What I did… Change Purse

My purse (change purse for all you American English speakers out there) was looking the worse for wear. I’d used it every day for a good couple of years and it was time to put it into graceful retirement. Given my previous success with a simple sewing project this seemed like the ideal time to tackle the challenge of adding a zip to a small lined bag.

Most people I know are aware I love my elephants and this lovely light weight cotton from eBay really caught my eye. It has a nice neutral background with a splash of bright yellow in the umbrella, with the tiny blue bird being an added bonus.


As I have quite the fondness for yellow at the moment I decided to line my purse with a matching plain yellow polycotton and use a bright yellow zip. I already had some grey cotton thread and I decided that would do just fine.

When the fabric arrived I realised that the elephant print was actually a lot larger than I’d planned, so instead of a repeating pattern of adorable little elephants I was going to have to waste a small amount of fabric and cut out two rectangles that had one centered elephant on each. I measured the zip so I knew how long the rectangle had to be and then drew rectangles around the elephant and his umbrella. I cut out matching rectangles from the lining fabric and sewed one rectangle of each fabric to one side of the zip. I really should have stopped being lazy and swapped out my machine’s normal sewing foot for a zip presser foot. It was incredibly tricky to navigate the normal presser foot around the bump caused by the zip and I had to unpick and resew that area a couple of times before I was happy with it. I sewed up the remaining fabric on the other side and ironed it carefully.

Now to get the lining fabric on one side and the outer fabric on the other. Carefully sew around the edges all the way around, trying to keep the teeth of the zip facing towards the lining side. Make sure to leave a gap in the lining and partially undo the zip otherwise you have no chance of turning everything the right way round later. Turn inside out, sew up the lining hole and iron again for a nice crisp finish. I used a small piece of spare lining fabric to tie around the zip so it’s easier to open and close.

This wasn’t bad for a first attempt. The fabric was a little more translucent than I’d hoped for and thin enough that the finished purse is a little floppy. The sewing of the zip wasn’t great and so it’s a bit wonky. Next time I try this with similar fabric I’ll use a bit of interfacing between the layers to give it a bit more structure. I’ll definitely also use the right presser foot on my machine to see whether that makes any difference to how easy it is to sew the zip on. I’m still going to use this purse for a while though. It fits all my cards and coins really easily and I can spot the bright yellow zip easily inside my handbag.

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