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Old School Book Strap

posted by Matt Pierce on September 28, 2011

Over at Design*Sponge, this month's theme is academia. I was talking with about this project and she threw out the idea of an old-fashioned book strap. I immediately thought it sounded interesting and wondered what I could do with it. Also, the sun isn’t going to shine forever – and when it dies and we have no energy to charge our laptops, we’d all have to read books again. The rebirth of print!

So, you may not want to let go of your backpack already, but regardless – there’s some fun construction opportunities to tinker with here. I’m just showing one simple direction, so you have plenty of opportunities to experiment on your own. More pencil holders? A cross strap? A clip to attach a six-pack? Go for it!

Material-wise, my inclination is to use some leather and a scrap of Army blanket. I have lots of this stuff. You could use denim and an old belt. Felt and some nylon webbing? Lots of possibilities.  

First thing, cut your wool blanket material in the shape of a T. The top is 5 inches wide and 3 inches tall. The overall height is about 12 inches. This length gives you a long flap to protect your book from the buckle area. Cut your leather to a strap of 1.5 inches wide and at least 48 inches long. You can make it longer or shorter to your preference, and longer if you want a looped handle.

Take both material pieces and lay them out together and apply some contact cement to one end of the strap and lay it glue up in the T. Fold the T ends to the glued center to make the pencil holders. Bring the strap back over the glue strip with the rings included. Press together and allow to dry. The glue is to keep things together before stitching and add some stiffness to the assembly.

Once dry, sew everything together using some thick thread. You can sew it on a machine, or hand sew. Final step, stroll to the library with the look of a literary connoisseur.



Sean on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

What sewing machine would you recommend? I’ve been hand stitching leather for a bit and would love to jump up to a machine for the larger projects.

Heather on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Beautiful! Love the simple leather and army blanket! How hard is it to sew leather? It looks like you have an industrial sewing machine…I have a Janome sewing machinge…what has been your experience? Thanks!

Mr. Lentz on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Flippin Rad. Love this style, simple, functional and nice to look at.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Thanks Ronan… it’s definitely all about practice. I mess up plenty, I just don’t post the experimental screw-ups!

Addi on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

This is so cool! I definitely try to make one. Thanks a lot for the tutorial!

Ronan on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Oh, I wish I lived in the US, your creations are just amazing. The effortless simplicity with which you seem to create these beautiful items belies a deft touch which I sadly lack, but hope to achieve with practice. Thank you for the inspiration!

c. on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

hello matt.
would you be so kind to tell me what camera you use? i also would like to know if you use a certain mode for the close-ups or a special lighting. and the last one: do you use photoshop?
thank you very much and please keep up this great work. your site is really beautiful and inspiring!
greetings from austria/europe

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Hi Alan. I get most of my leather from Oregon Leather Co. in Portland. They’ve been great and I’m lucky to have a local supply of hides to sort through. As for initial tools, I’d recommend an awl, rotary blade knife, a couple leather needles, some waxed thread, and a copy of Al Stohlman’s guide on hand stitching. Check out my passport cover post, and that might be just the kinda project you’d want to start with.

Alan on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Matt, maybe you have already answered this for someone else, but I was wondering where you get your leather (Portland/online) and what are some good tools to start with? Any way you might do a post about leather work basics? The sewing machine question above was another that I had.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Hi Heather. Glad you like. It’s pretty easy to sew leather, but my machine is really build for it. I’ve heard good things about Janome, and was talking to a guy that says they’ll sew leather, but I’ve never tried one myself. Not sure of the model he was talking about either. The leather I used on this project is pretty soft, so I would think that any mildly sturdy machine could handle it with the right needle and a slow speed. Sewing leather too fast will get the needle too hot and melt some thread in the process. Hope that helps a little, let me know how yours handles things if you try it!

Ken B on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

“Rebirth of print”… amen to that!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Sean, I really like my Juki, but there’s other great machines out there too. This article was excellent for helping me figure out what I needed to look for –

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Ha ha ha, Thanks Uncle B. I’m not trying to start problem! Honest!

Uncle Beefy on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Okay, Matt, let’s get a few things straight… it’s bad enough that perusing your wares places me in an inevitable struggle between mounting debt and squealing like a little girl over purchasing new bag/belt/etc. But, now you come out with this killer/awesomesauce old school book strap? What?! So, on top of all my aforementioned struggles you just thought you’d rub your super-cool craftsmanship in my face? Seriously? What? For my pleasure? HA! You bet!

You are, excuse the pun, too cool for school. :)

Baaf on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Hi, Matt

I love the simplicity. Its inspiring as always, Keep up the good work!


MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Hi C, I use a Olympus EP-1 with a Panasonic 20mm lens for most of my shots. Anything that Lisa has taken was using a Nikon D3 and a 50mm. No special lighting is ever used, mostly natural light. I do use photoshop, but usually only camera raw to alter the color/temps if necessary. Hope that helps! Thanks for reading.

Alan on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Thanks Matt! Looking forward to collecting another hobby.

Nathan on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

But if the sun dies we’d still have coal and nuclear power. Until the crops failed. Then we’d all die. But if that’s what it takes to bring back books then so be it.

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Nope, sorry.

Jonathan on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

The idea of making it is cool and all but do you sell this already complete?

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Thanks Liz. That machine is a Juki LU-562.

liz on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Curious what kind of machine that is? Love the simplicity of this project, but so useful.

Alex Patin on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

No way! I saw a picture of this on tumblr the other day and just now decided to look it up. Took me a bit to remember the exact name for it, but, as soon as I got it down, this was the first link to popup.
I can’t wait to try my hand at making this. Thanks for the tutorial!

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Michael, you should just hand stitch it… check out the tutorials I have for that… like on the passport cover or leather lunch tote.

Michael Scoble on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Hi, I’m hot to make this and I’m pretty sure I can. Your straight forward directions are,Oh how would I say it…straight forward. I have the blanket material,the leather,rings ,cement.But I don’t have a sewing machine. I was thinking of going to a shoemaker.Someone told me there are hand machines that are capable and not too expensive.Are there any types you might know of and/or recommend?
Great project and cool item,Thanks

Michael Scoble on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

This something I would buy,so thank you for showing us how to make it .I’m sure with a little practice it will come out better then anything you could buy,and much cheaper.

Shawn @SIDONIEYANG on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Very beautiful and well-crafted! It’s uncanny, because you have a lot of the same tools that my wife, Sidonie has, for her handmade products (she makes a book strap as well). We even have that same orange mechanical pencil from Pentel!

Nicole on November 14 2014 at 10:21AM

Use a leather needle on your domestic (it has sort of a wing on either side of the eye).

MMP on November 14 2014 at 10:20AM

Hi Jin, that’s not something we’re currently selling in the shop. Sorry I can’t help at this time!

Jin on November 14 2014 at 10:20AM

Hi Matt,

I am a book lover looking for a durable leather book strap to bundle my books when I go out. Sadly so far I couldn’t find a decent one one on-line; seems like hardcopy are being obsolete in our time so nobody is producing nor using book strap. :( I randomly found your website here and do admire your works! Though I saw your previous reply above saying that it is not ready to sell, I still wonder if it is possible to book one from you?

Thank you!

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