DIY: Transform Coffee Table Clutter into a Chic Tablet Tote

What do you do with an old coffee table book? Turn it into the perfect tablet carrying case, of course! Check out guest author Kristin Hackler's simple step-by-step on converting an awkwardly large dust collector into the perfect hardcover tote for your tablet.

Kristin Hackler
4-minute read

I love books. But sometimes you come across worn out copies, old mass production pieces, and broken spine volumes that are taking up space and just screaming for reincarnation. 

The good news is that old coffee table books are excellent for upcycling projects. They’re typically mass produced, rarely a resource of great literature (so don’t feel bad about chopping them up), and the full color pictures can be used for any number of projects. Plus, you can easily find them at thrift stores and library sales. My copies, for example, came from a Habitat for Humanity ReStore where I picked them up for a whopping $0.25 apiece.

Quick and Dirty Tip: When looking for just the right book for your tablet project, make sure to take any dust jackets off and look at the actual hard cover. Oftentimes the real cover doesn’t quite match the dust jacket, so make sure the cover is the one you want for your tablet.

What You’ll Need

  • Coffee table book (make sure it’s larger than your tablet by at least an inch on each side)
  • Mod Podge
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife, razor, or carpet cutter
  • Measuring tape
  • Pen
  • Zipper (long enough to reach all the way around the open edges of your book)
  • Craft felt
  • 3/8” elastic band
  • Heavy duty craft glue
  • Tape
  • Nylon strapping (optional)
  • Strap adjusters (optional)

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Remove the cover

Using an X-acto knife or carpet cutter, carefully slice between the cover spine and the very first page. Do the same on the very back page and then use the knife to cut away any lingering binding glue or strings. Older books tend to come apart more easily but even newer books should separate without much trouble.

Step 2: Create your interior art

Flip through your extracted pages and clip out any pictures you find interesting. Once you have all of your images clipped and trimmed, cover the inside of your book with Mod Podge and collage away, making sure to cover the spine area along with the rest of the book interior. 

When you have it the way you want it, coat the collage in a layer of Mod Podge, let it dry for an hour, then coat again for an extra layer of protection.

Step 3: Make the tablet holder

If you have peel-and-stick felt, turn it over and mark the dimensions of your tablet on the protective paper. For regular felt, use a fabric pen or chalk. Cut out the felt and position it on the interior book cover.

Next, cut four lengths of elastic about 4.5” long each. Turn the felt over to the side you don’t want facing up, and use a pen to mark at approximately 1.5” to 2” from each corner.

Place a piece of elastic diagonally under each corner and fold the ends up over the pen marks. Secure the pieces in place with tape and make sure the loops you’ve created are flat against the felt. If they’re too loose, trim the elastic and re-tape.

Cover the taped elastic ends with heavy duty or industrial strength glue, and then apply the glue liberally to the back of the felt. This is what’s holding your tablet in place, so don’t hold back on the adhesive!

Once you’re done applying the glue, flip the felt over and position it on the inside of your book, cleaning up any glue that might have spilled over.

Step 4: Add a zipper

For this book, I found a 36” zipper at the local big box store for about $2 and cut it down to the size of the open edges of my book: 9” + 12” + 9” = 30”

Quick and Dirty Tip: To cut a zipper down to size, measure it to the length you need and then whip stitch (stitch back and forth) across the zipper teeth about 10 times. Then just cut the zipper about 0.5” above the stitch and install.

Unzip the zipper and use the heavy duty adhesive to attach the zipper all the way around the edges of the book, making sure the zipper fob is facing out. The fob should be sitting directly over the spine to keep it even.

Allow the glue to dry for 24 hours, or however long is specified by your product for a full cure, before using.

Step 5: Add a strap (optional)

If you want to add a strap to your case, wait until the zipper glue dries and run a 1” x 60” strip of nylon strapping along the spine and under the zipper. Run the ends through a strap adjuster and secure in place by following the instructions on the adjuster packaging.

For added stability, use the heavy duty adhesive to glue the strap in place along the inside book spine.

If you happened to find an awesome cover like this convertible coffee table book, then adding the optional strap is the last step. If, however, you’re concerned about a dull, ugly, or heavily worn cover, go ahead and decorate with pictures and seal it with waterproof acrylic sealer, upholster with fabric or wallpaper, or give it some colorful texture with aluminum foil, glued-on buttons or even flexible laminate.

With a couple hours of crafting and a day or two of drying, your tablet tote will quickly become an indispensible fashion piece.


Kristin Hackler is a freelance writer and children’s book author who covers a wide range of DIY topics for eBay.com – where you can find a tablet (like these) worthy of being transported in your impressive new hand crafted tablet tote. Follow Kristin at eBay, on Google+ and on her blog Cardboard and Cloth.


All images courtesy of Kristin Hackler.