Anyone ever sew their own purse?

The recent thread about purses got me thinking once again of the idea of designing my own purse. I can never find one that really has what I need in the configuration I want it. I know what size I want, how many pockets, what types of compartments, where I want them, etc… my main concern is how hard it would be to sew (especially the zippers!), and how hard it would be to make something durable enough. Anyone have any experience with this and maybe some pointers?

[Note: I don’t buy or use leather so sewing through leather isn’t an issue–it would be fabric of some sort.]

Sewing something like a purse is a pretty involved process – it would probably be more like upholstery than garment-making. It’s hard to get a good finish with a home machine. I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl (let’s call it 15 years) and I still hate my topstitching.

I’d suggest making a couple of tote bags first, to get some of the basics down, and then nabbing a pattern from Simplicity or McCalls for a more involved project, and then take on your dream bag. You could always pay someone to make it for you, too, which would probably cost about the same as acquiring the skills and messing up a couple times.

Are you on Livejournal? One of the communities I read has quite a few people who make their own purses/clutches. I could give you the community name or I could ask some questions for you if you like.

I have a serger if that would help. I am on LJ… what is the community?

I’ve made several purses over the years, starting with very simple ones and getting more involved as time goes on.

You DO want a very heavy fabrics - the upholstery idea is a good one. That’s the sort of fabric you want for durability.

My next purse project is leather - I have the pieces and hardware parts, I need to finish carving the design, then it’s on to the staining and stitching. I don’t recommend that level for a beginner. Or for someone in a hurry.

Right, well like I said, I don’t do leather anyway (I’m a vegetarian, it’s an ethical thing for me).

In yet another surreal moment, I was having a conversation yesterday about my dream purse. I’ve been perusing looking for someone that can make it for me.

I swear, someone out there could make a killing making “the perfect purse” from people who had it once upon a time.

Not a job for rookies, eh? Good to know.

I’m looking for the perfect fabric–I have this really cool Irish knot that I want to try out–to make a purse or makeup bag. Something black and sleek…

Off to Cafe Society.

Opal, the community I’m thinking of is sew_hip. You might also want to check out the craftgrrl community (which unfortunately has a high ratio of 14-year-old clothing reconstructionists) or ask at, which has an extensive crafting forum.

Good luck!

I’ve only been sewing for about 4 years, but have made several handbags, all with the help of There’s a sub-forum entirely devoted to purses and bags, which features an extensive list of all the tutorials within that forum. The tutorials are great: they’re often a step-by-step photo-documentation of the entire process, and usually include pattern pieces. Plus the forum members are super nice and extremely helpful if you have any questions.

And about zippers – there are plenty of tricks to make installing them easier, such as using fusible or water-soluble double-sided tape to hold them in place while you sew. Piece of cake! Actually, Craftster probably has tutorials about zippers, too.

Good luck!

I’ve done a couple (I mostly crochet mine) and my mother’s done a few, including my knitting bag which is basically a purse in all its detailed glory. It is possible, though much more difficult than the average sewing project to get the finishes neat and tidy.

One suggestion I’ll offer is that if you want something structured, with really stiff sides, you look at ‘plastic canvas’. It’s mainly used for tacky crafts that sort of vaguely approximate real cross stitch or embroidery, but it’s very light and adds great stiffness to a fabric based project. Plus, with the holes in it, you can easily baste it to your fabrics to keep it neatly in place.

OpalCat, my girlfriend makes purses to sell on Etsy and she also has a gallery show going on presently. They are quite nice (of course, I know nothing about purses, I am a guy, but they are pretty*) and she sells quite a few of them. They are all hand made and each one is original. If you have some specific questions I can ask her. I do believe that she got some patterns at a sewing store when she started and learned from those.


*She did make me a guitar strap, which rocks. You can see it here though the picture isn’t very good. She is going to start on custom straps. Wordman is going to get one of the prototypes.

collecting links thanks everyone. I am not sure when I will start this project, but I think I am actually going to do it at some point and not just talk about it. At least I hope.

Opal - FWIW. my wife just knitted a purse, using a technique called “felting” (which is just that - after treatment you end up with essentially thick felt.)

May not be what you’re looking for, but she was really pleased with the technique and the result. Granted it was a very simple purse.

Yeah, don’t think I want a felt purse, and though I know how to knit, I don’t have the patience for it.

I made my own purse this year. It was a basic starter purse for me done in canvas. Rectangle shaped with inner and outer pockets. I basically decided exactly what I wanted and how big each piece would have to be by drawing diagrams. I’m a visual person, so it helped to draw the shape and then deconstruct it through those diagrams. try sketching out exactly what you want and going from there. at the very least the drawing would help someone else if you decided to hire someone to do the job.

I used a very heavy interfacing for the lining rather than plastic canvas because the interfacing was sewable so I wouldn’t break needle running over it. :wink: It’s about as thick as a piece of polyester craft felt, but stiffer.

I would dearly love to try leather, but I’m having a difficult time finding baby pink leather. The purse I have in mind just has to be baby pink. I would settle for baby blue, but it wouldn’t be the same.

If you got in contact with a group of leatherworkers you might be able to find someone to custom dye some leather pieces for you. Since I usually buy supplies from Tandy leather that’s who I network with - you might see if they have a store near you.