DIY Leather Purse (Frill)

As part of the series of leather purses I wanted to share the techniques for a purse with a frill feature on the front. If you are new to sewing leather, or if you want to brush up on your techniques and learn basic purse construction I recommend that you read the plain purse blog post and watch the corresponding video: How To: Leather Plain Purse DIY.

Watch the video for this tutorial and learn how to sew the frill purse: How To: Leather Frill Purse DIY.

You will need to start by cutting out the following sizes in your leather or material of choice. If you are working with a fabric that frays I recommend reading through the whole tutorial before starting the project. I have left the edge of the frill and the tabs on the zip un-finished (the raw edge of the leather). (If you wish to use a fabric that frays check out this tutorial, especially for the tabs: How To: Quilted Wash Bag.)

Please note that the measurements are designed in metric and imperial separately, the measurements are not converted. Choose your preferred measuring unit and stick with it throughout the tutorial.

I am going to presume that you are comfortable cutting out the leather pieces required. All these details are covered in the plain purse blog post and tutorial: DIY Leather Purse (Plain). You are also going to need a 4″ (10cm) zip to work with the measurements.

Start by working with the frill, you will need to gather the frill by approximately 3″ (7.6cm) to make it the same width as the front top and bottom. It will attached in-between the front top and front bottom.

Complete a gathering stitch along the top edge of the frill in the seam allowance (1/4″ (5mm)). Make sure that you are working with the top of the frill (the top of the pattern and/or nap of the fabric.)

On the sewing machine complete 2 rows of gathering stitch (stitch length 4mm or greater), no backstitching.

Stitch the first row 1/4″ (5mm) away from the edge of the fabric and the second row in between the first row and the edge of the fabric.

Pull on the gathering threads (two threads from the same side) to reduce the size of the frill, until it matches the width of the front top and bottom.

Distribute the gathers evenly across the width of the frill.

Position the frill onto the front bottom (the top edge), with both right sides facing up. Match the top edge of the frill and front bottom together and the side edges of the frill to the side of the front piece. Distribute the gathers on the frill evenly across the width.

Attach the frill onto the bottom front. Stitch in the seam allowance, approximately 1/4″ (5mm) away from the edge. Try not to catch the gathering threads.

I recommend using a walking foot when possible throughout the tutorial, you should find it will help to move the leather through the machine.

Once the frill is attached to the bottom edge you can trim the threads and attach the front top.

The front top can be positioned onto the frill with the right side of the fabric and the right side of the frill positioned together. Be sure to place the nap and/or pattern of the fabric correctly, the edge attaching to the frill is the bottom edge of the nap/pattern (bottom edge of the front top).

Stitch on the sewing machine following the seam allowance (1/2″ (1cm)) and use a standard stitch length (2.5mm).

You may find the layers of seam allowances are bulky and need to be trimmed or graded. The seam allowance will sit towards the top of the bag, press fabric or use a leather roller.

The rule for grading is that the seam allowance closest to the front of the product/garment must be the largest. Therefore I recommend leaving the seam allowance from the front top as it is and trimming both the frill and front bottom seam allowances to half (approximately 1/4″ (5mm)). If you feel you need to stagger the seam allowances further, trim the front bottom down to 1/8″ (3mm).

Remove the gathering stitches (you may find you cut away the gathering stitches when trimming.)

Once the seam allowances have been trimmed you are able to attach the front of the purse (with the frill) and back of the purse to the zip. I won’t cover the details in this tutorial as they are the same as the plain purse: DIY Leather Purse (Plain). Finish the ends of the zip and attach the front and back of the purse onto the zip, topstitch to finish.

Think about which way you want the zip to open (when looking at the purse from the front), as this bag doesn’t have a symmetrical front and back pattern piece you need to make a decision. Generally speaking if you are right handed you will probably want the zip to open towards the right and close towards the left. When you attach the front of the purse onto the zip, check before sewing that the zip will open in your chosen direction.

Now it is time to sew the bag together, position the right sides of the bag together, match the top edges (next to the zip) and make sure that the frill is in-between the layers.

Remember to open the zip so that you can turn the bag around afterwards.

Complete the sewing process as demonstrated with the plain purse: DIY Leather Purse (Plain). Stitch starting at the top edge (next to the zip tabs) on both sides and sew down to the bottom. Stitch following the 1/2″ (1cm) seam allowance, use a 2.5mm stitch length and back stitch at the start and end. I recommend sewing off the fabric at the start so that this area is nice and secure. If your machine struggles to feed the fabric through use the hand wheel to walk the stitches in this section slowly. If you are able to use the walking foot it will help, however you may find that the zipper tab is in the way and you need to use the zipper foot.

Backstitch at the bottom edge for approximately 1/2″ (1cm), this is the length of the seam allowance on the bottom edge. The seam allowances will be trimmed down after sewing and you need to make sure the stitches are secure. The reason why you can’t stitch all the way around the purse, down one side, along the bottom and up the other side is due to potential slip at the top corners. The top corners (of the zipper) need to be sewn first so that they are held in position and that the edges will match when the bag is turned around. Finally stitch along the bottom edge using the same seam allowance 1/2″ (1cm) and back stitching past the previous rows of stitching to secure these areas. If the bag is going to take a lot of strain or tension I would recommend sewing over the first row of stitching, or using a smaller stitch length of 1.5mm for reinforcement.

Alternatively start stitching at the top edge and stitch down to the bottom corner, pivot at the corner and stitch to a central point along the bottom edge of the purse. I recommend marking the corner using a ruler and pen or chalk for an accurate finish. Complete on the other side and stitch on top of the previous stitching at the centre bottom.

When completing either method make sure that the frill stays between the 2 layers of fabric and doesn’t shift (it may sit outside of the edge of the front and back, this is normal), and the seam allowances sit in the correct direction.

Trim down the seam allowances to 1/8″ (3mm) and cut off the corners, as well as the extra zip tabs. Turn to the right side and poke out the corners.

All finished! Remember to watch the step by step guide on YouTube if you get stuck at any point: How To: Leather Frill Purse DIY.

I hope you have enjoyed making these purses, if you feel able to share your sewing on Facebook, I would love to see your results.