Thursday, December 10, 2015

Handbag tutorial

I made this handbag a few weeks ago and posted it on Sewing tote bags and purses Facebook group.  I was asked by many friends and members for the pattern.  Well, I didn't have one.  I started out with a drawing of a basic tote bag shape, and put the design that I wanted on it.   I knew I wanted to make a big bag.   I like roomy bags so I can haul a lot of things with me, especially water bottles.  I want to feel secure that if I ever get lost, I can survive off my bag.  Well, maybe, but I do have a 72-hour emergency kit in the trunk of my car.

When my sister and friends asked for the pattern, I sent them a copy of my drawings and told them how I did it.  This week, I made another bag so that I can write instructions to share.  You can print out the pdf of the drawings here and here.  These drawings are intended to be used as a guideline only.   

Update 9/24/22: Thank you to those who have interest in this tutorial.  Sorry these images are no longer available on google drive.  I've added them to the end of this blog.  If you make the bag, I would love to see the picture of your creations.  If you sell the bag, please give the credit for the pattern back to MY Quilts and Crafts or this post.

I've made some changes in the dimensions for this new bag, after I made the pdf files, because I wanted a little higher but thinner bag.  The point is that you can alter the length, height and width of the bag to your liking.  Here is the new bag.

This is going to be a very lengthy and picture-heavy post.   It's helpful to read the instructions to the end before you start. If you have any questions, please email me to the address below.  I'll be happy to answer any questions.


1 yd. bag body cotton ( I used painter drop cloth.  Wash it before cutting )
1 yd. lining cotton
mixed scraps for 1 1/2" x 1 1/4" triangle and 1" square pieces
1 yd. fusible medium weight batting
(2) 19 1/4" heavy weight cotton twill tape for handles
(1) 1/2" decorative button
(1) pair magnetic closures
Chalk marking pencil
Brown thread for top stitching
Matching thread for constructing the bag


1. Cut 3 pieces of bag body and 2 pieces of bag lining.  For this bag, I used the dimensions in the picture below.  Cut 2-inch square notches for bottom.  With 2-inch square notches, you will get a 4-inch wide bag.

2. Use the extra piece of the bag body to cut out (1) outside pocket and (4) handle slot pieces.  The height of the pocket is 12 inches, from the bottom edge, and the handle slot pieces are 7 1/2" x 2 3/8".

3.  Cut 2 fusible batting pieces.  I like to cut them 1/2 inch smaller than the bag body pieces to minimize the bulge.  Fuse them on the wrong side of the bag body pieces.

4. Using chalk pencil, lightly draw a line across the bag body for the flags.  I start and finish the line about 5 inches below the top edge.  Position the flags and pin them in place.

5. Use brown thread to sew the line, catching the top of the flags as you go the first round.  Go back and forth two more times and it doesn't have to be perfect.  Little variant sewing lines make it look more interesting.  On the fourth round, make a detour and sew around each flag.

6.  Now we're going to work on the outside pocket.  Machine baste the top edge 1/4 inch from the edge.  Fold in 3/4 inch from the edge, wrong side together.  Turn in again at the basted line and stitch near the lower folded edge.  Use chalk pencil, lightly draw a line about 2 inches from the top edge.  Position 1 inch square pieces and pin them in place.  Sew them on the same way you sewed the flags.  See picture in step 9.

7. Now we're going to work on the handle slots pieces.  At the short, straight ends, machine baste 1/4 inch from the edge.  Fold in 3/4 inch from the edge, wrong side together.  Turn in again at the basted line and stitch near the lower folded edge. The finished edge is shown using brown thread in the picture below.  Position the handle slot piece on the bag bodies, right side together, two inches from the bag top edge according to the picture below.  Using 1/4 inch seam allowance, sew the handle slot piece onto the bag body.

Flip the handle slot piece over the sewn line and top stitch close to the folded edge.  The raw edges of the handle slot and the top of the bag should match.

Repeat with the other three handle slots.

8. Position the handle between the handle slots and the bag body, match the raw edges at the side of the bag, pin them in place.  The extra 1/4 inch should give a little slack to the handles.  Repeat with the other handle.

9. Position the outside pocket on the other bag body piece with right side facing.  Match all the raw edges and the square notches, pin it in place.  

10. Put two pieces of the bag body, right side together, match all raw edges and the square notches.  Sew both side seams of the bag and the bottom seam with 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Because of the thickness, be careful and go slow when you get to where the handles are, go over them a few times to secure the seams.  Press all the seams open.  It helps to flatten the side seams, with a hammer, where the handles meet.  Keep the seams open while you pound them down and watch out for your fingers.  Match the side seams and the bottom seam, sew the square notch close. 

11. Now we're going to put the bag lining together.  With right side together, sew the side seams and the bottom seam using 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Leave about 4 inches opening at the bottom seam for turning.  Because I have a big outside pocket, I didn't make any inside pocket on the lining.

12. Slip the bag into the lining, right side together, match the side seams and pin them in place.

Sew the top edge together, using 1/2 inch seam allowance.  Keep the handles out of the way while sewing.  Turn the bag inside out through the opening in the lining.  If the side seams still feel thick, pound them down some more with the hammer.  Put some scrap fabric over and under the area to protect the bag before pounding it with a hammer.  Using hot iron, press the bag opening real well, make sure that the lining lays flat behind the bag body.  You can top stitch the whole bag opening if you like.  I didn't because it's too thick for my machine.  I only top stitched on the area between the handle slots where I'm going to put the magnetic closures.

13. Now it's time to put the magnetic closures on.  Find center point of the bag opening, mark it with a pin on the lining.  Cut two 1 1/2 inch pieces of fusible batting remnants.  Through the opening, position one piece of fusible batting to the wrong side of bag lining where marked, fuse it in place.  Repeat with the other piece on the other side.  On the right side of lining, follow the manufacturer instruction and put the magnetic closures on.  

You don't have to do this, but I like to put a little fabric glue on the back of the fusible batting behind the magnetic piece to glue it down to the batting on the bag body.  Put wonder clips on to hold them in place and let dry over night.  It's just a little step to make sure that everything is in its place.  It's a little crampy because you have to do this step through a small lining opening.

14. Hand sew the button on the outside pocket.  You can put it any where you want.  I'm using this to divide the pocket in half so I put it right in the middle.

15. Sew the lining opening close and your bag is done!

I hope the instructions are not too confusing for you.  If you have any questions, please email me at Craftheaven09@gmail.com.  Thanks for visiting my blog.  I hope you'll come back and leave me some comments and share your version of the bag.

Have a fun sewing week!!





  1. Very cute bag. I shall add this to my list to make for 2016! =)

    1. Thanks, Zenia. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

  2. Está tudo muito bem explicado, obrigada! Linda bolsa!

  3. Que demais!!!!!!
    Obrigada pela sugestão.

  4. Hi Margo! What a fantastic bag and beautiful! Have to make this! x Teje


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