Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tutorial: Pants Turned Purse

I received so many sweet comments about my Pants Turned Purse, and a few people asked for a tutorial. I really wanted to make another ruffle bag, so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to take pictures along the way! So here you have it, another pair of pants (from the box in my room) turned into a ruffled purse.
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This time I grabbed a pair of light weight denim jeans. A friend gave them to me early on in my pregnancy thinking they might fit me in my slightly bloated state. They never fit right, and even now I’m not sure they’re exactly my style. But they can make a great purse! If you’re thinking of going out and grabbing a pair of pants at a thrift store, here’s some sizing thoughts to pay attention to: wide legged pants are best in order to get a good size bag. Petites probably wouldn’t work if you want to get a decent ruffle out of it. These pants, and the ones I used the other day, are size 4. I would say the bigger the pants, the better that way you have more fabric to work with.
Now, on with the tutorial. As a warning (or maybe positive note), this post is LONG because it is full of a ton of pictures!
Start with a pair of pants in a fabric you like. Keep in mind: the heavier the fabric, the harder it will be to sew at times and the harder it will be to make your ruffles.
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Cut the pants along the inside seam so it opens up each leg.
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Lay a purse of the size/shape you would like your bag to be on one of the legs, with the opening of the purse on the cuff of the pant leg. Cut around it, giving yourself some extra space for seam allowance (a rounded corner isn’t necessary, if anything, it’ll make it a little more complicated in the end). Repeat this step (or just put your first cut out) on the other pant leg so you’ll have the back and front of your purse.
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Using what’s left of your pant legs, cut long strips in the width you’d like for your ruffles. I wanted a 3 to 4 inch ruffle. My strips were cut all the way up to the waist band. With my original bag, I was limited by the pattern of the fabric for width, so I had to use 4 ruffles. This bag only required 3. Make sure you make enough strips for both sides of the bag. Cutting these strips pretty much used up the rest of the fabric on the legs.
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Next I got to work on the lining of the bag. (I made myself completely make the lining so I’d be sure and do a complete job. If I were to do the outside first, I’d cut corners with the lining just to be finished already.) I used an old button up shirt to make my lining. It wasn’t quite as wide as the outside of the bag, but it was close enough to line the bag well.
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I sewed up the front of the shirt to make sure the lining would be complete and nothing in my purse could slip between the buttons.
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I thought the cuffs would make great pockets! The first purse I made I skipped on adding any pockets (thanks to making the lining after the outside and wanting to be done already). The top and bottom were already finished, and because these cuffs had so many buttons, I wouldn’t need to add extra sewing to keep them together. I unbuttoned the cuffs, pinned them to each lining where I wanted the pockets to be, and sewed along the crease from where the cuffs folded. Then, I buttoned them back up, and sewed along the bottom of the cuff to seal the bottom of the pocket. Fun thing is that I actually got two pockets out of one with this… a pocket made of the cuff, and a pocket between the cuff and the lining!
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Then I pressed and pinned a little over half a inch down from the top of each piece of lining to finish off the top.
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After pinning right sides together, I sewed along the outside of the bag, leaving the top open.
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To keep the bag sturdy with an actual bottom, I sewed off the corners. Lining the right side seams together on the inside, with the corner made into a point, I pinned it together (confused yet? check out the 2nd picture) and then sewed from one end to the other, about 1 inch in. Make sure and sew off the fabric so your seam runs completely from one end to the next so you won’t have any holes or gaps in your lining. Then cut off the excess corner.
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And there you have it, your lining is finished!
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Now back to the fun part… While a fabric like denim will allow you to leave your edges unfinished (you’ll have a bit of a frayed look), I wanted to have crisp edges on my bag. I used a rolled hem foot to finish off my edges. You could also use a serger, or a zig zag stitch to finish it off, but I love the fact that I can’t really see my stitching with a rolled hem (the thread blends in with the fabric). It also added a stiffness to the ruffle that I like. Don’t know what a rolled hem foot is? You’ll have to google it. It’s wonderful. You get finished edges sooo quickly, and you don’t have to do any ironing or pinning. My mother-in-law gave me a rolled hem foot for my new machine, but I can’t find it ANYWHERE in my house. I know it’s somewhere because I’ve seen it a few times and thought I’d remember where it was, but I was wrong. So I had to pull out my old machine to use its rolled hem foot.
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Finish the edges on both long sides of each strip. Forget to check your bobbin if you want and realize 2 inches into the first hem that it’s run out. Fill your bobbin and then get back to work.
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Once you’ve finished all your edges (and moved back to your new machine if you’re like me), set your stitch length to your longest length possible. For me it’s switching to my standard 2.5 to a long 5. Quickly sew down one side of each strip. Don’t backstitch at all because you’ll be pulling your thread to make the ruffle (this is when I dream of having a ruffle foot).
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Once you’ve sewn down each strip, pin your strips (one at a time) onto the outside of your bag. I start by just pinning the outside edges where I want them. Pull one of the threads at the end, and guide the fabric down the thread, making a ruffle (the denim moved down the thread a lot harder than the fabric I used for my other purse). Keep ruffling it until your ruffle lays [somewhat] flat and is the same width as the bag. Pin your ruffle down and repeat with your other two ruffles for that side. Repeat with the other one. Sew each ruffle. I used close to a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
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Pin your pieces right sides together. The loose corners of the ruffles try to stick out, but making the straight and pin them along with the main edges. You’ll have 3 layers of fabric to sew together at this point. I suppose you could leave the bottom corners of your ruffles hanging free, but I wanted them sewn in. Sew around it like you did with the lining.
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Pin, sew and cut the corner like you did with the lining.
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At this point, I remembered to cut my strap. You might want to do this when you cut everything else. I use the waist band for my strap. The band was a little shorter than I needed to make 2 handles, so I had to make a single shoulder strap instead. Put the lining in the bag so the wrong sides are together. Pin the strap between the lining and the outside of the bag. Pin the lining to the outside around the top. I had cut mine so it would sit lower in the bag, and planned to just sew right between the cuff and top ruffle on the outside. Because I was following the outside for my line, I pinned it from the outside. I would recommend actually pinning and sewing from the inside.
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Sew the lining to the outside. Whichever way you sew it, make sure the underside is moving along correctly and nothing is catching, or else you’ll have a little spot that tucks when you may not have meant to tuck. I didn’t really care at this point because it was just the lining, and I was ready to be finished.
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And there you have it… a fully lined, ruffled purse!
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I wanted to add a little embellishment, so I made three fabric flowers using fabric scraps I had around—one pink and two turquoise.
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Then I stitched the flowers to the bag, and was finished!
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I love how it turned out!


  1. Thanks for sharing how you made this darling purse! I subscribed so I don't miss anything! ;)

  2. absolutely great bag and tutorial.
    do link it up on our blog here: so our readers can find you too!
    they'd love this!

  3. Love this! I am not really much in the sewing department, but I am going to give this a try! Thank you for taking the time to do a tutorial.

  4. This is so neat! I will def. give this a try! I bet I can find some cool fabric (pants) at the thrift stores! thanks for sharing!


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