Vintage Suitcase Repair & Free Digital Download

I’m such a sucker for old luggage. Completely functional vintage suitcase storage that looks so much cooler than Rubbermaid bins.I found an awesome OshKosh suitcase at one of my favorite little shops, Pick of the Litter, a Forgotten Felines thrift store in Santa Rosa, CA. (Scout isn’t very happy when I bring home things that benefit cats.)It was marked $8/As-Is because it was missing a handle…and, well, you know I love a good challenge!So I made a handle. I’ll show you how, although the chance of you having a suitcase like this with hardware like this needing a replacement handle is pretty unlikely, let’s just call this a lesson in general creative thinking and problem solving.

I could’ve just tied or braided fabric or twine into the hardware brackets, which is actually a very cute option, but where’s the challenge in that? And, I’ve been wanting to use the fabric spine of a too-smelly-to-read-vintage-book in a craft, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. However, the book I wanted to use was just in too nice of condition to cut into, (Bible History, c.1881-1936.) So I scanned, Photoshopped (adding my name, of course) and recreated the book images for printing onto fabric sheets in my desktop printer.
I designed a pattern to follow for cutting scrap leather and fabric pieces out.(I know, my pattern sort of looks like a geometric female reproduction system, or maybe it’s just me.) Anyway, I had to make split end straps that would feed through the hardware that has center nails going through each which I found impossible to remove.Using the patterns, I cut out some ugly burgundy leather scraps (because the leather really won’t show,) as well as the printed fabric, and allowed for fold-over of the fabric pieces.I wrapped the leather pieces with the fabric and taped secure on the back. I cut an additional strip of leather for sewing to the underside of the handle.With my sewing machine, I stitched the handle pieces together and the end tabs separately. I stitched right through the tape and removed most of it afterward.I folded the ends of the handle pieces and slid them through the hardware brackets around the nail with the nail centered into the punched hole.Using E6000 adhesive, I glued the fabric tabs onto the ends and clamped with my handy-dandy plastic clothespins.The end tabs hide the cut ends and keep them from splitting apart and slipping back through the brackets when lifting the suitcase by the handle. Ideally, the split in the leather would be coming from the opposite direction of separate end pieces then attached with some beefy grommet to a center handle. Since I don’t have said equipment, this is the next best thing. This handle is more decorative than practical, so I will take care in lifting if the case is filled with anything heavy. For now, it makes a cool display and storage piece.I created a free digital download of elements from the book spine and ornament for you to use for your luggage or any other project, including gift hang-tags. Just click to enlarge and save.

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78 Responses to Vintage Suitcase Repair & Free Digital Download

  1. #1 - Yvonne says:

    great ideas – I too love old luggage or storage and for showing things

  2. #2 - Sue Sparks says:

    Wow, you must be very handy to have around! 🙂 It looks great!
    BTW, we used to have a Scout(14 yrs.), but he was a black lab:)

  3. #3 - Cathe Holden says:

    Aw, Sue, no doubt you miss him. Our Scout is 10. We also have a black lab, Maggie.

  4. #4 - celticmystyc says:

    I am totally impressed and inspired by this. At the same time I'm green with envy as I too use vintage suitcases for storage and decor. I'm currently on a quest for one, to convert to an ottoman… the quest continues!


  5. #5 - Cheryl~ZanyMayd says:

    UnBelievable ~ But than again, If Anyone could do it, It Would Be YOU….. Great Job

  6. #6 - Linda K. says:


    Very neat and classy with your name. Nice work!


  7. #7 - laurie -magpie ethel says:

    Your projects go above and beyond…wow…that is one cool handle! I also collect vintage suitcases to use for storage – but mine all have handles! Now I have to search for one that lacks it and put the project to work! Amazing as usual.

  8. #8 - Annalea says:

    As I said in my last comment, I love reading your blog because it's more than just crafting–it's making useful things that are beautiful, using your ingenuity. And I really enjoy it. :o)

    Thanks for the download!

  9. #9 - Amanda says:

    What a great idea! I have some vintage suitcases from my grandmother and I have them stuffed in a closet for lack of any ideas. Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. #10 - Gypsy Fish says:

    Amazing! Such creativity!

  11. #11 - Rebekah says:

    Cathe, this is incredible! SO, so cool!

  12. #12 - Elaine A says:

    Lord girl –

    You are a genius! I love the way your mind thinks!

    Elaine Allen

  13. #13 - Dayhomemama says:

    What Elaine said, you are a GENIUS!!! Every thing you make has a touch of wonder in it, amazing!

  14. #14 - Lisalulu says:

    Thanks as always for the Great Ideas and remarkable downloads!

  15. #15 - Jojo says:

    Really sharp! Thanks for sharing.

  16. #16 - Laura says:

    I have a 80+ year old trunk from my family and I just broke the leather handle the other day while moving it. This is a great idea, and for me surprisingly practical and pertinent!

  17. #17 - Feather says:

    seriously? you just made this up? my jaw is on the ground over here! you are stinkin' amazing!

  18. #18 - Lydia says:

    Very, very cool. I'm always so impressed with your innovations!

  19. #19 - a little bit of everything says:

    Spectacular job! Quite ingenious…

  20. #20 - Leslie says:

    You. Are. Brilliant!

  21. #21 - Jane says:

    Wonderful idea! Thanks for the download. I have several vintage suitcases and one is missing a handle so I'm going to give this a try. Thanks!!

  22. #22 - Sandra Powell says:

    Who would've thought? You're amazing.

  23. #23 - Kim from The Sheep's Nest says:

    Wow, Genius! That looks wonderful, great job. Kim

  24. #24 - Tiffany says:


  25. #25 - Sweet Bee Cottage says:

    You are incredible. I know that sounds kind of over the top, but for heaven's sake – you made new handles – WITH YOUR NAME! Yes, you are incredible. Can I be you when I grow up?

  26. #26 - Cottage Way of Life says:

    You've done it again, fantastic idea!

  27. #27 - Destiny says:

    Unbelieveable! What an amazing way to fix up old luggage! I love the name on the handle!

  28. #28 - Dragonfly Treasure says:

    Amazing and gorgeous!

  29. #29 - kjquilts says:

    Well, you are brilliant! It just so happens I have a broken handle on one of my old suitcases. I'll try this!

  30. #30 - sheppy says:

    Kudos and thanks for yet another brilliant tutorial, especially handy for me since I have an OshKosh trunk with two missing handles!

  31. #31 - 32˙North says:

    Beyond awesome! I absolutely love it!

  32. #32 - Dumpster Decorators says:

    Looks great. I would have taken the fast way out.

  33. #33 - minibaker says:

    WOW! i really love old bags too! Not easy to find these days. Am looking for the small bags that we used in my country to bring books to school. You have definitely inspired me and given me ideas! Am starting on my quest for …old bags…again!

  34. #34 - Justine says:

    What a fantastic idea and thank you for the digi print out. I'll make sure to link up what ever I create using it.

  35. #35 - Anonymous says:

    WOW! Is that great!!!! Your suitcase is looking so wonderful! And it´s such a wonderful individual idea for your luggage!


  36. #36 - Shelley Rickey says:

    I too love luggage and have a beautiful collection. I love your personalized handle idea. I have a couple that have damaged handles. This is a lovely way to repair them. Lovely post. Great blog!

  37. #37 - My Life Under the Bus says:

    Oh AWESOME !!! …and the dog really does look a bit bitter ! LOL

  38. #38 - Randi says:

    Super clever. Love it!

  39. #39 - gdyup says:

    Unbelieveable! You are truly inspiring and creative!

    Thanks for sharing!

  40. #40 - Joanne says:

    I like your hangtags, as well as some of your organization labels. Is it possible to use some of these as price tags?

    Do blondes really have more fun? It seems you are doing just fine!

  41. #41 - Janette Wright says:

    My first stop to your blog…just love the suitcase. We have used vintage suitcases for prom…but this is great. Enjoyed and inspired.

  42. #42 - Kimberly says:

    That is truly clever and thanks for sharing the clip art!

  43. #43 - Redfish Artwork by Vickie Fisher says:

    I too use vintage suitcases for storage and decor! Love the download also…thanks

  44. #44 - CraftCrave says:

    Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [01 Apr 02:00pm GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  45. #45 - Jill says:

    Yeah. Well. Wow… Wow. Wow.

  46. #46 - ninniemuggins says:

    This is a really cool project. I'm curious how you print on the fabric, though? Is it a special type of fabric you use, or a special method?

  47. #47 - Remembrances says:

    I LOVE this tutorial! I just inherited an old trunk from my great-uncle's ranch, as well as a small metal hand-made box that had a leather handle that was rotted through. Thank you again! Karin

  48. #48 - Donna says:

    Cathe, I love your luggage handle, what a genius idea! You are so generous to share your ideas with us. I made some button flowers after reading how you did it and even though I only had green floral wire, I think they came out great. All thanks to you! My button stash was getting out of hand and now they are displayed for all to see. ty Donna

  49. #49 - Elizabeth says:

    What beautiful work! The handle on that suitcase is just fantastic. I too love old suitcases, I use them in my displays when we do a boutique or craft faire and people always want to buy them!

  50. #50 - Mitzi Curi says:

    Cathe, what a useful post! I think your replaced handle/strap looks fantastic. Now if I find a suitcase when I'm garage-sailing, I can get it all fixed up it it's missing a handle…..

  51. #51 - Ann says:

    thanks for the idea and how to !!!!
    you are sooooooooooo creative ! wish my mind worked that way. fabulous digi-sheet..many thanks!

  52. #52 - Terri S says:

    Well I'll say you fixed that problem!! It is perfect and looks like it is original. Perfect!

  53. #53 - Andrea - Faded Plains says:

    Your amazing…that's the coolest idea.

  54. #54 - Shawna says:

    Aren't you the cleverest girl! Wow, I am always amazed at what you come up with!

  55. #55 - Brins de Fougère says:


  56. #56 - Fleurette says:

    oh, I love this, thanks for sharing

  57. #57 - Secret Leaves says:

    So lovely and clever. I second Ninnimuggins' comment…would you be willing to share the printable fabric you used in this project? Many thanks.


  58. #58 - Cathe Holden says:

    Hi all, HERE is a link to the printable fabric I've used in the past, but have found other brands at the craft store, all seem to work just fine.

  59. #59 - EH says:

    What an great “save”. I have some old pieces and you have inspired me! Thanks EH

  60. #60 - Sandy Shepherd says:

    Thanks so much for the information on fixing a suitcase handle. I also collect old suitcases. I found a small one recently with no handle and have been racking my brain trying to figure out how to fix it. Thanks a million. Sandy

  61. #61 - Chief says:

    Cathe, your handiwork and organization are contagious. Your photos are super too! Thanks for sharing. You really have a knack for pulling everything together; the blog, the projects, the photos. Nice Job!

  62. Pingback: De multiples espaces de rangement « Blogue de Meubles South Shore

  63. #62 - roberta wiens says:

    I am alsot a sucker for old luggage (most of my peices are made out of what I think is cardboard(?) How can I refurbish the finish other than painting it. Four of them are my bedside table and I store all my holiday linens in them
    I would love to know how to restore to sorta’ original finish and look
    thanks roberta

  64. #63 - The Mountain Treasure Chest says:


  65. #64 - Bertha says:

    Do you repair old suitcases for the public or only your own? Please let me know

  66. #65 - Teri says:

    You are just too darned clever….a great resource for everything I need to know…about everything!!

  67. #66 - Laurie Ryan-Day says:

    Great idea! Just found your suitcase handle idea and just what I’m looking for. I’m also a graphic designer and love to refurbish old stuff into something new and special. I love vintage suitcases and my living room has a vintage travel theme. I have three cute, wicker suitcases in different conditions. Although they have handles, kind of, I wanted to customize them in some way and spiff them up. Spray painting or a new handle I think will give them each some new life.

  68. #67 - Teri says:

    VERY Clever……..thanks for sharing. i found an awesome piece of luggage in great shape except for the fact that it has no handle. This is perfect!

  69. #68 - Yvonne Kay says:

    Do you know of a company who would restore a vintage suitcase for me?

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  71. #69 - Alison Banks says:

    I love this way to make – I have a 3 piece Oshkosh set and one of the handles is missing. Thank you so much! I have so much vintage luggage I have to sneak it in the house. Love this idea

  72. Dear Cathe
    I just read your blog on msking a new handle.
    You are so awesomely creative!! I found
    A suitcase very similar to the one for which you made
    That handle. It cost me 25.00 & that’s after asking
    For a discount! I have searched 15 thrifts
    In the past month in order to have one to paint
    In my chalk painting class. Was wondering if
    You could suggest something to stencil on it or
    Just an idea of what to put on it, to keep the
    Integrity of its age. BTW, in my search I also found
    A WW2 army green metal Suitcase with a Navy
    Logo & sailors name in a small side card insert.
    NO painting on this one!!
    Any suggestions would be very appreciated!
    Thank you,

  73. #71 - Dana says:

    I love it! I can not resist old suitcases either and have collected quite a few of them over the years. Some of them have lost, broke or never came home with handles and I have been trying to figure out what I could do to replace them. Thanks.

    • #72 - Bill says:

      I have a briefcase made of ostrich leather that my wife gave me 10 years ago. I love it, but it needs some work. the latches and top hinges are worn. Can you or do you know anyone who could repair this briefcase?

  74. #73 - Mary Keough says:

    I loved your idea for the handle on the suitcase you found. I have found an older Samsonite overnight travel suitcase with a crumbling rubber type handle. It connects the handles with pins on both sides that go sideways through the handles. Maybe you have encountered this too. If you have an idea I would love to hear it otherwise I will keep looking at how I could get around this challenge as you did with your design. Thanks for any input and I hope I can come up with as good an idea as you did for your suitcase since I love the one I have and want to fix this one part.

  75. #74 - Susan says:

    Hi Cathe,
    How do you recommend repairing the trim around the edges? I bought a hard leather case which has some stitching missing and the trim is beginning to lift. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just needs to not get any worse. Thank you!

  76. #75 - Dianne says:

    I have almost the exact suitcase as yours. My little tag above the handle has an Indian logo and says “Westlake ‘DENVERBILT’ Luggage”. It was my Grandmother’s. It also has no handle. I began searching for how to remove the bracket and found your page. I am committed to replacing the handle with leather and think I have a good plan. I’ll re-post if I am successful. Thanks for the inspiration.

  77. #76 - Kenneth Haag says:

    An elegantly brilliant solution, Cathe. My suitcase has the same style hardware with the (ultra-permanent) center nails, which baffled me for not seeing the almost obvious need to slot the ends of the strap. Am thinking to epoxy a set of old English pennies to keep the ends closed. Many thanks for this (including the charming geometry).