Apr 30

Vinyl handbag tutorial

Bags are one of my favorite things to make, but I’d never worked with vinyl before. I decided to conquer my fears and give it a try. This bag is nice and roomy. You don’t have to use vinyl. Feel free to use this pattern with any fabric, though home dec weights will work best.

Because this was a new challenge for me, I made some mistakes and learned some lessons along the way, which I’ll share with you as we go.


(Click fabrics for direct links for purchase at Warehouse Fabrics Inc.)

Croc Walnut - VILCRT

Washable Suede - WAETEA

Fleece or interfacing

Purse twist latch

Purse feet (4)

Square strap rings (4)

I had a yard of each fabric, one set of four purse feet, two sets of two strap rings for a total of four, and one turn-latch. I decided part-way through my project to add a layer of fleece inside to give the bag a little more stability.

Some tips for sewing with vinyl

  • I didn’t have any problems with my vinyl sticking to my machine, but if you do, you can place a piece of scotch tape on the bottom of your presser foot (cutting out a space for the needle). You can also buy a Teflon foot.
  • You can also place a piece of tissue paper underneath your project so that it is between your vinyl and your sewing machine. The tissue paper will tear away after you’re done sewing.
  • I suggest a leather needle. For most of my project, I did fine, but I did break three leather needles at one point, which I’ll tell you about below.
  • There is little room for error. The needle will leave puncture holes, so you can’t go back and undo stitches very easily. I had a place (see below) where my bobbin kept messing up. I went over the spot several times and it basically perforated it and the vinyl just tore.
  • The vinyl tore very easily, so while it’s a bit harder to work with than fabric because of it’s thickness, it’s also very delicate.

The pattern

Vinyl bag pattern piece 1 Vinyl bag pattern piece 2 Vinyl bag pattern piece 3 Vinyl bag pattern piece 4
Print out each of the above PDF files and tape together matching the letters A, B, C and D. Then cut out your pieces. I have also listed on the pattern a few rectangle pieces you must cut out.

You’ll cut out the following (this is listed on the pattern):
Main bag piece – cut 2 outer material, cut 2 lining, cut 2 fleece or interfacing
Big strap piece – cut 2 outer material
Small strap piece – cut 1 outer material (will be cut into 4 pieces after sewing)
Pocket (not listed on pattern) – cut 2 lining pieces into a rectangle of whatever size you please
Flap – cut 2 outer material

1/2 inch seam allowances except where noted.

The process

Place your vinyl main pattern pieces right-sides together. If you are using vinyl and want to add stiffness, add interfacing or fleece to your lining instead of your outer bag, since we really don’t want to mess with ironing this.
If you’re using regular fabric, adhere your fusible fleece or interfacing to the back side of the outer bag pieces. Or baste it if it’s not fusible.
You can’t use pins, so find another way to hold your pieces together if necessary. Here, I’ve used quilt binding clips, which look like little barrettes but are not. You could use clothes pins or other types of clips, too.
Sew your bag down the side seams and across the bottom. Right now, the square cutouts at the bottom corners are not sewn.
This is tricky to photograph well. This is the bottom corner that we left open. You’re going to take your side seam and your bottom seam and meet them together. That corner where my thumb is will be one end of the new seamline. The other corner will be the other end. The two current seams will meet together in the center of the new seam. This is forming the square bottom of the bag.
Does this help at all? That seam where my fingers is is the side seam of the bag. The bottom seam is directly underneath that, running parallel. The right end of the seam is the corner where my thumb was in the picture above.

Sew a half-inch seam across this opening.

Here is where my bobbin messed up (mentioned above) several times. I tried several times before I fixed it, but it basically perforated my vinyl and it tore. So I had to fudge this seam and to the side of this spot.
To make your pocket, Sew two of the suede pocket pieces together, with right sides together. Sew all the way around with a 3/8″ seam allowance, except for a turning hole at the bottom.

Turn your pocket right-side out through the hole and gently push out the corners. You may want to clip the corners before turning by cutting diagonally along them without clipping the stitches.

You can see the open hole at the bottom part of this picture. You’ll turn in that seam allowance and press. Top stitch along the top of the pocket close to the edge.

Pin your pocket to one of your lining pieces. Sew down one side, across the bottom and up the other side. You’ll sew pretty close to the edge. You’ll also be catching that hole at the bottom when you do this, thereby closing it up.

Remember to add interfacing or fleece to the lining if you are using the vinyl outer bag. I decided to add fleece for support a little too late in the process, so it will magically appear in pictures later.

Place your lining pieces right sides together and stitch down each side and across the bottom like you did for the outer bag, except you need to leave a turning hole in the lining for later. If you’re using vinyl, leave a large hole since this is a stiff material.
Close up your corners as described above.
Place your two flap pieces right-sides together and sew down two sides and the bottom. Clip your corners and turn right-side out (left).

Top stitch along the sides and bottom (center).

Insert the hole part of your turn latch in the flap as explained in this lovely tutorial at U-Handbag.

The purse feet are really easy. Just mark four places evenly on your bag where you want them to go. Cut a small hole to insert the prongs and push them through (left).

On the inside, place the little circle over the prongs and press them open (center).

Four lovely purse feet in no time! (right)

Sew your purse flap to your bag. Find the center point of each and sew with the flap pointing down, raw edges aligned. The wrong side of your hardware should face out right now (where the screws are).
Now it’s time to make straps. There will be four mini-straps and two big straps. Above, I’m showing how to make a mini-strap. Because these straps will have unfinished ends, I realized later that I could have just quadrupled the length and sewn one, then cut it into fours. Duh. I recommend doing it that way. Follow these instructions and then cut into four equal pieces.

1. Draw a line in the center on the wrong side, lengthwise.
2. Bring one raw edge to the line and sew to secure. Do the same on the other side.

3. Fold in half lengthwise again and sew closed (raw edges are now encased) (left).
4. Cut into four equal pieces (if you started with one long pieces, unlike me).
5. Place a metal square through each short strap and secure with a line of stitching (right).
You’ll do the same thing, basically, for the two long straps, except for these you need finished ends since they will be seen.

Fold over a small piece before you start sewing your strap (left).

Here are your four small straps with hardware and your two long straps.

**I want to say something here: This will all work fine and dandy if you are using fabric. I found that when I got to the end, this method was pretty bulky with the vinyl. So doing it over, I’d probably just make the long straps and insert them directly into the bag top instead of using the hardware and short straps. If you want more instruction on how to do this, contact me.**

Mark the locations for your four straps and place the short straps with the raw edges up. Baste to the bag. I lef the ends sticking up past the top of the bag for now (left).

Insert the outer bag, right-side out, into the lining, which is inside out. You can see that I decided to add a layer of fleece to my lining for support (center).

Use clips to hold the two together (right).

Sew around the top and turn right-side out through this hole in the lining.
Figure out where you want the other side of your turn clasp and stick the prongs through and bend them to secure. Perhaps you should do this earlier. I just reached through the hole in the lining and did this step really fast.
Smooth your fabrics and secure around the top. Top-stitch around the top. This is where I ran into trouble because my short straps were so many layers thick that as I top-stitched, I really had trouble getting through the thicknesses. This is where I started breaking needles.

You’ll also be adding your long straps by putting them through the rings, turning in just a bit and sewing to secure. With the vinyl, I had to actually hand-stitch because it was so thick.

Sew the hole in your lining closed.

Other views

(Click for bigger views)

  • CC

    Great instructional!

    I’ve been thinking long & hard about making my own purses. I can never find a really good purse, unless of course it cost to the tune of $2500+. It’s ridiculous to me to pay such outlandish prices. I’ve seen some purses that I may be able to simulate to my satisfaction…I am inspired & gonna put my skills to the test!

  • Cristi

    Great photo’s and detailed tutorial! I think I have some fabric with unknown purpose that I could try this with before doing the real thing. You have made it look really easy, though! Thank you!

  • Robyn

    Thanks, Cristi! Let us know how it turns out.

  • Peket

    I wasn’t looking for these types of bags but this article was great. I bought clear vinyl bags from http://www.bagsonthenet.com/Vinyl-Bags-Prodlist.html and they had what I needed. After I sew the quilts I make, I sell them inside a clear vinyl bag. It helps complete the product look I want to give my customers. Happy sewing

  • Debbie Whitley Harper

    I love seeing your purse, I have recently started making my own purses and have a line for sale, check it out on facebook at Roses Creek. I had to learn some of the same tips and tricks you mentioned!

  • I LOVE the look of this bag !!!

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