Fashionable – Functional Purse


What do you do with the scraps from an absolutely gorgeous piece of fabric? Not long ago, I bought a beautiful piece of 60” faux leather to make a skirt.

It takes slightly less than one yard of fabric to make a knee length pencil skirt to fit me.

There were a few things I could have done with the scraps that amounted to approximately 1/3 yard of fabric.

One option was a small hat or cap of some kind. Another choice was a belt, or perhaps just save it to use as accents on a dress or jacket, but I decided to make a purse.

Faux leather Purse

Faux leather Purse

With such a little bit of fabric, the only purse I could get was a small one. Nevertheless, but I prefer a bag that I could really enjoy using. How many times have you found yourself fishing through a bag looking for your wallet or keys?

I have even run into that problem while carrying a small bag. Since I decided to make a small purse, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to make one that I would really enjoy using.

There are certain things that I carry all the time and must be able to get to without a moment’s delay. My wallet, telephone, keys, reading glasses, sunglasses, pens, checkbook and cosmetics – at least lipstick and hand cream – are essential.

In addition to all that, I also carry a book or magazine at all times. You never know when you might find yourself sitting in a restaurant or waiting room with nothing to do. Let’s face it.

If you don’t have a picturesque view, there isn’t much to look at in a restaurant while waiting for your meal and even less to gaze upon in a waiting room.

Rather than be stuck with those outdated magazines, I prefer to have my own, more current reading material. Besides if I bring my own magazine, then it’s bound to be something or real interest to keep me occupied.

Getting Started

When I create patterns to make one of a kind items like this, I often draw my pattern lines directly onto the reverse side of the fabric with a marking pen, grease pencil or a piece of chalk.

Pattern lines with a piece of chalk

Pattern lines with a piece of chalk

I started by drawing and cutting two identical rectangles that would eventually be the purse front and back of my purse.

I could have made the front and back deeper, but I prefer to close my bags with a flap rather than a zipper or snap at the top. With the flap in the equation, the purse was going to be a few inches shorter as it could have been.

Flap of a bag

Flap of a bag

However, with the cut pieces I had to work with, it really didn’t make too much of a difference. For the flap of this particular bag, I decided to use an asymmetrical design. I cut two identical pieces to be sewn together and ultimately attached to the top of the bag.

With the front and back pieces cut, I had the height and depth of the bag. My next step was to determine how wide I wanted my new purse to be.

If I had chosen to go with just the front and back pieces, I would have had a really neat envelope purse, but would it be as functional as I needed it to be?

By adding a few inches in between, I would be certain of being able to carry everything I need with ease, so I cut a four inch strip long enough to cover the bottom and both sides of my purse.

Two separate pieces to be sewn together

Two separate pieces to be sewn together

Shoulder strap

Shoulder strap

Since I was working with fabric scraps, this piece turned out to be not one but two separate pieces to be sewn together. The joining seam would be at the center of the bottom of my bag.

The only pieces I had that fit that bill were three inches at one end and tapered to two inches at the other. They were a little longer than I actually needed. Rather than cut them immediately, I decided to leave them alone until I made a firm decision as to what type of strap I wanted on my bag.

Since I prefer purses that allow my hands to remain free at all times, I needed a shoulder strap of some sort. I could have gone with one wide strap or two narrow straps. In the end, I opted for one wide strap. To reinforce my single strap, I cut two strips of my faux leather to be sewn together.

The seaming on both sides of the strap makes it stronger than a single seam on one side and a fold on the other. The pieces selected to use as my strap were slightly uneven, so I used a ruler and rotary cutter to assure that I had straight, even pieces to make my shoulder strap.

For the lining, I rooted around in my fabric stash and came up with a piece of artsy lightweight upholstery fabric. The fabric I chose has a one way design, but that was no problem. In fact, the unique pattern helps make my job a little easier.

I cut four pattern pieces the same size as the purse front and back. Two pieces would be used to make the pockets. The other two would be used to form the lining shell along with a strip of fabric for the lining sides and bottom.

Four pattern pieces the same size as the purse front and back

Four pattern pieces the same size as the purse front and back

Because I was using a one-way pattern for my lining, I cut the bottom/side piece so that the pattern would be upright on both sides. Again, the bottom/side lining was cut slightly longer than necessary, giving me the freedom of deciding upon the method for attaching my strap as the purse took shape.

The bottom/side lining

The bottom/side lining

To give the purse a little pizzazz, I wanted to adorn the flap and needed something to keep it in place while moving around, running errands, shopping, etc. I emptied the bag full of odd buttons I keep just for cases such as this and selected a three inch shiny black shank button with gold inlaid stripes.

I’m not one for fiddling around with buttons on purses, though. They look great, but who’s got time to be fumbling with a buttonhole when shopping? My options were to attach a snap, a magnet or Velcro beneath the button to hold the flap in place.

Some D-rings to attach shoulder strap

Some D-rings to attach shoulder strap

I chose Velcro, and cut a ¾ inch square of black Velcro. I pulled out some D-rings as well, just in case I decided to use them to attach my shoulder strap.

Time to Sew

If you follow these directions, you can have a great looking purse that is as practical as it is stylish in less than an hour.

For this particular bag, I chose to use a sewing machine for the entire project. If the shell were another type of fabric, it is likely I would have assembled it on the serger and used the sewing machine for topstitching only.

You will also need an iron and ironing board to attach fusible interfacing and form your pocket tops before you begin to sew.


  • The first things to take to the sewing machine are the pocket pieces.
  • In order to maintain the integrity of the pockets, attach two inches of fusible interfacing to the pocket tops. Fold one pocket piece one inch and then fold the other piece over one inch at the top twice.
    Pocket pieces

    Pocket pieces

    This will ultimately result in two sets of pockets with two different depths… shallow pockets for smaller items and deep pockets for items that require more depth to hold them securely in your purse.

  • Press and topstitch.
  • Fuse interfacing to the front and back lining pieces.
  • Attach the pockets to the front and back lining pieces .
  • Determine your pocket sizes based upon the sizes of your wallet and the other things you need to keep close at hand on a regular basis. Depending upon the width of your pockets, you may be able to get as many as three or four pockets on each side. I ended up with three pockets on one side and four on the other.
  • Use a double needle to sew pocket separation. Option: use a zigzag stitch or satin stitch. This, along with fusing interfacing to the reverse side of the lining front and back helps maintain the integrity of your pockets and reduce the likelihood of ripping during use.
  • Double needle to sew pocket separation

    Double needle to sew pocket separation

  • Sew the bottom/sides strip to the sides and bottoms of the front and back lining pieces.
  • Trim your seams to ¼ inch and use an overcast stitch to finish them off.
  • Overcast stitch

    Overcast stitch

Joining side/bottom pieces

Joining side/bottom pieces


  • Join the side/bottom pieces – right sides facing.
  • Sew the front and back pieces to the side/bottom – right sides facing. Before you start, clip the side/bottom piece at the points where your front/back corners join so that your bag will have 90o angles, not curves at the corners. Like the real thing, faux leather seldom recovers from pin holes.

    Therefore, pins only when absolutely necessary and when you do use straight pins, insert them in the seam allowance ONLY.

  • Sew the flap pieces together with the rights sides facing.
  • Trim the seams to ¼ inch
  • Sewing the flap pieces together

    Sewing the flap pieces together

  • Turn, finger press and topstitch.
  • Attach the purse flap to the right side of the back of the shell..
  • Mark the placement of the button and Velcro on the flap and the purse front with chalk, marking pen or a grease pencil.
  • Sew one piece of the Velcro to the inside flap.
  • Sew the other piece of Velcro to the outside of the purse front.
  • Sewing pieces of the Velcro

    Sewing pieces of the Velcro

Putting it All Together

  • Sew the lining to the front of the shell.
  • Sewing the lining

    Sewing the lining

  • Turn the lining inside the shell.
  • Tuck the lining 5/8” in along the back of the shell and top stitch with the flap on the outside.
  • Tucking the lining along the back of the shell

    Tucking the lining along the back of the shell

Finishing Touches



I put off making a decision about the type of strap I would add to my new purse. It seems to me that purses with straps attached to D-rings can carry more weight.

Once that decision was finally made, I clipped the extended ends of the purse shell and lining.

  • Sew the strap pieces together on one long end – right sides facing.
  • Turn the strap wrong sides facing each other. Topstitch along the stitch line.
  • Turn the raw edges in 5/8” and topstitch.
  • Form triangle shaped points at the ends of your strap by tucking the ends under to form points and topstitch
  • I used the ends cut from the shell side/bottom to form the D-ring attachments… approximately 3 ½ inches each.
  • Follow the method used to sew the shoulder strap to make the D-ring attachments.
  • Slip the D-Rings onto the attachments and fold it in half.
  • Insert the D-ring attachment into the open sides of the purse between the shell and the lining, leaving approximately ½ inch out.. Attach the D-ring to the purse by topstitching at the same level as the topstitched seam that attached the lining to the back of the shell.
  • D-ring attachment

    D-ring attachment

    Anchoring the D-ring attachment

    Anchoring the D-ring attachment

  • Anchor the D-ring attachment by sewing a rectangle though the lining, D-ring attachment and outer shell. NOTE: Remember the shell bottom/side piece is narrower at the top than the lining. Form a box pleat with the lining fabric to make it fit.

    The extra thickness of lining helps add more stabilization at the point where D-ring is attached to the purse.

  • Insert the ends of the strap through the D-rings with the ends facing the purse. Attach the strap by turning the ends approximately one inch and sewing a 1 x ½” rectangle to anchor the strap securely.
  • Finish the purse by topstitch along the front of the purse, extending the same topstitching at the ends and back.
  • Attach the button by hand and you’re done.


The finished product works great. With this one, there’s no digging around looking for anything. Each and everything I need is always literally at my fingertips.

What can be kept in this purse

What can be kept in this purse

Not bad for scraps. Believe it or not, I still have enough to make a few covered buttons. When you start using this purse, you’ll discover how great it is to have everything you need at your fingertips.

The good thing about this bag is that you can make it as large or as small as you want. Before long, you’ll wonder why you even tolerate fumbling around in your other bags when you have this practical bag in your closet.

Finished Product - Purse

Finished Product – Purse

Why not make several? Wouldn’t it be great to have one in every size and color?

That way, you’ll never again find yourself looking for those essential items that always seem to find their way to the bottom of your purse when you need to get your hands on them.

4 Responses

  1. Lisa Atwell

    This is the MOST functional bag I have EVER seen. One could make this without the flap and place inside a tote and still have everything in it’s place. Just pick it up and move it into another bag. Great ideas.

  2. Vernelle

    Lisa –

    That’s an absolutely WONDERFUL idea.

    Thank you so very much for sharing… and thank you for visiting Sewing Insight.

    Take care.

  3. is this pattern available to purchase?

    can I purchase this functional bag pattern?
    Thank you.

    • Vernelle

      Thank you for asking. I created the pattern for this purse as well as for several other bags. They will all be included in a soon to be published e-book that will be available for purchase on this website through PayPal.


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