What do this tote bag and this purse have in common? Both were created with my Basic Purse directions. Make it as plain or as fancy as your inner diva dictates.
Months ago when I published my Pocket Purse, some readers asked if I could post directions for a less ambitious purse. So I gave it some thought and kept coming back to the idea of a basic tote bag I’ve made in the past. It’s a favorite of mine because it has a sturdy four inch wide bottom that sits well, yet it doesn’t require cutting an extra piece of fabric. In fact, straps not included, the bag is made from one flat cut of fabric.
When you say the words “tote bag”, some people conjure up visions of something less than pretty. So I began to wonder just what the difference is between a tote bag, a purse, a handbag or a pocketbook.
After researching I found the only real difference is that a tote bag is generally open. With that in mind, I played with some ideas and created a completely unadorned black tote bag and what I consider a pretty purse, using my basic purse directions for both. The result was proof enough to me that it’s all semantics. Whether you call it a tote or a purse, I plan to make more in the future. I will share them with you to give you ideas on how you can use my directions to dress up a basic purse making it both pretty and functional. Take a look at the directions below, at the details of the braided strap bag, and how it looks like anything but a tote bag. Also, at the bottom of this page be sure to check out my options for various straps and their attachment.
This REALLY basic purse requires no pattern. Just follow the directions. Change the size of the purse if you like - just remember to maintain the proportional look by adding or subtracting the same measurements from the height and width. This project calls for one piece of heavy canvas fabric (plus straps), and thread. Those two things and a sewing machine are all you need.
step 1 - Cut the fabric to measure 34” X 14.75”.
step 2 - On both short ends, fold under the raw edges, wrong sides together and press to create a .50” hem. Sew down the hem. Turn under again 3” and press but do not sew. (If you are making “binding straps”, they should be attached now. See strap options below.)
step 3 - Open the 3” hem and align the raw edges with right sides together. Be sure the creases match up.
step 4 - Sew the left and right side edges of the bag with 5/8 seams, from the raw edges to the folded edge. Finish off the seams with a serger or a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying.
Since posting this project I've created the Basic Purse Organizer which allows you to make one interior organizer you can transfer to each basic purse you make!
I chose a fabric that very much resembles canvas in it’s weave but this one is soft and very lightweight. So light in fact, that I lined it with Craft Fuse iron-on interfacing to keep it from going limp. The soft color of the fabric gives the purse a very feminine look.
I split the purse fabric horizontally about 5” from the top edge of the purse and attached a colorful .75” strip of cotton fabric, the same fabric used in the braided strap. The strip hides a zippered pocket and adds an interesting element to the look of the project. A piece of fancy chain attached to the zipper pull and red and gold beads pick up the colors in the cotton strip.
Large metal grommets hold the strap and give the purse some attitude.
I added a magnetic clasp to the center of the top hem before stitching it down, so the purse doesn’t stand open.
The real focus of this purse is undoubtedly the braided strap. I made a casing for the piping by sewing a 25” strip of fabric with right sides together, then turned it right side out and inserted piping. There are two solid color strips and one of the print. The braided part of the strap is attached to a separate loop of solid fabric after it is threaded through the two grommets. A flat strip of fabric without piping is then wrapped around the connection to hide the raw edges. See how it was done in the photos below.
If you choose to attach matching fabric straps directly to the top hem of the bag, cut two pieces of fabric 3.75” by 24.25”. Sew the long edges with a 5/8” seam, right sides together. Turn straps right side out. Turn under short edges 5/8”. Pin the straps, centering them equally from the sides seams with approximately 5.50” between them.Sew each end of the strap to the inside at the hem stitching line. Sew each strap once more securing it at the top edge of the hem. You may also choose to slip the raw edges of the straps into the hem before it is top stitched then finishing by securing them at the top edge of the hem. You can also find ready made straps in various materials that only require finishing on the ends.
This style binds the entire bag, going down one side and coming up the other. It’s essentially one long continuous strap, looped on both ends and connected with one seam. The strap should be 88” long by 3.75”. Sew the strap’s long edge with the right sides together. Turn it right side out. Sew the two ends together. Lay the loop onto the right side of the bag fabric with the seam in the center. Position and pin each strap an equal distance from the side seams. The shoulder strap part of the loops should extend 9” beyond the creases in the fabric. Top stitch close to the edges of each strap stopping one inch from the creases in the fabric. After you’ve finished the bag and sewn the top hem in place, go back and top stitch the unattached portions of the loop.
Tabs With Rope
Make tabs to hold any type of purchased straps. You will need 4 pieces of fabric measuring 4.25” by 6.25”. Sew each piece with the right sides together. Turn them right side out then turn under the raw edges 5/8”. Fold in half, line up the edges, and sew onto the bag. Secure with another line of stitching closer to the top edge of the bag, with enough opening to allow the rope to pass through. Hide raw edges of rope by creating two more tabs and wrapping them snugly around the joined ends.
Knotted Leather and Grommet (eyelet)
Nothing could be easier than attaching four grommets to the top edge of your bag, slipping a leather strap through them and knotting the ends. Grommets are available in sizes from small to large and come in different finishes. Everything you need is in the package except a hammer and a hard surface. I used the garage floor. You’ll need two lengths of leather, each measuring about 22”.
At Fabric Shop
- 1 yard of heavy canvas fabric
- sewing notions