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Using Scrap Fabric

Updated on February 28, 2014

Beautiful Craft Purses from Scraps

What to do with that mounting pile of fabric scraps - those small pieces left over from other projects?

Make small purses!

Having my own huge (and growing) stack of scrap fabrics left over from theater set projects, I've been fascinated to watch a friend turn her own scrap pile into a growing small handicraft business.

She started with just a few fabric left-overs, learning by experiment how to cut, stitch, and glue them into fabric clutch purses. Finding the right hardware and glue. Experimenting with style, color, and decoration.

Here's her brand-new shop: Liz's Whimsies

Naturally she first experimented with an Etsy page, just to see what would happen. This was, at first, nothing much. But friends liked the purses. Another friend commissioned several bags for a wedding party. And those ladies told their friends... The WORD GOT OUT!

At this point (February 2014) she's finishing her fifth set of purses for a wedding and she's selling quite a bit by word of mouth... but still not too many on Etsy. So she just - today! - opened her own independent on-line store where she can have more freedom to display her purses and aprons as she likes. (Here is her earlier Etsy shop Liz's Whimsies still in business.)

It's exciting to watch her business develop. This Lens showcases some of her clever crafty-ness and documents just how much you can do with what you already have plus a good idea. (And a good eye for color and clever fingers.)

My own purse that she made me? I've gotten a lot of compliments on it.

Maybe it's time to look through your own pile of fabric scraps to see what secret potential they hold for you? I'm looking through mine! Hmmmm... This sofa fabric. Could it become a... book bag?

Colorful Fabrics Stacked by Vera Kratochvil at
Colorful Fabrics Stacked by Vera Kratochvil at

Introducing Liz

of Liz's Whimsies

Hi, I'm Liz!

I'm a full-time high school special education teacher living in northern California. I love my family, friends and job, but I also have a passion for decorating and crafts!

After many years of hoarding fabric, I knew I needed to find some way to better utilize it. What would be better than purses and aprons!!! It didn't matter that I had never made a purse or apron before - this idea would allow me to play with patterns, use fabric I have, and would be light to package and ship. (On a previous Etsy venture the craft I created was so bulky, heavy, and expensive to ship that I think I paid customers to buy it.)

My first adventure with fabric-craft began with a buddy's wedding. She purchased three purses for the bridal party. We used the wedding colors of black and apple green - green for the purse linings. The purses "wrapped" gift jewelry to be worn in the ceremony. It was really fun, and introduced the opportunity for more weddings, as well as, jump-started my shop. Thanks Gina!

I also found a cute flirty apron pattern that everyone loves, and these have turned out to be a great addition to a baker's gift basket. But that's another Lens...

I sell locally and I have even ventured into Etsy, where my little shop has stayed fairly busy since the first wedding. This September will be my shop's first contribution to a fundraiser, and I will participate in my first craft fair this December.

It's really fun how my desire to keep myself busy, and my love of fabric and pattern, have become a small business!

Cute Purses

There are just so many cute fabrics... Colors! Patterns! So much fun.

Ladybug purse set
Ladybug purse set

It's a creative challenge to choose fabrics for the outside - and the inside - that coordinate in an interesting way. Sometimes the lining is a treat - the owner's favorite color inside a sober, serious purse. Sometimes it's a surprise - the bride's maids' pick for the bride!

Sometimes it's a mother-daughter pair of purses.

(BTW the purses shown here are only examples, for what's actually in stock at the moment, check Liz's shop: Liz's Whimsies)

"CHOOSING fabrics?" you say.

"What happened to that huge pile of fabric scraps?"

Um... been making a LOT of purses.

Now Liz gets the fun of picking more fabric!

Win-win or what?

Serious Purses

Made using this rich and unusual black fabric, this purse is elegant enough for any dressy occasion from a nice cocktail party to a formal dinner or dance.

Sets of Purses

Maybe for a bridal party?

Sometimes all the purses match - at least on the outside, because the inside can be customized to each owner.

Each clutch purse is unique - hand-made for THAT person on THAT occasion. A sentimental (and useful) keepsake.

Coordinating Purses

But a set of purses don't have to match! A coordinated set is a charming way to celebrate individuality among a close group of friends.

(Doesn't this seem perfect gift for a group like a sorority or Red Hat Society or book club?)

Liz's Links

Maerials Liz uses in making (and shipping) her one-of-a-kind purses.

Fancy Fabrics

Here it's a stunning brocade. What especially rich fabric do you have in your stockpile?

Finding vintage fabrics
Finding vintage fabrics

Sourcing Vintage Fabric

Liz has been experimenting with antique fabrics too.

One of the best sources Liz has found so far is thrift stores. Vintage evening wear can be made into elegant raw material for purses - even if part of the fabric is damaged. (That only lowers the price!)

This vintage sequined jacket will become several stylish sequined evening clutches. If you look fast, there's a purse made from this vintage sequined fabric in Liz's shop... Liz's Whimseies (Oops, sold. But there may be a new/old purse available.)

As you can see below...

The vintage sequin purse!
The vintage sequin purse!

How-To Books About Purses

A small selection of interesting how-you-too-can books!

One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Projects; Look How Much You Can Make with Just One Yard of Fabric!
One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Projects; Look How Much You Can Make with Just One Yard of Fabric!

I like the one yard max... but some of my scraps are smaller than that

Purses, Bags & More
Purses, Bags & More

This looks like a good book.



I love the cool colors of this chevron-patterned bag.


And the wonderful fish-scale effect of this glimmering purple!


Adding just a little something extra.

The "diamond" clutch purse.
The "diamond" clutch purse.

The Finishing Touch

Finding just the right finishing touches can be a lot of fun. A single element can add a lot of style!

Here it's a costume jewelry "diamond" brooch.

It's really fun how my desire to keep myself busy,

and my love of fabric and pattern,

have become a small business!

Links to How-Tos... and Factoids about Handbags

A few sources for sewing patterns for bags and purses.

Interested in a truly one-of-a-kind purse? (Or those cool aprons?) Check out Liz's site!

Vintage Purses

Purses are fascinating bits of fashion. Vintage purses are fashion history. Collecting... Making...


Making Vintage Bags: 20 Original Sewing Patterns for Vintage Bags and Purses
Making Vintage Bags: 20 Original Sewing Patterns for Vintage Bags and Purses

I love that there's a book on MAKING vintage purses! I assume the title really means "from vintage materials"?


"No woman I know could ever be a terrorist.

Put a bomb in a Gucci bag? Oh, no way!"

- Joan Rivers

What are your reactions to this purse idea? Have you tried something similar?

How do you use YOUR scrap fabric?

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    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 4 years ago

      @laurenrich: Thanks for visiting!

    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      This is beautiful work. I love these purses. Thanks for sharing.

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 4 years ago

      @Raymond Eagar: Thanks for mentioning that! Of course quilts are THE classic way to use scrap fabric. And a modern art form too. thanks for visiting.

    • Raymond Eagar profile image

      Raymond Eagar 4 years ago

      My mother used to make quilts

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 4 years ago

      @Varliukas: So do I! Thanks for visiting.

    • Varliukas profile image

      Varliukas 4 years ago

      I really like these purses! :)

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 4 years ago

      @Joanne Reid: What a nice thing to say! Have fun with your crafting.

    • Joanne Reid profile image

      Joanne Reid 4 years ago from Prince Edward Island/Arizona

      I love love love this lens. I am a purse freak and have thought about making purses. But never imagined I could do it. But I live with piles of scraps and now I am encouraged to give it a whirl. Thank you!!