Introduction: Super Strong Bowler-Style Bag

About: Welcome! Pleased to meet you, I am Barb; a Maker. I have been making things AND explaining how to make things for as long as I can remember. I was all about DIY before it was a popular term. I absolutely love …

Yes, it may look pretty but don't be fooled; it's super STRONG! You know how great denim is and this is made with many many layers of denim.

It's not a bought fabric print; it's all original design in sewing; free-motion technique. I personally hate wimpy slouchy purses but I also don't have a professional machine to sew cowhide so that's what led to this design, as it employs the fact that the 'Roses' are actually making the fabric much stronger than it was. Who says utilitarian needs to be ugly?!

As for supplies, much can come from upCycling!


  • Various pieces of denim/old jeans
  • Threads of various Blues
  • Scissors/Rotary cutter
  • 4 - 1" D-Rings
  • Pins or clips
  • 2 Zippers (at least 12", over-length are fine)
  • 1/4 yard Fusible Web
  • 2 - Clasp-Clips with 1" ends
  • Sewing Machine with basic presser foot
  • Free-Motion (darning) Presser foot
  • 5-6" Zipper
  • 1 yard of 1/4"ID vinyl tubing
  • Lining Fabric
  • 8" of 1/4" ribbon
  • Thin leather or Imitation Leather (trim, straps & bottom)

Step 1: Pattern & Basic Side Pieces

First, you will need the pattern! I made sure the pattern worked out and it's available to download here:

Make sure you print it without scaling and notice the fold lines (place on fold)

  1. Cut the 2 side pieces out of denim, make slightly (1/2") oversized at first (to allow recutting after quilting)
  2. Double if added strength is desired
  3. Assemble a variety of blues of denim scraps
  4. Iron some fusible web to the back of these pieces (about 6" x 8" pieces)
  5. Use backing sheet provided or parchment paper to avoid it sticking to iron
  6. Notice fabric now has a shiny back layer which makes it now able to be adhered by ironing

Step 2: Creating the Images & Strengthening Sides

This 'Rose' pattern is really easy as they are just odd shapes of varying tones of blue. Any geometric shape can also work if flowers are not your thing. This is called Art Quilting.

  1. Cut random 'squiggles' and place on fabric
  2. Cut leaf shapes as well
  3. Look at images of roses for inspiration
  4. Keep Lighter & larger pieces on outside of shapes
  5. Using Parchment paper Iron to adhere to fabric
  6. Adjust Sewing machine to settings for darning (ie, feed dogs lowered) and install free-motion/darning foot or another method depending on machine (most can adapt in some way)
  7. Move fabric around while sewing, somewhat like 'doodling' with a sewing machine. Don't be too fussy as it's supposed to look sketchy!
  8. Using different colours of thread will add interest as well.
  9. Admire your roses!

Step 3: Adding the Zippers

Using the Pattern again, recut to exact size. This pattern is a great shape as it sits flat and has minimal pieces. Less pieces means less chance of breakage.

  1. Cut Zipper at end stops and melt with lighter to stop fraying
  2. Mark top center (notch) and sew 1 zipper from center top on each side
  3. Leave extra zipper length for now

Step 4: Making & Adding the Handles

This purse has to short handles as well as a cross body option

  1. Cut 2 17.5" x 4" pieces of 'leather' and double fold, sewing at the edge (check to see that tube will allow to slide in freely)
  2. Slide Vinyl into strap
  3. Secure the D-rings by folding over at ends and sewing multiple times
  4. Make tabs by folding over and inserting ribbon as sewing to add extra reinforcement (*tip from the professionals)
  5. Mark Placement of tabs with tape
  6. Sew tabs into place (rivets can be used if desired) with multiple lines of sewing to reinforce
  7. TADA! Handles!

Step 5: Adding Inside Pockets to Lining Pieces

Cut Lining & pocket pieces. This design has one patch pocket and one zippered

  1. Cut the pieces for the pockets
  2. Double the zipper-pocket piece with the lining and stitch the slim rectangle
  3. Cut the middle and into the corners
  4. Turn and press
  5. Center the zipper in the 'hole' and sew zipper all around
  6. Fold up bottom piece and stitch sides & top.
  7. Finish top edge of patch pocket with double fold over and fold around outside.
  8. Stitch on 3 sides
  9. Pockets done!

Step 6: Adding Lining to Sides

Since this bag is basically 3 pieces (2 sides and bottom) a triangle at the side helps keep contents in and open wide. It is not totally necessary as it is a bit fussy to get/sew in place.

  1. Cut 2 triangular pieces
  2. Finish top edges by sewing fold-over
  3. Pin/clip in place right sides together at bottom side seam
  4. Place lining over one side (right sides together) and sew same line as was used to sew in zipper
  5. Turn right side out
  6. Tricky part: On second side, place finished side inside making sure to position the triangle properly and sew same seam line as zipper. Tip; if sewing from side where stitch line is visible, easier to see/sew stitch line.

Step 7: Adding Bottom Trim

Turn the sewn sides right side out and steam press well flat to keep lining in place

  1. Check for fit of long strip around bottom of bag
  2. Sew centre seam of strip
  3. This strip is folded over (for strength)and top stitched around entire bottom of bag
  4. Stop before & after zipper

Step 8: Adding Bottom Piece

Once the trim is added it is now almost done.

  1. Cut one (or 2, if extra durability is wanted) bottom pieces marking centers.
  2. Optional; top-stitch if using 2 pieces to further reinforce
  3. Clip around trim piece at less than seam allowance (1/2") around entire pice about every 3/4" (trick to sew in any curved piece)
  4. Pin/clip in place right sides together matching centres and ease as needed
  5. Sew around oval bottom
  6. Trim to small seam for less bulk

Step 9: Bottom Lining

To finish it off without any seams showing the bottom lining is hand stitched

  1. Turn bag inside out
  2. To stiffen the bottom cut a styrofoam meat tray (or any thin plastic) to oval shape of bottom
  3. Pin bottom oval in place matching centres
  4. Sew a running stitch around and slip plate in before closing
  5. Neat and finished bottom

Step 10: Oh, the Details!

I like to make it look professional so small details matter!

  1. Sew a very thin strip of folded 'leather' (tip; to make sewing easier use a wider piece and then trim after)
  2. Tie strips into zipper pulls
  3. To hide any raw edges use a marker (or paint) to colour

Step 11: Cross Body Strap

Decide how long a strip (4x folded = 4" wide) you would like for your cross body taking in account the clips.

  1. Fold over double strip and top stitch each side (you can also up-cycle an old belt)
  2. Slip on clasp-clips and stitch multiple lines for strength
  3. Clip to D-rings on alternate sides
  4. Marvel at your new purse!

Step 12: Enjoy Your Bag!

Are you not amazed at how great this bag looks for so few pieces! It is inspired by bowling bags but is the best shape for a purse. I love how it sits so nicely and stays sturdy! Not to mention that it will always look great with the wardrobe of choice; jeans!

You could make a smaller version by printing the pattern smaller (seam allowance will also be smaller)

There's a special feeling by carrying an original 'designer' purse!

See more purses and projects one my site or one that uses no sewing

Happy making! Let me see how your's turns out...

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