How to Make a Victorian Purse

Written by sara volmering
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How to Make a Victorian Purse
Victorian handbags--or reticules--were drawstring bags worn from the wrist. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

During the Victorian Era, named for Queen Victoria's reign as England's monarch from 1837-1901, purses did not refer to lady's handbags. Victorian "purses" were similar to a small coin or change pouch which was often carried inside a lady's reticule--a soft gathered bag with drawstrings typically worn around the wrist. The function of a reticule was similar to the function of women's purses today: to hold belongings and money, and to be fashionable.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 1/2 yard fabric
  • Ruler
  • Fabric pen or marker
  • Compass or circular ruler
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Sewing pins
  • Safety pin
  • 1/2 yard ribbon

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  1. 1

    Fold the fabric in half lengthwise. Without opening the fabric, fold it in half along the width.

  2. 2

    Use a ruler to measure four inches from the folded corner along both the horizontal and vertical folds. Mark with a fabric pen.

  3. 3

    Use a compass or circular ruler to make a curved cutting line between the two markings. You can also use an upside-down bowl as a guide or try to draw freehand if you do not have other tools.

  4. 4

    Use scissors to cut through the layers of fabric, following the guidelines you have drawn. Unfold the fabric and check that the edges are smooth.


  1. 1

    Lay the circle so that the inside of the fabric is facing up. Fold the edges of the fabric in a 1/2-inch and press with an iron. Continue pressing until the entire circle has a 1/2-inch hem. Secure with sewing pins if desired.

  2. 2

    Sew the folded edge to the fabric using a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Sew around the entire circle, but leave a one-inch opening to insert the ribbon or drawstring.

  3. 3

    Attach a safety pin to your ribbon. Insert the safety pin into the opening and work the ribbon through to the other side. Remember, the circumference of the circle is longer than the ribbon, so the fabric will gather as you thread the ribbon through. Remove the safety pin once you have reached the other side of the opening. Each side should have a ribbon end sticking out.

  4. 4

    Hold the ribbon ends securely and draw the bag closed. Trim the ribbon to your desired length and tie the ends together. Hide the knot inside the drawstring opening if desired. Remember, the ribbon loop should be able to fit around your wrist.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a larger or smaller circle for varied handbag sizes.
  • Make sure the ribbon you choose will easily fit inside the opening. Increase the hem to one inch if needed.
  • Do not cut the ribbon too short or you will have trouble opening and closing the bag.
  • Do not use stretch fabrics as this may cause difficulties when sewing.

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