How to use a Sizzix die to make a handbag

So a few months ago I was lucky enough to win a flash giveaway of a Sizzix Fabi on Instagram! It came with one die, but then I had the opportunity to get some more dies if I came up with a project. Of course I jumped on that! I made a handbag, which was really fun.

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This is the Fabi, along with the dies that I chose. I am positive I will be making projects from the other dies in the near future. I got the small fan blades (what I used for the handbag), the small robbing Peter to pay Paul, the bottle, 1″ and 1.5″ hexagons, and 1.5″ half-square triangles. My kids love using these too. I don’t let them use a rotary cutter yet, so they have lots of fun making perfect fabric shapes out of my quilting fabric and felt and sewing them together.

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I decided to make myself a new handbag for Quilt Market this year. I got a lot of comments on it! I love it! I decided to make Swoon Pattern’s Evelyn (affiliate link) in the handbag size because it looked so lovely. I used Essex Linen in Charcoal (thanks, Ann!) for the top panels, the straps, and the zipper insert.

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The method I describe below, however, can be adapted to any bag or project. You just make the panel and then cut the pattern pieces out from the panel. It is super easy and just requires a little advance planning if you’re going to do something fancy with the color.

So here is what I did:

To waste the least amount of fabric while you’re doing this, you want to do a preliminary cut of your fabric. I aim for pieces that are about 1/4″ larger than the die cutter blades if I’m doing only a few layers, and maybe round up a bit if I’m doing more. I was doing 8 layers at a time with these, so I rounded up to 4″ x 6″ rectangles. I centered these over the die cutting blades, and rolled it through. Super easy.

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After coming out of the cutter, 8 layers x 3 fans each = 24 fan blades in about 10 seconds. In total I used 53 colors, which gave me 159 fan blades. Picking out all the fabrics took about 10 times longer than actually cutting them!

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Here is them all cut out. So pretty… I then started laying them out one up, one down, etc. in rows.

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I laid out all of my fan blades for each panel before I sewed them together so I could see if the colors looked balanced. For the Evelyn, you need 13 fan blades for each row of the main panels, and 7/7/5/5 fans for the four rows of the side panels from bottom to top. (Ignore the extras in the photo below–I was estimating too generously and wound up pulling some off at the end.)

I wanted to make the panels of the purse super scrappy and colorful. But not just random, kind of a colorwash/gradation from bottom to top. Subtle, but I like the effect. For my colors, I was aiming for basically rainbow color order with no true green or purple:

  • Top row: dark raspberry and pink, with a little orange
  • Second row: orange, pink, and a little yellow
  • Third row: aqua and mustard yellow/citron green
  • Bottom row: dark blue, dark teal, and a few other colors thrown in for accent.

After you have the fans all laid out, you just start sewing rows together. Line them up edge to edge and sew across. I didn’t worry too much about the tiny bit that needs to stick out off of each end because I was going to be trimming the curved bits off later anyway.

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Press your seam open, then add on the next one in the same way. Make sure you always line up big end to little end. If you do big end to big end, you’re going to wind up with a circle!

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Press open again.

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Keep going until you finish the row, and then do the other rows, too. I was tempted to just applique them on at this point. The slight scalloped edge was lovely!

The fans at the side of this photo are going to be for the side panels.

Once your rows are done, you will need to trim them so they have a straight edge. Below I show trimming to 3″, but I found I needed to trim to 2 5/8″ to get the top row to show as much as I wanted. Trim evenly from both sides so that the triangles don’t become distorted.

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Then you sew your rows together, either making sure they line up or not, depending on your preference. I added some filler/spacer fabric at the top (3″ strips for the main panels, 4″ strips for the side panels) so I didn’t waste piecing time on fabric that was going to wind up hidden under the accent panels. Then I just used the pattern pieces to cut out the shapes needed, making sure the pattern pieces were centered over the panels.

The last thing I did was to fuse some Pellon SF101 (lightweight woven fusible interfacing) to the back of the panels to stabilize and strengthen the patchwork seams. After that I just followed the pattern as written.

I have to say, I do recommend the pattern (not something I do often!) and definitely love how it turned out looking very polished and not “homemade”. The only things I did differently from the pattern were: I lengthened the straps to 36″ (I like a long strap like a tote bag so it doesn’t keep falling off my shoulder), I added some fusible fleece to the inside of the straps to make them cushier, I added interior zippers on both sides instead of just one, and I only managed to do the topstitching around the top of the bag up to within 1/2″ of each corner seam instead of all the way around because even my Juki was having none of the 6 layers of foam! I did also wind up using some Wonder-under to fuse the Soft & Stable to the panels because it was being very poufy without it.

I’ll also give you a couple of tips if you want to adapt this die to a different pattern:

  • Measure the maximum height and width of your pattern pieces.
  • Each fan blade sewn in (finished) is about 1″ wide. So if your pattern piece is 12″ wide, you will need approximately 13 fan blades to cover it. Each row of fan blades lines up much better if it has an odd number of blades, so when calculating, round up to the nearest odd number of blades. When I tried doing even numbers, it just didn’t work.
  • I could trim my row of fan blades to a maximum of 3.25″ wide, but if your sewing is a little more relaxed you might only get 3″ width. So if your pattern piece is 12″ high, you will need about 5 rows (12 divided by 2.5″ finished) if you don’t use a spacer at the top like I did.

Hope you like it! If you make your own pieced panels for a handbag or other project I would love to see them! You can send me an email or tag me @CrispyKristin on Instagram.

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2016-10-24T18:05:09+00:00 May 22nd, 2015|

2 Comments

  1. Chris Hart May 23, 2015 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    I never comment on bags but this is the nicest I’ve seen….very boho chic. Anthropologie would kill to have these on their shelves…actually flying off their shelves. Nicely done.

  2. Beth May 25, 2015 at 6:08 am - Reply

    This is a beautiful handbag and I love how you made your fabríc from the die cut fans. Very striking and ver professional! Thank you for your tips and tutorial!

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