The Great Purse Refurbish

It only took one outing with Raphael to realize that my purse and the diaper bag were not going to get along.  It’s been almost four years since I’ve had to carry a kid-bag (as soon as David could walk, I gave him a backpack and let him carry his own things) and I’d entirely forgotten the whole sherpa aspect of new motherhood. My previous purse is quite large, it holds an iPad and essentially doubles as a briefcase/satchel.  And the diaper bag is also quite big, because we use (mostly) cloth diapers, and they need a bigger bag to accommodate the wet pocket.  And I tried, but I just couldn’t carry both of these things at once, much less both of them and the baby.  So I thought about it, and then hunted out an old clutch/wristlet I had stashed away.

This was a really nice purse.  My dad brought it back to me from Spain when I was twelve, and I’d never used it much.  But now it was perfect.  It was slim and black and elegant and it had a wrist strap so it was easy to hang onto while lugging the baby’s car seat around.  It fit all my absolute necessities, although it was a little small for full everyday use.  And it slid easily into both the diaper bag and my larger purse, for sherpa-y convenience.

And then the grommet that reinforced the wrist strap started pulling out of the leather.  I quit using it because I didn’t want to ruin it before I could repair the weak spot.  Needing a purse in the meanwhile, and having spotted this at Target, I bought it.  I didn’t like the design, but I just loved the yellow color.

It’s a cross body bag.  As a design, I found it had the worst of both worlds.  It was smaller than my satchel purse, so it didn’t hold as much, but it flopped around even more inconveniently.  But it matched my shoes.

Then, last Thursday the magnetic clasp ripped out through the lining and I got really mad.  This stupid thing was only about a month old and wouldn’t close anymore!  Plus it was floppy and awkward.  So on Friday I went to the fabric store, picked out new lining fabric*, a clip to match the existing hardware, and a seam ripper.  And I took that sucker apart.  The lining and exterior of each piece of the purse were sewn together, so to reline it I had to entirely disassemble it.  And since I had it disassembled, I didn’t feel that I was under any obligation to put it back together again the way it had been.

I kept the fox. I kinda like him.

The first thing to go was the long cross body strap.  It had two parts, a long and a short, that buckled together.  I cut the long piece off entirely, and carefully picked out the stitches holding the buckle on the short one.  I replaced the buckle with the clip.  This gave me a strap that I can use in either a wristlet or a handle configuration.

Then I cut the body down to just a little bigger than my black clutch.  The black one wasn’t quite big enough for everything I carry with me routinely, and the inside was poorly configured.  This purse is about an inch thicker, and maybe an inch wider in each dimension.  But it made a nice, snug, relatively flat rectangle instead of the pouchiness of the original bag.  Give me empty space in a bag, and I’ll fill it, so I cut this down to just big enough to hold the necessities.

The original bag had a set in pocket in the interior.  I swiped the zipper from that and used it to make a full length zippered section big enough for my wallet and phone.  I also added an elastic topped pocket to the interior and two elastic pen loops.  It’s just deep enough to hold a pen.

I reinforced the original magnetic snap with a spare bit of vinyl.  Between the vinyl reinforcement and the sturdier lining, it shouldn’t rip again.

Then I put it all back together, using heavy duty thread.  I messed up a little and cut the top too short, so it’s a little snug to fasten.  But given all the trouble I had getting my tension right with the vinyl, I think I did a respectable job even with that little flaw.  I had to hand stitch the binding over the seams though.  Even my venerable Bernina wasn’t both beefy and precise enough for that job.  So the hand stitching probably took half the total time.

I’ve been using it since Sunday, and wow, I did a better job than I knew reshaping it.  It’s the perfect size to sling up on my shoulder and hug securely under my arm.  I can even get Raphael in and out of his car seat with it on my shoulder.  I keep my keys on a trigger clip for attaching to my blue jeans, but it works equally well hooking onto the d-ring of the purse strap.  And it holds an amazing amount of stuff for something so small!  Really.  One day I’ll have to EDC inventory my purse for you guys.  (I love those ‘what’s in your pocket?’ group photo essays.)

* Enbrethiliel, I know you voted for a larger print, but I picked the smaller one because I thought it would look funny having a big print inside a little bag.

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6 Responses to The Great Purse Refurbish

  1. Very nice. I’m impressed!

    • GeekLady says:

      Thanks, Baroness!
      I’m glad you think it looks nice. You know how it is with a sewing project – all you see are your imperfections in the result. The zipper wasn’t quite long enough, so an end pokes out, etc.

  2. Melanie B says:

    I love, love, love the print. But I think I said that before. I’m very impressed. I wouldn’t have even known where to begin.

    • GeekLady says:

      Don’t be too impressed, I didn’t know what I was doing either. I just had a sustained and creative spurt of losing my temper with an inanimate object.

      I kind of wish now that I could get my hands on some actual leather and try making a purse from scratch. This was unexpectedly fun.

      Looking at that print does make me happy, though. I knew I had the right one when my eyes kept popping back to it. It reminds me of Jacobean embroideries.

      • Foxfier says:

        I’d suggest heading over to the upholstery isle and looking at their stuff– leather is painfully expensive, even when it’s pighide, and tends to eat sewing machines.

  3. +JMJ+

    That’s all right! =) I didn’t know the size of the bag, so I was going by colours when I made my choice.

    I’m so impressed by your sewing talent! Your bag looks fabulous!

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