Today I want to share with you the steps needed to create your own pattern for a handbag.I recently decided to begin to create handbags made from re purposed fabric. I had seen some messenger style bags in the store recently that I like. My goal was to create something similar with a little more style. And of course to eventually create more of them out of fabric and ex clothing that is destined for the rag pile.

While I was creating I was listening to  a book called “The Achievement Habit” by Bernard Roth. He suggested that when you have an idea you start working on it without caring if the outcome is perfect. He suggested making a prototype (a muslin in sewing) or a “crap up” .His theory was that calling it something different would help prevent the perfectionism that can take over and that leads to project abandonment. I like that concept and this is my new name for my muslins – my crap ups. It also makes the initial creation process faster.

Step 1: Have an idea. For most of us this is the easy part. We see something we like and think “Oh I could make that,” My inspiration came wandering the aisles at a department store and seeing the piles of bags.

Step 2: Sketch it out. Think about how big you really want it to be, what shape you want it to have, do you want zippers or snaps or a strap or……….. Lots of design decisions begin here and may or may not stay in the final plan.

sketch of purse idea

Sketching your thoughts will be the first step

Step 3: Begin to create the pattern pieces. This is like geometry from high school. You have to think about how the different shapes will come together to create your design. It is fun because at this point anything is possible. To start I drew a square with the sizes I wanted the final bag to be. I then marked them on the square.  I drew the shape I wanted and refined it until it was the size and the shape I wanted. At this point I made some changes. My first idea of bag size seemed too big when I held it up to my body so I made it smaller. Also at this point don’t worry about seam allowances just finished size.

Step 4: Look at other items you have around the house to see how they are put together. I knew I didn’t want a flat bag so I looked at some grocery bags and other items I have around the house to see how they are put together. There were many choices. I chose the one I could visualize best for this bag – a side band that is sewn around the edges of the front and back to give it shape and depth. At this point I sketched pockets on the inside and outside of the bag in desired locations. I thought about how to attach the strap and close the purse. What would make it practical.

Step 5: Finalize the pattern pieces remembering to add seam allowances. I chose 1/2″ so there would be less to trim.

Step 6: Choose your materials. Since this is a muslin or prototype or “crap up”, I chose some upholstery fabric left over from a chair I recovered many years ago, some felt from a costume project and for the lining a muslin curtain we didn’t use in a house we recently sold.

fabrics for the prototype bag

Use inexpensive materials for your muslin or crap up

Step 7: Cut them out and try to figure out what order to sew them in. This again tested my brain. I ended up sewing the pockets on the lining with the middle felt attached. This made it easier for me to see this as one piece – the lining. Three pieces was too much. High school geometry was more than 40 years ago. The tricky part for me was how would the lining and the structure and the outside fabric go together? I put them together every which way but really couldn’t see how it would work without actually starting to put it together. I machine basted the pieces together and at the very end saw how the flap would come over and be completed. At my final stitching I managed to break a machine needle  Stopping and taking the time to put in a heavier needle might have helped me complete this project the same day I started. Instead I lacked the patience, broke a needle and stalled out for two more days.

Lack of patience caused this broken needle

thick fabric needed a different needle

Thick fabric needed a different needle

Step 8: Refine and adjust and try again. My final project is too bulky so I will use a thinner interfacing next time – or a thinner fashion fabric. I also want a zippered pouch front and back. I will do another crap up  before I use my final fabric.

Almost Done

I can hide my bag here and the burglars won’t find it

Messenger bag in use