Super Simple Sewing: Rectangle Placemat Purse

purse tote stripedpurse tote flowers

This is my first sewing project and it is quite simple to do.  I made some small handbags using rectangular placemats.  By using a placemat, it ensures that you do not have to worry about finishing your seams, nor do you have to use your trusty ruler and scissors to measure and cut fabric. Also, placemats are often double-sided, so you have a choice as to which side you want to see on the outside while the inside looks equally spiffy in a coordinating fabric without having to insert a lining.

It is a very good first project for somebody still wary of measuring and cutting properly.  The handles used were plastic purse handles, although you can also get wooden ones, and were attached to the bag using grosgrain ribbon.

Supplies:  One rectangular placemat, scissors, ruler, plastic or wooden purse handles, chalk or fabric pencils, coordinating grosgrain ribbon (for widths and lengths, see details below), one sew on snap closure and buttons, beads or other embellishments (optional).

  1. Cut five pieces of grosgrain ribbon (four will need to be the width of the openings in your purse handles, as they are going to be threaded through these openings, and the remaining fifth piece will be for the closure so it can be of a different width).  Cut each piece approximately 10 cm (4-5”) long.  Find the centre of the short end of your placemat and mark this.  Measure the distance between the two ends of one handle and centre this measurement on the short end of the placemat.  Mark these two measurements (where the openings on the handle fall) on both the right and wrong sides of the placemat, approximately 2 cm (1”) down from this short edge.  Sew one end of the ribbon to the right side of your placemat on one of these marks.  Sew one end of the second piece of ribbon to the right side of the placemat on the other mark.  Do the same for the opposite short end of the placemat so that you have four pieces of ribbon hanging off the right side, two on each short end.
  2. Next, sew the fifth piece of ribbon, the closure, to the right side of only ONE short side of the placemat, right on the centre mark.   
  3. Thread one end of the handle ribbon through the opening in one end of a purse handle.  Then, flip it to the inside of the placemat and sew into place on the mark you made earlier on the inside or wrong side of the placemat.  Do the same for the other end of the handle.  One handle should now be attached to one short end of the place mat.  Then, repeat this for the opposite short end with the other handle and two ribbon pieces.
  4. Now, we are going to need wide grosgrain ribbon, it can be the same as the closure ribbon or something else.  Cut two pieces, each equal to the width of the short end of your placemat.  Sew one ribbon on each end of the placemat so that you cover the raw edges of the ribbon pieces that you just sewed on.
  5. Fold the placemat in half lengthwise, with right sides facing, and stitch both sides together.
  6. Then, box both corners and turn the bag right side out.  Click here to find out more about boxing corners.
  7. Now you can hand sew one half of your snap to the inside of  the closure piece of ribbon.    Flip over the ribbon to the other side of the purse and mark where you will need to sew on the other half of the snap.  Sew this half of the snap on the purse front and Ta Da!  You should have a handy purse sized tote.

You can also add embellishments, like beads, fabric flowers or buttons, to the front of your bag, I sewed on some jewelry pieces and buttons to the closure piece of ribbon, on the opposite side of the snap.

tote pursesmall tote - flowers

10 thoughts on “Super Simple Sewing: Rectangle Placemat Purse

    • Gjeometry says:

      Thanks Alice! They were my first project and even I managed to pull them off. Feel free to follow the instructions here and if you are having any problems with them, just message me! I’d love to see pics if you make some.

  1. Anna says:

    great job. i’m a beginner and have trouble starting. have all the fabric, machine, etc. Your project looks really simple. how did you do the black connecting strips for handle. looks like studs. ever think of doing a video? regards, anna

    • Gjeometry says:

      Hi there anna! Thanks for checking out the project. The black strips (for the striped purse) and the blue ones (for the flowered purse) that connect the handles are actually grosgrain ribbon. I chose a matching, yet thinner, ribbon that I also used to sew around the purse to cover up the raw edges of the connecting grosgrain ribbon piece. The closure piece is also grosgrain ribbon, with a snap sewn onto it. Good luck with your placemat purse and please send a picture of it if you complete it!

  2. Boomdeeadda says:

    I linked to this yummy post via Alys’s today. She’s posting about the ‘Craft It Forward’ you sent her, which was all so thoughtful and sooooo Alys. I can’t even believe you’ve only been sewing for not even a year. It’s amazing what you are accomplishing on your magic sewing machine already. I like the idea of using a placemat, I would have never that of it. The handles almost look vintage, which of course I love.

    • Gjeometry says:

      N’aw thanks Boomdee! I’m so glad Alys likes her gifts. What a wonderful post she made about it! And, the other day my brother commented on my blog and mentioned that he was wearing the pajamas I had made him last Christmas and I realized those were the first garments I’d ever made and that my one year sewing AND blogging anniversary is coming up in less than 2 months! I can definitely say this past-time has ‘stuck’. I eat breathe and sleep sewing. (I’m actually lying in bed now surrounded by sewing books, Lol.)

      • Boomdeeadda says:

        LOL, no kidding? Well your do-dilegence shows. I mean OMGosh…..your cape!!! The inside were just as gorgeous as outside. What kind of Sewing Machine do you have. I looked at some really really nice ones a while ago….to die 4. Sweet dreams, off to bed too. Hope that wind didn’t make your house shake apart. Saw that on the news tonight…NOT fun!

        • Gjeometry says:

          Coincidentally my sewing machine broke down last month and I just got some new ones. Nothing too fancy but watch for a blogpost I will write about them coming in the next 2 weeks!

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