Handbag #2: The ‘Sara’ Bag

I decided to make another handbag, with slightly reduced proportions. My intention was to make a smaller version of the first handbag, which I now call the Bella Bag. However, during the crafting of the specimen, a few things happened that surprised me. By serendipity, people around me were talking about handbags, utterly unaware that I was beginning to make them. I was surprised to learn that there are very strong opinions on structure/ organization versus minimal organization. The bag I was planning was a scaled down version of the one I’d originally produced… and would have included separate divider compartments, one zippered, one snapped, to control the chaos of what women carry in their handbags.But then, what I was hearing, was that some women wanted something akin to a structured Tote Bag…wide open spaces with plenty of flexibility. I thought about this and produced the “Sara” bag. It has structure, it has an inside pocket to house a pen, eyeglasses and a small notebook or business cards, and the exterior has a padded pocket for a cell phone,(the side that’s held snug to the body, for privacy or even ‘vibration mode’ alerts)  but the interior, with its deep red lining, is as wide open as the Grand Canyon.

Handmade fabric handbag

The “Sara’ Bag, named to acknowledge a dear friend and a Sadie Lou alum.

The shape and style of the bag borrows  from the classic French marketing bag; a ‘panier’ but adds a bit of style and charm with awarm, autumnal, Brunschwig & Fils patterned linen/ cotton blend upholstery weight fabric.

handmade fabric purse

The public view of the ‘Sara’ bag.

Here’s the back…the part that snuggles against your ribs:

handmade fabric purse

Backside of the ‘Sara’ bag.

This bag as available for purchase at my Etsy location, which is listed as: Stonewell Cottage Shop. Feedback is always welcomed!


The Handbag Project

I needed a new handbag and so I made one. I searched the internet for patterns and found one designed by Amy Butler, that was being offered for free through www.sewmamasew.com as a promotional device to launch Ms. Butler’s most recent DIY, sewing, lifestyle book.

I then searched for people who had actually made the handbag and found a few sites that were enormously helpful. The women who made these bags all offered very useful advice and shared images of their completed projects; many with progress shots. I didn’t photograph the process, but I did keep careful notes that I categorized as: My Alterations to the Design, My Deviations from the Instructions, and, finally: What I’d do Differently If I Were To Make Another Bag.

Here’s my completed bag:

Amy Butler Blossom Bag

Modified ‘Amy Butler Blossom Bag’.

I used a mid-weight printed canvas duck for everything..the exterior, the interior and it worked out fine. I applied two applications of ScotchGuard to the completed bag.

Interior photos of Amy Butler Blossom Bag

Interior of Amy Butler bag with added features: pockets for pens, glasses, notepads…

For those of you who may be interested in making this bag I offer the following comments:

My Alterations to the Design

  • Altered the strap configuration, didn’t like the fussy, cutesy, arstiness of the original. Used metal D rings. Easier and, in my opinion, cleaner looking.
  • Added small square of heavy duty interlining behind the magnetic snap closures for reinforcement and to avoid a cheap looking ‘pressure point’ on the inside flap, which would, inevitable come with wear.
  • Added a snap on “key leash” attached to a key ring so I won’t have to dig around in my bag in the dark, shaking it for the sound of the jangling keys.
  • Added pockets to the interior back lining to hold pens, pencils, small notepads, a small calculator, and business cards.

My Deviations from the Original Pattern (and Emphatic Suggestions)!

  • Created separate ‘Oaktag’ (or cardboard) patterns for the Peltex pieces, to avoid the crazy, wasteful and labor intensive work of cutting the pieces twice.
  • Used mid-weight ‘Home Dec’ fabric for exterior and interior and lining.
  • Created transparent Mylar pattern pieces in order to lay out the pattern of the fabric and visualize the completed bag. This is particularly valuable if you’re using fabric that has a repeat pattern.

 What I’d do Differently If I Were To Make Another Bag

  • I would use a product called ‘fabric stiffener’ which is available to the trade for upholstery workroom applications. This would add body to the bag.
  • Eliminate the Peltex for the divider panels. The fabric stiffener would do the trick and reduce the unnecessary bulk of the panels, make it much easier to sew and manipulate.
  • Add an exterior pocket on the back for a cell phone (even though I don’t use a cellphone….but, sadly, that day of the electronic leash will arrive and I ought to be prepared).
  • Secure the interior lining to the bag in a more serious way than that suggested in the pettern/instructions.
  • Maybe allow for a wider seam allowance.
  • Maybe make the bag slightly smaller (it’s a BIG bag).


My revised version of the free internet pattern by Amy Butler.

My revised version of the free internet pattern by Amy Butler.