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 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.



5 thoughts on “The Handbag Project

  1. Hi Bernie,
    I think the bag uses 1/2″ seam allowances. Redesigning the way in which the flap attaches to the bag is above my pay grade…you’re obviously a more experienced seamstress than I am so give it a whirl. The fusible Peltex sounds like a much better idea…you’re right, it’ll save the fusible interfacing step. One other thing….since using the bag I’ve decided that I don’t like the ‘spongy’ quality of the Peltex filled straps. I’ve made another bag using a stiffer fabric for the straps and eliminating the peltex and its much better. The straps have less give, and feel more stable.
    Good luck, Bernie. Send me pics when you finish your bag.

  2. Looks great!! What are the seam allowances on this bag? I couldn’t find them in the pattern! I haven’t started making mine yet, but have a remnant that SHOULD be big enough if I make the bag about 80% of its intended size. Glad to hear your suggestion on making it smaller :) As you have done this bag before, I wanted to “pick your brains,” so to speak, about some of the things that have come to my mind while looking at the instructions and the reviews….

    I was also wondering what your thoughts would be on changing how the flap is attached to the bag. Everyone’s bag looks a bit odd on the back with the flap attachment, so I was wondering if it would work (and look neater) to make it narrower at the joining part, and then attach the flap before attaching the lining. From the pictures, it LOOKS like it would be possible to attach the flap to the exterior, then sew the lining, but leave one whole side un-sewn. Attach the lining to the bag (flap open), right sides together, then flip lining to the inside, and hand-sew one of the lining edges. That would eliminate the need to top-stitch the flap.

    I was also wondering what you thought of the possibility of cutting a different shape out of the peltex for the side panels, so that there’s no peltex in the part where you sew the inside dividers to the side panels. Also along those lines, I was wondering, do you think it would work to cut the peltex much narrower on the dividers, so that there is no peltex at all being sewn into the side panels and the dividers? From reviews, it seems that’s where much difficulty with sewing machines resulted!

    And finally, I couldn’t find Peltex 70 anywhere, but I did find Peltex 71 (that’s the one-sided fusible kind), and was wondering what your thoughts are on that. Using that would probably eliminate the need for the woven interfacing, right?

    Thanks! And thanks again for sharing pics of your gorgeous bag! Good job!!

  3. Man, I’m so impressed with how this turned out! All the modifications were totally worth the effort because your bag looks better than the the promotional picture :) But yeah, I agree with everything in your comment… those patterns are maddening. Good idea on making pattern pieces for the Pelltex pieces, I should do that! Might make the whole pattern cutting situation less frustrating, ha.

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