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Sunday, 1 March 2015

Designing and Making a Pleated Handbag Part 3

This is Part 3 of an ongoing BLOG where we design and sew a handbag. The pattern can be downloaded free of charge from A Pretty Talent.

Part 1 was published on 21 February 2015
Part 2 was published on 26 February 2015
Part 3 was published on 1 March 2015
Part 4 was published on 2 March 2015

In this section we will be working with a lot of separate pieces, preparing it to finally be brought together into one fabulous bag. This is what it will look like by the time we are done today.

The Zipper

We are going to start on the zipper. The easiest zipper to work with is one of those where the two sides slide apart (like in jackets, etc.). This way you can dis-attach the one side so it is not in your way. Any other zipper will work just as well, but it may be slightly more tricky. The zipper should be 43-45 cm in length. Sandwich the zipper between the fabric and the lining. The teeth of the zipper should be inside the sandwich (not on the edge). The right side of the zipper should face the fabric, and the wrong side of the zipper should face the lining. Pin it in place and sew as close as possible to the zipper.

It is best to iron fabric back before you continue.

If you have dis-attached the other side of the zipper, you should re-attach it before you continue to make sure you attach everything correctly. Sandwich the other side of the zipper between the fabric and lining and sew in place. You can once again dis-attach the side that is already done to make the sewing easier. Iron everything flat when finished.

Your zipper should now look like this. Lay it aside till later.

Fold-over Button Flap

We will now move on to the button flap at the top of the bag. Pin the flap right sides facing each other. Sew around the long sides and the rounded side. Leave the short straight side open to turn the flap inside out.

Cut small triangle out of the rounded seam to make room for the excess fabric when you turn it inside out. You can even cut the seam smaller. Be careful not to cut too close to the stitching.

Turn the flap inside out.

If you find it difficult to sew rounds, you can always opt to sew another shape for your flap. I have also done a triangle, but there are limitless possibilities.

The only thing left to do, is to iron it flat. Lay it aside till later.


We are now going to prepare the strap of the bag. We start at the iron. Fold the strap in half in its length and iron it. The right sides should be facing out.

Open it back up and fold the sides in to meet at the newly created centre line. Iron the sides flat.

Fold it in half again and iron once more to shape it properly.

Top stitch all around the sling and lay it aside till later.

Pleated Panels

We are now going to start building the body of the bag by sewing the panels of the pleated sides together. Lay down one pleated panel and one centre panel right sides facing. Sew them together.

Add another centre panel to the other side of the pleated panel. Lay them down right sides facing each other and sew. Iron the seam flat when done. Iron away from the pleat as shown in the photo.

Now add two pleated panels to the outsides of the centre panels and sew. Iron when done.

Add the remaining side panels to the pleated panels, sew and iron. Remember to do this for both the "front" and "back" of the handbag.

Fold the Pleats

We are now going to fold the pleats. Start in the centre. Fold the pleated panel in half, right sides facing. Put in pin right into the stitch line. It is important to get the pin in the right place, or you will struggle to shape the pleat. Do the same thing at the bottom as you did at the top.

Now press the pleat flat, judging to divide it equally on both sides of the centre line. Pin the tow sides down. I give you a front and back view of what your pleat should look like now.

Now pin the pleats down in the middle as illustrated. These pins are going to remain there for a while, so make sure to tuck them in properly. We will also be ironing over them shortly, so you might prefer using old-fashioned pins without heads.

Repeat this exercise with all of the pleats. This is what it should look like when you are done. Again I give you a back and front view.

We are now going to stitch the pleats in place. To do this I stitch approximately a foot width from the top, all the way across the top of the bag, securing the pleats in place so I can remove the pins. I do the same thing at the bottom.

I still need to iron the pleats flat and that is the next step. I keep the pins in the middle of the pleats in place and iron over them. They do not come out till much later.

You will find that all of this stitching and folding will have changed the size of your panel. I have allowed for this in the design of the lining. put your fabric on top of your lining and trim the four panels back to the same size.

Base and Side Pockets

We will now attach the base and side pockets to the lining, after which we will attach the base to the pleated sides as well. Position your side pockets on your lining. Measure approximately 12 cm down from the top and pin the pockets in place, both left and right side pockets. Sew only the bottom of the bag. Leave the other pins in place for the moment.

Find the centre of the base and mark it clearly. Find the centre of the bottom of the lining and mark it clearly. Attach the centre of the base to the centre of the lining, right sides facing. Work your way to the sides and pin the base to the lining.

Sew all along the pinned line and attach the lining to the base. You will find that the natural bias on the rounded corners make this easier than you would have suspected.

Attach the remaining side of the lining in the same way and sew. When you are done, you will find that the side pockets will have be in place.

We are now going to do much the same thing with the outside (fabric side) of the bag. (If you wanted the side pockets to go on the outside of your bag, you should attach them now). Find the centre of the base and mark it clearly. The centre pleat will be the centre of the pleated panel of the bag. Pin the two centre points together. Work your way out and pin the panel and the base together. Sew when you are done. Do the same with the remaining panel.

Once you have sewn the two pleated panels to the base, you can finally remove the pins from the pleats. It is crucial that you remove them now, or they will be closed inside the lining.

Turn the bag inside out and finger-iron the seams.

Find the centre of the Button Flap. Pin it, centre to centre, to the top of the bag.

Attach it to the bag by sewing it in place (much the same as you did with the pleats). This will make it easier to keep everything in place later when you have multiple pieces coming together.

Put your lining inside your bag and pin the sides and tops together.

The final BLOG with the last steps will be published soon, so make sure to tune in for more.

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