Month of Makeovers Day 21: A purse goes wild and woolly

What do you get when you combine an ugly 1940s handbag with a moth-eaten vintage scarf?

Would you believe an accessory I’m going to love using this fall?

It all started with a handbag I bought at the flea market probably fifteen years ago. Maybe twenty! I liked the caramel colored plastic kiss-lock frame. The rest of it is an eyesore. Glitzy applique on rough textured fabric? Ugh. Cheap goldtone chain attached by eye hooks? Double ugh.


On the plus side, it had a really cool pair of sunglasses tucked inside. Imagine these popped on horn-rimmed glasses! How fun is that?

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I was going to rip off the mismatched applique and dye the purse body a nice butterscotch to match the handles. And then I found a moth-eaten scarf in a rag bag at my mom’s house. Looks interesting!


While the scarf was in hot water in the washer getting lightly felted I dug around in my fabric stash and found a piece of charcoal gray wool that had already gotten the same treatment. When the scarf was dry I cut off the two fringed ends to roughly the same dimensions of the original bag, plus two pieces of matching gray lining and a cell phone pocket. The pocket was cut with the top edge on the fabric selvedge so it doesn’t need finishing.

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The other three sides of the pocket were pressed under before I stitched it on. Then I sewed the lining pieces to the scarf pieces, and started stitching the purse body and lining together. (The gray felted fabric has a scrumptious texture and it was so nice to work with. I’ll have to make myself something to wear from the rest!)


This part was tricky! I soon discovered why the old purse had been mostly hand sewn. The original owner couldn’t figure out how to engineer the split side parts that line up with the hinged frame. I had to pick out some seams to get it to work out right. This photo probably doesn’t make sense and I can’t even describe it coherently. It’s a three-dimensional puzzle. I had to actually manipulate it to work it out. I’m not good at simply visualizing garment construction. Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

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I only got away with all machine stitching because I hadn’t sewn the fringed bottoms together yet. That gave me an opening to turn the stitched pieces right side out. I pressed all the seams then stitched the casing for the attachment rods. A minute later the new purse body was in the frame. Relief! I’ve just about pulled it off!


The final touches were to hand stitch the frame to the purse fabric at the hinges, and make a replacement chain with split brass rings and vintage plastic links I got from Etsy. The links aren’t a perfect match but I’m going to be content and enjoy this. No perfectionism!


It’s done! I love the fall colors and the soft texture.

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So what do you think? What would you do with this old purse frame?

See the entire list of projects for our Month of Makeovers HERE.

2 Comments on “Month of Makeovers Day 21: A purse goes wild and woolly”

  1. Super cute! And I love that you kept the fringe and tag on the scarf!