Make a Hippie-Chic Handbag From Upcycled Clothes

I am a girl who goes for comfort and casual, earthy and artsy in style and in living. A DIY handbag is signature accessory of my lifestyle. (photos by Bob Farley)

I hate to go shopping, so I will wear my favorite clothes until they are completely worn out, and my husband is the same way. So when we wear our old duds past their prime, what should we do with them, throw them in the trash? No way! I cut them up and make handbags. Salvaged parts of good quality clothes can live a new life when combined with fun and colorful fabrics. Ikat, paisley, and batik fabrics are favorites, and they give the bags a Bohemian style. Since I am a fabric collector, I just have to go through my stock piles to find what I need, but you can buy a couple of yards of that pretty print you have been eyeing. Cut up those chinos and cargo pants — a pocket from one, the legs from the other — and make a casual and comfortable handbag.

A pair of chinos, pockets from cargo pants, and a bright paisley print will make a hippie-chic bag. Contrasting thread gives a finishing touch.

Click on the corner of an image below to view the steps and pictures in a larger photo gallery.


Step 1

 Open GalleryCut the legs off of the pants at the very top of the inseam.

Step 2

 Open GalleryCut through the entire inseam of each pantleg.

Step 3

 Open GallerySquare off top of the leg, which will be the bottom of the purse.

Step 4

 Open GalleryKeeping the leg folded, cut out the handbag as demonstrated in the photo.

Step 5

 Open GalleryCut out the second panel by using the first panel as a pattern.

Step 6

 Open GalleryCut off the pant leg’s hem on one of the panels. Overlay the finished hem on top of the cut end. Pin and sew the ends together. Use a zigzag stitch set at a short stitch length. You may have to hand crank over the thick bits to not harm the needle.

Step 7

 Open GalleryCut around the cargo pocket leaving enough room for the sewing foot. Place pocket in desired location and pin in place.

Step 8

 Open GallerySew pocket on panel using a zigzag stitch set at a small stitch length.

Step 9

 Open GalleryPlace handbag body right-side-down on top of the liner fabric and pin in place. Pinning before you cut helps to ensure proper alignment.

Step 10

 Open GalleryCut out the assemblage.

Step 11

 Open GalleryRemove pins from the straight sides.

Step 12

 Open GallerySew along the curves but leave the straight sides un-sewn.

Step 13

 Open GalleryTurn handbag right side out by running your hand through the bag’s handle, grabbing the fabric as far as you can reach, and pulling the bag through the handle. Feed it as it pulls through the tube.

Step 14

 Open GalleryIron the handle seams flat.

Step 15

 Open GalleryMatching together liner to liner with outside panels of the bag together, and making sure the seams are matched perfectly, pin and sew to assemble the body of the bag.

Step 16

 Open GalleryTurn right side out and iron the seams flat by running the iron inside and along the seams, flattening as you go. Do this on both sides and meet in the middle.

Step 17

 Open GalleryTurn the main body inside out, and match seam to seam at the bottom of the bag to where the seams are aligned in the middle. Pin and sew to close the bottom of the bag. Iron seam flat.

Step 18

 Open GalleryFold an outer corner of the bottom of the bag and sew across (about 1 1/2″ in) to form a triangle. The bag’s bottom seam should be perpendicular to the stitch line. Repeat with other corner.

Step 19

 Open GallerySew the bottom of the liner in the same manner but leave an opening in the center of the span to allow for turning the bag right side out.

Step 20

 Open GalleryTurn the bag right side out, pull liner out, fold the opening in, iron, and sew closed the opening.

Step 21

 Open GalleryPush liner back into bag, straighten bag, and iron to finish.


  • old pants and pockets
  • 2 yards liner fabric
  • contrasting thread


  • scissors
  • right angle straight edge
  • marker
  • sewing machine
  • iron
About Michelle Reynolds 


I’m a slipcover maker who refuses to fill the trash with the cutaway bits of designer fabrics, so I strive to make use of every scrap. I live with my ...

More About Michelle Reynolds

2 Responses

  1. love the upcycled use of pockets!!

    • Michelle Reynolds says:

      Thanks! I have a stack of pockets that I have cut off of various things, so when I make a bag, I pick one out of the stack.

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