Finished Object: Madison Bag- Downtown Purse

I like this bag.  After several months of hiding my current Birdie Sling in the rack under the pram when we go out, I had to admit I needed a new bag.  I love the old Birdie Sling except

  • It was shades of brown.  I never wear brown.
  • It was bigger than I could stuff full and carry comfortably
  • I’m not in university anymore.  Time to be a grown lady. 
  • It was enabling sloppiness 
  • It brought down my dressy casual outfits.  Of course I have a few nice bags for nice clothes, but no dressy casual bag.  Just my granola munching grad student bag.

I suppose normal picky women have several purses to carry, and would just buy a new one.  I had to wait for the right fabric/pattern, and also for a good reason to put all my other projects aside just to make a purse to replace a perfectly serviceable bag.

This fits the bill.  Neutral but striking, and will match my clothes.  Vaguely 1940’s inspired.  Not too big, but big enough (I hope).  We’re making this one in my next bag class this weekend.

I tried making this bag twice before, but production halted due to inappropriate interfacing. (Too heavy) This time I erred on the side of too light; time will tell if this combination works.  I used Pellon 630 for the exterior, and a “heavy” -ish weight non-woven fusible interfacing on top of that.  I fused them together, which is odd because I usually sew-in.   It has the feeling of a home dec weight fabric interfaced with a medium weight fusible.  The Pellon doesn’t make it puffy because it is such a light weight.

I used a magnetic snap because I like them.  Amy recommends velcro because magnets mess with cell phones.  I don’t carry one.

I made the strap longer so I could carry my purse messenger bag style. 

I used some fancy lining, a botanical print I’ve been dying to use for ages.  Generally I line with plain cotton, but I could not resist using this print.

Detail of the patch pocket for the inside.  I interfaced a square of lining fabric, stitched the edges together (leaving a hole), turned, pressed and stitched it to the lining piece.  Then I took little things I constantly lose and placed them in the pocket.  My moleskine, my favorite pen, my comb, lipstick, and my essentials tin.  (Because of their depth, I threw the lipstick in the same pocket as the tin.)  I marked a little compartment for each and stitched pockets for them.  Viola.  My wallet is more of a pocketbook and doesn’t need its own pocket because I can’t lose it.

(Essentials Tin.  I gave the candy away, kept the tin.  Solid perfume, the greatest concealer known to woman, and hair pins.)

Built-in keychain.  I made a roleau tie, threaded a clip on it, and then caught it in the side seam when I assembled the lining.  This was a favorite feature of my Birdie Sling, just wonderful because I am a regular Holly Golightly with my keys.

Front.  Rather than attempt matching, I put the flap on the bias.  

My beloved saddle stitch used on the flap.  I had to unpick to get the curve right, but otherwise lovely.

Side matching. No idea why it is all sepia-toned.  I suppose the bag to strap stitching could be better, but I’m not worried.

You know when you make something and it feels right?  This feels just right to me, though I suspect I’ll need that false bottom insert.  After this sticks around the shop for a while on display, it is mine forever.
A few thoughts- 
  1. Don’t over-interface.
  2. If you use sew-through boning, you can skip making a little casing tube for it in the flap/purse seam line.  Just put the boning in the seam and stitch it.
  3. Mark the 1/2″ starting and stopping points on the main panel side seams and the bottom.  If you do that, the bottom will go on like a dream.
  4. When you press the lining top raw edge under by 3/4″, first run a line of basting along the top edge at the 3/4″ mark.  Then press, using the basting as a guide.  When you put it into the exterior it makes a sharp, stable fold line and you can pull up the stitches if you need to ease (I did a little).
  5. If you want a really nice finish, slip stitch the exterior to the lining.  
  6. Make a wee pocket.  I think a zippered pocket in the flap has potential, as well as some sort of pocket on the exterior back.  I always want to build secret pockets into my creations.  Since this is a sample I tried not to mod too much.
  7. If I made this again, I would sew the handle to the bag before I put in the lining.  It is fine as is, but seems a little clumsy.

This bag took me 6-7 hours to make from cut to finish.  Once you get past the cutting/fusing, it goes together quickly and in a very satisfactory manner.  You blink and the exterior is sitting there on the sewing table in front of you.  I haven’t had such an enjoyable little speck of sewing in a while.

(Since I have to downsize my purse contents, I wonder if anyone else carries around a second pair of stockings and a tiny bottle of hairspray?  Husband teases me about them, but they’re great.  Should I get rid of them?  I usually carry around a tiny bottle of mouthwash, some band-aids, a jump rope {for impromptu cardio… I know I have to quit carrying it around with me..}, nail file, hand lotion, retractable tape measure and a seam ripper. 

I used to carry a spare diaper for Lila and her drink cup and her snacks, but I made her a little shoulderbag {actually the Frenchy handbag with longer handles} so she carries them herself now.  More accurately, she carries her bag for a while and hands it to me when she feels encumbered.

Usually I have all kinds of notions in my bag.  And a current pattern to read.  Those are my base items.  What to get rid of?)


  1. Your purse amazes me. Not the one you constructed, though it is truly ideal, but how you describe the contents. I'm thinking you carry more of a weekend getaway than the usual purse, but maybe it's just me. And {gasp} you don't carry a mobile phone? Well done, you! I still carry it sometimes, but only turn it on to make a call. After leaving work, I love being 'unavailable'.

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