How to Upcycle a Vintage Suitcase with Maps
I love decorating with maps and for my latest project transformed a vintage suitcase with them. This upcycled map suitcase is the new storage place for all my travel memorabilia, photos, trinkets, maps etc that I collect on my holidays. It also looks great next to my upcycled personalised map chairs.
I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to fabric, yarn, paper and other crafting paraphernalia. Ideally I would love to have it all on display in my own studio but unfortunately, that’s not possible. Also if my stash was visible to everyone then the extent of my craft hoarding habit would be laid bare for possible criticism!
Overall, I have found that vintage suitcases are a stylish way of storing my secret craft treasure. My collection includes a case for my yarn stash, (well some of it), and another is full of stationery including my washi tape addiction.
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What you need to make a map suitcase
- Vintage Suitcase – I bought mine for £2 it was a simple cardboard suitcase with a few scratches but as you are going to decoupage it you can cover the majority of them. The main thing to make sure is that the hinges and the catches on the case work fine.
- Wire wool, scissors, rotary cutter & mat, pins & glue brush
- Cardboard – any old cardboard from delivery boxes is ok
- Cavallini world map wrapping paper and postage stamps.
- Map fabric for the inside.
- Standard PVA glue and either a waterproof PVA or acrylic varnish. (You can use Elmer’s glue instead of PVA)
I upcycled my map suitcase in 2 stages; firstly I decoupaged the outside with paper maps and then lined the case with fabric.
Stage 1: Transforming the outside of the map suitcase
I didn’t cover the whole of the suitcase with maps I just cut out bits and stuck them on as I still wanted to see the vintage case underneath. The map is for decoration and to add interest not to cover up the whole suitcase. I wanted to achieve a look similar to the suitcases my friend Lisa Tiley from U Old Bag makes and sells.
- Clean your suitcase with some soapy water and sponge the inside and out. Make sure it’s thoroughly dry before you begin the next stage. Use wire wool to gently rub away any excess rust on the hinges and catches. Don’t worry about removing all the rust as a little will just add to the vintage look
- Plan your map design and cut out your maps
- Starting with the underside of the suitcase, cover in PVA glue and stick down your map design. The edge of a credit card can come in handy to gently squeeze out any air bubbles trapped under your paper
- When the underside is dry, turn your suitcase over and repeat with the top and sides
- If you have any bad scuff marks that the map doesn’t cover, you can strategically use stamps or printed vintage travel labels to hide these. Personally, I don’t mind the odd scuff mark, since I find it adds to the vintage character of the map suitcase
- Finally, cover your suitcase fully with a top coat of waterproof PVA (or acrylic varnish) to protect your design. Don’t worry about the PVA looking white and streaky when you put it on, it will eventually dry clear. If you plan to use your case out and about I would use 2 coats of PVA allowing at least 24 hours between each application
Stage2: Lining your map suitcase
- Carefully measure the inner sides of your suitcase and accounting for a 1cm seam allowance, cut 4 bits of fabric one for each side
- Fold the top edge of about 1cm over on each piece of fabric and glue this down
- Cover the 2 long inner sides of the suitcase with glue and stick down your pieces of fabric. The fabric will overlap to the shorter sides and the floor of the case; this is fine just make sure you also glue these bits down. You may find that it helps to pin the fabric while the glue dries
- For the final two pieces of fabric, fold over and glue the side edges so they are the same size as the case. Glue these in place
- You’ll need to make a top and bottom panel for the case. Measure and cut 2 pieces of cardboard that will slot into the base and top of the suitcase
- Using your cardboard pieces as a template cut a fabric piece for each, again allowing for 1cm seam. Wrap the fabric round the cardboard and glue down the seam edges to the underside. You may find it easier if you mitre the corners
I love my map suitcase and may use it out and about and not just for storage. I bought another vintage suitcase at the same time I acquired this one and I transformed it into a fabulous travel themed vintage suitcase side table.
Don’t just throw away any map paper scraps use them to make some gorgeous map roses.
I also have some free vintage maps that you can download and use for this project.
For a lot more map craft and DIY ideas check out my map page.