How to Reline a Vintage Suitcase

I picked this suitcase up at a thrift store for $1.00. It’s just an old cardboard suitcase, nothing special. When I opened it up it was stained and discolored all over. And it smelled like it had been sitting in a damp storage area for about 652 years.

I decided to reline the suitcase with cute fabric. This was a fairly quick and inexpensive project, and could easily be tackled in a weekend. Want to know how?

You’ll need:
– A suitcase. My powers of observation are unrivaled.
– Some sort of fabric glue (affiliate link). NOT the stuff that’s temporary, like some spray adhesives; you want good strong glue.
– 1 yard of fabric
– 8 yards bias tape or ribbon (optional)
– Hot glue gun (optional)
I forgot to take a photo of everything needed, but below are the bias tape, fabric, and glue that I used.
First, rip out the old lining of your suitcase. This is grody and thoroughly unpleasant.

Next, measure the inside of the suitcase. Cut out two pieces of fabric that will fit to those measurements – one piece for the top, and one piece for the bottom. I cut the fabric generously, with plenty of overhang.



Begin gluing the fabric into the case. Start at the bottom seam, and apply a thin bead of glue all along one side.

Note: A lot of suitcases (this one included) had a thin layer of cotton underneath the original lining. You can put a layer of cotton batting in if desired. I skipped this step. 

Press the fabric into the glue. Repeat on the remaining sides, tugging the fabric taut as you go. (I glued one side, waited 30 minutes, then glued another, waited 30 minutes, etc. It’s important for the glue to have a chance to set before you glue the other sides into place.)

When the glue has dried, glue the top edge. If your case has a metal band around the top, which I’m going to assume it does, glue right underneath that band. Again, pull the fabric taut as you go and give the glue time to set before gluing each side. When you get to a corner you can either cut the fabric from bottom to top and glue it flat, or just fold it over on itself and glue it into place.


When the glue has dried, trim any overhang. I cut the excess fabric by carefully cutting along the bottom of the metal band using a utility knife.


Repeat these steps to do the top of the suitcase.
If you would like to add trim, use the hot glue gun (or more fabric glue) to glue the bias tape or ribbon into place. Cover every seam.
The result?
Easy peasy! This case will probably be used for extra storage in my closet, but it’s almost a shame to pack away something so cute, right?
Have fun!

40 thoughts on “How to Reline a Vintage Suitcase

  1. I have a set of three, also, and have always wanted to do something like this to them. You've given me the courage to try now. THANKS for the tutorial.Im your newest follower. Please come visit me and hopefully you'll follow back? THANKS. 😎

  2. Thank you so much for posting! I just found a vintage suitcase I want to reline and these are the only good instructions I can find.

  3. Have you tried your method on an old samsonite train case. I have one since 1960 and don't want to tear into it if you think it won't work.

    1. Does the train case have divided compartments inside? If it does I would be leery about relining it. If it doesn't have compartments inside, it should be like relining any other suitcase and I would say go ahead and try it.

  4. Great instructions. I've also lined suitcases with scrapbook paper using Mod Podge and then sealed the paper with acrylic spray when done. It's an addiction I tell you … I counted the # of train cases I have an it's nearly a dozen. Yikes! 🙂

    1. If I remember correctly I just removed the trim around the edges first, as it was stapled into place. Then I ripped the fabric out starting at a corner. There's not much to it if the suitcase is not the greatest quality. A higher quality suitcase might require more finesse.

  5. I am supremely jealous that you got that suitcase for $1! I got a set of two just like that recently and it cost me $10 at the thrift store. Anyway, thank you for the great tutorial. I'll likely be using it to replace the inside of at least one of the little suitcases I got.Thanks Again! Miss Amelia Joy

  6. I love your instructions and want to surprise my niece with a vintage suitcase that looks like yours. Here's my question, how to remove vintage smell? I've already removed interior lining. Thanks for youradvice!!

    1. Hi Nancy! A good thing to try is sprinkling a heavy layer of baking soda inside the suitcase. Then close it up, leave overnight, and vacuum it out the next day. You might have to do it more than once, but baking soda will absorb the odor.

    1. You can try a thin layer, but hot glue might not stick to the cardboard side of the suitcase very well.

    1. Sorry for the late reply! It might work, but I don’t know how strong the hold would be.

      1. I was thinking after gluing the fabric on but before the trim is glued on you could use Modge Podge on the top of the fabric to give it a slick finish especially if you don’t use any batting. Might want to practice with a tin box to see if you like the effect.

  7. Fabric softener dryer sheets work great to remove bad smells. Refresh as needed.

    1. That’s true, thank you! Unfortunately, this suitcase was past the point of redemption and needed to be lined with fresh fabric. But for lesser odors, fabric sheets can work well.

  8. I had already decided to save one of my moms old suitcases for storage, but a smaller similar one was in tough shape inside. I think I could do this and use it to store family photos. So much nicer than a box. The outside needs cleaning too. The case is about the same era. I don’t know what the material is on the outside. It’s not leather or plastic. Any ideas how to clean scuffs?

    1. If the scuffs are stains or dirt buildup they can be removed with baking soda or another gentle cleanser. If the scuffs are actually scratches in the material, then you may not be able to get rid of them. Sorry! Hope this was at least somewhat helpful.

      1. Thanks for the ideas. Some marks are scuffs on the rubbery edges. But there are small white dots that don’t scratch off on the big sides. Almost look like paint speckles but are only in the center of both sides. Some kind of mildew? It is only on the one suitcase.That is my major concern. I don’t want to just attempt to clean in the middle of the large side. The suitcases have been on a closet shelf in a clean nonsmoking household. Set on end, not stacked. I can try something edgier than my fingernail.

      2. It’s hard to say what the white dots could be, but I think I’d try to scrape one off just in case it is paint or something else that will come off easily.

  9. Hi,
    I liked your instructions and wish I had found them before I started my project. I did mine pretty much like you and it looks great! The next thing is putting in some sort of holding system. The old cases had fabric covered elastic band or ribbon. I am making a bar out of it, I need something sturdy. I was going to glue and staple the elastic band or ribbon. I am a little worried that staples will go thru the very thin wood that makes up the outside of the case though. Would love to have your thoughts or if any of your followers have ideas.

    1. Hi Allison! Unfortunately, I don’t have any ideas for you. Unless the suitcase you’re using has a flat top, it might be difficult to add reinforcements. If it does have a flat top, then you could rip out the lining and use a strong glue or epoxy to attach thin (1/8 inch) strips of wood to the lid. Then you could re-line the suitcase and attach all sorts of things to the wood. Other than that, though, I’m fresh out of ideas.

      Hope this was helpful!

      1. It is a flat top and that is a marvelous idea!! I am going to try that.

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