How To Make a Purse - A Guide for Beginners
Why Make Your Own Bags and Purses?
Because it's fun! Making your own bags and purses is a really satisfying hobby and, if you're a fabric junkie, it provides ample opportunity to indulge your love of beautiful fabrics too. From simple totes, to more complicated coin purses and bags using metal hardware, the possibilities are endless and what's really great is that you can create one-off and unique items that you won't find at the mall, and they'll cost just a fraction of the price too.
Cranking it up a notch, if you enjoy making your own purses, you could always begin to sell your creations online, meaning your hobby could become a successful little money spinner down the line. In a previous life (before kids and writing took over), I used to enjoy making purses, albeit not particularly well - my sewing skills leave a lot to be desired and it was always strictly 'for fun'. However back then there were just a few online purse frame suppliers and so, spotting a bit of a gap in the market, I began buying the frames and hardware in bulk, and set up my own online purse frames and hardware supplies store on Etsy. Alas competition from cheaper Chinese sellers made it too difficult to compete and so, after falling pregnant with my youngest child I wound the business down, but it was great fun while it lasted, and I learned a lot about purse making and running an online craft business - which i'll try to condense into a future hub.
My sewing skills are still terrible but this hub is intended as a way to share some of the fantastic tips and resources available for getting started on your own purse and bag making projects.
All you'll need is a few basic supplies, plenty of enthusiasm and a little patience as you learn the basics, but if you're already familiar with a sewing machine, purse making is a natural progression and guaranteed to have you hooked in no time.
Free Tote Bag & Zipper Pouch Tutorial
The Tote Bag is perhaps the most basic style of bag and is incredibly easy to sew. At it's simplest, it's really just two rectangles of fabric sewed together with webbing for handles - couldn't be easier! Of course you can add pockets, pleats, hardware and all manner of detail, but I'd recommend nailing the basics first with an excellent free video tutorial on Craftsy (my favourite Craft tutorial site).
While you can sign up for a whole range of more in-depth online art and craft classes, this 'mini class' entitled 'Bag-Making Basics: Reversible Tote & Zipper Pouch' from Kristin Link - sewing guru from the phenomenally successful sewing blog Sew Mama Sew - is completely free and really easy to follow and you'll learn enough from these two tutorials to really kick-start your purse making ambitions.
- Purse makers use Gutermann Creativ HT2 Textile Glue to fix fabric to the metal purse frame.
An all purpose craft glue for bonding fabric to metal and wood and an essential piece of kit for purse making
Free Coin Purse Tutorial
The next type of purse you're going to want to try is a coin purse with a metal frame. Trust me when I tell you that, once mastered, this technique is utterly addictive! It's a little more advanced in terms of it being a little more fiddly, but honestly, it's completely possible to achieve really professional looking little coin purses in no time.
There are tons of great tutorials out there. Simply google 'free coin purse tutorial' and you'll get a bunch come up right away. Here's a great tutorial entitled 'Love Letter Clutch Tutorial & Pattern' available on Cailamade.com which gives nice, clear instructions with great photographs. To receive the pattern, you need only to sign up for Caila's blog updates via email, RSS, or Google Friend Connect.
Attaching a metal frame to a Coin Purse
I won't lie, there's a knack to it and it will take you a few attempts before you master it, so it's best to practice a little first with old fabric. This little video tutorial is by a lady called Haruka and is a nice demonstration of how to insert a frame - with the kind of tools and supplies you'll need.
It's not necessary to rush out and buy specialised tools, of course, but this will help you to find suitable substitutes that you may already have that would work well for poking the fabric into the frame. If you do wish to purchase the tools, you can buy them on ebay from the suppliers mentioned in the 'Where to Buy Purse Making Supplies' section.
Metal Frame Coin Purse Tutorial
Purse Making Supplies - Where To Buy Them
When I began selling my purse frames and hardware (the metal rings and fasteners found on bags and purses) back in 2008 there were just a handful of online stores selling them. These days there's a huge range of options and the prices are pretty competitive as a result. The range of styles offered has broadened considerably too and it's now possible to create some seriously professional looking purses with what's on offer. It's always possible to buy purse frames from local brands such as Joann, but f you want great value, I'd suggest going directly to an Asian supplier because this is where all the factories are based and you'll get the widest selection at a great price.
When it comes to fabrics, the world is your oyster and purse making really lends itself beautifully to indulging a passion for fabric. Perhaps you print or design your own? Are you really into Modern Scandi styles? Do you drool over Joel Dewberry and Amy Butler? The great thing is that you often don't need a huge amount to make a coin purse or bag, and so you can buy fat quarters or half yards, which can work out to be more economical.
Here's a selection of suppliers for fabric, frames and hardware:
Fat Quarter Shop - quilting suppliers like U.S based Fat Quarter Shop carry a vast range of all the latest, cutest and must-have fabrics, from the likes of Alexander Henry, Michael Miller, Heather Bailey, Amy Butler and Joel Dewberry. What's great is that you can purchase just small amounts - aka 'fat quarters' - perfect for small projects like coin purses. Worldwide shipping.
Fabric Worm - as with the Fat Quarter Shop, another fantastic fabric store for home crafters with a vast range of 'must have' fresh, modern fabrics. Worldwide shipping.
Superbuzzy - adorable Japanese fabrics and cuteness for crafters that love all things Zakka and Japanese inspired.
Spoonflower - the genius 'print your own fabric' concept that allows users to design and print their own fabrics in a number of weights, or simply pick from one of the hundreds of designs.
Etsy - thousands of styles and many fresh, cutting edge designs available by the yard or fat quarters.
Ebay - A mind boggling array of fabrics on offer in all cuts, weights and designs. Try a store such as Material Girl Chic for a great selection of contemporary fabrics such as Riley Blake (click image to visit store):
Have you considered making your own purse or bag?
Metal purse frames and hardware suppliers:
Etsy: 3D Patterned Paper - This Hong Kong based store - run by Dan Sonia - opened just a few months after I started selling on Etsy and adopted a very similar approach and visual style to my own store (well they say imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery). Dan is still going strong and, as I have a soft spot for anyone dedicated to Etsy, I feel it's only fair to plug his store as he's worked hard to build up a loyal following over the years, offering great, personalised service and a huge range of purse and bag making supplies.
Ebay: Onlinedirectcentre - Another Hong Kong based operation but this time an ebay store with a huge amount of 'buy it now' purse frames and related crafting supplies, and all items include free worldwide delivery. It has an incredibly high customer satisfaction score and as a seasoned expat, with years living in Asia buying and selling purse frames from these types of sellers 'back in the day', they would be my go-to option for anyone contemplating buying purse frames, particularly if you plan to buy more than a few frames at a time. Click the image below to check out their full selection of purse frames:
Purse & Bag Inspiration
Here's a selection of great purse making links, blogs and websites packed with great visual ideas to help you get inspired:
Pinterest - of course! Search for 'purse frames', 'coin purse', 'coin purse patten', 'tote tutorial' or whatever purse or bag related visuals you like. Pinterest remains one of the best ways to get inspired. A good tip is to sign up to 'follow' other user's boards, for example if a favourite blogger and crafter posts lots of lovely and inspiring boards featuring handmade bags and purses.
Here's a great example of a board created by a Pinterest User Rozy Rosly featuring tons of tutorials, patterns and ideas.
Instagram - another essential tool in the crafter's visual arsenal of inspiration. Simply search using the symbol hashtag (#) followed by whatever search terms you like, for example #coinpurse #vintagecoinpurse #handmadeclutch etc. LIke Pinterest, you can sign up for feeds to continue inspiring you.
Heather Bailey - one of the craft world's most highly revered fabric designers and sewing mavens, Heather's blog contains tons of beautiful and inspiring projects for purse makers, including some free patterns.
Amy Butler - another 'need to know' fabric designer and sewing maven, Amy's website contains lots of inspiring project photos featuring her bag designs in her own gorgeous fabrics.
Emmaline Bags - A fantastic Canadian site dedicated to making bags - you can also purchase hardware here too - with lots of really useful tidbits, tutorials and tips to help you make better bags.
U-handbag.com - UK based Lisa Lam was one of the early internet pioneers of purse making for home crafters and her excellent blog contains everything you need to know about purse making. You can purchase patterns and hardware at her store too.
Etsy - A treasure trove of handmade purses and bags to gain inspiration or why not set up your own store and sell your creations?
Flickr: The Bag Blog Pool - a member only group with hundreds of member uploaded photos of bag and purse projects to provide inspiration.