Project One: The Most Basic of Purses

Project One

The Most Basic of Purses

      After you’ve read all the instructions, decide what you’ll be carrying in your purse. Dump out your old purse and arrange everything in a nice pile as if your purse was lying flat and everything was where you’d ideally want it.

Next decide how long you want your strap; double the width of the strap you desire and add in the seam allowance. So if you want an inch wide strap you’ll cut out 2 and 5/8 inches wide.

While it works for me, my method of just guesstimating and slapping things together probably won’t work for everyone. Don’t be afraid to deviate from my methods of madness. In fact I encourage you to do so! Lay your fabric out on any flat surface, and figure out where each piece will be cut from. The floor is flat if you don’t have a large enough table! You have to make sure you have enough fabric for the body of your purse, the strap and if you desire one the pocket. The pocket measurements are calculated the same way as the body of the purse.


The purse pictured here is going to be a Christmas present for my niece. New fabric was required in this case. Teenagers are notoriously picky after all. If the purse if yourself consider using a sheet or old clothes or scrap material. I borrowed my step-dad’s Kindle for a base since her parents are giving her a Kindle. I’ve also decided to add a pocket for her phone and a strap.


Now you might be confused about the crib pad in the picture but it serves a very important purpose. I’ll line the purse with the pad adding firmness to the sides of the purse as well as a protective layer for the Kindle. Seriously consider the crib padding if you carry electronics. The added protection against spills is worth the 10$ or so of a new crib pad. It’ll protect the Kindle from small bumps and spills since the padding is designed to be absorbent and cushioning. When looking for suitable crib pads look for one that’s thin but firm. Avoid the expensive quilted ones. They aren’t going to provide the firmness needed for the purse. If you’re unsure of what a crib pad is look at baby supply stores or Kmart. Carter’s has a flannel crib pad that’ll work great.

If you can’t afford to waste a good crib pad or simply want to use something else consider alternatives. Some recommendations are old denim and polar fleece.


First things first, remember to cut off the selvage. That’s the white strip over there. I tend to forget this and sometimes it turns out fine… Other times not so much. It’s best to wash and dry the fabric as directed before you sew as well as iron it nice and flat. Why? Simple once it’s shrunk you don’t have to worry about it shrinking after you make it. This goes for all fabric. As for ironing, it smooths out the wrinkles making it look nice but more importantly allowing you to measure it more accurately. Wrinkles take up space so measuring wrinkled fabric makes your measurements off.


Once your fabric is situated lay it right side up (the side you’ll see when finished) on top of the crib pad. Depending on the size of the purse you may need to iron the padding too. It’ll have creases from the packaging but otherwise it will be flat. When laying out the fabric stretch it vertically and horizontally to determine which way has the most stretch. The vertical and horizontal threads are called the grain. Now as annoying as it is it’s important to know which way it goes. For the case of the purse you want it to have a little give across the purse for when you decide to cram way more than you should into it. For things like shirts and pants again you want it across. It doesn’t help your movement if the fabric is stretching up and down instead of side to side. Unfortunately sometimes you don’t have a choice if the fabric has a definite ‘up and down’ print to it.

Next lay something on the fabric about an inch or two from the edges then fold it over. Kinda like when you measure your wrapping paper before cutting it. In this case I used a Kindle, but use something with the appropriate width and thickness for your purposes; like everything I had you dump out of your purse. If unsure or you just want to check so you don’t waste your time correcting a mistake try making a paper pattern, paper grocery bags or newspaper are great for this.


    Pin and cut making sure that all the edges you cut have enough space for the object to slide into the purse easily and as well as room for the seams. When cutting the top make sure there’s enough space to fold it down for a hem and will prevent your stuff from being seen or spilling out.



Once you open it, it should look about like this.


Now if making a pocket obtain the measurements by duplicating the above process and cut out the pocket. Now place the pocket on either the outside or inside of the purse depending on where you desire it. For my niece’s purse I obviously decided on the outside and to add a bit of flare I tilted it for easy access and well… flare. Before you sew the pocket make sure it fits the purse. That done fold all edges of the pocket down, if you iron them down they’ll stay in place while you sew and you will only need to sew the top hem. If you want you can sew all the pocket hems.


Sew the pocket onto the purse along the sides and bottom making sure the sides are folded under. A pocket’s kinda worthless if you can’t use it. It sounds stupid for me to remind you but it really is easy to get carried away or distracted.


After the pocket is secured flip the bag over with the wrong sides up, the inside of the bag. Fold the top down to the desired length and sew the hem down. Trim the edges close, but not too close, to the stitches if you left the edge raw like I did.


Next you’re going to fold the bag in half wrong side up again. Sew the seams closed, except for the opening of course. I tend to make my seams rather small as you can see. Most books recommend about an inch seam allowance. Go for whatever works for you. Just make sure you have enough fabric after it’s sewn that’s still big enough for your use. A zigzag stitch will have more strength than the straight stitch I used.



Check to make sure everything fits.

Yup, we have room.


Now for the straps. Using a tape measure, measure how long you need the straps. You may want anything from over the shoulder, to tiny hand held ones and anything in between, the choice is yours.


Now cut the material double the width you want your strap to be plus 5/8” for the seam allowance. So if you want an inch wide strap you’d cut out 2 and 5/8” of fabric. Your padding however will only be an inch wide.


Lay your strip of padding on the wrong side of your fabric, the side you won’t see. Then bring the raw edges to one side and fold the other side over it. Tuck the exposed raw edge under and double stitch down the center of the strap.


You’ll see a lot of demonstrations where the pins are going across the fabric but I prefer parallel, I find it slips less. There’s no right way honestly. Just remember if you’re using a sewing machine to remove the pins. Not only can you break the pins but the sewing needles as well. Worse, sewing needles tend to fly when broken making it a hazard; as cool as eye patches are no one wants one due to sewing mishaps.


Decide on the placement of the straps and make sure the purse is inside out. Once you know where you want them sew them on. Sew them along the same seam allowance at least twice to reinforce them or sew them completely along the edges making a square. The straps are going to take a lot of stress so it’s needed. Sewing a box and then an X inside the box will help support that stress, especially if you reinforce that with the extra stitches.


Flip the purse right side out and BAM you’re done. Add embellishments as desired. The buttons in this case were purely decorative.


You now have the directions of the most basic of purses.

Oh, the possibilities!




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