcase. Yep, it's a sign. If you have an old suitcase you'd like to repurpose, here's how:

Clean it up. Mine was dirty and looked like it had actually had an interesting life. I just used the disinfecting bathroom wipes I had on hand to get off the top layer of dirt. After that just wipe it down with a damp rag. As you can see a little elbow grease goes a long way.

vintage suitcase
old suitcase

After cleaning it up I gathered my supplies:

  • fabric
  • scissors
  • Wonder Under
  • iron
  • glue gun and glue sticks
  • trim


 I laid the fabric down over the inside and pressed it down arranging it the way I wanted to permanently attach it. I left plenty hanging over the sides to leave room for mistakes.

vintage suitcase makeover

Next I put the Wonder Under between the fabric and the suitcase and ironed it together. The inside surface of the suitcase didn't adhere quite as well as I would have liked but it worked alright.

Note: Because I wanted to add a pocket to hold business cards I sewed that on first. You can see it in the bottom left. 

suitcase makeover

I trimmed off more excess material making sure that I didn't remove too much. You can always trim more later. Then I carefully began to tuck it under and glue it down using the glue gun.

vintage suitcase makeover with hot glue gun

For the corners I treated it like wrapping a present in reverse. It's a bit of trial and error. Tuck. Trim. Glue. See the cute little pocket for my cards?

old suitcase upcycle

I was really happy with the way it was looking but felt like it needed a couple more whimsical touches. Nothing says whimsy like rick rack and pom pom fringe! I decided to use some scraps to make a tiny pennant banner for the inside lid. I stitched the triangles to the trim...

sewing pennant banner

Because my pocket wasn't perfectly even I used bits of trim to disguise my lack of attention to detail.

old suitcase makeover

I used hot glue to attach my little banner to the inside of the lid.

pom pom fringe

old suitcase repurpose

Now instead of something sad and unused headed to a landfill, it looks like a party waiting to happen!

old suitcase makover

I tucked some goodies inside to try it out.

It looked so cute on the inside that I needed a colorful retro vibe on the outside as well! Instead of travel stickers and luggage tags I used fun stickers from some businesses and events and a few Pen & Hive ones. Then I attached some of my gift tags to the handle and this project was complete!

I can think of a million other uses for a refinished vintage suitcase. It would be perfect for storing fabric or off season clothing. It would be darling in a guest room with extra blankets stored inside. You could even use it to store toys or art supplies. 

Here's hoping there is a sweet and happy ending to all of your trash picking adventures!

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