My First Purse Tutorial

I've never made a purse before, or any kind of bag really.  Most of the time I sew for my kids, so it was nice to take a break and make something for myself.

I've spent some time recently looking at bags--how they are made and how little details change their appearance so much.   Ikat Bag recently did a great series about all the different variations of bags.  Her series inspired me to finally try to make one.  I've always really loved purses that are very artistic (think Anthropologie...) or covered with embroidery.

This purse isn't really either of those things, but it is my first attempt at making a purse and learning about how to construct one.  I feel like I learned so much in the process that I'm in better shape now to try something a bit more challenging or embellished.  I have to say that making a bag is a bit trickier than I expected.  My seam ripper definitely got a lot of exercise (My grandmother would be so proud!)  I had this horrible tendency to put the pieces together in the wrong order.  In the right order it is actually pretty simple. So go ahead and follow a long below.  I promise it is actually pretty easy!

Read more for the tutorial!  And if you do find this tutorial helpful (or have any questions) let me know by leaving a comment. 

 The base and main part of my bag are made from special order fabric samples at JoAnns.  They are very sturdy and heavy.  Definitely a must for a purse.  Our store was closing, so they sold off the samples for a whopping 50 cents.  What a deal!  I also picked up some brown quilted fabric to match for the lining. 

If you'd like to make your own bag, here are the pieces you'll need.  In addition, you'll need a 7 inch zipper.

Now that you've cut out all of your pieces, let's start with the zippered pocket. First line up your zipper next to the pocket top and bottom and mark where the zipper starts and ends.

Now sew up the two pieces just to the beginning and end points. 

You should be able to easily insert the zipper inside now.  The edges of the zipper will extend beyond the places that you marked.

At this point, you need to use a zipper foot to closely sew the zipper to both the top and bottom piece of the pocket. Make sure that you don't sew the top part of the pocket to the bottom part of the pocket.  This can be a bit tricky, so be careful!

Here I am sewing the top part. (For reference, you can't see the bottom part.  It is under the arm of my sewing machine.  Let me know if this doesn't make sense.  It is a bit hard to photograph and explain.)
And now the bottom:

I did a top stich by the edge of the zipper for more support (and I think it looks nicer too.)
Tada!  Your zippered pouch front is done.

Let's move onto the body of the purse.   This is how you should think of your purse:  Front, Bottom, Front.  Don't sew the sides together though yet, since you will want to trap your bag handles into the bottom seam.

Sew the front to the bottom of the bag, attaching the bag handles as you go.  Then you can sew a long the sides of the bag handles.  I didn't sew the handles all the way to the top, because I decided I would likely trim my bag to make it not as tall.  I only attached the handles about 75% of the way to the top.

Do the same thing to the other side, and then attach the zippered pouch to the handles.

Position your handles such that the zippered pouch comes just to the edges of the handles, like this.  Mark and then sew the handles down.

Your finished piece should look like this.  For some reason the angle on my picture looks a bit strange, but in actuality the bag front and back are the same size with the straps in the same place on both sides.
Now it's time to make the upturned arrow in the base of the bag, which looks neat and also lets the bag fill out more. (so you can carry more stuff!)

You need to fold the base like this to make that arrow.  The fold looks kind of like a W.
Another shot from another angle.
Sew up the side seams.  Here I stopped right after I got through the base so that I could show you how it looks partially sewn.

continue on to make the side of the bag.  It's really starting to look like a bag now, huh?

Do the same fold-y thing with the lining of the purse, using the outside part of the bag as an example.

Continue all along the sides of the lining to make a pouch.  You'll notice my lines aren't straight, but I did this intentionally to both the inside and outside of my bag to make it a little less boxy.

And now you've got a pouch!! And here's a great view of the arrow I was talking about.

Place the inside of the bag inside the outside of the bag.

At this point I decided to trim my bag (both the inside and the outside of the bag) to its desired height.

Then I pinned the unsurged edges together and sewed the lining to the outside of the bag.  It was actually somewhat tricky to keep the edges straight.  I also slipped in the clasp while I was sewing up the edges.

Now I sewed my straps together to make it feel a bit less like a tote bag and more like a purse.

I added a handmade button that my mother-in-law brought back from Argentina.  It might be my favorite part of the bag.   And finished!  I hope this tutorial helped you make your own purse!  Please let me know if something didn't make sense.

And if you did find this purse tutorial, don't forget to follow Snugglebug University for more great projects and tutorials.  Or leave a comment.  I love that!


  1. Just stumbled on your blog today and I think you are ingenious! Your purse came out beautifully and I'll be sure to pass on your child oriented craft ideas.

  2. Gracias por el tutotial, hermoso el bolso y el boton! saludos desde Argentina!!!



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