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How to Reline a Vintage Suitcase | DIY Tutorials to Revamp Old Luggage & Boxes

Updated on January 29, 2015

Easy Instructions for Adding a Fleece Liner

I have always loved the charm of vintage suitcases and one day I spotted one at a carboot sale and snapped it up. The inside was quite worn and aged so I decided to reline it and give it new life.

I chose to use fleece in order to give it a cozy and soft feel, and I love the outcome. It's also a really easy DIY project too.

The end result can be used as part of a craft show display, as cool storage space or for travel purposes. I also like the idea of using it as a picnic hamper!

I hope you enjoy my how-to.

Photos: All photos on this page are taken by myself.

Buying the Suitcase

You may already have an old suitcase like this at home, but if not you can try to find one at thrift stores and second hand sales. I bought mine at a carboot in the UK for £5.

As you can see from the photo, it is lined with some old paper.

Removing the Current Lining

The first thing I did was give the whole thing a wipe down with a damp cloth, inside and out. Then I left it to dry thoroughly.

Next I removed as much of the paper lining as I could. Don't worry if you can't remove it, just be careful not to try too hard and cause damage. I used a wallpaper scraper to help me but mostly I just used by nails to peel the paper off.

Removing loose paper is necessary so that the fabric lining will be glued to a stable surface.

Choose Your Fabric

I chose a black-and-white check polar fleece fabric, which is lovely and soft :)

Roughly Measure Your Fabric

Drape your fabric over your suitcase, pushing it into the recesses. Try to arrange it so that the suitcase isn't right in the center of the fabric, but is positioned more towards the edges so that you won't waste fabric.

Then cut a piece of fabric out that fits over both the top and bottom sides with a bit of excess on all edges.

Cut Into Two

Then cut the fabric into two pieces, thus producing a piece that fits over each side of the suitcase with excess on all of the edges.

The Adhesive

Aleene's tacky glue was my weapon of choice.

The Practice Run

Now you simply put the fabric pieces into place on each side of the suitcase, making sure they are positioned neatly so that any patterns are facing the right way and all creases are removed. As you can see from the photo, I had leather straps across the middle so I simply cut slits in the fabric so that it could be manoeuvred around the straps without being too noticeable.

I just used scissors to cut the fabric to the correct size as it lay in position. Scissors can be tricky to use whilst the fabric in in place so therefore some of my edges weren't the neatest (as you will probably notice!)

To make neater edges, you could instead choose to mark the dimensions out on the fabric (with a fabric marker), remove the fabric from the suitcase and then cut each piece out using a rotary cutter, a cutting mat and a ruler.

Or you could do it really technically and make paper templates for each surface area before transferring the shape to fabric.

The Glueing

I removed the fabric pieces from the suitcase, then drizzled the glue inside and spread it quite thinly over the surface, making sure it went right up to where the edges of the fabric will be.

I then put the fabric pieces carefully back into the case and pressed them down into the right position. Take care over the edges, making sure they are properly stuck down and are straight (especially if you are using a fabric with any stretch). Fleece is very forgiving for this project, thankfully!

Finished! You should now have a lovely cozy lining to your suitcase.

Note: If you mess up the edges or they're just not as neat as you would like, you can glue decorative ribbon or other trim over the top to hide them :)

Another idea for a lining variation is to add batting under the fabric lining to create a lovely padded surface.

The Exterior

I left the outside surface as it was, however you could use different methods of finishing such as painting or decoupaging.

More Decoupage Tools & Materials

There is a huge choice of papers that you can use to decoupage with, from sheet music to maps. The design you choose determines the whole look and theme of the finished project, so choose wisely!

A brayer is an excellent tool to use when decoupaging because it removes air bubbles and creases from the paper for a more professional and neat finish.

How To Reline With Paper Instead

Using Decoupage Techniques

- First make sure the inside surface of the suitcase is smooth and solid (i.e. you have removed any fabric lining). You can use sandpaper in order to smooth the surface if you wish - making sure to wipe away all of the dust afterwards - or if sanding doesn't work you could line the suitcase with a smooth card (not corrugated card). To do this just cut the card to size and glue the pieces in. The appearance isn't important; just the smoothness of the finish.

- Use a paintbrush to coat the inside surface with a thin layer of Mod Podge glue to seal and prime. Use quite a wide paintbrush (that you don't mind being ruined - so only a cheap one). The Mod Podge I would recommend is the classic type (matte rather than glossy).

- Leave to dry.

- If you are using a thin paper type to decoupage with, spray the paper on both sides with clear acrylic sealer and leave to dry before continuing.

* It is much easier to collage the inside of the suitcase with smaller pieces of paper stuck all over - such as rectangle shapes cut out of maps, book pages or comic books - rather than attempt to decoupage with just a single piece of paper to cover one entire side. It's best not to use paper that is too thin and fragile or is translucent, as this will get messy and will be difficult to work with.

- Cut your papers up into the shapes you want to use and arrange them on the inside of the suitcase so you know where you want to place them and you can plan out your design now.

- Take the first piece of paper and brush the Mod Podge onto the back of it as well as onto the suitcase where you will be attaching the paper. Put the piece into position and press it down. Smooth the paper out, working from the center outwards to prevent bubbles. A brayer tool could help with this step.

- Brush another layer of Mod Podge over the top of the paper so it has a protective layer.

- Repeat for all of the pieces of paper until the surface is covered. Leave to dry.

- If you want a very smooth surface you can now sand the surface with sandpaper, wipe away the dust and then add a further layer of Mod Podge.

- If you find that even when dry the surface is a bit sticky, you can spray a few layers of (matte) clear acrylic sealer over the top. Mod Podge do make their own acrylic sealer which would be a good choice.

- Finished!

Click here to find out more about decoupage.

How to Add a Padded Lining

Have you revamped any luggage before?

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Please Leave a Comment!

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    • profile image

      Sybile 4 weeks ago

      I have the same project to do thanks

    • profile image

      Sally 2 months ago

      Thank you for your iseas

    • JaneA profile image

      JaneA 2 years ago from California

      My mother had an old pig-skin suitcase that I hung onto for years - and finally ditched because the lining was so shabby. What a shame I didn't come across this first. Thanks anyway!

    • profile image

      nmmary 3 years ago

      Just what I was looking for. Thank you.