How to Make a Couture Carry-All

comments (1) March 3rd, 2008     

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JenniferSauer Jennifer Sauer, contributor
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Hand-sewing gives you utmost control; sew the pockets before you sew the lining in place.
Hand-sew the lining. Sewing by hand gives you utmost control. Add pockets to your lining before sewing it in place.
Hand-sewing gives you utmost control; sew the pockets before you sew the lining in place.

Hand-sewing gives you utmost control; sew the pockets before you sew the lining in place.

Photo: Scott Phillips

If you love fashion's fine points and savor time spent with a hand needle and thread, this stunning shoulder bag is right up your alley. Besides the usual day-to-day necessities, you can use it as a fashion-forward briefcase or a knock 'em dead overnight bag. For this project, we used Simplicity Sew Stylish pattern 3867, but feel free to try other patterns that fit your unique style.

What You'll Need:

1 cream patent leather skin, approximately 7-1⁄4 square feet ($5.50/square foot;
1⁄2 yard cotton twill fabric ($10.50/yard;
1 yard Pellon Craft Fuse interfacing ($11.99 for 10 yards;
1 yard snakeskin-print (snakeskin foil #7843923) for lining ($12.99/yard;

Teflon presser foot ($9.98;
Titanium-coated needle, size 10-12 ($1.98;
Matching polyester thread ($3.50;
Assorted hand needles ($1.60;

4 antique-brass 1-1⁄2-inch rings;
5 antique-brass 3⁄4-inch eyelets;
1 set of antique-brass claw clasps;
4 antique-brass bag feet ($17 total; Pacific Trimming Inc., 212-279-9310)
Strand of tortoise-shell rings ($17.40;

8 strands of white and off-white river shell beads ($82.28 total;

Sew Stylish Simplicity pattern 3867

Step 1: Enlarge your pattern
To transform a basic purse into this roomy tote, enlarge Sew Stylish Simplicity 3867 on a photocopier by at least 120 percent. Then trace off a copy of the pattern minus the seam allowances (to avoid confusion later on), and ignore the original pattern’s darts. Adding a center line for reference, square off the top. Then draw a horizontal line halfway down the bag, cut along it, and spread by 3 inches.

Step 2: Expand the tote with a gusset
To add more dimension, include a 3-inch insert gusset all around. To make the pattern piece for this gusset, measure around the sides and bottom of the main pattern piece, and make a rectangle that long by 3 inches wide.

Step 3: Plan for piecing the fabric and leather
Now the pattern is ready for cosmetic surgery. First, trace off two clean copies of the adjusted pattern. On one, cut the pattern apart to create separate sections for twill (the upper section of the bag) and patent leather (the bottom section.) Divide the gusset, too, so that the section at the base of the bag is leather. Add 1/2-inch seam allowances around all the pattern pieces. Cut the upper pieces in twill, and the lower pieces in leather. Using the intact pattern piece, cut out the lining.

Step 4: Bag construction
Interface the twill sections. Piece together the front and back sections, topstitching the seams for strength. Piece the gusset, and add an extra layer of leather to the center bottom for support. Sew the front and back to the gusset, adding tabs with claw clasps as a closure, if desired. Topstitch a decorative strip of leather around the upper edge, and insert bag feet.

Step 5: Add straps
For the handle, hand-sew leather loops between the tortoise rings to make chains. Attach the chains to brass rings, and fasten the rings to the tote with patent-leather loops, as shown. Hand-sew the lining in place.

Go upscale with couture details: a sturdy hook closure, and faux snakeskin lining.

Step 6: Embellish your tote
Dress up this designer bag with hand-sewn beads. Double-stitch each bead for security, knotting the thread after every 5 to 6 beads. Practice your stitches until they are small, super-neat, and perfectly spaced. This takes time, but the finished results are well worth the effort!

Photos by: Scott Phillips

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Comments (1)

cftsimon writes: really pretty and very professional looking!
Posted: 9:59 pm on December 13th
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