I set out to make a pretty handbag for using when I go out for the evening. This project is a combination of a few things I like that are very pretty. Below the cut is a photo tutorial for how I made this handbag with instructions on how to work with and sew real fur.
– A box of fake rose petals (typically sold with the bridal supplies at craft stores)
– A rabbit hide
– A medium to heavy-weight fabric like twill or canvas
– A light weight fabric for lining
– A sheet of thin plexi-glass
– Twill tape
– Chain (for bag strap)
– Purse feet
– A purse closure (I used a magnetic closure)
– Large lobster clasps
– 4 Jump Rings (jewelry supply)
– Leatherworking needles
– Handsewing needles
– An acrylic cutter (knife)
– A drill or Dremel with safety glasses and dust mask
Cut the sheet of plexi-glass into three pieces – a bottom and 2 sides.
Cut fabric pieces with sewing margins (seam allowances) to accommodate the plastic pieces. The heavier weight fabric (twill or canvas) should be used for the outside of the bag. A lighter weight lining should also be cut a bit smaller than the outside pieces.
Create a line of basting stitches to denote the line between the bag side and bottom if the shell is one piece of fabric (omit this step if you cut separate bottom and side pieces).
The box of petals I purchase had 3-4 different types of petals (shiny, organza, dark edged, matte) so I selected which petals I liked best with the fur.
Place the petals on the fabric to get a sense of how you want to distribute them.
Sew them in place.
Work rows back and forth until the each side is full of petals.
Leave the top row on one side open for now. It will be filled in during final bag construction.
Add the feet to the bottom of the bag. The feet I chose had backing pieces that I used for a template. A Sharpie did a great job of marking where I needed to drill to create an opening for the tabs of the feet.
Cut holes in the plastic for the tabs of the bag feet using a drill while wearing safety glasses and a dust mask. To cut the holes I drilled in a row.
Use the plastic bottom to mark holes for cutting. Dab a tiny bit of Fray Check where you cut.
Place the feet according to the directions (or web search results).
Sew in the side panels of the bag.
Make the fur flap. Decide what size/shape/overlap you like. I laid the hide over the bag and marked where I wanted to cut the flap.
This is incredibly important: DO NOT USE SCISSORS TO CUT FUR. It will give the fur a haircut of blunt icky unattractive ends. Use a straight blade and hold the hide away from the any surface so you only cut the skin and not the fur.
To reinforce the edge of the skin and to make it easier to work with in future steps, secure a line of twill tape to the cut edge using a leather needle. Leather needles have a triangular shaped point that cuts a tear resistant hole is animal skin. If you carefully pick the fur out of each stitch as you go, the stitching is invisible on the front.
On the right side, attach another line of twill tape sitching close to the cut edge. This line of twill tape will create the fold back line when the fur is attached to the bag.
Line the flap for finishing and to attach the bag closure. I decided to keep the original edge of the rabbit hide so I traced the fur edge to the lining fabric to re-create the irregular edge.
Attach the bag closure to the lining. It is helpful to add a few layers of iron-on interfacing to the back of the lining fabric for making the closure more secure.
Attach the lining to the fur with a carefully placed whip-stitch. It is important to use a leather needle and don’t bother trying to do this without a thimble or pliars. The cut edges of the fabric are tucked between the lining that shows and the back of the fur. Don’t attach the lining all the way to the cut edge on the sides.
Create tabs to attach the D-rings to the bag. Cut a strip of fabric twice the measurement of the flat side of the D-ring plus a seam allowance. Sew and press.
Sew the tabs to the bag. What is shown is the first point of contact and the tabs will be secured again when the flap is attached.
Attach the flap to the bag. Place the fur side to the petal side of the bag. To attach the flap, turn the twill tape attached to the fur away from the fur and sew it to the bag.
To secure the fur and encourage the fur to sit nicely, I also tacked down the inside edge of the reinforcing line of twill tape to the bag.
Insert the plastic for the back of the bag and secure it with some lines of thread.
Pin the flap lining into place so the extra seam allowance is inside the bag.
Close the bag flap to determine where to place the opposite bag closure piece. Using a drill (with your safety glasses and dust mask) create holes in the plastic in the same way you did for the bag feet. Cut through the layers of flower petals and fabric with a straight blade and secure the bag closure.
Construct the bag lining.
Pin the lining into the bag. Sew the layers together on each side except the front petal edge.
When you sew the lining to the front edge of the bag, add one more row or petals. Tuck the excess petal between the bag shell and lining to create a nice finished edge. Sew in place.
To add a bit of detail and strengthen the chain, I wove a narrow ribbon through each chain link.
Using jump rings, attach the lobster claw clasp to each end of the chain.
If you used ribbon, tie a not through the jump rings and weave the ribbon ends back into the chain for a few links.
Attach the chain to the bag by hooking the lobster claw clasps to the D-rings. I ran my chain through the D-rings so that I can wear the bag on one shoulder, across my body, or as a handbag.