Tag Archives: project: handbag

Handbag Mess

29 Apr

After a week of carrying about my handmade handbag, I need to make another one. That’s the problem with the whole “design your own” deal: you really do have to do the project a bunch of times, to make it work out right.

Problems that I will resolve in the next bag:

-the body fabric is too lightweight. If I use linen or dressmaking fabric, I need not only to line the bag, but also layer the top fabric over a stronger fabric. It’s too floppy, and the vinyl pulls down heavily on the soft and flexible linen. Even interfacing isn’t durable enough for daily purse wear.

-the snaps keep coming off. Snaps are not an appropriate way to close the top of a handbag, where one must open and close it dozens of times a day, reaching in repeatedly for keys, subway card, phone, change, etc. For the revision, I’ll use magnets, and set them right into the plastic canvas that gives structure to the top flap.

-the top flaps also have too much flop and wobble, especially when I carry the bag in the “tote” manner where the straps pulls each side at a slight angle. Particularly when the snaps aren’t holding tightly (which is always), the whole bag skews slightly from the weight pulling unevenly from the straps.

Back to the drawing board!

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I made another handbag.

25 Apr

This time, I made up the pattern myself.

I wanted to try something with a little more structure than the typical (and my last) floppy fabric bag.

I’ll tell you, though, this “designing” racket is nuts. I mean, if I say “It’s my own design”, what I really mean is “I sewed one part, and then I ripped it out, and then I resewed it, and then I changed my whole mind, cut it out all over again and differently, and then sewed it one more time just for good measure. And then STILL when I got to a step later on down the line, I had to undo part of what I did, and jerry-rig it some other way just to make it work.”

So my idea was that it can be carried on a long strap, folded over, like this, OR, if I have extra things to port about, I can clip the strap to the top, and carry it like more of a tote bag:

…and either way, I can remove the strap, and carry it as a clutch (folded over) or else by the handle. It’s versatile.

It was also kind of a nightmare to make, because it was my first time sewing with vinyl, my first time trying to make a fabric bag have stiffness and structure to it, and my first time working with real hardware.


But I think the black makes it nice and subtle, and the linen panels lighten it up (more than my corduroy bag that I made in winter), and the houndstooth…well, I just really like houndstooth check. (And yes, you may recognize that exact fabric from a shift dress. It’ll be fun, to wear the two items together, one day.)

And look! It has feet!

Right back where I started.

8 Apr

I need a new handbag.

The weather is warm, and the corduroy one I sewed at the beginning of this project now feels too wintery, like a thick sweater on a sunny spring day.

So I’m working out ideas. I’m thinking of a kind of fold-over bag that can convert from handbag to tote bag–and in my imagination, it is complete with matching hardware, including those little purse feet.


So I did some supply shopping, and sketched out various details, and I’ll see where I go from here. It’s funny, though, how of all the things I make, I never really need any of them. But a bag in which to carry my wallet, phone, keys, and subway card, that’s an ongoing requirement, no matter what else I’m wearing.

In with the New!

1 Jan

I started off the new year with a brand new handbag:

It’s corduroy, it’s gathered at the bottom with rows of gathers and at the top with elastic. It’s based on the bag pattern in the Burda Style Sewing Handbook, “Chie’s Variation”.

I changed some things–adding a silk scarf instead of the sash of the same bag fabric (although I made a sash, as well, if I ever want that look.) I removed the extra detachable strap, using the D-ring tabs instead for my main strap, but changing the proportions of that a little bit.

I also added extra pockets–this variation comes complete with a zipper pocket in the lining as well as two extras on the other side, which I appreciate, but I also added a pocket to the inside of each end panel, as well. I’ve never heard of a handbag with too many pockets, after all. (I laugh imagining it: “Oh, no! So many different perfectly designated places to put all my many various things!”)

And I changed the lining a little bit, making the elastic casings continue in corduroy so that the lining isn’t easily visible. I never did resolve my differences with the book’s pattern instructions, and largely because of this issue. The way I made it conforms with the illustrations on p. 175, diagrams 14, 15, and 16, which do not conform with the written directions, which are depicted in diagram 12  and the project photos. This contradiction (and others like it) are why I would not particularly recommend this book to beginning sewers who want to use it step by step for its patterns: it’s tricky to puzzle out the “creative differences” inherent in a pattern written this way.
But I like the bag in spite of this. I can trade out the scarf for other colors and make it coordinate with various outfits. The shape is slouchy and casual, and holds a good bit of stuff inside without looking lumpy or misshapen.

And it starts out my “make everything for myself” challenge, at the beginning of the new year, with a firm declaration. For this one step, at least, I can make it myself.

Bag Challenge: the Strategy

22 Dec

I decided to try corduroy, for the fabric of my handbag. That makes it very wintery, and I’ll want to do another one by springtime, but that’s fine with me–I’m feeling rather wintery right now.

My local fabric source did not have much in the way of wide wale corduroy.  No buttered-toffee color, no caramel, no gold, not even a mustard.

There was some rust-colored fine wale, however, a color I can enjoy.  For my pattern, I decided to try out one of the bag variations in the Burda Style Sewing Handbook. I bought this when it first came out, but I haven’t tried making anything from it, yet. I’m not used to the make-your-own-pattern Burda experience, so I’ll let you know how that goes.
This is how my concept looks, right now:I’ll post more when I’ve got more!

First Challenge: a new bag

19 Dec

My handbag is wearing out. I’ve dragged it around with me every day for more than a year, and the handles are wearing thin, as is the spot where each handle attaches to the bag. I’m a bag-as-big-as-a-tote kind of girl–I need a bag big enough to live out of, and I only change out bags for special occasions.  So I need a good, go-to kind of a handbag, on the large side.

It occurs to me that I could just go buy a bag, and claim my little project hasn’t officially started yet…but what would be the fun in that? Sure, making my own handbag isn’t as easy as, say, an A-line skirt…but I have tons of A-line skirts, and this whole deal is about finding my real necessities, so a handbag actually seems an appropriate place to start.  Also, I realize my specific needs in a bag are probably just as easy to fulfill, hand-making it, as they would be, trying to find something ready-made (that I can still afford.)

What I require in a bag:

-Versatile for everyday wear

-Sturdy, but not heavy or stiff

-Easy-access pockets for essential at-the-ready items like phone and keys and subway pass

-Long enough handles to sling over my shoulder and leave my hands free, even while wearing my winter coat

-It has to have at least one smooth side, the side against my body. Zippers and details (even seams) often rub and wear on more delicate clothing, over time.

And on top of all this, I’d like it in some fun color, not a print, but not boring. Some small bit of color that goes with many of the colors frequently found in my general wardrobe palette.  I’m thinking maybe mustard, or gold, or a caramel-toffee kind of color.
While most bags I choose tend to be leather-look, I think a sturdy fabric will be fine for a home sewn purse, as long as it’s heavy enough to be sturdy, with just a bit of slouch, some relaxed shape without looking…too hand sewn. Maybe lightweight canvas, upholstery fabric, or a wide-waled corduroy.

I’m off to find the perfect bag…