Designing & Constructing a Handbag

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - student project

This is the second thing I've ever made on a sewing machine. I will display several photos of the finished bag, lessons learned (I have some hints!), and I'll finish with a pic of my warmup bag from another tutorial.

Finished bag - wide view:

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 1 - student project

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 2 - student project

Finished - looking inside!

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 3 - student project


  • Exterior fabric - This cool silvery fabric is normally used to line ironing boards.
  • Interior fabric - 100% cotton in an elegant floral print provides excitement and serenity of knowing what you are on the inside is far more beautiful than what you are on the utilitarian outside.
  • Base of bag - Although the instructor suggested faux leather, I chose this rubbery vinyl which looked unique and easy to clean.
  • Zippers - One 14" metal (black fabric w/ gold) zipper (main/top zipper), one plastic 7" zipper in blue (inside zipper pocket), one metal 7" zipper in silver (outside zippr pocket)
  • Strap - Green nylon .... I'll repeat this again but don't use nylon. Get something sturdier.

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 4 - student project


  1. About the class material list.
    You need a minimum of 1.5 yards of fabric for the strap, better is 2 yards since you'll cut off 8" to hold in the D rings. Dont use nylon for the strap because it will freely slide along the strap hardware and this means wear, tear, and an unpredictably long strap. 

    Additionally, I got my fabrics on sale at Michaels and theres probably a good reason for this (maybe the bolt was wider than the instructor's supplier), but I ended up with about twice as much fabric as was used. 

  2. When constructing the zipper placket, line up the head of the zipper (the short edge) to be in line with the edge of the zipper placket or youll end up with a gap between a fully closed zipper and the corner/edge of the bag. Observing the top of the following image, note how the silver placket part extends beyond the end of the open zipper. I misunderstood the directions in the video and placed it much too short of the placket edge. Don't repeat my mistake! You want the (gold part of) the zipper to be centered with the zipper placket during assembly.
    Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 5 - student project

  3. The only sewing-specific tools I used were the sewing machine and fabric shears. 

    Instead of butterfly clips, you can also use binder clips with pretty good results.

    Instead of rotary cutters, you can use old fashioned fabric shears. But, its harder to ensure a straight edge and you'll do more cognitive work when lining up peices and top-stitching.

    I did not use a walking foot to complete this bag. Just a regular and zipper foot. I also used a regular ruler, binder clips, and instead of double-sided tape, I used tape.

    You can try an x-acto knife on a kitchen cutting board if you don't have fancy tools but are desparate for a straighter line to reference your top stitching. Ask me how I know. 

  4. Top-stitching requires patience and attention. Anything less is literally unflattering.

  5. Craft interfacing (fusible) will wrinkle non-cotton fabrics. Only use if you like the wrinkly look of the exterior. Try woven instead?

  6. Dont use nylon for the strap.

  7. LOL, TRIPLE check that all pockets are right side up before assembling anything. ...Ask me how I know.

  8. I had trouble with the zipper tab, of all things. How do you sew an X over the metal part of the zipper? You don't. So handling that was awkward, but maybe I only encountered this because my zipper placement relative to the zipper placket was wrong (see #2 above). 

  9. I chose to serge almost all the seams, especially ones that bore weight. I also backstiched.

  10. On a personal note, I learned that I gain deep satisfaction from expressing what I think is important about life through making things like this bag.


About to sew-in the lining to the exterior - notice the lack of seams at the top? I've just inserted the lining into the exterior frame of the bag, if you will. The zipper placket was completed and attached only to the lining at this point.

The next step is to fold inward the top edges of both the interior and exterior. Since I used a stretchy vinyl, I was glad to have reinforced that seam with a longish zigzag serge.

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 6 - student project

Finished zipper placket: (I can even sew in a straight line sometimes. Almost)

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 7 - student project

Finished interior pouches:

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 8 - student project

A warm up - The first bag I made was this:

Designing & Constructing a Handbag - image 9 - student project

Thanks for reading!

Leila Alexandra

Freelance Designer / Web Developer