Imagine a beautiful hardcover book, something like "Moby Dick," a thick book and now imagine gutting it. Just cut the pages out and turn that classic into a purse. The spine is the bottom, the covers are the front and the back and there's also a beautiful cloth lining and elegant handles. Caitlin Phillips makes this kind of book bag in a studio near Washington D.C. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce watched as she transforms literary classics into fashion accessories using glue, a sewing machine and a knife.


M: I use just a very sharp - this is an X-Acto knife and just take the pages right out. It's a little weird at first because it's very sort of sacrilegious, it's very subversive. Sometimes people are, like, I can't believe you did that to a book. But I explain to them the books that I'm taking I get from libraries, yard sales and thrift stores where they're going to be thrown out.


M: My goal is to find a fabric that looks like it grew out of the book. I wouldn't use a really loud funky polka dot on "Pride and Prejudice." If I do "Gone with the Wind" I will use Civil War reproduction fabric.

What bag you're carrying in some circles is a very big deal. Do you have the latest Fendi bag? But people use books as accessories all the time in their homes, and they don't necessarily realize that's what they were doing. But when you walk into someone's home and you see this gigantic library, that's an accessory. Look how smart I am. Look how well-read I am. It's very much of a status symbol.


M: Each purse has a button as the closure. And I use mostly vintage buttons. There's some books that I've gotten that I would find really inappropriate to make a purse out of. I found this incredibly beautiful old book on eugenics, and I wouldn't cut it up, not just because of the value of the book, but also because the person who would carry that as a purse, I don't know what that would be like. That would be a little creepy. It's a little disturbing. I don't mind cutting up the Bible, especially if someone brings me an old Bible that's theirs, that's falling apart from so many years of use.

For the longest time I wouldn't do "Fahrenheit 451" because I just - the irony was just overwhelming to cut up a book about destroying books. But I since found a huge stack of them in paperbacks, and they make fantastic wallets.


M: So I will cut up "Fahrenheit 451" now.

SIEGEL: And you can see those wallets and purses at

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