Old baggage comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Many bags and cases still have shipping labels from their last journeys and some interesting clues as to whom they belonged. They were built to withstand robust handling as they were portered between boat, railway luggage car, cart or carriage, stacked high and packed full.
As a result, many pieces are now battered and worn and often in need of some repair. Others have been left for ages in attics and are in great shape, but could do with a little sprucing up. There are lots of different designs and finishes, from scuffed canvas to beautifully aged leather. The subtle tan leather cases and trunks should be left to improve with age, but from all the rest you can choose anything from the smallest cardboard child’s case to the biggest steamer trunk to turn into a swanky new present.
Materials you will need
old suitcase, hatbox or trunk;
fabric for covering (choose whole pieces cut to the right size or little squares to patchwork over the surface);
craft knife or small scissors
How to make a textile covered suitcase
1 Whatever type of luggage you choose, ensure it is structurally sound, opens and closes easily and has no sharp nails or hinges on the insides or outside. Begin by giving the case a really through clean. Start with the outside and any catches or metal. Remove any rust with some fine wire wool and oil the catches so that they open smoothly. Polish any wooden beading or leather corner supports with a soft duster and some beeswax polish.
2 Using a well-stired mixture of 2-thirds PVA glue and 1-third water, paste the glue thickly and evenly onto the area that you want to cover. Then start smoothing on the little squares or whole pieces of trimmed fabric. It doesn’t matter if any glue gets onto the surface of the fabric as it becomes clear when dry. When you get to the edges of the lid of the case, continue sticking all around the lip, gluing a little of the fabric to the inside of the case to keep it neat. Use lots of glue so the fabric is stuck firmly in place.
3 Glue pieces of fabric right up to locks and catches, then use a sharp-bladed craft knife or small scissors to trim off excess fabric around their edges. Leave the case open to dry.
4 When the glue has dried, repeat the process and do the same on the inside. Cut scallop-shaped strips of fabric for borders, stick on braid or even use old wallpaper or maps to decorate the inside.
5 Finally, you can stencil the initials of the lucky recipient onto the baggage, add a luggage label with your message, or fill the whole thing up with whatever takes your fancy.