Monday, March 31, 2014

Frame Purse Tutorial

Lots of craft bloggers, like myself, are getting very excited at the moment about a competition being run by Hillarys.  I first read about it on Craft Blog UK, but I keep seeing fabulous competition entries popping up all over Pinterest and Craftgawker.

Crafters get to choose between 4 patterned upholstery fabrics and then you get sent a 1m x 1m piece of fabric to make something amazing out of.

Now sewing is a little out of my comfort zone... yes I've made a dress or 2 in my time and I can roughly follow a pattern, but I'm much happier with 2 needles in my hand, or spinning fibre between my fingers.  I do love a challenge though, so I thought I'd try something I haven't done for over a decade - design and make a purse.

Here goes!

The fabric I chose is called Bird Parade.  I think I must have been drawn to it as the peacocks are my favourite colour. The pattern is quite big and bold and the repeat area is quite large.  I knew that I wanted to incorporate one particular part of the design into my purse - of which there are only 2 repeats...  I knew then that I would have to make a prototype purse out of some reclaimed material, so that I didn't waste my precious fabric before I'd even started.

I decided to design a purse with pleats on the front and back, and a gathered side and bottom. I wanted quite an informal style, that was simple to make and didn't require perfect sewing skills.

After an awful lot of trial, and even more error, I came up with the pattern pieces you can see above.

Now, my sewing technique and pattern-cutting skills might be a little unorthodox, but I thought as I'd produced a pattern, I may as well share it here. 

The Tutorial

You will need -
  • An offcut of fabric (I made my prototype purse out of an old toddler dress.)
  • Pattern pieces that you can print out here and here.
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine - although it could be done by hand.
  • Interfacing if your fabric is quite thin.  I didn't use any for this project as I felt it was heavy enough.
  • A small piece of plastic canvas to stiffen the base.
  • Seed beads.

Print off the pattern pieces from here and here and cut them out.

Overlay your pattern pieces onto your fabric, taking extra care with placement to make sure it complements the final design.  I particularly wanted to have the nice vertical swoop of the peacock's tail on the front of my purse and as much blue/green of the peacock around the gathered sides of my purse.

Here are all the pieces needed to make the purse.  The 4 pieces on the left make up the outside of the purse and the 4 on the left make up the lining.  I was tempted to use a satin fabric for the lining, but as it's not a flimsy fabric I thought that the upholstery fabric would help it to hold its shape more as I didn't want to use interfacing.

Stitch the 2 outer side pieces together at the short straight edge and the 2 lining pieces together so that you have 2 long strips.

Machine a long basting stitch along the 2 long edges of the outer side pieces which will make it easier to gather together later.

Using the pattern as a guide, pin the pleats on the front and back of the purse in place and then tack them down so that they will be easier to stitch later.

Pin the purse front and back to the gathered side. Pull the side panel basting stitches to gather it together and even them out around the purse.  Avoid gathering around the 'V' of the side panel.  You may like to baste around it later to make machine stitching easier.

Machine stitch a 1 cm seam around the front and back of the outer purse.  Do the same for the lining.  Snip into the seam allowance around the curve.

With right sides together, pin the outer front to the corresponding lining, then pin the 2 side seams.  With a 1 cm seam allowance, hand stitch around the top of the purse, sewing 1 side seam, the top front and then the 2nd side seam, leaving the back open to allow for turning the right way round.

Cut a small piece of plastic canvas to fit on the base of the purse.  Hand stitch this in place.

Turn the purse the right way around and finally stitch the back outer and back lining tops together.

Tack your purse to the purse frame.  Starting in the middle, use a blunt tool like a bodkin to push the fabric up into the channel of the purse.  At the same time use a contrasting thread to sew through and over the purse frame top to hold the purse roughly in place to make sewing it onto the frame much easier.

We're nearly there! 

If I'm using a sew on purse frame, I prefer not to see the stitches over the top of the frame. I think it looks so much neater if the stitches are hidden with beads.  Secure a length of 0.3mm nylon beading thread inside your purse near the hinge.  Push the needle through the first hole to the front of the purse, thread a bead onto the needle and then push the needle back through the same hole.  Move onto the next hole from inside the purse.  Using this method, all of the stitches are hidden inside the purse.  Continue around all of the holes of the purse frame until you've sewn a complete circuit and then secure your beading thread inside.


All that's left to do now is to remove the temporary stitches holding the purse onto the frame and the tack stitches holding the pleats in place.

I'm so pleased with my little peacock purse!  The upholstery fabric was perfect for it and it holds its shape beautifully.

Here's the contrasting back.

I quite impressed myself as it's been years since I've made anything other than curtains or simple seams.  I'm really tempted to whip up a much larger version now, with the rest of the fabric, maybe as an evening bag for special occasions...


As an aside, you may be interested to see the first purse I made when I was designing my pattern pieces...

Here it is.  It's made from one of M's toddler dresses from when she was 18 months old and she's already claimed it as her own. 
This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to make my Rag Heart Wreath. If you click through and purchase anything from Amazon, I may receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

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Artsy VaVa said...

That is beautiful! You said you are not much of a sewer but that sure makes you look like a professional!

The Messy Roost said...

Yowza, that is gorgeous. I fell in love with everything, so, you just Crafted "me" Happy. Thanks for all the inspiration. Rhonda

Unknown said...

thanks 4 the information,i'll try it as soon as posible :)

begoña said...

precioso ,gracias por el titorial

Gomita said...

I love it!!!! Thank you so much for posting it!!
Just have one question though. I couldn't print the pattern of the sides, I mean I print it, but it doesn't fit completely in the letter size paper. Could you tell me the height of the outer gathered side??


Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

Hi Lydia
Ah yes, sorry. I'm in the UK and A4 is standard here which is slightly taller than US letter.
The outer side piece is 28.5cm tall, including seam allowances.


Muy bonito y original, gracias por compartirlo........

lian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

Aghh this looks amazing but complicated. I am going to try this out today :-) My purse clips and material are not as fancy as yours but looking forward to this challenge. Thank you for this :-)

Rebecca said...


Светлана said...


Unknown said...

Amazing...thanks a lot.

Rosy Dustbins said...

Super! I love the gathered gusset in your little purse. I've been making some of these with a standard pattern but I'm giving this a definite try. Well done!

mariajo said...

Es realmente precioso! mil gracias por compartir tu saber!

Lin S said...

I just ordered and received some of these frames and have been trying to decide how I wanted to make the purses. This is the best idea I have seen in my searching! I like how this pattern has a little more room with the added side panels and gathering. And plastic canvas added it brilliant! Thank you for taking the time to post this project in such detail!