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Tutorial: Purse/Bag Handles

Based on the difficulty I had making the reversible purse, and because I had already cut the pieces from my expensive Echino Nico fabric, I had to do something different, using the pieces I had. So I cut off the handles of the reversible purse template and decided to make lemonade… And in the process, I decided just to make some normal bag handles and do the tutorial I promised.

So here goes! Before you start, you should figure out how long your handle(s) need to be. When I do the hobo bags, the handle is approx. 26″ long, the ones on the Manhattan bag are each approx. 14″ long, and the ones in this tutorial are each approx. 20″ long. For an cross-body messenger style bag, that will land you in the 45″-60″ range depending on how tall you are – just grab a measuring tape (the sewing kind, not the metal kind), and sling across your body to figure it out. This tutorial will give you handles that measure 1.25″ in width.

What you need:
*Handle fabric = 4″ wide by the length of your handles (see above)
*Pellon 987F Fleece (or a similar weighted fusible fleece – I think it’s a medium to heavy weight fleece) cut to 1.25″ width
*Pellon DecorBond 809 (or similar) cut to 1.25″ width
*Twill tape 1.25″ width (I bought this stuff – yes, the 72 yd. roll, I figured it was easier than going to the store every so often just to get twill tape…I will never run out of this, and it cost $12!)
*Cut your 4″ wide handle strips. This is what I started with:

please excuse my pressing sheet in these photos – there are some gross burn marks!

*Iron wrong sides together in half length-wise.
*Then open up your fabric. Place your fleece fusible side against wrong side of handle piece, using the center crease as the edge you butt the fleece up against…then give it a light press (enough to make it stick), fold the handle wrong sides together and give it a good press (you’re using the handle as a press cloth). REMINDER: Make sure you’re using steam on the wool/cotton setting!

*Open your handle fabric back up. Place the DecorBond on the other side of the crease, fusible against wrong side of fabric, and repeat the previous step. If your fleece/DecorBond pieces aren’t as long as the handle, don’t worry! I just butt the ends of a new piece right up against the end of where I stopped, and it works fine (but don’t overlap, you don’t need the bulk). Trust me, you won’t be able to tell where the split is once you get this sewed up!

*Place the twill tape on top of the side with the DecorBond.

*Fold over the remaining edge of the handle fabric on top of the twill tape/DecorBond side. You should be folding over approximately .75″ – with the folds, it’s probably somewhere between .5″ and .75″.

*Repeat fold over and ironing on the fleece side.

*Then fold wrong sides together in half again, and iron the crap out of the strap. Provided you did the above steps properly, the open sides of the strap should be lined up with each other.

*Now we are going to sew. I pin the open sides of the strap together to prevent shifting. I start in the middle and work my way out.

See how I’ve lined up the breaks in the fabric design? This is important if your fabric can be lined up (and isn’t a seamless allover print). The pins really do help the fabric from bunching up in the next steps.

*For the top-stitching, I use my zipper foot. This allows me to get really close to the edge. I think I do this step as if I were left-handed. I attach my zipper foot on the left side, so I get good light from machine to see. Make sure your needle is kicked all the way out to the edge of your zipper foot. NOTE: I use a 90/14 needle for this step, you are going thru a LOT of layers, and really, do you want to deal with a broken needle in the middle of sewing?? No, you do not.

*Edge-stitch the open sides of your handles first, staying as close to the edge as possible, but trying to keep a consistent distance from the edge of the handle. If you have more than one handle, go ahead and chain-piece these suckers. Then turn your handle to the fold side, and edge stitch that side too!

*Now, you could stop after stitching both sides. BUT, why not add another row of stitches to each side?? I kick my needle back toward the center, and line up the edge of the zipper foot to the edge of the fabric, and away I go! Seriously, the double lines look SOOO much better. And as an added bonus, in case you messed up your edge stitching on the open side of the handle, the 2nd row of stitches will ensure you get that handle sewn up nicely!
*Attach your handles where they belong.

Make sure you figure out which side of the handle should be the outside of the handle, and place that side right sides against your bag fabric. For a more solid/allover print, I make whatever side that has the best stitching as my outside.
*Sew your lining & outside together, leaving an opening for turning in the top. Top-stitch around top edge of bag, closing your turning hole while doing so. Don’t forget to keep your handles straight up from the top of the bag so you get a good top-stitch to hold them in place.
And viola! You’re done…you have an awesome bag with super sturdy handles!

Whew! That took forever, mucho props to all those who have put together tutorials out there!

3 comments to Tutorial: Purse/Bag Handles

  • Flassie's Fil'a

    I like the handles and how your bag turned out. It’s adorable!

    I did figure out how after watching the video. I do think they need more details. One thing I think the camera people need to do is stop focusing on the people and more on the project. I see it with other shows too.

    I also thought I could sew the both sides of the small side handle. Not! Out came the seam ripper.

    I am going to hand stitch the handles though. I also made a small one for my grandchild. I think I will do the same for a couple of gr-neices.

    Thanks for stopping by and letting me know and the well wishes for my Mom.

    God Bless You and Yours!!!

  • Bee Square Fabrics

    Thanks for the tutorial. I love how the bag came out! It is a great use of that Echino fabric. Love it.

    Saw your comment over on my blog which lead me here! Yay! Had to say, that I’ve actually had a first post win in a giveaway, so you never know. :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, and thanks again for sharing your sewing goodness.

    :) Diane

  • Joelle

    Wow, my bag is famous! :)

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