old suit: new bag (a tutorial)

Repurposing a suit coat is a fun way to create a one of a kind handbag.  I chose to make a messenger bag as my laptop has been homeless for quite some time.  If you are new to sewing, I suggest a tote bag.  This is a much more straight forward design, yet has all the elements of the coat.

I saw the bag on the left on the Today Show a while ago.  I think it is gorgeous, and thought it would be a perfect Sunday bag for all my "stuff".  As I tend to be cheap frugal , I filed it away under project to someday make.

There are many generous souls who have created tutorials for your use. Look around, you will be amazed.  I would encourage you to chose a simple pattern, as too many design elements will detract from the suit coat.

Here are a few well written tutorials (there are many more to choose from)
purse:  U Shaped Handle Purse {lgb studio}
tote: Pleated Tote Tutorial the long thread
messenger: Messenger Bag Tutorial crazy little projects

Today, I'd like to focus on suit coat elements (as well as a few tips and hard learned lessons).

First, start with quality.  Check the fiber content of the suit coat your are browsing.  I preferred to use wool, but corduroy, linen, seersucker... all would work. I would shy away from cheap polyester as I don't trust it, but use your best judgement.

 Next, Inspect coat for usable elements.  Is there a pocket you love?  Sleeve detailing?
Dissect suit and lining. Remove interfacing and shoulder pads.  (saving chosen details)

It is unlikely that you can cut all your patterns pieces on a straight grain without piecing.   Originally I planned on using one front pocket for the front flap and having a rounded side.  After I cut the piece, I realized that there were many seams on the bias and the fabric layed wonky.  Pin multiple pieces together to get the look you want.  This way you can create your own fabric. (This etsy shop does a neat job of incorporating many design elements).

Make sure pattern pieces are on a transparent/semi transparent paper.  This way you can see the placing of details before you cut.

Assemble bag according to pattern.

Tips & Tricks:

-Use a very heavy single side fusible interfacing fused to the suit coat.
-If using for a laptop - invest in quality padding.  I used automotive headliner (the stuff in the roof of your car).  It is fairly thin but cushy and sewed like a breeze.
-Repurpose hardware from another bag.  I almost purchased swivel hooks from the fabric store, but they cost $10 a piece.  No thanks.  Instead I took the clips off a Salvation Army bag.  ($2 total).
-I also repurposed the vinyl strap from the same thrifted bag for these photos because I ran out of time for my project submission.  The bag now has a grey wool strap which I like much better.

-I used an old vinyl belt for a closure.  It was easier to sew through than I thought.  I made the mistake of assembling the back of the bag before securing the belt.  On the back and bottom of the bag  the belt is glued using Eileen's OK to Wash Fabric Glue.  Once dry it worked like a champ.

- I always encourage adding an unique label.  These labels I made on my home printer, but  you could stamp, embroider, fabric marker, etc to create your own seal.

And last, have your six year old model your new bag while wearing a suit coat you have already begun to dissect for another project.  (Can you see what's missing?)  

Have fun!


  1. Hopped over from So You Think You're Crafty; I LOVE your bag! Nice job!

  2. That is fantastic! It is great looking, unique and such a clever idea!
    I have an old wool blazer my mom made for herself(She's an awesome seamstress and it is all lined), outgrew, and gave to me. It just doesn't fit me right but it has sentimental value plus is a gorgeous wool tweed with chesterfield collar. I'm seeing a project in the near future. Thanks for sharing.


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