I recently found myself shopping for a shoulder bag/purse and getting frustrated when, after a few months, I still hadn’t found something that met my needs. All the bags were the wrong colour or price or size or lacked pockets. When a friend gave me the idea of sewing my own bag, I dug through my fabric stash, only to find nothing suitable… beyond a pair of old pants that had holes on the inseam but were otherwise in perfect condition. As I looked at my pants (once a favourite pair), an idea sparked. Here’s how I turned that pair of pants into a shoulder bag and how you can do the same thing.
1. Select a pair of pants to recycle.
Find a pair of pants that still have some use left; e.g., perhaps there are holes in the bum or inseam, but lots of good fabric in the legs. Decide how tall you want your bag and cut the legs off the pants. I wanted my bag to hold a binder, so I cut the legs just above the knee. Using a seam ripper or scissors, tear or cut the legs open along one side (whichever seam isn’t topstitched).
2. Cut out your bag.
Lay the fabric from the pant legs flat and cut to the size of your bag, leaving extra space for your seam allowance. You will be using the hem of the pants as the top of your bag (unless it is the part worn out), so measure from there. The seam on the pants can be used as decoration on your bag; I wanted this seam in the centre of my bag, so I trimmed the edges of the fabric.
3. Add pockets.
Using your seam rippers, tear the pockets off your pants Position them on your bag and sew them on, following the topstitching originally used to sew the pockets to the pants. My pants had two back pockets and a large “cargo” pocket on each leg. I used one cargo pocket to create a pocket for my coffee mug on one side of my bag. Pay attention to pocket placement so you still have seam allowances on the sides of the bag.
To hide a pocket inside the bag, place a pocket on the outside of the bag in the same place. On my bag, I sewed one back pants pocket on the inside of the bag and added four seams for five pens; then I sewed the other back pocket on the outside of the bag to hide the seams from the inside pocket.
If your pants have other decals (embroidery, tags) that you’d like to use, cut or tear them off and sew them onto your bag now.
4. Sew the bag.
Place the two sides of your bag right sides together and sew the sides and bottom, using the pants hem (if possible) as the top hem of the bag. If the pants hem isn’t useable, then hem the bag after sewing the side seams.
5. Add a handle.
Using the scraps from your pants, cut out a handle for your bag. I used four pieces of fabric, each about 2 1/2 inches wide and 21 inches long. Sew the scraps together on the short ends, then place right sides together and sew the long ends to create a tube. Turn the tube inside out and topstitch (if desired). Stitch handles to the inside of your bag, at the sides.
Strut your new purse for your friends!
To Make a Smaller Bag:
When I had finished my bag, my daughters wanted bags of their own. I took another pair of pants and cut the legs off. Instead of ripping the side seams out, I turned the legs inside out and sewed across the open, unhemmed end to create a bag the same width as the pants leg. I then cut another strip of fabric from the legs, folded it in half and zigzag stitched along it, and stitched it onto the top of the bag. Voila—two bags for my daughters to play with.