Sunday, January 10, 2010

Handbag #4

I have this cold that I haven't been able to shake. Part of it is that my voice has been scratchy at best and at times has disappeared completely. So I've been pretty wimpy lately, staying indoors, wrapped up in a blanket with a cup of tea, a bag of Halls Centres and box of Kleenex whenever I'm not at work. John tells me that all the stress over the flights we took in December (I'm quite frightened of flying) probably shot my immune system and that's why it's taking so long for me to get better. I think he might be right.

But I'm not complaining. I'm kind of enjoying staying home, watching TV and being crafty. This week I made a crochet handbag using some of the yarn I bought on boxing day. This is actually my fourth handbag. First there was the grey tote bag I made in the summer, then the pink and grey knit bag I made in September. In November I made a black and purple handbag for Erin for Christmas and this week I crocheted number four.

This is by far the most complex bag I've made yet. It's the biggest thing I've ever crocheted by a long shot and I incorporated more detail into the liner then I ever have before. I made a matching change purse and most impressively, (in my opinion) I figured out how to install a zipper in the top of both of them. I've always been very intimidated by zippers so I'm really proud of this!

Here is the bag:
I made it using the Starling Handbag pattern (large size) from Futuregirl's blog. My friend Jennifer over at The Craftinista has been making bags from this pattern for ages and I've always thought I'd like to make one myself. I really like its simple shape and clean lines. The pattern was pretty simple to follow and I think it turned out pretty nice! Here is the side so you can see the width.
I didn't have any suitable fabric for the liner, so I headed over to Fabricland where they were having a sale on holiday fabrics. I found this wonderful, heavy pants fabric with shiny silver and black diamond print that was buy 1, get 2 free so I ended up getting half a meter for under $2. Actually, all in all, I think this bag cost about $10 to make, it was really cheap because I got almost everything on sale. I backed the lining with stiff interfacing (pellon 70 I believe) to give more structure to the bag.

Check out my awesome zipper installation! Rathere than attach the zipper directly to the outer shell, I put about a centimeter and a half of fabric on either side. The zipper I used is pretty heavy duty and meant for outerwear.
I decided that it was time to start signing my work, so I borrowed the idea for my name tags from Futuregirl as well. The text is hand embroidered with DMC floss on felt using a whipped backstitch. I love how smooth this style of stitching makes the letters. I sewed them into the liner using contrasting thread because I thought it looked better.

On one side of the liner I put a zipped pocket, the name tag and a credit card holder. I already knew how to do the zipped pocket from the first tote bag I ever made but the credit card holder was quite a bit more challenging.

I couldn't find any tutorials online so I ended up reverse engineering it from an old purse I found in my closet. I basically took at 9" wide strip of fabric and accordianed it a few times until I had two pockets. I sewed satin ribbon across the top of each fold for contrast. Then I sewed the back flap to the liner across the middle so that the back pocket wouldn't be so deep that you lost credit cards in it. I tucked in the two sides and the bottom, sewed around the three sides to attach it to the liner and sewed a seam up the middle to divide it in half. Voila! A six credit card holder!

I think this side looks pretty sharp! I love a lot of pockets.
I put two more pockets on the other side, again with a satin ribbon lining the top. One of the pockets lays flat against the bag and the other folds out to hold something thicker like a cell phone. I did this by accordianing the sides of the pocket and then sewing the folds down a the bottom so that only the top folds out.

Lastly, I took a metal ring, threaded a piece of ribbon through it and attached the ribbon to the bag (you can't see it, but the end of the ribbon is tucked into the seam attaching the zipper to keep everything neat), to clip on the matching change purse that I made. Here is the change purse. I had originally intended to make it striped like the bag but I ran out of black yarn after about four rows. So I switched to pink and I'm quite happy with how it turned out.

I cut some flowers out of a piece of felt (left over from making the name tag) and embroidered cherry blossom details onto them (yes Mom, those are french knots!) I sewed them onto the change purse with black thread so that you can't see it. I had originally planned to make pink flowers as well and attach them to the actual handbag, but I couldn't find a pink felt that was a close enough match to the colour of the yarn.

I attached a lobster claw clasp to the outside using a jump ring so that the change purse can be hooked into the bag.
As you can see, I lined the inside of this one as well, installed another zipper (!!!) and put in a credit card pocket and a name tag.

Here it is full of stuff so you can see how much it holds.
So that's it! All in all, I'm pretty impressed with myself. After I finished it, I took stock of all of the different techniques I used putting this bag together and realized I'm actually getting pretty good at this! It's just funny because I never set it as a goal for myself to learn how to make handbags, it just kind of happened. I made the first ones to learn the rudimentaries of sewing and knitting and I just kind of kept stepping up the liners each time. This time I was just enjoying the process of putting it together so with every detail I took my time and looked for ways to improve every aspect of the bag that I could.

And now I find that when I look at the purses I've bought over the years (right now I'm looking at my pink Soprano purse), I have a much better understanding of how they're put together and I feel like I'm not far from being able to recreate them. I just need the right materials and maybe a sewing machine that actually has a reverse stitch!

It's kind of neat to wake up and realize you've picked up a skill without meaning to. I think it just goes to show that you learn by doing and if you do anything often enough, you'll definitely see improvement.

So just to summarize, here are the skills I learned from this project:
  • how to crochet a foundation single stitch
  • how to crochet a handbag
  • how to embroider onto felt
  • how to hand sew a whip stitch
  • how to applique felt to crocheted fabric
  • how to install a zipper at the top of a bag
  • how to make a credit card holder
  • how to make a fold out pocket
My next project is going to be much simpler! I'm knitting some wrist warmers.


  1. Yay!!!! You did a fantastic job. I'm so proud of you! I think your bag may be better than a lot of the ones that I've done :3


  2. Thanks Jennifer!!

    I don't think it's better than yours though, just different :) I think the bead work you do is amazing and your crocheting is more uniform than mine for sure. I think mine just has more pockets, lol

  3. Wow! Great job. I don't know where you get the patience, but I love the stuff you make. What a kid!

  4. Thanks Mom :)

    A week's worth of work doesn't require that much patience, especially in comparison to some of the cross stitches I've seen you do!

  5. Looks awesome Jacki, something to be proud of.

  6. Jacki, Beautiful Job!! I think I would come up with some designer tag for the outside of the bag so your work can easily be identified as designer and made exclusively by you. These are fantastic and I bet you could sell them online if you set up a website offering custom made bags. Can't wait to see more!

  7. That's a great idea Aunt Debbie! I will see what I can come up with for an outer tag. I think that as with so many crafts, the amount of time that goes into it means I wouldn't be able to sell it for anywhere near the value of the time I put into it.