How to Make Victorian Handbags

Written by deborah harding
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Ladies' handbags during the Victorian era were often small yet colourful. The bags matched the latest fashionable dresses. Colourful beaded purses became popular in that era along with purses made of silk and velvet. Tassels, fringes, lace, semi-precious stones, shells and silver enhanced the small purses. The were generally called reticules, and people carried perfume, make up, handkerchief and fans in them.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Purse fabric
  • Lining fabric
  • Cording
  • Thread
  • Tape measure
  • Needles
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Sewing Machine

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  1. 1

    Cut an 18 inch by 7 inch strip from both fabrics.

  2. 2

    Lay the purse fabric on a table with the right side, or side that will show, face up. Lay lining fabric over top with the right side facing down. Right sides of both fabrics should be inside and facing each other.

  3. 3

    Pin the fabrics together all around the edges. Sew around the edges about ¼ inch from the edge leaving a 1 inch opening in the last long side about 1 inch from the corner.

  4. 4

    Snip off the sharp corners with scissors, but do not snip into the stitching.

  5. 5

    Turn the fabric right side out through the opening and then sew that opening closed with needle and thread. Press it flat with an iron.

  6. 6

    Lay the strip on the table with the lining side up. Fold the bottom up about 6 ¾ inches to make the purse. The remaining top material will be folded down to make the top flap. Hand stitch the sides starting at each bottom leaving a small gap right at the bottom of the edge for the cording to go through. Stitch up to the bottom edge that was folded up.

  1. 1

    Cut cording two times the measurement of the sides and then the length desired. Therefore, measure 13 ½ inches, which is the length of the sides 6 ¾ inches times two. Then measure more for the desired length. A shoulder bag would have a longer measurement than a wrist-length handle.

  2. 2

    Pull one end of the cording through the small slits at the bottom of the bag so it travels through the bottom inside edge and out the other hole. Pull so purse is centred in the cording.

  3. 3

    Hand stitch the cording up each side of the bag up to where the top flap will flip over to cover the opening.

  4. 4

    Flip over the top flap and sew on a tassel closure, frog, or button. Enhance the purse with lace, beads, fringe and a variety of other notions.

Tips and warnings

  • Use satin for the lining fabric and velvet for the purse fabric. Make sure to pull the corners out when you turn the fabric right side by inserting a chopstick in each corner and pushing lightly.
  • Some fabrics are damaged by using an iron. Place a bath towel over the fabric before pressing it, and there will be no damage.

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