Upcycled Purse/Tote

Hi All!!

Welcome to another project! I was spending some time watching some YouTube videos on crafting and came across a video by Don Kim (Click here to see the video that inspired me.) and I just knew I had to recreate it and convert to inch measurements versus the centimeter measurements he showed. I did make a few other changes as well. I for instance used duck fabric for my outer shell so didn’t do an interfacing on the outer shell as he did. I also didn’t add D-Ring loops for a long strap for the outside, but did add loops for keys on the inside.

I took pictures of my progress and made notes of my converted measurements to pass along to you. I didn’t make a video though as he basically did that for us. 🙂 It is a longer article though as I describe all the steps in detail with pictures to help. 🙂

This is an intermediate level sewing project. Have fun upcycling things!!!


  • Sewing machine, thread and notions
  • Material:
    • Denim (I cut up an old pair of my jeans that I didn’t wear anymore.)
      • Bottom – 10.5″ x 16.5″
      • Handles – 2 at 4″ x 28″ or longer if desired
    • Outside Shell (I used duck cloth from a pair of old curtains)
      • Body – 2 at 16.5″x 8.5″
      • Outside Zipper Facing – 2 at 16.5″x 3.5″
      • Outside Pocket – 2 at 8″ x 6.5″
      • Inside straps or loops (could be made of denim instead) – 2 at 1.5″ x 3″.
    • Inside lining material (I used a different pair of curtains I didn’t use anymore.)
      • Main lining – Roughly 16.5″ x 25.5″ (See Step 8 of the Outer Shell instructions)
      • Outside Pocket lining – 2 at 8″ x 6.5″
      • Zipper Facing – 2 at 16.5″x 3.5″
      • Inside Pocket – 10″ x 14″
  • 2 snaps (or 4 if you want snaps on the outside pockets as well)
  • 16″ zipper (I used a 14″ zipper and just made it work)
  • 8″ zipper (for inner pocket I accidently used a 7″)

Note: All Seams are sewn at 1/2 inch unless otherwise stated, and all seams are basic straight stitches.)


Outer Shell

  1. Sew the outside pockets – With right sides together sew an outside pocket piece and it’s lining together along the top 8″ side. Then turn and top stitch along that seam. (I did 1/8″ and 1/4″ for looks but only one line of stitching is necessary.)
  1. Draw Center lines on the outside body pieces and the outside pockets you have just sewn.
  2. Align each pocket on it’s respective body piece at the bottom and center of the front and sew along the raw edges of the pocket, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. (We’ll be covering the raw edges later with the handles, and I did 1/4″ on sides of the pocket and 1/2″ along the bottom of the bag.)
  1. Create handles by folding the denim like you would a binding but sew all 4 edges closed. (No need to turn the ends under though as they will be closed in a seam later.)
  1. Align handles to the bottoms of body pieces centering the middle of the handle over the side seams of the outside pockets. Sew a rectangle atop of the handles leaving a 1.5″ section at the top detached and not sewn.
  1. Align bottom of body pieces right sides together to the bottom denim piece creating 1 long piece with handles on either side.
  1. Top stitch along the bottom denim piece making sure seam is under to secure it. (Tip: handle material will be straight.)
  1. Lay completed outside over lining material to ensure it matches the size before cutting this piece. Mark and cut it out. (Mine was 16.5″ x 25.5″ but depending on your accuracy of sewing it may be slightly different.) Sorry I didn’t take a picture of this step.
  2. Fold lining in half. Mark and cut out the notches for the boxed bottom of the bag at 2.5″ from bottom fold and 2.75″ from sides.
  3. Fold the outer shell you’ve created in half to be able to cut out the boxed bottom of the bag here. ( I laid my lining over the shell and marked then cut, but you could also measure with a ruler instead. I just used my lining like a template.) Then set your lining piece aside for later.

  1. Sew sides of the shell together leaving notched corners untouched. (Make sure your denim seams match around what will be the bottom of your bag.)
  2. Align fabric to sew boxed corners on your shell piece, making sure your seam is pressed open on each side. Sew along the seam of both sides making sure to backstitch at beginning and end. (I personally sew this seam twice to reinforce it.)
  1. Out of body fabric or you could do denim, make 2 straps for the inside of the bag in the same fashion that you made the handles. I top stitched at 1/8″. On one end fold 1/4″ twice and sew down. (See picture for tip if you are having a hard time with the amount of fabric feeding through your machine.) Set these straps aside for now.
  1. Adding the zipper to the outside shell so that it dips into the bag is neat. I’d never sewn one this way before, but think I’ll probably do it almost every time going forward now. I love how it turned out. Also as a side note on this step, because I had used a 14″ zipper instead of a 16″ one I should have added fabric binding to each end for a cleaner look, but hey… no one’s perfect.
    • Lay 1 zipper facing fabric piece in the outer fabric down face up. Lay your outer zipper face down lining it up on 1 side, and then add the lining fabric for the zipper facing right side down and pin making sure all 3 line up on one side. Change your presser foot to your zipper foot or whatever very narrow foot you have. (My brother machine’s foot is labeled as “I” presser foot.) Note that my zipper pull is half down so that the zipper itself is half open. Sew at 1/8″ from zipper teeth, or whatever you feel comfortable with.
    • When you get about an inch from the zipper pull, with your needle down, lift your presser foot and close the zipper. Then lower the presser foot and continue sewing your seam.
    • Move fabrics to wrong side together and sandwich the other side of your zipper the same as first half of this step along the other side.
    • Open this side to have your wrong sides together as well. Test your zipper to make sure it glides smoothly and that you didn’t sew too close to the zipper teeth.
    • Again open zipper to half way and put right sides together for lining and right sides together for shell (Both with seams open.)
    • Sew across the full length of both the short sides.
    • Fold outside fabric down over lining side making sure seams stay open. (It’s easier with zipper fully open.) This creates a circle essentially.
    • Match open seams and tack down raw edges together on each end.
    • Top stitch around zipper opening to avoid fabric being caught in the zipper pull during operation. (Also because I used the shorter zipper and didn’t use the binding, I also topstitched the end of the zipper with the stopper together to avoid a hole in the top that would have been unnecessary and an eye sore. (See picture.)
  1. Now attach the zipper facing that we just sewed on the zipper to the shell of the purse by aligning the raw edges together with right sides together. Make sure to pin ensuring that the handles are not in the way of the seam. When pinning this I like to make sure to match the opened seams on the sides together then pin the remaining to ensure it lines up correctly. Sew seam.
  1. Turn everything right thing right side out. It should be starting to look like a purse. Now to tackle the inside.


  1. Take the lining pocket piece and lay out flat wrong side up. Mark a line 1″ from the top of the shorter side. Then mark 1 and 3/8″ from the same side. Find the center of the fabric left to right and mark. Since I thought I used an 8″ zipper, I marked 4 and 1/8″ on each side of center. I then basically made these lines into a rectangle and then marked a cut line with a Y on either end. (See picture.)
  2. Place inner pocket fabric piece right sides together with full lining piece 3″ from the top of the 16.5″ side. (Both should be laid out fully flat.)
  3. Sew around the rectangle you marked on the pocket fabric directly on the line you drew. Cut through both pieces of fabric along the double Y line that you marked making sure to not cut through your seam. Pull pocket material through the opening to the other side. You should have wrong sides together now. PRESS!!! This is the only time I’m going to really insist on a press in this tutorial. The other seams you can get away with finger pressing, but not here!!!
  1. Place zipper right side up on work surface. Then lay your lining piece down with the main lining piece of top and the pocket material centering your zipper into the opening. Pin zipper in place. (I thought that I had used an 8″ zipper….turns out it’s a 7″. Oh well. Good thing it’s for me.) Change out your foot for the zipper foot again. I also did a zigzag on one end of the zipper to close up the gap so things wouldn’t fall out of my pocket. (See picture.)
  1. Fold pocket material in half and sew around it making sure to reinforce corners at the bottom by backstitching. No need to sew along the folded edge.
  1. Fold lining right sides together and sew the sides but not the notches.
  2. Reposition the lining fabric to sew the notches along a straight line for the boxed bottoms making sure to keep seam open.
  1. With lining still right sides together add straps to the corner on the inside, basically attaching to the right side. Now stuff outside shell into lining so all you see are wrong sides once it’s pinned. You’ll be pinning and sewing along the same seam that you attached the zipper facing fabric to the shell at. (See picture.) Make sure to leave a 6″ gap for turning. I marked the gap with straight pins and used clips to hold the rest in place. I also sewed a zigzag for extra strength along this seam and along each fabric in the 6″ gap to help it not fray.
  2. Turn the bag out so that all right sides are out.
  3. Close your turning gap by top stitching.

  1. Optional step – You can tack your boxed bottoms together on each end as Don Kim does in his video. I did not do this.
  2. Tuck the lining into the shell.
  3. Top stitch around the entire top making sure to sew over handles to secure them to the bag.
  1. Add snaps to your inner straps.

You now have a fabulous upcycled bag!!!!

Enjoy creating something!!!

Published by Donna Beth Feagins

I am a mom of 2, wife, and am always looking to create something myself instead of buying it. I met Katy from Little Katy Bugs after becoming a mom, and we both love to craft, both have active families, and a tactful way of telling others what we truly think. I LOVE THAT!!! Art is subjective and so is crafting. So, you may not love everything we make or do, but our goal is to inspire you to create yourself and make things that you will LOVE! We do still sell some of our crafts on the site, at craft fairs, and Katy now participates in a booth store front. Check out our Facebook page for more on the booth. Sometimes we just need inspiration and camaraderie. I hope we can help provide those things to you. Sincerely Donna Beth, a Co-Blogger of www.LittleKatyBugs.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: