I love Pinterest. It's the nexus of information for so many of my interests; beauty, style, DIY renovations, homesteading, recipes, it has them all! Recently I've been seeing the same sponsored Pin over and over, for a lovely felt purse organizer. Intrigued, I clicked through, and it was very nice, but they wanted $40 for it, which is a fair price for good craftsmanship, but I knew I could do it myself without much trouble, and for much less money.
So I headed to my local fabric store, and bought a yard of wool felt. It would have been $9.99, but there was only 35" (one inch short of a yard) left on the bolt, so they gave me the whole piece for 50% off, glorious! Felt is so wonderful for beginning sewing projects, because it's incredibly forgiving, solid but easy to sew through, and the edges don't require any hemming or finishing.
I haven't published sewing tutorials before, despite really loving to sew, because like a chef who doesn't use recipes, I mostly eye things and figure out roughly what's going to work for me. I decided after finishing this project in under two hours, with only a straight stitch and the felt, that this would be a great opportunity to walk you through my freeform sewing process, and teach you to do the same. This project is incredibly adaptable to the size and shape of your bags, and what you'd like to keep organized in them. I have lots of beautiful tote bags that I am constantly losing things in the bottom of, so my project is largish and squarish, but yours might be more like a wallet, or rounded at the bottom, or simply much smaller, but no matter the size and shape of your bag, you will have the same result of being able to easily transfer all your belongings from one bag to another as you switch bags.
Without further ado, here's my process:
1) I measured the smallest bag I wanted the organizer to fit in. I measured the inner height of the bag, and the width of the bottom where it is flat, and the width of the opening of the bag. I doubled the height (to account for two sides) and added the width, added four inches, and came up with the length of the piece of felt I would cut, and then the width of the opening +1" seam allowance (the part that will be eaten up by sewing) for the width. That gave me a 11"x 24" piece of felt.
2) I folded over 2" of the felt along the short ends, and pinned them. These will become the reinforced handle section of the bag, so we are doubling the felt. This is why I added 4" to the measurement above.
3) I cut out two strips of fabric the width of the bottom of the bag, and the height of the inside of the bag. for me these pieces were 11" x 4". You can see where I have marked the bottom of the bag with washable sewing pencil.
4) Then I started pulling out all the objects I wanted to safely store in my bag. I took each of these, laid them out on the piece of felt to see where they would best fit, cut piece of felt to fit over them (you need to account for the depth of the item, not just the width, or it won't be able to fit. Pinning the fabric down over the actual objects ensures you will get a snug, secure fit. I want you to take notice of how totally imperfect these pieces are- the final product still looks great!
I measured my iPad in its case, and then cut a piece of felt a few inches wider.
Don't you need a pocket in your purse exactly the right size and depth for your lipstick? I know I do, I'm always losing it in the bottom of my bag.
5) Once you have everything pinned, you can start sewing. If you want to sew pockets on both the inside and the outside, you should make sure they are identical, so you don't sew through any of your other pockets. There are more advanced techniques to get around this, but I want this to be an ultimate beginner accessible project. I chose to sew a small pouch with even more pockets to place inside the organizer, rather than sew pockets on both the inside and the outside.
Sew your pockets and your handles first. Give yourself about 1/4-1/2" from the edge, and just use a straight stitch. Make sure to use the reverse function after you sew about 1/2" in, and then again at the end, this reinforces the edge of your pockets so they don't come unraveled. So you sew straight ahead, then go in reverse back to the beginning, then sew over both of those all the way to the end, then reverse again, then sew to the end again, so the top edges of your pockets will each have been stitched 3x.
To sew the handles, go straight across where you've pinned, being careful to remove the pins as you go, and then you can do any number of rows of stitches straight across, up and down, whatever you'd like, you can get sort of freeform creative with it. I chose to go in sort of a rectangular spiral. Just be sure to leave 4" in the center unsewn but reinforced around it. This is where you will cut slits in the felt for handles.
6) Now sew your sides on. I find it easiest to sew longways along one side, then the other, on both sides, and then sew the sides to the bottom, so you are working with an easily collapsible shape as long as possible, because it's easier to smush through the machine. It is up to you whether you want your seams on the outside or the inside, it's totally a style choice and not an important one.
7) Take an x-acto knife or rotary cutter and carefully cut 4" long slits in the center of the handles. Boom, you're done!
My next freeform sewing suggestion tutorial is going to be a matching wallet for holding cards and cash. If you make this project, be sure to share photos with me on Instagram by tagging @Heyjilliankirby, or on the Hey Jillian facebook page.
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