Tutorial: Recycle a Uniform Into a Treasured Keepsake Purse
Lazies, Look at this fun and festive tote for my friend Kim in celebration of her youngest son becoming an Eagle Scout. See how to use a den mother’s uniform to craft this special keepsake bag.
I didn’t have a plan, but when I saw the fabulous pockets on those sturdy uniform pants, so I had a solid starting point. Imagine the possibilities in recycling one of your sentimental articles of clothing into a treasured keepsake like this purse.
Start With a Uniform or Favorite Piece of Clothing
Here’s what I started with: Kim’s den mother uniform. This top is full of fun sewn details like the pockets, as well as badges that I can use for embellishments.
The pants are made of sturdy fabric that are a great choice for a durable outside fabric for the bag. We also have patch pockets, a zippered fly front, and hip pockets to put to good use.
Formulate a Plan for Construction
Choose a purse or bag pattern with a basic shape. I used the style, size and construction approach of my Margo Handbag pattern (below) as the basis for this bag. Simply put, constructt the four major pieces of the bag out of the top and pants: outside front/back and the lining front/back.
Then cobble together bits and pieces of the uniform until they mimic the parts of the bag. Add and trim as needed to make sure these four pieces are the same size. Then add the handles, zip top closure, and stitch all of the pieces together to finish the bag.
Kim’s Scout bag. Size: 12″ wide by 11″ tall by 4″ deep.
Look at this beauty! I love how the bag turned out. This is the front of the bag.
Front of Kim’s bag.
Use the Pants for the Outside of the Bag
The pants were a bounty of good things, waiting to go to work as a purse. I used the front and back pockets to make the front and back of the bag. Cut the pants just below the crotch, then trim near the side and middle seams in order to make the largest flat pieces possible.
Bag Front: Here’s the front of the bag. The hip patch pockets with the curved openings are perfect here. Cut around them, then sew them together, leaving the pockets intact. Add panels to the left and right edges to make the piece wide enough. The lower corners will form the boxed bottom of the bag so no fabric is needed there.
Bag Back: Construct the back of the bag the same as the front. Use the patch pockets, intact, including some of the pants fabric around each pocket to make the piece big enough for the purse. If you are short of fabric, remove the pockets and sew them to a new base fabric. Here I added a ‘waistband’ at the top to get the size needed.
The awesome badges from Kim’s shirt were added to the front and back of the bag, including her troop and den numbers. Sewing badges on by hand is no picnic. I hope someone has come up with a quick way to add these beauties. Sewing by hand is not Lazy!
Use the Shirt for the Lining
Now, let me tell you, the inside of the bag is a blank slate ready for fun. The back of the shirt was large enough for both lining pieces. Add a medium weight fusible interfacing, like my Face-It Firm SLG104 for structure.
The pant’s fly front zip is turned sideways, or horizontal, and a pocket is built around it for the lining. Then I added a shirt breast pocket on top of that.
Use extra fabric from a pant’s leg to make a band of pockets for the other lining piece. Some leather strips and charms from each scouting event make great zipper pulls.
Don’t forget to use those badges! The pockets are a great place to add any badges you still have left.
Zippered Fly Front
Remember the zipper fly front? Here’s a closer look at that. The fly front zip from the pants is turned sideways and incorporated as the top edge of a zippered pocket! After removing the waistband, sew the open end of the zip fly closed. Put those great sewn features to work for you.
Look at how festive the inside of the bag is! It will be a treat every time Kim opens the bag.
Finally, Kim’s height provided lots of pant leg length so I was able to make long shoulder straps for her bag. Just a couple more views.
I love seeing the inside of a bag!
Kim loves her bag. When I gave Kim this bag, she investigated every nook and cranny, tried to discern where each part of the bag came from, and immediately moved into the purse. What special garment do you have tucked away, waiting to be transformed into a new favorite?
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