Saturday, February 28, 2015

Thrift Store Finds: making a 1920s Flapper-worthy hand bag from a ladies blouse

A bit of a 'quickie' project to help me feel accomplished in between finishing off bigger fish.  One of the things I made time for on my trip to LA last summer was to hit up some thrift stores.  One of my finds from the Goodwill of Los Angeles (just west of Beverly Hills and south of Hollywood) was this blouse, a Hale Bob beaded silk burnout tank top that I practically tore off the hanger and hid under my arms.  It's the kind of top that, while pretty, I could never personally wear and do justice.  But as luck would have it, it was just enough fabric for a kick ass purse.

The color.  The beading.  The pattern... there was nothing about this that I didn't love.

Blouse was lined in a bright yellow habotai silk, and so I cannibalized that to be my purse's lining.

Only $2.99.  Considering similar blouses on the store's website were running around $140, I got off pretty light.
I happened to already have a ball clasp purse frame in the stash, so I used that as the foundation.  The lining and fashion layers were separated, and a bit of scrap yellow cotton was used to sketch out a pattern (and later as an interlining to give the finished bag some shape).  Basically, from the hinges up, I added a half-inch to the finished dimensions to allow for seams to be folded down.  Then I free-handed a basic purse-like shape that was wider than the handle, but would end up being gathered in at the top edges to meet the hinges.  I did the whole thing over top of the lining to remind myself of what my absolute limits to the dimension would have to be.
I took the cotton pattern and folded it in half before cutting so that I'd end up with something a bit more symmetrical that what I could manage by hand.

I treated the interlining as a sort of flatlining for the lining silk.  I did this because I wanted to install pockets and they needed something of structure to attach to.  I made up the template by pulling out the things that I knew I wanted easily accessible.  By having the heavy phone anchored to the wall of the lining, I could avoid having a bag that sagged in the center under it's weight.  The pen and cash/card pockets were for things easily lost in a big bag.  I just approximated about a half inch of space around each of the items for ease of use.
I folded the lining fabric over the edges of of the interlining once on three sides, and folded down twice on what would be the top edge.  The bottom corners were turned in to keep them from straying into the seam allowance on the bottom edge.
Finished pocket attached to the lining, flat-lined to the cotton interlining.  I put a row of stitches across the bottom of the cash n cards pocket to raise these items up a bit to make them easier to retrieve. 

The fashion and lining layers were assembled separately by laying the right sides together and stitching around the bottom/sides to within just over a half inch of each top corner.  The lining was sewn on the machine, but the delicate burnout velvet fashion layer was done by hand (mostly to keep my machine from eating the bead).
So sheer!

The fashion layer was attached to the purse frame first by folding the top edge over the bar and hand-stitching in place.
Then the lining was inserted and the top edges folded under, then whip stitched to the fashion layer just under the bar.  The outer corners were folded under and whip stitched as well, and then the points of those corners were tack stitched to the insides of the corners near the hinges to give the bag a bit of a gathered effect.  I made sure to  put the tag back into the finished purse, as a reminder of the piece's former life.  It makes me smile.

Slap on a beaded tassel and TA DA!  We're done!  Now to find an excuse to wear it.  :)


  1. Wow. I'm in awe of this project.

  2. Gorgeous! And I love how you recycled a thrift-store find to get this.

    1. Thanks. I told myself that I had to start using some of the things I bought last year in LA, otherwise I'm not allowed to go shopping this year.

  3. Oh Wow! That is amazing. I love that you left the tag in. You're so clever.

    1. Pfft. It's totally silly. Now to come up with an excuse to wear a 20s party dress to CoCo this year so I can bring it along. It won't match my pool party dress at all.

  4. FAB...U....LOUS!!! I am so loving how you kept the maker's tag for the purse! You are genius! What a wonderfully executed piece of art my dear! I adore thrift stores and when I can get something for $2.99 that is worth $140.00...that makes my heart so happy!

  5. Thank you! We've got a lot of great jazz clubs in Kansas City, so I'm thinking there need to be an outing to one in the near future so I can take the bag for a spin.