diy project: vintage book travel-tech organizer

As you may have figured out from my My Life Scoop posts, I’m a bit of a nut for tech accessories, especially pocket-sized ones. I can’t get over how awesomely small our entertainment devices are becoming; it makes traveling with them so much easier. But one issue I keep running into is how to neatly organize everything, especially the power cords and connector cables that accompany my favorite devices.

Rather than spend another plane trip rummaging through my catch-all carry-on bag searching for my headphones, bumping my head on the seat in front of me every time, I decided to make a small tech-accessory organizer using elastic ribbon and an old vintage book cover. This project can be sized up or down and customized in many different ways — the best approach is to gather all the tiny tech things you travel with and see how much there is. After that, it’s just a bit of snipping, sewing and gluing, and you’re on your way to a clean, organized carry-on. Enjoy! — Kate

Have a DIY project you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • vintage cloth-bound hardcover book with dimensions close to 6.5″ x 10.5″ x 1.75″ thick
  • black rubberized fabric (I used a non-slip black drawer liner material from the hardware store, but a thin neoprene foam will work, as well.)
  • 9 yards black elastic ribbon, 0.5″ thick
  • sewing machine, pins, needle and black thread
  • illustration board or thin mat board (same dimension as your book)
  • Elmer’s Glue and fabric glue
  • ruler, X-Acto knife and cutting mat
  • black photo tape (available at art stores)


1. Use your X-Acto blade to remove the cover from the book pages, keeping the cover intact.

2. Lay the book cover face down on top of your black fabric and trace the dimensions. Use your ruler and X-Acto knife to cut a rectangle 1/8″ smaller on all sides from the traced dimensions.

3. Take your elastic and cut it into short strips (the width of your closed book cover) and long strips (the height of your closed book cover). Cut enough strips to fill the entire dimensions (if they don’t fit evenly, err on the side of one less and space out the strips). For me, this was 12 long strips and 19 short strips.

4. Starting in the upper left-hand corner of the black fabric, begin pinning the long strips in a row along the top edge (don’t pin the bottom edge yet). Sew them down along the edge, securing them to the black fabric. Remove the pins.

Note that you aren’t covering the entire rectangle, just one half of the inside cover. If you want to cover both sides of the inside cover, you can.

5. Now begin adding in your short strips. Notice the pattern is not a regular in/out weave. You want to have several places where 2 to 3 adjacent strips are exposed to the top both horizontally and vertically — this creates thick bands where you can tuck in larger items. Pin down the horizontal short strips at both ends, and you may want to have the items you plan to store (wires, cameras, iPods, etc.) handy to test placement of the strips. (Please pardon the fuzzy picture!)

A note on tightness: Since you are working with elastic, be sure to pin the strips tight enough so there is just the slightest amount of pull, so that when the piece is flattened, the elastic will be tight and hold items securely (the weave also helps this). The fabric should curl slightly inwards on all sides once pinned but mostly retain its shape so that if you pulled the rectangle open and flat, the elastic would be taut.

6. Once all the short strips are pinned in place and you are happy with the layout, sew around the other three edges of the design with your sewing machine, securing the woven strips in place. Trim any excess elastic from around the edges.

7. Cut your illustration/mat board to the inner dimension of the front book cover. Use your sewing machine or an awl to poke holes around all four edges of the board. You can hand crank the sewing machine, which allows you to space the holes out a bit more.

8. Using a needle and thread, sew the board to the backside of the black fabric (behind the side with the elastic grid) using a blanket stitch. (If you are unfamiliar with that stitch, here is a tutorial; don’t worry, it’s super easy.) Be sure to pull each edge tight as you are sewing to stretch out the fabric and tighten the elastic grid.

9. Once your board is sewn to the backside of the grid and the grid is pulled tight, cover the three edges with black photo tape (or you can sew or glue on fabric tape if you prefer).

10. On the right-hand side of the fabric rectangle (the side that will cover the inside of the back book cover), use your X-Acto knife to cut a 3.5″ horizontal slit for the pocket 1″ from the edges (not including the width of the spine) and 4.5″ up from the bottom edge. I also cut two smaller horizontal slits 4″ above the pocket and inserted a thick band of the fabric to hold my phone, but you can customize this organizer however you please — you could even make a second side of the woven elastic grid.

11. Now your fabric lining is ready to be adhered into the book cover. Using Elmer’s Glue on the side with the paper board (left) and fabric glue on the side with just the fabric backing (right), spread a thin layer of glue on the back of the lining and the inside of the book jacket, then press the lining into place, lining up the edges evenly and pressing down firmly. Clean off any excess glue that seeps out with a damp rag, then place the book open on the floor, cover with a sheet of clean scrap paper and something heavy, like a large stack of books (I used a case of wine — worked like a charm!), and allow the glue to dry overnight.

12. Once the glue is dry, remove the book form underneath the weights and clean up any loose thread or glue spots.

13. You’re done! You can add a closing latch or use a large rubber band to hold the piece closed, or you can leave it loose like a regular book. Fill with cords, chargers and travel papers, and take a trip somewhere!



  1. Cerise says:

    This is really AWESOME!

  2. This is fabulous! I am Ms. Anti-Kindle, so I understand the love and appreciation for books and old books, but for those that are tossed, shoved in a corner and forgotten, unloved – this is a really creative breath of fresh life for those prized books. If everything remained as it always was and nothing was ever tossed, recycled, or re-purposed – Man! We’d have a whole lotta junk on our pretty planet! Grace, I really love this.. though I’m so not patient enough and well, you guys do a prettier DIY job than I ever could! Kudos! Looks perty!

  3. Susan says:

    Please, everyone — understand that just because you may not value that old book, someone may. Unless it is damaged beyond repair, do not destroy it. Once ripped apart, you can never get it back. And that’s just sad. I do not deny that this is a lovely project, but just because one person is careful about choosing what they use (an unrepairable book), doesn’t mean the next person will be. It’s like the new trend towards wedding bouquets made from vintage jewelry and flower pins. I work at an antique store and people have been buying perfectly good vintage jewelry to create these bouquets, breaking and gluing them into submission. It breaks my heart! Please stop to think of what you are doing before doing it!

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      i think a lot of those people ARE thinking about what they’re doing- and they’re thinking that they’re doing something that makes them happy and that will result in them using something that may have sat in a dumpster or store for ages not being used. we could have this argument all day, but i think we you start getting into people using antiques for wedding bouquets that might be more of a taste issue than a preservation issue. you can easily use vintage jewelry in wedding flowers without glue and not damage the piece.


  4. Doug says:

    Great job and idea!! FTW!! I will try to do this, but never finish what I start.

  5. Michele says:

    Very interesting. Love crafting things myself. Will give it a closer look!

  6. Barbra Deshmond says:

    I firmly believe that it’s fine for people to use books for this project. It belongs to them and they can do what they want with it… Also, taking the cover does not make the actual text from it unusable…. The actual pages can be saved.

    And on a seperate note:
    I have found on the Container Store’s website, that they have something very similar to the black netting in which the electronics are actually held.
    So in the event that someone was feeling lazy (like me) they could buy the elastic grid and then put together the rest of the project themselves… Just an idea….

    but great project anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Sarah says:

    I have a Grid-It that I like, but this is just awesome. Making it yourself means you can choose how you want to set up the grid. I get that people don’t want to destroy old books–fine, find a book that is unreadable… there are bound to be plenty out there with ripped or damaged pages. I also love the idea that someone suggested of using old legal or science books, the text is irrelevant anyway. Great project, so pretty.

  8. Ihadanidea says:

    For those who are distressed by the idea of “destroying” a print book, here’s a thought. Take a book published prior to 1923 so that it’s in public domain. Cut off the binding and make your awesome organizer. Then scan the book and donate the scans to Project Gutenberg – their team of proofreaders will convert it to an electronic copy that can be accessed for free by everyone. For books past 1923, scan and donate to, which provides books in accessible format for people with print disabilities (vision impairment, dyslexia, etc). Then everyone wins.

  9. Doctor Wynn says:

    Very nice….would someone care to custom one for a craft-quality-impaired person like me (for a small fee, of course)? Heck, I can even find an appropriate book to use.

  10. Arati says:

    If you can’t find a book cover you like (or as I see in some of these comments, bring yourself to ‘deface’ a vintage book), just use a binder from the local stationery store and cover it with whatever cloth or paper you fancy.

  11. Tina says:

    OK, I made one for my upcoming travels! Thanks for the inspiration! I got the book from the Salvation Army – and I have read and adored it when I was a kid – still have my original Nancy Drew set! Here’s a link to the picture:

  12. Amy says:

    I loved this project idea the moment I saw it. I attempted it this weekend and it came out great. Having just been in the trenches, I wanted to share my experience, so others can benefit from my mistakes and design tweeks! I used foam-like black contact paper for the fabric that I had on hand. It worked well, but I had a lot of trouble adhering it directly to the back cover of the book. After a couple failed attempts, I decided to hand stitch another piece of the mat board to the fabric on that side (which was tricky, because I had already glued the side with the elastic grid). I used electrical wire tape (it was only $0.69 at the hardware store) to cover the stitches on all sides, then I glued the mat board to the back cover using Tacky Glue. It worked like a charm, and gave the whole thing a little more strength. Also–when hand sewing the mat board to the respective sides, I did a very crude straight stitch on side closest to the spine of the book. I found that this helped keep the elastic grid in place a little better, and therefore helped with the tension. On the whole a great project!!! Lots of fun!!

  13. Lyndsey says:

    This is absolutely brilliant and I simply cannot wait to make it!

  14. David Bikman says:

    As a crafter who upcycles a lot of used books for a living, I just want to expand on Grace’s responses to those book lovers who are worried about the unnecessary loss of a readable book. My personal standard when upcycling books is to seek out and use only those books that are near to being physically destroyed. This means buying in bulk from library discard sales, shopping from the 50-cent book pile at my local thrift stores, and pulling from free boxes. This way I am confident that the books I transform are truly being rescued from the trash heap and made ready for a second life as a newly useful object. I’ve been a book lover all my life, and I see what I do as an act of love for old and vintage books.

    I really love this project, by the way! I make a lot of hollow book safes, and may try this out and start selling them at my Etsy shop! I hope that’s ok with you, Grace! :-)

    -David Bikman
    UpCycle Studios
    Portland, OR

  15. here’s my version:
    now i’m sure i won’t lose any important cables anymore… i hope :)
    thanks for the inspiration!

  16. Julie says:

    this is really awesome idea!! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Tyler says:

    Oh my goodness! Where did you (Simon) get that book? The Israel one? it is AMAZING.

    I am currently working on my own version of this. I am so excited to see how it turns out

  18. marina says:

    any relation to Bonney’s in St,Louis Mo????

  19. @TYLER i got the ISRAEL book from a thrift store. It’s from the 60’s, a photograph portfolio. it was the ‘coolest’ book cover i could find in our modest thrift stores :)

  20. Kathryn says:

    Genius! I especially love the versatility of the elastic grid. Thank you for sharing.
    signed- A Book Lover

  21. Adonna says:

    Love, love, love. What a really *great* use for a book whose interior has seen much better days. Must. Make. This.

  22. Léa says:

    That’s exactly the accessory I was looking for ! It’s such a great idea !

  23. Ruth Dejam says:

    Check at your local public library for books that they discarding. They do this all the time and this is an excellent project to repurpose them with. I’ve made jewelry boxes with them by hollowing out the pages, and used the covers for binders and sketch books. Your library and the environment will thank you.

  24. Daniel says:

    I am a librarian, so I certainly love books but I know there comes a time when some books need to be weeded out of a collection. This is a great way to give a book, or at least part of it a new lease on life.

  25. cody says:

    adding a small amount of silicone to the back side of the strips will give it a better grip on plastics and metals shoved into the woven stretchy straps

  26. Taylor says:

    I love this idea, but my problem is that the only books that I have to re-purpose aren’t pretty and antique-y. The front and back are just plain black, which is fine, but I don’t necessarily want the spine showing. Any ideas of how to cover it up without taking away from the aesthetics? I don’t just want to cover the whole thing with fabric, because I still want it to look like a book. Help?

  27. Dale says:

    I don’t know why but I am having trouble figuring this out.I have sewn my long strips at one end and my short strips at both ends. Do I now sew just a straight stitch through the fabric and the holes on the inside portion of my grid and then a blanket stitch around the other three sides?

  28. jasmin says:

    WOW! ‘nuf said

  29. Nora says:

    This is so beautiful! Do you think you could elaborate a bit on the phone pocket? I just can’t seem to wrap my head around it.

  30. Jeremiah Jensen says:

    I was looking for desk organization but I just HAD to stop and see this. You manufacture some very creative medicine. I think I’ll have to try this out for my naturalist field notebook, now to try and make a waterproof one~ :3

  31. k says:

    I was wondering if felt would work as a substitute for the black non-slip fabric??

  32. Willy says:

    I’m in the process of making this, and I had a question about the construction. In your example above, the illustration mat is only cut to the width of the front of the book cover, correct? Do you sew the fourth side of the fabric to the board, or are you only sewing three of the sides? I’m also putting in a couple strips (sewn into the back of the fabric, since they’re not all the way across)–should I sew another mat to the fabric, or will glue hold it okay? That was another bit I was confused about–how do you glue the right side down while still keeping the pocket? Thanks for the awesome idea and the fantastic inspiration!

  33. sarah says:

    What a lovely idea – it’s given me loads of inspirations for doing more projects with some of my vintage ‘rejects’. Organising all those little bits and bobs is so tricky, this is such a tidy solution!

  34. Mangala Kilpadi says:

    What a marvelous idea! It will surely be a great help while travelling and otherwise. Waiting to try it out. Thanks for sharing this project. Do you have any newsletter to which one can subscribe?

  35. Sue says:

    Best idea ever! I have two small book covers and I am not sure what to do with them. I took the insides out over a years ago thinking of making and nice pop up card with them but this is much better. Hmmm now my brain is on over load thinking of possibilities.

  36. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, I
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  37. Stephanie says:


    What a wonderful idea! I really love it :) I’m trying to make one for myself. I already found a used leatherbound book that’s perfect for the project! One question though, what is illustration mat? I don’t really understand what it is and what purpose it served. Any alternatives I could use?


  38. Geonz says:

    So! I searched to *shop* for something to hold my gadgets and found this, andit is within my humble skills.
    Then I went down to the bike Project and a guy asked if we threw away old inner tubes, which of course we don’t because… oy vey! I don’t need no stinking elastic strips! I can use my old inner tubes! Bet they sew peachy. Hope so…

  39. Moo says:

    LOVE THIS!!! I will be careful about choosing a damaged book, not a beautifully preserved one. –> wonder if I could leave a few pages in (or an extra bit of material) to double up for my laptop :)

  40. Robyn says:

    Can you hand sew this?

  41. My spouse and I stumbled over here different page and thought
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