Small purses are great for when you go out dancing or on dates. This is a project to make an oh-so-soft fur handbag that is pretty and useful.
Materials for this project:
– Purse Frame
– Fur hide – I used “left over” rabbit fur from a previous project but the techniques are perfect for faux fur also
– Lining fabric
– Chain for the strap – I used brass plumbers chain because I liked the look and it matched my purse frame color
– Beads & Nylon cord for decorative strap
– Sewing Machine (and thread)
– Marking Tool such as disappearing ink pen
Basic Set of Leatherworking Tools:
– Leather Needles
– Fur/Leather Thread (heavy weight wax coated polyester thread)
– Marking tool such as a Sharpie
– Straight blade for cutting such as a Box Cutter/X-acto Knife
– Pattern weights
Step 1) Creating the Pattern
First thing that needs to be done is creating a paper pattern for the fabric that will be sewn into the frame.
– Trace the purse frame.
- Draw a fabric line 1/16″ inside the purse frame edge. Cut along this line.
- Place the paper in the channel of the purse frame and mark the holes.
- Mark the middle of the purse frame (fold it in half). Cut to – but not through – the edge of the paper at the corner of the curve.
- Trace the closed frame pattern onto another piece of paper.
- Mark the center of the purse frame on the new paper. Rotate the cut piece to open the slash line. Trace the new angle.
- Mark where the lip of the frame you sew to ends.
- Draw 2 lines parallel to the center line. The first line extends from the original curve of the purse frame. The second line adds the amount of ease you wish to add. This can vary based on how you want the finished bag to look but you should add at least 1/2″ so the bag matches the edge of the purse frame when completed.
- Create the shape of your bag by determining how deep and wide you want the bag to be. Draw in the stitching line and create a smooth line to the bottom of the hinge.
- Add a seam allowance. Because I hand stitched the fur outside layer (shell) I added a 1/8″ seam allowance. Fold the paper in half along the center line and cut out your paper pattern.
**IMPORTANT NOTE: Make a test version of the bag out of scrap fabric (like twill) and check that it can hold all the things you need it to hold! The bag I made is just big enough to fit my cell phone, mini/party wallet, lipstick, and house keys.
Step 2) Cut the Fur Shell
– Lay out the pattern. You will need to cut two pieces from fur. Take into consideration
1) The nap (direction) of the fur
2) Efficient use of material.
Lay your pattern pieces on the back of the fur and hold them in place with weights. Avoid using pins as the holes are permanent and it creates weak spots in the skin which will shorten the useful life of the bag.
- Trace around the pattern pieces with a marking tool.
- Use a straight edge blade to cut the skin. Avoid using scissors as this gives the fur a “haircut” and does not look good. *This is also the best way to cut faux fur.
Step 3) Sew the Fur Shell
- I use clips to hold the pieces I am sewing together in place. The clips shown are hair clips from a beauty supply store but there are many options (like paper clips) that will can work. Thread your leather needle with a heavy weight polyester thread (leather or fur thread if you can find it).
- Use an awl to push the stray hairs between the layers. Obviously, you sew the two pieces of fur right sides together. I used blanket stitch to hold my layers together.
- Work your way around the 3 sides of the bag not attached to the purse frame.
- Turn the bag right side out and pick the seams. To pick the seams, use an awl to pull any hairs that were caught in the stitching line to the outside of the bag.
Step 4) Prepare the Lining
- Cut two pieces from the fabric you want to line the bag.
- Sew the pieces right sides together with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance to 1/8″ after sewing.
- Using the original paper pattern where you marked the stitching holes, transfer the stitching marks to the lining. I put a dot with a disappearing ink pen where each pin is. **If your stitching holes are not evenly spaced along the frame, you will need to mark the reverse side of your holes (flip the paper over) for the bag to fit correctly into the frame.
Step 5) Create the Bag Strap
- I found chain at a hardware store that I liked. I also had mother-of-pearl and glass beads that I wanted to use as a secondary strap.
- I strung the beads in an arrangement that I liked and made it just slightly longer than the chain area I was attaching it to. During use, I want any pressure or tension to be placed on the chain which is why the beads are slightly longer.
- Tie the cord to the chain with a square knot. Glue the knots in place. Trim the ends after the glue has dried and you have checked to be sure the knots are secure.
- Attach the chain to the purse frame. I decided to add the chain to different points on the front and back to make it easier to place my hand through the strap and to hold the bag.
Step 6) Final Construction
- Place the lining fabric inside the fur shell. Align the cut edges.
- Use the marks on the lining for stitch guidance. Sew a classic running stitch leaving a bit of a gap between the frame and the bag.
- Use the awl to pull the slack from your thread. As you work your way along the purse frame (starting with the knotted end of the thread) adjust the bag into place.
- Once it is pulled into place, stitch across it again filling the opposite line of stitching.
- Attach the other side of the bag to the frame in the same way.
Now your bag is complete!