Introduction: Gucci Inspired Handbag From Paper Bags

$34,000 Gucci inspired red alligator handbag made from Trader Joe’s Brown Paper Bags.

So...My sister is a bit of a handbag freak to say the least. She is forever sharing her finds on Pinterest of the handbags she loves moment to moment. A few weeks back she sent a link to her current favorite “at the moment handbag”. A $34,000 Gucci red alligator hand bag! Oh my goodness! I could by 2 cars with that! Anyways, I got to thinking about how I might try to recreate a Gucci inspired version of this handbag from paper for this contest and for fun I would send it to her as a gift. Mind you, I have never made a handbag in my life, so please forgive any crude or rudimentary mis-steps I may make. I have also never made a pattern before so again forgive me. I did make a few alterations to my bag that are a bit different from the inspiration bag, so we will call this a Gucci-esque red alligator paper purse made from some Trader Joe’s brown paper bags, a bit of color and some strategically placed glue. So here we go...


(Trader Joe’s brown paper bags at least 4)
Printer ink, dye or paint in the color of your choice (i used printer ink because I had it on hand.

Super Thick Tacky Glue I used Aleen’s but any glue that is super thick and dries clear and flexible will work.

Alligator skin stencil See attached PDF to down load the image. You can always buy a stencil if you don’t want to cut your own.

Brown paper bags

Card stock or textured paper to print fabric element

Putty Knife

Super Thick Tacky glue

Alligator Stencil

Printer Ink, dye or paint in your choice of color

Poly acrylic sealer

Paint brush/sponges

Black craft foam

Adhesive backed black felt

Contact cement


Rivets and rivet setter

Leather punch

Magnet snap closure

Gold Chain (optional)

Gold button

Freezer Paper

Purse pattern (Attached PDF)

You can use any handbag pattern you like for this project.

Step 1: Prepare a Stencil

So Let’s get started
First you will need to buy or make the alligator stencil. I used an image I found on google for an alligator pattern and altered it in photoshop to black and white so I could convert it to a stencil. I use some discarded acetate packaging material that I had just thrown out and it was clear which was perfect. I then loaded it up to my Cricut and cut away. When choosing a stencil material, it should have enough thickness, to allow for some height for your texture. If you are using a Cricut, have it set to go over it twice for the thicker material. I don't recommend contact paper or the like, because it won't have enough height. You don't have to use alligator either. You can do a snake texture or maybe damask pattern etc... Be as creative as you like.

Step 2: Get Your Paper Bags Ready for Painting

Gather some brown paper bags. You will need to cut your bags down to a workable size making sure when you cut the pieces, they will big enough to accommodate the size of the stencil plus a border. You will also need to have them large enough to accommodate each pattern pieces. It’s always better the make more than you think you need.

Step 3: Time to Add Some Color

Lay out some freezer wrap to protect the area. I used printer ink and it just happened that it saturated right through the bag. If you are using paint, that won't happen. You only need to color on one side because the other side will be covered the foam. Set all this aside with the to dry.

Step 4: Sealing the Color.

Now that everything is dry, you will seal the color in with a poly acrylic sealer.

Lay out some freezer wrap shinny side up. Spread out your nicely colored paper bags on the freezer wrap. Grab a brush and your poly-urethane and paint the poly on both sides of the colored bags to completely seal
it in. I recommend the if you have bags like mine that have print on them, poly the non-usuable side first so when you flip it over, the good side with be the last side painted and have a nice smooth sheen to it.

(You could even stop here after this step if you are not interested in having an alligator texture. After this step has dried, what you will have will look like faux leather that you could use for many projects like covering books or make a wallet etc...

Step 5: Stencil on the Texture

Once everything is sealed and dried it’s time to stencil the texture on. Spray a light coating of spray adhesive on the back of the stencil and place it on the bag pressing down to adhere it to the bag. The more secure it is on the bag, the less seepage you will get. Empty out a generous amount of the glue on top of the stencil. Using the edge of the putty knife drag the glue over the stencil keeping the putty knife at a 45 degree angle. Drag all the glue over the entire stencil until fully covered. Remove the stencil carefully and you should see the pattern in white on the colored bag. Repeat until all the bags are covered and let all of this dry for a good 4 or more hours. As it dries, it will become clear and the color will show through the texture.

Step 6: The Purse Pattern

Now for the pattern, like I said, I have never done this before so I pretty much looked at the inspiration picture and just tried to figure it out to the best I could. I used a light box to try to line things up and just randomly picked measurement that would accommodate the size of the material I was working with . I wasn’t really sure how it would all come together as far as the pattern was concerned so I printed and cut it out on card stock and taped it all together to see if I was at least close. It ended up being a good idea, because I did have to make a few adjustments to the pattern. As you will see in the end results that I ended up not using a buckle strap and used the faux fabric piece with the gold chains to really sell the Gucci inspiration part.

Step 7: Laying Out the Pattern on Your Faux Alligator Skins

After I made the required adjustments on the pattern I reprinted them on card stock and cut out the pieces to lay out on the faux alligator leather. Like with leather, I tried to pick the best areas of the leather to place the patterns piece. I used some painter’s tape and gently placed the pattern pieces on the textured side of the material. After that, I did a rough cut around the pattern pieces leaving a good sized border.

To give the faux alligator some structure, I used the black craft foam as a stabilizer for the main components, I laid a layer of glue down and attached the rough cut pattern pieces. Once they were attached, I did a fine cut to the edge of the pattern pieces. (leave the pattern pieces on even after the fine cut. There are markings on there for the clasp and rivet holes that you will need later.

Step 8: Attaching the Clasp to the Front Flap

Using the template piece, place it on the back of the adhesive backed felt. Using the exacto knife or use a pen to mark the slits you will use to attach the magnet clasp. Slice through the felt. On the fuzzy side of the felt push the 2 arms of the clasp through. Lifting the protective sheet on the adhesive side place the washer over the 2 arms sticking through and press both arms down to the outside until flat. Then attach the faux leather piece. The snap side of the clasp should be on the fuzzy side and the leather side should look nice and flat.

Step 9: Attach the Clasp to the Front Piece

Using the front flap template, line up the fold line to the top of the front piece of the bag. Using a pen mark on the top side of the leather where the slits will go for the other side of the clasp. Cut the slits and insert the arms of the clasp. Now flip it over slide the washer over the arms and flatten the arms down. on either side.

Step 10: Attach the Front Flap to the Back Piece

As much as I wanted to sew this purse together, especially these to piece, my sewing machine just wouldn't accept it. It's kind of a crappy sewing machine. So, if your machine will take it then sew these pieces together. If you don't have a sewing machine, you can glue it like I did. I used the same Super Thick Tacky glue that I used to make the texture and it holds really well.

Step 11: Getting the Handle Ready

We're not going to put this on just yet but lets get it ready. There's a rounded end on the strap handle to accept the curve of the D-ring. The tabs have been cut with a little groove in it the allow it to get right up against the d-ring and encompass the handle. Even though there are rivet holes marked on the template, I ignored them and lined everything up the way I wanted and used the leather punch to punch the rivet hole so everything lined up perfectly. Then just put the rivet through the front side the strap and the back side and click the rivet in place. Grab the rivet base, stem and a hammer. Put the rivet on the base and the stem on the top part of the rivet and give it a good blow with the hammer. Strap is ready!

Step 12: Let Pull It All Together

Gather all the pieces that make up the purse and lay them out like in the picture. Again if you have a sewing machine and would like to sew these pieces, go right ahead. I had to glue it as before. Glue or sew the front and back and then pull the side pieces up and clue them in place. Same glue as before. It's really thick and strong. You should have something that resembles a purse body now!

Step 13: Add That Handle Now

To attach the handle, I grabbed the flap template to find the middle of the fold on the flap and went in a 1/2 inch and marked that on both sides. As before, I folded the strap holder as even as possible and used the leather punch to go through both sides for a perfect line up. Take that folded strap holder and wrap over the straight side of the d-ring. Line it up with the dot on the flap fold and feed the leather punch through the holes and punch through the top of the flap. Again you will attach the rivet in the same fashion as before. Repeat on the other side. Handle attached!

Step 14:

So for the Gucci-esque strip, I found this textured paper in my closet and thought this would kind of mimic the feel of fabric. In photoshop I made the dark blue and red strip and added a fabric texture pattern over that. I printed it out on the textured paper and it had a pretty trompe l'oeil effect. Forgot to take a pic of this, but like before, I painted the poly acrylic on both the front and back side. I wasn't happy with the red being a different rend than the purse so I grabbed a scrap of the alligator and made a strip of that to cover the red. I liked that better in the end anyways. I put the flap template over this strip and cut the ends to a point. I attached that to a piece of the adhesive backed felt added glue to the back and glued it down the middle of the purse letting a portion of it drape over the back and making sure that the point matched up.

Step 15: The Finishing Touches

The gold chain was one long length so I measured how long it need to be and then cut two pieces and super glued them to the center strip. Had a little left over so I attached it to the back bottom of the strip to give it a more finished look. I stole a button off of an old jacket and super glued that to the front of the chains.

Step 16: Files and Closing Thoughts

Along the way I change a lot of my original ideas and had a lot of redos. I had originally thought that regular tacky glue would be perfect so just let me save you the trouble. Don't use regular tacky glue. It was a mess. Definitely get the Super Thick Tacky Glue. It was also easier than the tacky glue to stick thing together as well.

I really wanted to add the stitching but it just didn't work with my machine.

I had though maybe a belt would have been better than the gold chain, but in the end, the gold chain was so much better and sold the Gucci flash look.

All in all, you can actually use this bag and I really am going to send it to my sister. She should get a kick out of it.

Thanks so much for checking out my project!

Paper Contest

Second Prize in the
Paper Contest