Purse to Backpack How to

Finding the ‘just right’ bag can be tricky. There is always something out there that fits what I need and am looking for…except for one thing.
You know how it goes, right?!
Without having a whole lot of time to get a totally new bag made and finished, I decided it would be a lot easier and quicker to start off with a finished purse and update it to fit what I really need.

new lining and backpack - update your purse with changing the straps and adding a new lining.

This is the bag….. can’t remember who it’s designed by.  Bought it for $3 at a thrift store.

purse to backpack tutorial

The bag originally had a messenger bag strap.  It was adjustable.  For my purposes I wanted a backpack.  I need something for quilt market (totally excited to go this year again!).   The bag needed to hang on the back so I could be hands free.  I love to touch and ooze over all the new fabric and notions.  I also needed something big enough to hold magazines or products that I pick up and pencils, business cards…ect. to hand out.

The bag fit the bill, but I needed a backpack!  So. First things up– the straps needed to be adjusted so they it made the bag a backpack.

The super long strap was big enough for both straps.  Because the bag was a sling style, the strap was usable to adjust.

1)  Adjust the strap as long as it will go

2)  Check the length and make sure it will work as backpack straps- I pinned the straps in the center on the bottom of the bag and then tried it on. It was a little awkward, but it gave me an idea that the straps were long enough to work.

3)  Cut the strap in half-  keeping them attached to the bag at each end

Now you will need to work from the inside.  Later on I’ll show you how to update the lining–

4)  Cut the bottom edge of the original lining- big enough for your hand to slip through

5)  Audition your placement of the strap on the bag.  My straps were placed about 1 1/2″ from the corner on the side of the bag.  I did try them on the bottom of the bag, but liked the side better.

5)  Stick your hand through the lining hole and grab the spot you are wanting to put the strap.

6)  Snip some of the stitches in the spot and make an opening just large enough for the strap

7)  Slip the strap in the opening and pin in place

8)  Stitch with your sewing machine- I passed the spot 3 times to make sure the opening was closed well and the strap was secured in it’s place

9)  Repeat with the other side and strap

Updating your purse lining~

The original lining was brown.  My eyes don’t like dark linings. I seriously cannot find anything in there!  There was no way this would work for me…. so I updated the lining.

new bag lining

1)  Measure your bag — I found mine was 15″ across, so I added 1/2″ for seam allowance.  That was for the width.  The other measurement I added 1 /2″ so I could box the corners and not loose height.

2)  Cut your lining – 2 pieces

pocket in the lining

3)  Add pockets if you’d like.  I cut my pockets 15 1/2″ X 8″.  Fold the piece in half- right sides facing and stitch.  Turn right sides out and stitch across one fold and then pin in place on one of the lining pieces. Sew the bottom of the pocket to the lining. Sew a few straight stitches to make separate pockets.

4)  Repeat with other lining side if you’d like additional pockets.

5)  Pin right sides together the lining and stitch three sides.  Leave the top open

6)  Box the corners of the lining

7)  Fold the top over 1/2″ and iron to the wrong side

lining of the bag sewing

8)  Slip the lining inside your bag and pin in place– I made mine start just below the zipper pocket.  I didn’t want to take the time to make a new zipper pocket, so this is my way around it.

9)  Hand stitch the lining in place, using a ladder stitch

update your purse tutorial

Have you updated your purse before?  What kind of adjustments have you made?


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  1. MPaula

    16 October

    I love this idea. I find so many purses I like but I don`t want to carry a purse – backpack or nothing!
    I would have liked to have seen someone wearing it so I could get a sense of how it sits.
    I will be looking at purses with a new eye from now on!

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