I’ve been making purses for my granddaughters. It’s been a steep learning curve (at times, straight up!) so I’ve shared what I’ve learned here for those who want to do something like this for their dear ones… maybe even before Valentines Day?
While using Pinterest, I found inspiration here. Unfortunately, there was no pattern or tutorial offered, and the blog is in Russian. But, the seamstress is really talented! I took her idea for a woven, embroidered heart-embellished flap, and made the bag bigger and bigger, added handles of different kinds, and made purses of different colors, of course.
Looking at the heart motif, I thought, “This is great for Elsa!” And, because Valentines Day is just a week later, “I’ll make two more: one for each of Elsa’s sisters, Nora and Emma!”
Elsa’s was the first one I made, and I didn’t take many pictures of the process, because I was so busy figuring it out. I chose purple fabrics because purple is Elsa’s favorite color.
- In quilter’s terms: it took me quite awhile to get the trick of choosing two darks that coordinated closely for the body of the purse, and then choosing a very light, contrasting color for the outer flap.
- Then, when choosing the fabrics for the woven heart, I had to think in terms of pattern scales, types, and colors. The more these are varied, the more work you have to find a pleasing balance. I advise you to take your time with this! It’s fun, and it really matters to how the purse turns out. Take a session to put the fabrics together, then walk away for awhile. See if you still like your choices when you come back to it!
- Also remember with the weaving strips that center fabrics will show more than once, but edge ones won’t.
- Linings can be fun and daring! I loved choosing a lime green to offset the deep purples in Elsa’s purse.
The first patterns that I made caused the purse to be too big for a four-year-old. In the process of cutting it down, it got flatter… and then weirdly bunched and curved near the bottom (as well as too long, proportionately for the flap)… See?
So, in the end, I chopped the bottom off ruthlessly, which made the purse completely flat (envelope style), but right proportionately. I figure a 3 year old won’t have a lot to put into this little purse. I had to slip stitch the bottom edge of the purse (since it was already assembled) so it’s not super strong, but she’ll only be taking it to church most of the time. I think it turned out sweet. Just right for Elsa!
After floundering my way through Elsa’s purse, I chose pink fabrics and started on Nora’s. She is eight, so hers needed to be larger. I reworked the pattern, and kept a better record of the steps, so I could share them here.
Step 1: Choosing Fabrics, Cutting, and Interfacing
Here’s the simple pattern, pictured from my sketch book. Basically, the shell and lining shapes are the same, but the lining is cut 1/2″ smaller all the way around. I found this worked fine on all but that part of the lining that backs the flap.
Because of the thickness of the woven material behind the heart, cutting it 1/2″ smaller than the outer fabric makes the lining too small. Therefore, in my third purse (for Emma) I plan to make the flap sections the same exact size. So, if you’re copying this, make that one small adjustment to the flap on the lining pattern (right one).
You’ll want to cut out your heart shape from something sturdy, like quilters’ template plastic (such as this). Note a few things as you decide how big to make the heart:
- You want this heart to be centered on the closed purse, so it’s going to sit lower than vertical center, because the purse has depth. The flap has to traverse the depth of the purse (2″ in my case) and then fall.
- You have to remember that you’re going to need seam allowance around the entire flap (in my case 1/2″).
- You want there to be room for the embroidery we’re going to do. Take a look: the running stitch goes 1/4″ out from the heart’s opening.
The ultimate size of the heart depends on the size of the purse. You can totally change this as long as you keep everything in scale. So: I’ll show you what I did on Nora’s purse, and then you can decide your own dimensions. (BTW: the heart on all these purses that I made are all the exact same size.)
I chose front and back different, but coordinating, fabrics, with a white flap front; so, that’s three fabrics on the outside. (See next picture below.) When piecing together the contrasting fabrics of the outer shell, I overlapped the fabrics for cutting, pinned the pattern, and cut them out as one piece. I allowed 1/2″ seam allowances when transitioning from fabric to fabric. After cutting, I made these two seams, and then applied interfacing to the whole, as one piece.
I chose one single red and pink fabric (with hearts) to line the entire interior, including the back of the flap.
Note: I put an interior pocket on Elsa’s purse, but I forgot on Nora’s. If you want to add pockets, cut them out double sized (for instance, cut a piece that’s 4.5″ X 8.5″ if you want a 4″ square pocket with 1/4″ seam allowances). Fold the piece in half, right sides together, and sew it on three and a quarter sides, turn it, and press it. Then set it aside. Repeat this for multiple pockets as desired.
Step 2: Sewing the Lining and Outer Shell
After cutting out and fusing, we sew the shell and the lining separately.
For the outer shell, sew the two side seams first, then box the lower corners if you want depth to your purse. (For a very young child’s purse, you may just want an “envelope purse” as with Elsa’s above. If so, just sew simple side seams.) Leave the outer shell wrong side out, but clip corners as needed. (This view has the shell turned so you can see the purse taking shape. I had to turn it back wrong before I did Step 8.)
For the lining, first sew any interior pockets onto the lining. Put the folded edge of the pockets upwards, and be sure to stitch back and forth on the tops of the pocket edges for strength since that’s where they’ll get the most wear and tear.
As you sew the side seams of the lining, be sure to leave about 4″ open in the middle of one of them so that you can turn the entire purse later. Be sure to reinforce (go back and forward with your machine) the two sides of this opening: the whole purse is going to through it towards the end!
Lastly, box the corners (if desired of the lining) at this stage. Clip corners closely, and turn the lining right side out.
Step 3: Making Strips and Weaving Them Together
Next, you’ll go to work making the 11 (or so) strips needed for weaving. I wanted 1″ squares for my heart, but you might scale yours differently. To make yours just like mine, cut 2.5″ wide strips of cloth. If your heart is the same size as mine, you’ll need to cut six strips 7″ long and 5 strips 8″ long.
Note: Even though not all of your strips will show in the heart, you want a uniform thickness behind the flap, so you need to end up with a woven piece that’s the size of your flap. In my case, this was about 7″ X 8″.
You’ll sew each strip wrong sides together with a 1/4″ seam.
Note: You have a choice at this point: you can plan to either top stitch these strips or not. If you do, your stitching will show inside your heart. I decided not to, so my directions here reflect that choice.
Flip the flattened strip over, and press again. This yields a 1″ wide strip that shows no seams. Continue the same way with all the strips until they’re all done.
Now comes the fun part! Arrange your strips in a pleasing way. (You can use your heart template to see how the squares that show are going to look.) When you’ve got your colors arranged to your satisfaction, begin weaving.
Start the weaving process by putting your first vertical strip on the right, and placing the first horizontal strips in the weaving pattern (over, under, over, under…) with raw edges lining up with the right (outside) edge of the vertical strip. (Be sure to snug them up tightly to each other. You’ll have more problem with their being too loose than too tight.)
Now, baste these strips in place by taking your machine down the outside edge of the vertical and all horizontal strips. These now anchor the strips on the right.
You can pull on anchored strips and slide those that aren’t anchored.
On each side, go ahead and do another basting seam down the outside of each side as you work with the strips to make them straight and tightly aligned with one another. Eventually, your work will look like this picture.
One thing is quite important at this phase. You want to have about a half inch to an inch of purse flap that is not backed by your woven material near the top, where it meets the purse. This is so that the flap will close easier, since the bulk of the woven fabric tends to not bend supply, which then causes the flap to stick out from the purse in an annoying way. Trust me. You want to trim that woven piece now, before you go any further! It’s okay if you end up with a set of half strips: the flap’s front and lining will hold those raw edges in place, and no one will ever see them.
Step 4: Cutting Out the Heart
I always wondered how to make a neat “window” in fabric so that something behind could be revealed, and doing this project, I finally figured it out! Woot!
Note: This window technique that I’m about to share works well for making fabric mattes for picture frames in almost any shape you want, so keep that in mind!
Back to the purse: I took my heart template and traced what would become the finished opening (larger) of my heart shapes first, in pencil. Then, I traced the second, smaller template of the same heart shape.
Next, I stay stitched on the line of the larger heart. This will keep your edge smooth, and ensure that the clips that we make in a minute won’t fray on the good side of the work.
Next, I cut open the flap open along the line of the smaller heart.
This left a 1/4″ seam allowance interior to the larger heart shape.
I erased my pencil lines for the larger heart (now under the stay stitching, but still visible on white cloth) and then carefully snipped easing cuts around all the curves of my heart.
Lastly, I positioned my piece of woven fabric behind my flap fabric and pinned the two securely together.
Step 6: Hand Embroider the Heart
I then hand embroidered the running stitch around the heart. This held the woven strips very securely in place.
I then hand embroidered around the edge of the heart with a blanket stitch, using my needle to turn under the clipped edges so that the stay stitching no longer showed.
Step 7: Handles
If you want handles for this purse, you have several choices. For Elsa’s purse (above) I simply cut 2″ strips and turned them over twice (as with bias tape) and top stitched both edges. This closed the fabric and gave a nice, finished look. I then sewed these handles on the outside of Elsa’s little purse.
If you want to put simple handles attached in the seams between the lining and the outer shell, you should make them at this point. I suggest that the right scale for this would be to cut 3.5″ strips, and line them with interfacing that is 3″ wide. Then, fold in a 1/4″ seam allowance over that interfacing, and then fold the strip in half, and top stitch to close the handle. Top stitch again on the other edge if you want a more finished look.
Step 8: Joining the Lining and Outer Shell
Once my embroidery was complete, I turned the lining right side out and the outer shell wrong side out. I fit the two together, putting the lining inside of the outer shell. (If you are embedding handles in this seam, position them between the lining and the outer shell such that they are inside the purse. When you turn the purse, they will come to the outside.)
Then, I stitched around the entire perimeter. I clipped the corners where the flap meets the body very deep.
Step 7: Turning and Finishing Details
At this point, I turned the entire purse through the opening left in the lining. Go slow on this… it’s a bulky thing to get through a small opening, but it will come.
When it’s through, you’ll want to insert magnet clasps (if desired) before you slip stitch the opening in the lining closed.
If you are attaching handles to the outside of the purse, you’ll want to create them at a width that pleases you (formula: double the desired width and add seam allowances to arrive at width of strips to cut). You may wish to add interfacing, depending on the weight of your handle fabrics. Sew them on by hand.
If you are doing button attachments for handles as I did with Nora’s purse, then you’ll want to create handles with finished ends, and then make buttonholes in them. In this case, interfacing is a good idea, as it adds stability for the machine that stitches the buttonholes. Sew two buttons for the handle, one on each side of the purse over the side seams.
Emma’s purse was just like Nora’s. Her color is turquoise, as you can see, so I chose these fabrics. The little girls loved their purses. We attend church together, and they often have them along with their Sunday offerings and (in Nora’s case) their Bibles inside.
This is my first tutorial, and I’m assuming that you’ve got some sewing experience. Even so, ask questions in comments if I can help clarify any step above! Thanks for stopping by; all comments are appreciated!