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Recycled Album Cover Tote

Step-by-step instructions for making a tote out of a recycled album cover.

from the Shoebox

This one was a hit with everyone who saw it. My friend Pam Toache is the creator of the totes we showed on the program, but it was Kathy CanoMurillo who gave us the idea when we saw her version in the book La Casa Loca. For Pam’s version, you do not need to use the actual cover but rather a copy you make or one you have made at the copy center.

Materials and Tools:

12-1/4" x 12-1/4" album cover
32" of 3/4" vinyl tubing
29" strand of 1/4" beads
2 sheets patterned card stock or paper
heavy-duty laminating sheets
four 25mm split rings
eight 1/4" (6mm) grommets
14' vinyl cording
1/8" hole punch
5/16" hole punch
craft knife

Note: If you decide to use the actual album cover, you will need to cut it apart on the three joined sides so you can use both front and back. If you prefer to keep everything in tact, you should copy the cover but reduce it to 90 percent. In either case, the finished album cover should measure 12-1/4" x 12-1/4".

You can have the covers laminated at the copy centers, but they will not copy them because they are copyrighted material. You will have to do it yourself. Needless to say, you must not sell them.


1. For the bottom of the tote, cut a piece of patterned card stock or paper measuring 3" x 12-1/4".

2. For the side pieces, cut two 3" x 10" pieces from patterned card stock or paper.

3. Laminate covers with the heavy-duty laminating sheets available at copy centers. They will usually do it for you, but you must have them leave at least 1/4 inch extra on all four sides. If you do it yourself, be certain to get the heavy weight sheets.

4. Laminate or have laminated the bottom and side pieces. As with the album cover pieces, be sure to leave a 1/4-inch margin extending on all four sides of each piece.

5. Make handles by cutting the 3/4-inch vinyl tubing into two 16-inch lengths.

6. Cut the strand of beads into two 13-1/2-inch lengths.

7. Using a 5/16-inch hole punch, punch a hole through both sides of the tubing about 3/8 inch from each end. It will be all but impossible to squash the tubing together and punch through both thicknesses at one time, so punch through one side, mark the other side exactly opposite, and punch a matching hole. Do this at each end of both of the lengths of tubing (see additional paragraph at the end).

8. Press the end of one of the tubing lengths together matching up both holes;

insert one of the grommets. Hammer together. Repeat on the other length of tubing.

9. Feed the strands of beads into the vinyl tubing. This is made easier by holding the vinyl in the air so it is hanging up and down. Slowly feed the beads into the tubing until the end bead is practically touching the grommet at the other end.

10. When the beads have been inserted into both lengths of the tubing, punch the holes and insert the grommets at this end as you did on the other end. If the beads come too far up the tubing to allow a hole to be punched, cut off one of the beads.

11. To insert grommets in the album cover, measure in 3-1/2 inches from each side edge and 1/4 inch from the top edge. Punch 5/16-inch holes and insert grommet. Do this to both the front and back cover of the album.

12. Punch holes 1/2 inch apart down each side of the clear laminated area on the front cover. Punch evenly spaced holes in the clear laminated area along the bottom of the front cover. Punch matching holes in the clear laminated area on the back cover. The toss-away edges of printer sheets are a good guide for this.

13. Punch matching holes in the clear laminated area on the two sides and along the bottom of the side panel pieces. Note: Do not punch holes across the top of the piece. Repeat the process along all four sides of the bottom piece. Be certain that the holes match up with the holes punched on the album cover pieces.

14. To assemble the tote: Cut vinyl cording into two 6-foot lengths and two 1-foot lengths. Tie a knot near the end of one of the 6-foot lengths and, starting at the top of one side of the front of the album, begin taking overhand stitches down the side. Line up a side piece so the bottom matches perfectly with the bottom of the album cover and start catching it in your stitches to join it to the front panel.

15. Continue down the side of the album. When you get to the bottom edge of the album cover, start to join the bottom piece to the bottom of the album cover. Continue along the bottom, and when you get to the corner, start to join the other side piece. Repeat this procedure with the back of the album cover.

16. Use the 1-foot lengths of vinyl cording to join the ends of the side pieces to the ends of the bottom piece.

17. Join the handles to the top of the front and back covers with the split rings.

A funny thing happened on the way to making our totes. When Pam was making hers, she had a great deal of difficulty stringing the beads through the plastic tubing. She finally had to resort to using a piece of wire with a hook on the end to pull them through. I had no difficulty whatsoever. On the other hand, Pam had little difficulty punching holes through the tubing and inserting the grommets. I simply couldn’t accomplish either task. It was only after much comparing of methods that we realized that Pam was sitting out in the California sun when she made her tote but I was sitting in an air conditioned apartment. The hot sun softened the plastic tubing so it was pliable and easy to work with. The air conditioning only made it more difficult to press and punch the vinyl. It was, however, perfect for allowing me to thread the beads. When Pam tried it, the heated plastic became sticky, so the beads would not go through without help!

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