DIYdiy projects

diy project: old-school book strap

by Matt

I was talking with our DIY editor Kate about this project, and since this month’s theme is academia, 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’ll all have to read books again. The rebirth of print!

So, you may not want to let go of your backpack yet, but regardless, there are 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 tons of this stuff. You could use denim and an old belt. Felt and some nylon webbing. There are lots of possibilities. — Matt

See the full how-to after the jump!


  • leather or nylon web strap
  • wool surplus blanket scrap
  • contact cement
  • two 1.5″ rings


  • knife
  • cutting mat
  • metal ruler
  • sewing machine


1. 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.

2. Take both material pieces, lay them out together, 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.

3. Once dry, sew everything together using some thick thread. You can sew it on a machine or hand sew.

4. Final step: Stroll to the library looking like a literary connoisseur.

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  • That is awesome! What brand/type of sewing machine did you use? I have a high end ELNA and I am ready to graduate to an industrial machine that can easily sewing leather and thicknesses like this project.

    This would make an excellent project for kids, of the nerdy sort, like I was!! LOL!!

  • So how well does this hold books? When I was a kid I tried this but my books just fell out. is the felt the secret? I also used a bucket belt…

  • Oh! So beautiful. In my hometown, Toronto (Canada), our mayor is on a public service rampage, and libraries are on the chopping block. I am horrified. Seeing this beautiful project reminds me of the beauty and nostalgia of books, print, and the written word.

  • I like this! What brand/type of sewing machine did you use? The stitching thru the 2 layers of leather AND blanket, is PERFECT!

  • Perfect timing D*S team! I just started looking into how to work with leather, I’m an amateur sewer and a compulsive craft-a-holic and leather is a new world to me. The strap is so cute but I’m an eBook reader now. I can see myself taking all the steps you have an re-arranging them to make leather straps on a handbag though!

    I’m also curious how you sewed through 2 layers of leather and 1 lay of wool. I’ve seen needles designed for leather but I’m not sure my machine is up to it and I feat I’ll break it if I try. Any tips or per-requesits we should know about for that step?
    I bet, in lieu of a sewing machine or hand stitching you could probably use a rivet or two to hold the layers together.

  • @Leia – It holds pretty well because that leather piece has a bit of stretch to it, and the wool part helps to snug the strap tight. The ring buckle is good for cinching it down.

    @Stephanie and @Terri Ann – That’s a Yuki LU-562 industrial machine, and I’ve got it setup for leather with a size20 needle and 138 thread… way more heft than a conventional machine. Though, yes you could definitely use rivets or the hand-sewing technique I talk about on this post – http://www.designsponge.com/2011/08/diy-project-hand-sewn-passport-cover.html

  • This is so crazy, yesterday while waiting in the car line at school I looked at how loaded down the kids were with books and things and thought to myself they could never have the bookstrap things that Laura Ingalls carried on Little House on the Prairie

  • Is anyone else old enough to remember what some teachers once did with straps like this one? My palm hurts thinking about it. :)

  • hey,
    i would love to do this for my drawing markers. do you think it will work or will they slip out? thank you!

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