The Art of Darkness

Tutorial: Recycled Paperback Wallet

Here’s an easy way to turn a loved-to-death book (or just a secondhand book with an attractive cover) into a wallet.



  • Paperback book
  • Packing tape
  • Tissue paper or newspaper for cutting pattern pieces (optional)
  • Remnant of clear vinyl (available at fabric and craft stores)
  • Remnant of sturdy fabric (I used upholstery fabric)
  • Small plastic all-purpose zipper; I think the shortest you can find is about 7″, which is more than enough
  • Package of single-fold bias tape (1/2″ width)
  • Package of double-fold (1/2″ width) or wide single-fold (1″ width) bias tape
  • Short strip (about 4″) of 3/4″ Velcro sew-on tape
  • Thread

General Notes

  • Unless otherwise specified, all seam allowances are 1/2″
  • Although I like to make pattern templates for each piece, this is optional. You can just measure and cut the fabric directly if you prefer.
  • When pinning the vinyl, be sure to pin only inside the seam allowances. Otherwise the pinholes will be visible in the finished wallet.
  • To apply bias tape to the various fabric edges, fold it in half and press (double-fold tape will already be folded the way you need). If you’re feeling confident, slip the still-folded tape over the edge of the fabric and stitch close to the edge of the tape. If you aren’t, open the fold back up, place the edge of the fabric along the crease, and stitch close to the edge of the tape. Then fold the tape back over and stitch again. This makes it a little easier to make sure you catch in both the front and back edges of the tape.
  • Since the amount of material required is so small and the construction comes together pretty quickly, you can make a mockup using the back cover first. This will let you get the hang of how everything fits together before embarking on the “real” wallet.
  • You can use this same general idea to make a clutch purse using a larger book cover. You can also swap out the book cover for some other decorative item, such as a drawing or a few family photographs.
  • A thousand pardons for the shine on the vinyl in all the photos. My camera refused to cooperate.
Click the thumbnails for larger images.


Gather materials; choose the book that you want to convert (thrift-store finds are ideal) and then look for fabric, zipper, and bias tape in colors that complement the book cover.

Remove cover

Cut off the front cover of the book at the crease where it folds to wrap around the spine. This is a little easier if you remove the whole cover from the book first (pull carefully so you don’t tear it).

Back with tape

Cover the back of the cover with packing tape, trimming off any excess that hangs over the edges. This will strengthen the paper cover and prevent it from cracking or flaking when the wallet is folded.

Cut template

Measure the book cover; the one I used was 4 1/8″ wide x 6 7/8″ long (10.5 cm x 17.5 cm). Cut a paper template adding 1/2″ on all sides; in this case the template would measure 5 1/8″ x 7 7/8″.

Cut vinyl

Use this template to cut a piece of clear vinyl. This is the window that the book cover will slip into.

Cut fabric

Cut another template the same width as the first template–5 1/8″ in this case–and 3 1/2″ long, and use this to cut a piece of fabric. This is the piece that will extend the length of the wallet into a proper trifold.


Sew the fabric and vinyl together at one short edge, right sides together. Press the seam toward the fabric (this is where it’s going to want to go naturally anyway).

Inner sleeve

Cut another piece of fabric the same width (5 1/8″) and 2 1/2″ longer than the first vinyl piece (10 3/8″ in this case). This is the backing for the wallet front.

Sew together

Sew the front and back pieces of the wallet front, wrong sides together, on three sides, leaving one short edge of the vinyl open. Also stitch “in the ditch” along the seam where the vinyl and small fabric front piece meet.

Finished front

The front will look like this when finished. (The open edge is out of frame to the right.)

Finished front

Here’s the back of the same piece, showing the short edge left open.

Cover in place

Slip the book cover in through the open edge then stitch that edge closed, taking care not to catch in the book cover.

Sew in Velcro

Cut a piece of Velcro 3 3/4″ long and separate the sides. Place the long edge of one side on the outside of the wallet front, along the seam where the vinyl and fabric meet, with one short edge of the Velcro 1/2″ from the bottom of the wallet. Stitch in place.

Inner pieces

Cut pieces for the inside of the wallet. You will need:

  • Two pieces of fabric the same length as the front of the wallet and 3/4″ narrower (top to bottom); in this case, it would be 4 1/2″ wide and 10 7/8″ long. This is the inner part of the billfold, where you’ll slip in paper money.
  • Four pieces of fabric, the same width as the fabric you just cut (so 4 1/2″) and 3″ long. These are the inner pockets.
  • One piece of fabric, the same width as the others (4 1/2″) and an extra inch long (4″). This will be the zippered coin purse; you need the extra inch for the zipper seam.
  • One piece of vinyl, the same width as the other pieces (again 4 1/2″) and 2 1/4″ long. This will be a clear window to hold a driver’s license. (It’s optional, but it looks spiffy.)
Bias tape on vinyl

Apply narrow single-fold bias tape to one long edge of the piece of vinyl and one long edge of one of the 4 1/2″ x 3″ fabric pieces.

License window

Place the wrong side of the vinyl piece on top of the right side of the fabric piece, matching the unfinished edges, and baste those three edges.

Place on billfold

Place the wrong side of this piece on top of the right side of one of the long billfold fabric pieces, matching the unfinished edges. Baste in place.

Cut coin purse

Cut 1 1/2″ off one end of the fabric meant for the coin purse.

Add zipper

Turn under 1/2″ on the cut edges and sew in the zipper (a zipper foot will make your life significantly easier here). Cut off any excess at the top and then baste across the top edge to hold everything in place.

Stitch Velcro

Place the long edge of the other piece of Velcro 1/2″ from the long edge of the coin purse top; the short edges of the Velcro will lap slightly into the seam allowance. Stitch in place. (Note: The photo is slightly out of sequence here because I forgot to add the Velcro until I was further along in the project, ripped everything out, and then forgot to re-take the pictures before reassembly. It was one of those days. Pretend the Velcro is already in place in the following photos.)

Stitch back

Sew the finished coin purse top to one of the 4 1/2″ x 3″ pieces of fabric, wrong sides together. Apply narrow bias tape to the long edge nearest the zipper.

Stitch back

Place the wrong side of this piece on top of the right side of the other end of the long piece that you sewed previously, matching the unfinished edges. Baste in place. (Obviously, there should be Velcro there on the end. Sigh.)

Middle pocket

Cut 1/2″ off the top (one of the short edges) of another one of the 4 1/2″ x 3″ pieces of fabric, then fold the short edge down at about a 45-degree angle and cut along that fold.

Middle pocket

Apply narrow bias tape along the diagonal cut edge, then place this piece on top of the last 4 1/2″ x 3″ piece of fabric, both right-side-up. Apply narrow bias tape to both long edges.

Stitch to back

Center this piece on the long fabric piece that you’ve already stitched the license window and coin purse to, aligning the top and bottom raw edges. Baste the top and bottom, then stitch the right side along the bias tape. This gives you a nice pocket to hold one of those plastic credit card insert thingies.

Stitch together

Place the long piece with all the stitched-on stuff on the other long piece (the 4 1/2″ x 10 7/8″ one) that you cut way back up there, wrong sides together, and baste all four sides. Apply the wide bias tape to the top seam (trimming about 1/8″ off the seam first makes it easier to hide all the basting).

Stitch inside to outside

You’re in the home stretch! Place the inner sleeve of the wallet on the outer sleeve of the wallet, wrong sides together, matching the sides and the bottoms. Sew along both short edges and the bottom.

Top and bottom bias

Now to finish the edges. You can either apply the wide bias tape in one long strip, mitering the corners (there’s a good tutorial here), or you can decide that’s entirely too fiddly and do what I did: Apply the wide bias tape to the top and bottom edges of the wallet….

Side bias

…then apply to the sides. Fold under 1/4″ on both ends of the bias tape before stitching in place.


And done! Here’s the finished outside.


Here it is folded.


And another view. Easy!